Ban aims to avoid repeat of toppled tractor trailer on I-78

Berks stretch of highway often sees storm problems

HARRISBURG, Pa. - The stretch of Interstate 78 from its start at I-81 through Berks County has seen more than its fair share of weather-related problems over the years.

The Valentine's Day 2007 storm stranded thousands of motorists on the snow-covered highway for more than a day, and white-out conditions contributed to a 60-vehicle pileup that killed three people in 2016.

Last Friday, it was a wind-driven storm that blew a tractor trailer onto its side near Hamburg. The trailer was empty, and only one person -- the truck's driver -- was injured.

But that crash, like others in past storms, could have had a worse outcome, so state officials are taking steps to prevent a similar accident from happening again.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced Tuesday that PennDOT will ban empty straight trucks, large combination vehicles (tandem trailers and double trailers), tractors hauling empty trailers, trailers pulled by passenger vehicles, motorcycles, and recreational vehicles (RVs) on a number of the state's highways, including I-78 from I-81 in Lebanon County to the New Jersey line.

"This storm may not have the extremely high winds as the one last week, but it will dump significant amounts of snow across a wider area and that prospect is moving us to take additional aggressive steps to restrict heavier vehicles from the interstates," Wolf said.

Other highways affected by the ban include I-80 from I-81 to the New Jersey line and I-84 from I-81 to the New York line.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike has also instituted the same ban on a 112-mile stretch of the east-west highway between the Harrisburg East and Delaware River Bridge interchanges and on the entire Northeast Extension.

The restrictions, Wolf said, will remain in place as long as weather conditions warrant. Speed restrictions and wider truck and vehicle bans will also be considered.

"I cannot stress enough the importance for everyone to heed weather forecasts, listen to directions from emergency officials, and plan accordingly," Wolf said. "We must remember that weather is to a large extent unpredictable, but we are doing our utmost to station resources in as effective way as possible."

The governor added that postponing unnecessary travel during the storm will help state crews in clearing the snow off the highways.

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