The recent lake effect snow led to countless accidents and closures on Interstate 90. Those closures tied up valuable manpower and put emergency personnel at risk trying to stop traffic from getting on I-90.
New York State has been using gates, like the ones you see at railroad crossings, for years now to shut down the thruway during snow storms.
So why isn’t Pennsylvania doing the same?
Matt Mathias spoke to chief of the North East Fire Department to find out more.
Our neighboring state utilizes gates at certain on-ramps to prevent drivers from entering a closed interstate, but it’s something that Pennsylvania has never done before.
Local volunteer fire departments, like the North East Fire Department, have been struggling to recruit new members.
Anytime there’s a crash on the portion of I-90 that runs through North East, volunteer firefighters and fire police respond.
Often times, manpower is used to divert traffic and shut down portions of I-90.
“We’re trying to deal with the accidents and everything going on on the interstates, and not to have to worry about other cars or trucks coming on behind us. We just don’t want anybody to get hurt,” said David Meehl, North East Fire Chief.
After the recent lake effect snow storm that led to I-90 being shut down multiple times in multiple locations, Fire Chief David Meehl says Pennsylvania needs to install gates like those that are used throughout western New York.
“One person go up, pull the pin, drop the gate down, and then keep it closed until they’re ready to reopen it. Instead of open it back up, bring more people out to close it again. You’re taking a lot of personnel out that could be doing other emergencies,” said Chief Meehl.
Chief Meehl says he’s reached out to PennDOT and several local lawmakers asking for these gates.
So what is the state waiting for?
PennDOT tells us that there is nothing like this in the state of Pennsylvania and they’re still gathering information about what it would take to make these.
“It’s really not been done in Pennsylvania. We’re exploring it. We’re looking into what the requirements would be from the federal highway administration as far as how they’re built, what kind of reflectivity they have, signs and different things like that, whether they need to be lit or not. We’re investigating it, but we don’t have any plans in the immediate future to build any,” said Brian McNulty, executive, PennDOT District 1.
Fire Chief David Meehl says he has spent time working in New York and knows first-hand how much these gates could help keep first responders and motorists safe.