Comments critical of the current conditions along our area’s stretch of Interstate 80, both the roadway itself and the ways in which vehicles (primarily trucks) crash and clog it have appeared recently in this space.
No, not in light of research compiled by ValuePenguin.com, a consumer research site.
“Worst Roads in Pennsylvania for Winter Driving” is the headline of one chart featuring interstates 80, 78, 79 and U.S. Routes 11 and 6, some of our major highways. Route 79, Pittsburgh to Erie, and Route 6, a non-interstate east-west highway crossing Pennsylvania just below the New York State line, draw quite a few of our residents onto their surfaces.
Each winter, on average, 40 people die on Pennsylvania highways, ValuePenguin says.
Twelve of those deaths occur along Interstate 80, giving it the ghoulish distinction of being Pennsylvania’s worst road in that respect — by far.
Interstates 78 (Harrisburg-Allentown), U.S. Route 11 (Wilkes-Barre-Harrisburg) and the aforementioned Route 6 are next, with six deaths apiece.
That is half the number of people we kill along Interstate 80 each winter.
Pennsylvania is second overall in driving deaths per year among all the states, even though states such as Illinois and Wisconsin have more severe winter weather.
Why is this?
Two factors stand out:
• The inadequate design of stretches of the roadway itself, built to handle 1950s trucks, not today’s behemoths.
• The size of tractor-trailers today, plus the outsized harm that results from truck driver fatigue, human error, etc.
What can be done?
• Better enforcement. Back when I-80 was opened, Pennsylvania correctly formed a special state police troop, charged with patrol and enforcement duties along the then-Keystone Shortway. Some 30 years ago, that troop was disbanded and its duties folded into the already-overworked regular state police units. Then, the Rendell administration diverted even more state police away from rural duties and into the Philadelphia area to curry votes and ease its tax burdens, while increasing statewide taxes. We need more police along I-80.
• Better roadways. The notorious S-curve that sends eastbound tractor-trailers into wintertime jackknifed skids at the approach to the 150-foot-high bridge that carries the road over the North Fork Creek gorge in Brookville is just one example of an Eisenhower-administration era design that now needs to be rebuilt. Volunteer firefighters are a great information source about other deadly design flaws along I-80.
Writing about the problems does nothing to reduce the death toll. Telling state legislators to fix the problems might help. Replacing obdurate politicians surely would help.
— Denny Bonavita