Could Pennsylvania Benefit From Closing Roads With Gates During Snowstorms?

Recent lake effect snow has resulted in countless accidents and closures on Interstate 90. These closures tied up valuable workers and vulnerable responders trying to stop traffic on I-90.

New York State has for years used gates like those seen on railroad crossings to close the freeway during snow storms.

Why isn’t Pennsylvania doing the same?

Matt Mathias spoke to the North East Fire Department chief to learn more.

Our neighboring state uses gates on certain ramps to prevent drivers from entering a closed freeway, but Pennsylvania has never done that before.

Local volunteer fire departments, like the North East Fire Department, are struggling to recruit new members.

Every time there is an accident on the Northeast section of I-90, volunteer firefighters and the fire department respond.

Labor is often used to divert traffic and close portions of I-90.

“We’re trying to deal with the accidents and everything that’s going on on the interstates and not have to worry about other cars or trucks coming behind us. We just don’t want anyone to get hurt,” said David Meehl, North East Fire Chief.

After the recent lake-effect snowstorm that caused I-90 to close multiple times in multiple locations, Fire Chief David Meehl says Pennsylvania needs to install gates like those used throughout western New York.

“One person goes up, pulls the pin, lowers the gate, and then holds it closed until ready to open it again. Instead of reopening it, get more people to close it again. They’re taking off a lot of staff that could handle other emergencies,” Chief Meehl said.

Chief Meehl says he reached out to PennDOT and several local lawmakers to require those gates.

So what is the state waiting for?

PennDOT tells us there is nothing quite like it in the state of Pennsylvania and they are still gathering information on what it would take to make these.

“It really wasn’t made in Pennsylvania. We explore it. We check what requirements are set by the Federal Road Administration, how they are built, what kind of reflectivity they have, signs and the like, whether they need to be illuminated or not. We’re investigating it, but we have no plans to build one in the immediate future,” said Brian McNulty, Executive, PennDOT District 1.

Fire Chief David Meehl says he’s worked in New York for some time and knows firsthand just how much these gates could help protect first responders and motorists.