A peek inside PennDOT’s mission control for traffic

    More drivers are expected to be on the road on this day before Thanksgiving than any other day of the year.

    But for PennDOT’s Traffic Management Center, it’s business as usual.

    Walk down an office hallway, take a turn and bam – there it is – a sea of screens showing cars on the region’s roadways.

    Traffic Operations Manager Manny Anastasiadis gestured to the operators sitting near the wall of screens. They keep an eye on the screens, field phone calls about possible problems, dispatch tow trucks, and type up those messages that alert drivers of travel times.

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    “Over here we’re able to identify, verify and mitigate incidents that happen on our highway system,” said Anastasiadis. “The operators are divided into sectors–some individuals might be monitoring I-95, others will be looking at 76, or they might be looking at 202,” he said. “As you probably know, every incident – every minute of closed highway – causes three to four times as much congestion in the back.”

    So, Anastasiadis says, PennDOT tries to manage congestion by clearing incidents as quickly as possible.

    Nearby, lead technician Andrew Valentin is putting to use the bounty of technology at his desk: including two phones, three screens, a keyboard, and a joystick. He points to a screen showing a white S-U-V with it’s flashers on.

    “Looks like we have a disabled vehicle on the center lane southbound on Route 1 south of Broad Street,” Valentin said, “So we just talked to Philadelphia highway patrol. They already have the incident. But they can see our cameras so we can tell them to pull up camera 105 and they can monitor the incident the same as we can.”

    Valentin turns to another screen and starts to type up a message to warn drivers about the disabled vehicle.

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