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Cranberry Road crisis eased by early plan

| Saturday, June 28, 2014, 3:35 p.m.
Bill Vidonic | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Crews continue working on downed power lines that closed a portion of Route 228 on Wednesday morning, June 25, 2014.
WPXI
Crews continue working on downed power lines that closed a portion of Route 228 on Wednesday morning, June 25, 2014.
Bill Vidonic | Pittsburgh Tribune-ReviewBill Vidonic | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Eight to 10 power lines fell in a storm and closed a portion of Route 228 on Wednesday morning, June 25, 2014.
Bill Vidonic | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Eight to 10 power lines fell in a storm and closed a portion of Route 228 on Wednesday morning, June 25, 2014.

Planning for the worst helped Cranberry deal with last week's closure of one of its main arteries, the township's manager said.

“Everybody has to work together in a crisis,” Jerry Andree said.

Planning guidance from the Southwest Pennsylvania Commission's Transportation Traffic Incident Management team, or TIM, helped the township develop a blueprint for a response to a major emergency, Public Safety Director Jeff Schueler said.

“It created a framework that brought people together,” Andree said of the response to the closure of Route 228 Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday after high winds sent utility and light poles crashing onto the highway.

Andree said that in the early hours, some utility companies didn't seem to grasp the magnitude of the problem. It happened after rush hour. Traffic had largely dissipated for the evening.

But with a road that carries 40,000 vehicles a day covered with debris and no word on when it could reopen, Andree said, it soon became apparent that the region would be affected by the shutdown.

Cranberry is a member of the TIM team that covers Interstate 79 and Interstate 76, the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Other members of the I-79/I-76 Local TIM include Northern Regional police, Franklin Park, Zelienople, Jackson, PennDOT Districts 10 and 11, state police and the turnpike commission.

Northern Regional police helped with traffic control because Cranberry borders Allegheny County. Traffic was backed up Wednesday and Thursday along Freeport Road in Marshall and Franklin Road in Cranberry, one of the main detours for Route 228.

Andree and police said back-ups occurred in several other areas, including Route 19 and Rowan Road, as motorists found alternate routes. PennDOT and the township set up electronic signs warning motorists of the closure and offering alternate routes.

The township posted alerts to its website and social media, posting messages on Facebook and Twitter. The township and PennDOT sent out frequent updates to local media outlets.

“This validates the importance of social media,” Andree said.

The goal of incident management is to bring together local police, road maintenance, crash investigators, transportation and other agencies to improve responder safety, crash cleanup and incident communications, according to the Southwest Pennsylvania Commission.

Beacause Cranberry already has a traffic management division, it was in a unique position to deal with the road closure, said Doug Smith, commission transportation planner.

“Frankly, I don't think there is anywhere else in the region where if a situation like this would happen that it would have been as effectively managed as they did,” Smith said.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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