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Those HOV gates

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Contact Colin McNickle (412-320-7836 or

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Sunday, March 3, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

PennDOT says what happened again last Monday morning — the Parkway North's HOV lanes being closed due to a mechanical malfunction in an access gate — is rare, yet it doesn't track the frequency of power-related gate problems that produce the same dismal, congestion-aggravating result.

PennDOT District 11 officials say the HOV closure of Feb. 25, involving electronics gone bad, and another, involving “misalignment,” are the only mechanical problems it's had with the gates in about 18 months. They recall two or three power-related closures in the last couple of years but can't be more precise; they say they don't keep records on those problems.

Yet to motorists who follow local traffic reports, it seems there's always something going wrong with gates that closes the HOV lanes. That impression is supported by WPXI-TV's Trisha Pittman; she's been doing local traffic reports for 13 years and says gate problems close the HOV lanes about once every two months.

Power-related HOV gate problems aren't rocket science, and weather surely can't be blamed for many such instances. So, motorists have every reason to wonder about PennDOT's apparently lackadaisical attitude toward tracking those problems — and about those problems' persistence.

PennDOT needs to get a handle on the extent of the Parkway North HOV gates' power problems, then do what it takes to keep those problems from closing the HOV lanes to the motorists they're supposed to serve.

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