Carlisle puts traffic plan into effect after I81 crash Wednesday

May 24, 2012 12:03 am  • 

When Interstate 81 closed down in both directions from Plainfield to Newville Wednesday morning, the Carlisle Police Department knew to expect quite a bit more traffic than the borough is used to.

A Toyota Tacoma and a U-Haul towing a truck collided before ending up in the median on I-81 at 9:14 a.m. Wednesday. While emergency crews responded to I-81, closing one and then both southbound lanes to handle a landing from Life Lion, the crash ended up causing state police to close all southbound and northbound lanes of traffic for hours – reopening it up mid-afternoon around 2:30.

Though local police didn’t know when the interstate would reopen, they did know that it would be bad for downtown Carlisle.

"We became aware of the interstate accident and closure shortly after it occurred," Carlisle Police Lt. Michael Dzezinski said. "Our first priority was to summon all of our available manpower in order to control the intersections and interstate off-ramps that feed into the borough."

Carlisle Public Works Director Michael Keiser explained that the downtown is simply not capable of handing that kind of traffic, even with the road diet design.

"It's one of the misconceptions of the road diet -- that it can handle a lot of traffic," Keiser said. "That's not really the case. It's not designed for that volume of traffic. There’s no benefit in that regard."

Keiser added that the traffic signals operate on video detection and wouldn’t handle the additional tractor-trailer traffic flooding through the area.

In order to control that kind of traffic, it was up to police, fire police and anyone who could help from the Public Works Department to direct traffic.

Traffic control

Police initiated their traffic plan Wednesday morning, even as state police closed the off-ramps in Carlisle to prevent motorists from leaving the interstate before the official detour, which was set at Exit 44 at Allen Road and came back on the interstate at Newville.

"Based on our past experiences with these type of incidents, we know that the first thing that typically happens is that truckers and other motorist will attempt to divert into the borough in order to avoid the closure," Dzezinski said. "And when that happens, we end up with severe gridlock in our downtown area and blocked intersections at all of the major intersections.

"That isn’t to say that we don’t end up with stalled traffic when we do man the off-ramps and intersections, however we can at least keep things moving at a slow pace as long as we control the traffic that attempts to come into the borough. Absent that traffic control, we would have massive gridlock, and the downtown area would turn into one big parking lot. We also have to do our best to keep an available route of travel open to Fire, Police and EMS personnel. And unfortunately, the only way to do that is to control our basic arteries into, and out of the borough."

While police were out on the street trying to ease the traffic in the borough, they also worked at trying to prevent additional local traffic from getting stuck or adding to the gridlock in the downtown area.

An automated message was sent out via the borough’s Emergency Notification System mid-morning Wednesday, warning area residents about the increase in traffic.

"We use the borough’s Emergency Notification System for these types of events whenever possible; keeping in mind that alerting residents to these sort of events is more critical in the middle of the day than late at night when traffic is typically lighter," Dzezinski said.

The system can also be used in other incidents where the department needs to disseminate information quickly to the public.

"This ENS system allows us to keep residents informed of events such as traffic closures, snow emergencies and anything else that is deemed to require quick and effective notification," he said. "The system uses telephone numbers that are gathered from Century Link for all residents within the borough and anyone who wishes to opt-in with additional phone numbers."

Those interested can opt-in to the system by visiting the borough’s website at www.carlislepa.org, clicking on the "resources" tab and then the "Emergency Notification System" tab.

"Non-borough residents can also opt-in by simply entering their information," Dzezinski said. "This would allow them to be notified of incidents that may involve loved-ones that reside in the borough, such as the elderly, etc."


Carlisle police focused on easing traffic, and it was state police at Carlisle that took the lead on the crash itself.

Police say two people were injured, including one who was flown to Hershey Medical Center for serious injuries. Police have not yet named the drivers of the two vehicles involved in the crash, but they did say that a 76-year-old man was driving the Tacoma and was flown to the hospital while a 28-year-old man was driving the U-Haul and was transported via ambulance to Carlisle Regional Medical Center for minor injuries.

Police say the younger man was driving a 2008 Ford U-Haul, towing a truck, in the left lane of I-81 north while the older man was driving his Tacoma in the right lane of the interstate. For unknown reasons, the two vehicles impacted each other, forcing the Tacoma to overturn and causing disabling damage to both vehicles, according to police, who added that the vehicles ended up in the median.

Emergency crews had to rip off the top of the Tacoma to get to the 76-year-old driver, police said, noting that both drivers were wearing seatbelts.

The investigation into the crash is still ongoing.

Posted Wednesday at 4 p.m. on Cumberlink:

Two people were injured in a crash that shut down Interstate 81 for hours today.

State police at Carlisle have not released the names of those involved, but they did say that 76-year-old man was flown to Hershey Medical Center with injuries and a 28-year-old man was transported via ambulance to Carlisle Regional Medical Center after a crash on I-81 north in Dickinson Township at 9:14 a.m. today.

Police say the 28-year-old was driving a 2008 Ford UHaul Truck in the left lane, while the 76-year-old was driving a 2004 Toyota Tacoma in the right lane, when, for unknown reasons, the two impacted and both vehicles overturned in the median.

The UHaul was towing a truck behind it, and both the UHaul and the Tacoma sustained disabling damage.

Both drivers were wearing seatbelts. The driver of the UHaul suffered minor injuries while the driver of the Tacoma suffered serious injuries.

The crash caused closure of both the southbound and northbound lanes of I-81 until a little after 2 p.m.

The investigation into the crash is still ongoing.

Posted earlier on Cumberlink:

Interstate 81 was reopened to traffic this afternoon, according to PennDOT and state police.

Posted earlier on Cumberlink:

Traffic off of Interstate 81 is causing some backlog in the Carlisle area.

High Street saw an increased number of tractor-trailer traffic in the borough as I-81 south and north closed due to a crash at 9:14 a.m. As of 12:55 p.m., the southbound and northbound lanes were still closed from the Plainfield exit to the Newville exit.

The official detour for southbound traffic is off of Plainfield and then the Red Detour to get back on at Newville. Police have closed off the exit ramps before the Plainfield exit in order to reduce traffic in the borough and other areas off of I-81.

Posted earlier on Cumberlink:

Carlisle Police are warning area residents of traffic congestion in the borough due to the crash on Interstate 81 this morning.

I-81 south was still closed from the Plainfield to Newville exits as of 11:30 a.m., and a detour is in effect. The detour is taking drivers off of the interstate at the Plainfield exit, but drivers of tractor-trailers and other vehicles are getting off of the interstate early and driving through Carlisle, according to police.

Police sent out an automated message via their emergency system mid-morning today, warning area residents about the increase in traffic in the borough.

Posted earlier on Cumberlink:

One person was flown via Life Lion to the hospital after a multiple-vehicle crash on Interstate 81 south.

The crash involved a truck and a U-Haul truck that was pulling another vehicle. Emergency crews had to rip off the top of the truck to get to the driver, who was flown to the hospital.

All lanes of I-81 south were closed while Life Lion landed in the median. PennDOT indicates that all southbound lanes are still closed and a detour is in effect.

Posted earlier on Cumberlink:

PennDOT and state police report that all lanes are closed on I-81 south after a vehicle overturned near the Plainfield exit.

Posted earlier on Cumberlink:

Emergency crews are on Interstate 81 south near Exit 44/Plainfield this morning after a vehicle overturned.

PennDOT said there is a lane restriction in the area.

The crash occurred at 9:14 a.m., and fire crews and EMS are on the scene.

Check back to Cumberlink for more information as it becomes available.