The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

State News

January 9, 2013

PennDOT snowplows damaged vehicles, 2 motorists contend

Say ice and snow came from overpasses

GROVE CITY — Two western Pennsylvania motorists say their vehicles were hit by falling snow and ice that PennDOT plows had pushed off highway overpasses, and one car’s roof, hood and windows reportedly were crushed by the impact.

Accidents like those reported Dec. 29 in neighboring Butler and Mercer counties north of Pittsburgh aren’t believed to be widespread. But PennDOT is advising its staff about the problems as a safety reminder, spokeswoman Erie Waters-Trasatt told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

A passenger in a sport-utility vehicle reported being hit in the eye and needing treatment at a hospital after snow was pushed off a Route 19 bridge in Muddy Creek Township, Butler County, onto Route 422 below.

The same day, on Route 173 near Grove City in Mercer County, a car was driving under an Interstate 80 overpass when falling snow and ice reportedly hit the vehicle, causing the roof and hood to buckle and shattering two windows.

Scott Steffanus said his daughter, Brittany, 19, of Jackson Center, was driving the car but wasn’t hurt and was able to drive home. The family and Penn- DOT are discussing damages.

Steffanus said PennDOT has offered to settle the claim for $3,700, but Steffanus said the car – a 2003 Chevy Cavalier – is worth about $1,000 more.

“I just want them to be fair about an obvious flaw in their protocol of plowing overpasses and pay for the damages,” Steffanus said.

Doug Schofield, maintenance service manager for  PennDOT District 1, which includes Mercer County, said drivers are trained to plow snow until there’s no more room on the side of a bridge. Other crews are then supposed to clear the snow piles with a front-end loader, he said.

The snow that hit the Steffanus car had built up on the edge of the plow and somehow flew off the bridge, Schofield said.

“I have been in maintenance for 17 years and these two instances are the first time I remember hearing of vehicles being hit by snow falling off an overpass,” Schofield said.

 

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