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Winter Safety

It is our desire to provide the public with the best possible traveling conditions at all times, so that our patrons may reach their destinations safely and in a timely fashion.  Please keep in mind that despite our best efforts, it is not always possible for the pavement to be completely clear of snow and ice during times of inclement weather.  During these times, you can help by reducing speed and allowing extra following distance.


MTA Maintenance Crews

Snowplow with green lights
MTA Highway Maintenance Crews consist of  90 full-time employees assigned to maintenance facilities which are located in York, Kennebunk, South Portland, Gray, Auburn, Litchfield, and West Gardiner.  These are the folks who operate the snowplows and work around the clock to keep the roadway clear during storms.  They are responsible for maintenance operations of 668 lane miles of highway including 23 Interchanges, 5 Service Plazas, and the Kittery Rest Area from the state line in Kittery to the end of the Turnpike at mile 109 in Augusta.

MTA Equipment Maintenance Crews consist of 19 full-time employees assigned to three garages, located in Kennebunk, Gray, and Litchfield.  These employees are responsible for the maintenance and repair of all MTA vehicles and equipment, and also help with snow removal when needed.

Winter Night Patrol is staffed by three winter seasonal employees whose primary function is to assist stranded motorists.  This service is provided between Exit 42 in Scarborough and Mile 57 in Cumberland, Monday through Friday from 7:00 to 10:30 am and between Exit 48 in Portland and Exit 32 in Biddeford, from 3:30 to 7:00 pm.   These three employees come to the aid of over 500 vehicles during the winter season.
The MTA also offers the Maine Turnpike Safety Patrol sponsored by GEICO, which is a free service that provides assistance to stranded motorists on the Maine Turnpike. The Safety Patrol also clears the Turnpike of debris and other hazards and provides temporary traffic control at minor accident scenes to help keep Maine Turnpike customers safe and traffic flowing smoothly.

The Safety Patrol offers free, limited roadside assistance to drivers in need, including:
  • Changing flat tires
  • Jump-starting vehicles
  • Providing lockout assistance
  • Moving disabled vehicles to the shoulder

Crew Deployment

Feb2022mainelinesnowgreenlight.pngCrews are deployed at the first sign of deteriorating road conditions.  Their goal is to make the Turnpike passable during a storm and all areas of the Turnpike free of snow and ice as soon as possible after the storm. 

During heavy storms when it is not possible to remove snow and ice simultaneously from the roadway, shoulders, parking areas, crossovers, etc., the following priorities are adhered to unless otherwise directed:

I.   First Priority:  Mainline pavement, toll plazas, interchanges, service area ramps, and median crossovers.
II.  Second Priority:  Shoulders, toll facility parking lots, service area parking lots, and access roads.
III. Third Priority: Other facilities and parking lots.
IV. Fourth Priority: Final cleanup and snow removal at service areas, parking areas, gores, and bridges.
Maintenance forces will be used on a continuing basis to remove snow and ice from Priority I and II areas.  Priority III and IV work will be performed during normal shifts or with minimum staffing on scheduled overtime. The snow and ice control operations for a storm are considered complete when the pavement is clear of snow and ice, and the shoulders, toll areas, parking areas, and main crossovers are plowed back enough to accommodate a car or truck.

The MTA uses Roadway Weather Information Systems (RWIS) along the road to collect information including pavement temperatures. Some are predictive weather stations that help maintenance to determine when the road will freeze, allowing MTA to take a more proactive approach to treating the road during icing events.

Communication During Storms

MTA Traffic Management Center:  The MTA has a fully operational dispatch center that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.  They monitor the weather, road conditions and traffic issues and are ready to get the word out to motorists through email, web alerts, Variable Message Signs, Flashing 45 mph signs and Highway Advisory Radio.  To receive travel alerts from the TMC, sign up here.

Maine State Police Troop G:  State Police Troop G is assigned exclusively to the Maine Turnpike and the MTA is responsible for the costs of operations for Troop G. During winter storms, the troopers are out on patrol assisting motorists, responded to crashes and enforcing traffic laws including imprudent speed for the conditions.

Flashing 45 MPH signs: While drivers need to be aware of road and weather conditions and reduce speed when necessary, the MTA provides reminders to motorists by turning on the flashing 45 mph signs.  Black ice is especially prevalent in early morning hours and driving a prudent speed can help motorists get to their destination safely. 

Winter driving safety tips

Before you drive:
  • Invest in good snow tires or at least make sure you have plenty of tread left for good traction.
  • Have a basic winter supply kit in your trunk.  Include a snow brush and ice scraper, shovel, bag of sand, a blanket, winter clothes and boots.
  • Keep your fuel tank close to full to maintain your heat source if stranded.
  • Make sure your windshield wipers are in good shape and washer reservoir is full.
  • Make sure your rear window defroster works.
  • Clear all snow and ice from the entire surface of your vehicle after a snow storm to avoid a pile of snow sliding onto your windshield while slowing down or flying onto the car behind you.
While Driving:
  • Leave extra space between your car and the vehicle in front of you.
  • When driving in the snow, drive, accelerate, brake, turn and stop slowly.
  • Stay focused, put down the phone.
  • Make sure to give the plows some room.  Do not follow too close behind and don't crowd the plow when passing.
  • Obey the posted speed limit.  During many winter storms the speed limit on the Turnpike is reduced to 45 mph.
Here are some winter weather driving tips from Troop G of the Maine State Police