A leaking valve on a tanker spread driveway sealant over the eastbound lanes of a long stretch of the Turnpike between New Castle and the Oakmont Service Plaza on Tuesday night, Turnpike spokesman Bill Capone said.
Turnpike operations officials on Wednesday said 150 or more cars were disabled when the sticky goo covered their tires and wheels. Some state police and turnpike maintenance vehicles had to be towed away after getting stuck in the tar-like substance, according to the turnpike operations center.
Traffic was moving normally by Wednesday morning, but the sticky mess had already hindered the travel plans of some motorists traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Laura Frick told WTAE-TV she was traveling from Cleveland to New Jersey for the holiday.
"Now we have to turn around and go back home," Frick said. "It's horrible."
Retired firefighter Bob King told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review the experience was the most harrowing of his life.
"It caught us off guard," said King, who now lives near Chicago. "It didn't seem like anyone knew what it was or what to do. It had to be an incredible amount of tar. It's still piled on my tires."
Cpl. Mike Corna, with the state police barracks which patrols the pike near Pittsburgh, said Wednesday the driver will be cited for not properly securing his load, though the specific tickets to be issued were still being determined. Police have yet to trace the origin of the load. The tank was filled somewhere in Ohio.
Maintenance crews got out quickly, dumping sand on the pooled goop and using snow plows to push it on to the shoulder, turnpike spokesman Carl DeFebo said. The mess was mostly confined to the right lane and the roadway didn't have to be shut down while workers tried to clean it up because the substance hardens in about 15 minutes, DeFebo said.
"It's been cleaned up since about 11 o'clock last night," DeFebo said Wednesday.
Turnpike officials urged motorists whose cars were damaged to stop calling its operations center and instead call Traveler's Insurance at 800-238-6225 and follow the prompts to file "business claims."
The insurance company is handling claims on behalf of Marino Transport Services of Stevensville, Md., which operates the truck.