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W.Va. using net for road safety

April 08, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Commuters can now use the Information Superhighway to maneuver their way around ongoing construction projects on real highways in and around the Eastern Panhandle.

The West Virginia Department of Transportation has started using the Internet to post maps of road construction projects across the state.

The Web site, www.dot.state.wv.us, is part of an overall safety campaign to improve safety in construction zones.

While work zones are usually marked with black-lettered orange signs, state DOT officials said many drivers do not slow down.

West Virginia has had 205 accidents with nine deaths and 127 injuries in construction zones over the past two years, according to WVDOT Secretary Samuel G. Bonasso.

Most of the people killed or injured in work zones are motorists who speed through the work areas, he said.

"When you see a 'Road Work 1500 feet' sign, if you're doing 60 mph, you cover that 1,500 feet in 17 seconds," said Bonasso.

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Drivers on Interstate 81 through the Eastern Panhandle will see an increasing number of road work signs as the year progresses and more projects get under way.

Motorists can also expect to see more police cars patrolling in work zones, said West Virginia State Police Sgt. Deke Walker.

In addition to ticketing impatient drivers who speed through construction zones, Walker said state police will issue citations for driving on road shoulders and using illegal U-turns in the median strip to avoid delays.

"In the past we've gotten a lot of wrecks through construction areas. We plan to work those areas pretty good this summer," said Walker, who heads the state police's I-81 patrol.

Work has started on the project to replace the Falling Waters bridge on I-81 and work is scheduled to begin this year on the construction of the Dry Run interchange, the replacement of the W.Va. 9 interchange overpass and the widening of I-81 to six lanes between King Street and W.Va. 9.

The state also is scheduled to begin work in June on the replacement of the King Street overpass in Berkeley County and expects to finish replacing the Harpers Ferry bridge in Jefferson County by December of next year.

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