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Interstate repair site is a safety hazard

November 05, 2000

Interstate repair site is a safety hazard



By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI / Staff Writer


CRYSTAL FALLS - At least a dozen vehicles have struck a guardrail at the same spot under construction on Interstate 70 since October, said Maryland State Police.

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Sgt. K.W. Lewis said the site of the accidents is a lane changeover on westbound I-70 at Crystal Falls Drive, which is part of a Maryland State Highway Administration construction project.

The lanes have been narrowed and there is no shoulder on the right side of the slow lane which leaves no room for driver error, said Lewis.

There were at least eight accidents Saturday, including one which closed the westbound lanes for more than two hours, according to Trooper 1st Class M.W. Jones.

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A U-Haul truck driven by George Plitnik, 58, of Mount Savage, Md., lost control and hit the guardrail at 1:25 p.m. after swerving to avoid debris, said Jones.

After being hit by the U-Haul, the guardrail was struck by a Food Lion tractor-trailer driven by James Garner, 42, of Hagerstown.

The impact destroyed the rear brakes and disabled the tractor-trailer, said Jones.

"Six other passenger vehicles struck the guardrail but were able to continue after changing tires," said Jones.

Jones said witnesses to the U-Haul accident said the guardrail had been dented prior to the accident.

The right lane of I-70 was closed for two and a half hours while Maryland State Highway Administration workers cleared the road.

"State Police are reminding motorists to use caution and slow down when entering lane shifts associated with the ongoing bridge repairs on I-70," said Jones.

On Oct. 21, four vehicles struck the guardrail at Crystal Falls Drive.

Lewis said a vehicle hit the guardrail and left the scene around 2 a.m. The impact caused a portion of the guardrail to jut out into the road, he said.

A short time later a passing car was unable to avoid the obstruction and crashed into it, police said.

He said two other accidents at the site followed.

Lewis said he didn't think the accidents were the result of speeding.

The speed limit at the location is 55 mph.

"People need to pay attention when they're driving, especially where there is construction. If you don't, there are problems," he said.

Two public relations representatives from Maryland State Highway Administration did not respond to pages Sunday afternoon for this story.

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