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Paving snarls traffic

October 25, 2003|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

A road paving project on Interstate 81 in Berkeley County, W.Va., created long traffic backups Friday, police said.

At 2:30 p.m., the Washington County Sheriff's Department released a memo it labeled "urgent." The memo asked motorists to stay away from six main roads in southern Washington County - Interstates 70 and 81, Md. 63 and 68 and U.S. 11 and 40 - because they were "at a near standstill."

Bill Shanklin, the area engineer for the West Virginia Department of Transportation's Division of Highways, said Friday evening that a contractor had paved and striped the ramps of the Interstate 81 rest stop near Falling Waters.

"To safely do that, he closed a lane, starting back at the Potomac (River) bridge," he said.

The lane was closed from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Shanklin said.

Shanklin said a misunderstanding allowed that to happen.

"We didn't realize he'd close the lane, or we'd have had him do it at night," he said.

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Washington County 911 contacted the Division of Highways at about 2:30 p.m. to ask about the problem, but by then, the work was wrapping up, Shanklin said.

"We apologize for the inconvenience," he said.

At mid-afternoon, a Washington County Sheriff's Department dispatcher said the backup could be seen from the Sheriff's Department's office, more than five miles from the Maryland-West Virginia border.

"It's like a parking lot," she said.

As motorists got off Interstate 81 and tried to look for alternate routes, other roads became clogged, too.

"Williamsport is horrible," the dispatcher said.

Chris Carter, the director of transportation for Washington County Public Schools, said the traffic tie-up caused some delays, "but nothing way out of the ordinary."

School buses in the Williamsport area took longer than normal to reach their drop-off points, Carter said.

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