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Truck overturns on Interstate 81 ramp

November 04, 2005|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

erinc@herald-mail.com

A tractor-trailer carrying a load of maple syrup overturned Thursday on the ramp from eastbound Interstate 70 to northbound Interstate 81.

The Transcontinental Refrigerated Lines truck was rounding the curve in the ramp on Thursday about 2 p.m. when it overturned and slid down the remaining portion of the ramp, police said.

When the truck stopped, it nearly had reached the northbound lanes of I-81. A portion of the guardrail, which was improved during construction earlier this year, was destroyed.

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The ramp was closed for several hours until the tractor-trailer, which was blocking most of the ramp, was cleared. A detour was used to direct traffic around the scene.

The driver, whose name police did not release, was taken to Washington County Hospital by ambulance with minor injuries, police said.

A spokesman for the trucking company in Pittston, Pa., said he was not permitted to release any information about the driver or the crash, including the driver's name.

Tractor-trailers frequently crash while rounding a curve in the downhill ramp, Maryland State Highway Administration spokesman David Buck said. He said drivers often travel faster than the suggested 25 mph on the ramp, lose control and overturn.

The truck driver had not been cited for speeding by Thursday evening when the trooper investigating the crash left for the day. Maryland State Police Trooper J. Broadwater said he did not know how fast the TRL driver was going.

The SHA completed more than $1 million in improvements to the ramp in May after complaints that the ramp's curve was too sharp, Buck said. The ramp was widened slightly and other work was done to help tractor-trailers safely use the ramp, SHA spokesman Chuck Gischlar said. Work was done to the guardrail, and additional yellow lines were painted on the ramp to make drivers think the ramp is more narrow.

"Then you slow down because you think you are in a more narrow area," Gischlar said. "It's these little things like that we are hoping will really cut down on those overturns."

Buck said the only vehicles that he knows to have overturned on the ramp are tractor-trailers carrying loads, most of which were speeding. He said he never has heard of a personal vehicle or an unloaded tractor-trailer flipping on the ramp.

The loads shift if drivers travel too fast around the curve in the ramp, causing weight to shift and the truck to overturn, he said.

"Tractor-trailers continue to take the ramps at a far greater speed than advised," Buck said. "You need to slow down dramatically at that ramp."

Buck said the SHA has done everything it can to prevent accidents on the ramp. The rest is up to the drivers, he said.

"The overwhelming majority of the time, it's excessive speed," Buck said. "It just has to be, because there's no reason for someone to turn over on that ramp unless they are going too fast."

Ramp crash statistics since construction was completed were not available Thursday.

An 8-foot-by-12-foot sign was posted at the top of the ramp before the May construction that showed a tractor-trailer overturning while rounding the curve in the ramp.

Gischlar said the sign and others posted during construction are supposed to prepare drivers for the turn and warn them to slow down.

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