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Improvements planned for I-70/81 interchange

November 13, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- The Maryland State Highway Administration this week will start a $3.4 million project to improve safety at the interchange of Interstates 70 and 81, which has seen dozens of vehicle crashes in recent years, including a fatal accident last week.

The work will include the construction of acceleration and deceleration lanes, repaving, a storm-water management facility and light repairs, according to a press release.

The project, which is scheduled to be finished in the summer of 2009, will include a temporary closure of the ramp from southbound I-81 to eastbound I-70.

The ramp will be closed for about one month in the spring while workers reduce the sharpness of the curve.

During the closure, drivers will be detoured to northbound I-81 via Virginia Avenue and from there back to eastbound I-70.

The primary purpose of the project is to ease congestion and improve safety at the intersection with acceleration and deceleration lanes.

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"There's not much of a merge area there right now at all, so we're building these lanes to make it a little safer," said Kellie Boulware, spokeswoman for the State Highway Administration (SHA).

Boulware said there were 52 vehicle crashes on the interchange ramps between 2004 and 2006, the latest year for which state data is available.

On Nov. 4, a dump truck overturned on the ramp from eastbound I-70 to southbound I-81, police said.

Alvin Dale Clise, 71, of Midland, Md., the driver of the dump truck, was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.

The SHA will add a 2,000-foot acceleration lane to the I-81 northbound ramp to eastbound I-70 and a 1,000-foot deceleration lane to the ramp from westbound I-70 to northbound I-81.

The interchange carries about 55,000 vehicles per day, according to the SHA.

The construction contract was awarded to C. William Hetzer Inc. of Hagerstown.

People with questions about the project or general questions about traffic on I-81, I-70 or other state routes in Washington County can call the SHA's District 6 office at 301-729-8400 or 1-800-760-7138.

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