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I-70/81 interchange work nearing completion

July 20, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- A $3.5 million project to improve safety at the interchange of Interstates 70 and 81 southwest of Hagerstown is on track to be completed in late August or early September, a State Highway Administration spokesman said.

Behind concrete barriers, crews are in the process of building acceleration lanes for vehicles merging onto eastbound I-70 from northbound I-81 and those merging onto northbound I-81 from westbound I-70, SHA spokesman David Buck said.

Before the project, merge areas in those spots were basically nonexistent, Buck said.

Another part of the project, which improved the bank elevation on the ramp from southbound I-81 to eastbound I-70, was completed earlier this summer, Buck said.

The project also includes repaving, the creation of a stormwater management pond and light repairs.

It is being funded 80 percent by the federal government and 20 percent by the state, Buck said. The contractor is C. William Hetzer Inc. of Hagerstown.

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Work started last November.

Already, the SHA has gotten positive feedback on the improvements to the ramp from I-81 South to I-70 East, Buck said.

Before, the elevation of that ramp rose and fell as vehicles wound around the curve of the cloverleaf, which can cause loads to shift in tractor-trailers, Buck said.

From mid-April through late May, that ramp was closed and traffic was detoured onto U.S. 11 while crews smoothed the ramp's elevation, he said.

The improvement is more noticeable in tractor-trailers than in smaller vehicles, Buck said.

"We've heard from some of the truckers out there already (that they) really have noticed a difference," he said.

Now, crews are focusing on the new merge lanes, Buck said.

The new merge lane for traffic getting on eastbound I-70 from northbound I-81 will be 2,200 feet, or almost a half-mile long, Buck said. The other new merge lane, for traffic getting on northbound I-81 from westbound I-70, will be 1,300 feet, or about a quarter-mile long, he said.

When crews finish laying the pavement for the new lanes, they will take down the concrete barriers, install guardrails and apply the final resurfacing to those ramps, Buck said. The new merge lanes should be finished by the end of August, he said.

After that, crews will finish work on a stormwater management pond for erosion or sediment control that was installed in the interchange, Buck said.

To finish the project, Allegheny Power will be doing some electrical work at the interchange, he said.

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