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West Virginia Department of Transportation working on ways to slow motorists in I-81 work zone

June 28, 2013|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Rumble strips will be placed in the Interstate 81 work zone in Berkeley County to try to slow motorists who are speeding through the swath of construction to widen the highway to six lanes, a West Virginia Department of Transportation spokesman said Friday.

Transportation officials also decided to install signs to direct truck traffic to travel in the left lane in the construction zone, which begins north of Exit 16 near Martinsburg and ends in the vicinity of Exit 23 for Marlowe/Falling Waters, W.Va., Brent Walker said.

“We want to protect our crews, the traveling public and get the traffic slowed down,” Walker said after state Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox, along with a contingent of state highway officials and lawmakers, toured the work zone Friday.

The speed limit in the work zone will remain 55 mph, but it will be enforced at all times and not just while lights are flashing, Walker said. Highway officials already have announced traffic-enforcement measures.

The widening project is expected to be completed in mid-August, and Walker said officials also will look at the possibly of closing some entrance ramps to the highway to expedite some of the work and address a safety issue that has surfaced.

The ramps have been targeted as a concern because there are stop signs at the merging point, and motorists trying to get on I-81 have little time to do so due to speeding motorists already on the highway, Walker said.

The average speed of motorists in the construction zone Friday was 68 mph while officials were touring the work zone, Walker said.

Using a radar gun, highway officials found the slowest vehicle to be traveling 61 mph, Walker said.

“Our crews were on the other side of the barrier and they were a little nervous,” Walker said.

Mattox’s visit came less than 24 hours after a tractor-trailer overturned Thursday on the highway just south of the work zone, which prompted authorities to close the road for about three hours. The crash was the latest in multiple accidents that have occurred in the work-zone area.

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