ODOT gives some common-sense advice on taking precautions in construction zones.
By AMY HOUSLEY
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Orange barrels are the sign that construction season is upon Ohio.
Changes for motorists can be hazardous unless precautions are taken by both travelers and the Ohio Department of Transportation.
The state transportation department says travelers should be alert and give full attention to the road, signs and flaggers, particularly in construction zones.
The Department of Transportation also warns travelers to expect the unexpected. Traffic patterns in construction zones are constantly changing; trucks are also entering and leaving roadways.
This year, there are 68 interstate construction projects scheduled across the state. Last year, $30 million was spent statewide to reduce congestion; a similar amount is anticipated to be spent this year.
In Mahoning County
Major construction projects in Mahoning County include the closing of the east-bound bridge over Lake Milton. The westbound bridge now supports one lane of traffic in each direction. Resurfacing is also being done on Interstate 80 from I-76 at the turnpike to the Trumbull County line.
In Trumbull County, resurfacing on I-80 from Hubbard to the Pennsylvania state line is taking place, including on and off ramps, along with the rehabilitation of seven bridges. Short-term lane restrictions and ramp closures will occur during bridge work.
Construction updates are available at http://www.dot.state.oh.us.
Most accidents that occur in a construction zone are rear-enders, so drivers should not tailgate or speed. According to the District 11 ODOT office, which includes Columbiana County, it takes less than a minute more to drive through a two-mile zone at 45 mph than at 65 mph.
The department said it recognizes the stress caused by the congestion of construction traffic and has taken steps in recent years to reduce this.
According to the District 4 office, which includes Mahoning and Trumbull counties, two lanes are maintained through construction zones during peak hours as much as possible, particularly on the interstates. Crossovers and the addition of temporary pavement are used to maintain traffic. The maintenance of two lanes is a state guideline, broken only under exceptional circumstances.
More work is being done at night and on weekends when there are fewer cars on the roads. ODOT uses computer software to predict where backups can occur. Backups more than three-quarters of a mile or more than a 10-minute wait are considered unacceptable.
As an incentive to contractors, some may be eligible for rewards if work is completed early, and others are penalized for not meeting targeted completion dates. For example, District 11 will award up to $3,000 a day for certain projects completed early. The contractor will be fined that same amount for each day that they are late.
According to District 11, tow trucks are kept at some sites to quickly remove the cars in the event of an accident, so that traffic can be maintained.