Beware the dangers of road work ahead in Valley
With another school year ending and the Memorial Day holiday weekend beckoning, many of us are more than ready to rush headlong into the season of summer fun and vacation travel.
As we do, however, it is important to remember that summertime is also prime time for repaving and other improvement work on city streets, county roads and interstate highways. The summer months also rank as the No. 1 season for traffic accidents and fatalities, many of them in those road-work zones.
That’s why cautious, careful and commonsensical driving must continue to rule the road – even in the absence of the natural wintry hazards of snow, sleet and ice.
Nowhere is that need more widespread than in the city of Youngstown, where a massive $1.3 million summer repaving program will begin soon to revitalize parts of 72 streets on all sides of town.
In the long term, the repaving that is scheduled to begin by month’s end is sure to bring smiles to many harried drivers’ faces. Nearly all of the streets being improved this year have not been paved in at least a decade, according to Charles Shasho, the city’s deputy director of public works. (A full listing of the 72 street sections scheduled for paving can be found on Page A5 of Monday’s Vindicator or on Vindy.com).
To its credit, the city has made streets with the greatest number of bothersome potholes top priorities. It also has accepted a bid from a company with many years of experience in Youngstown street resurfacing whose bid was $500,000 less than the top bidder’s.
What’s more, city officials plan to expedite the work this year by beginning it and ending it one month earlier than usual. The citywide project is slated to end in August.
That road work, which is mostly concentrated on neighborhood streets, complements ongoing road and waterline improvements to the major city thoroughfares of Wick Avenue and Meridian Road.
MAJOR I-80 IMPROVEMENTS
All of that work, of course, brings with it a fair share of slowdowns, detours and inconveniences for motorists.
Outside of the city, those same frustrations are being felt on several other major road-improvement projects. The largest of them is the widening of Interstate 80 to three lanes in each direction from Austintown to Liberty. That $91.5 million project entered a new phase Monday, with the closing of entry and exit ramps at state Route 711, plus heightened construction work and new traffic patterns on the affected stretch of the interstate itself.
All of which translates into heightened dangers. Such dangers are clearly evident in the unnecessary carnage that too often occurs in road-work zones. The Ohio Department of Public Safety reports that 23 people were killed and 1,477 injured in road-work zone crashes in the Buckeye State in 2016.
Toward lessening that toll, the ODPS offers some sensible tips for those driving through repaving zones or other road-construction areas. They include:
Don’t speed. Obey reduced speedlimits in work zones. It takes less than a minute more to drive through a two-mile work zone at 45 mph than at 65 mph. One of the most common causes of work-zone crashes is excessive speed.
Don’t tailgate. Most accidents in work zones are rear-end collisions.
Stay alert. Dedicate your full attention to the roadway. The traffic pattern in a work zone may be shifted, and lanes may be closed.
Watch for orange work-zone directional signs, obey flaggers and be aware of workers and equipment that may be moving in a lane near you.
Brent Kovacs, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Transportation, also advises drivers to avoid distractions in the I-80 widening or any other work zone. “Make sure those phones are away, and maybe wait to take that next sip of coffee. Focus on the changing traffic pattern and road conditions,” he recommends.
By seriously following such advice, motorists will better prevent a minor short-term inconvenience from morphing into a major long-term tragedy.