As four lanes along Pike Street in Marietta have shrunk to two during a months-long construction project, local law enforcement have been responding to more car accidents in that area.
While many residents have been complaining about traffic delays since the Interstate 77 interchange project began in July, there are some safety concerns as well.
"When you take four lanes of traffic and squeeze it into two, and it's a high-volume traffic area with several lights ... you can probably expect that," said Sgt. Aaron Hayes, with the Marietta post of the Ohio Highway Patrol. "The main cause of the accidents we've had is people following too closely."
KATE YORK The Marietta Times
There have been a few traffic accidents recently at the intersection of Pike, Acme and Jefferson streets, where a major construction projects begins.
The patrol has investigated seven accidents around mile posts 24 and 25 since July 23, compared to three in that time period last year. Four were with injuries.
Milepost 24 is near the Interstate 77 interchange, while milepost 25 is near the intersection with County House Lane. During peak time, traffic has been backed up for several miles along that section.
In addition, the highway patrol has investigated six crashes in August and September in the area between mileposts 24 and 27 on Ohio 7, despite making that a targeted enforcement area.
About Ohio 7
Accidents investigated by the Ohio Highway Patrol around mileposts 24 and 25 on Ohio 7:
July 23 to Oct. 14, 2009: 3 (at least one with injury).
July 23 to Oct. 14, 2010: 7 (four with injury).
Source: Ohio Highway Patrol, Marietta post.
"If we hadn't really worked that area, I think we would have seen a lot more crashes," said Hayes. "We were really trying to get people to slow down as they approached the County House Lane area since there is kind of a bottleneck happening there."
The Marietta Police Department, which would have covered some of the crashes in the construction zone as well, didn't have statistics on accidents, but Capt. Jeff Waite said he hasn't noticed an extreme increase.
There have been a few recent crashes in the Pike, Acme and Jefferson streets intersection but that's not that uncommon, he said.
"That intersection's really big, and it has its share of accidents," Waite said. "We've had complaints from people that the construction ties up traffic, but I haven't noticed a dramatic increase in crashes."
Mike Martin, 42, of Reno, travels the stretch of road daily and said he wouldn't be surprised to see more accidents.
"It just kind of comes with construction," he said. "I don't think there's any way to avoid it. People don't pay enough attention driving anyway, and then ... you add in changes and that becomes really bad."
Kimberly Ward, 24, of Marietta, said she's become a little nervous driving through the area, where traffic is only traveling in what were once the southbound lanes.
"When you switch back over to the northbound lanes, it can be a little scary because everyone's going in different lanes and people are trying to turn from the other direction because they don't know where you're going," she said. "But I just try to be alert. It's mostly just a headache because traffic is so backed up."
David Rose, public information officer for the Ohio Department of Transportation's District 10, said the congestion in the area has been complicated since traffic was switched from the northbound lanes to the southbound lanes in mid-September.
"We no longer had the space for designated turn lanes for interstate traffic," he said. "And as a safety precaution, we had to adjust the light timing."
It had been set up to benefit traffic on Ohio 7 but that was causing back-ups on the interstate ramps, Rose said.
"That was leading to the potential for rear-end accidents, so we've adjusted the timing to help keep the ramps clear," he said. "Imagine a truck coming off the interstate at 60 or 70 miles per hour and traffic being backed up."
Hayes said there is little else that can be done other than to urge drivers to pay attention and not get too close to the vehicle in front of them.
"If we put a trooper out there, people would be looking at him and it would be even more of a distraction," he said. "Drivers need to pay closer attention and maintain the gap between cars and don't worry if someone cuts over in front of you as it goes down to a single lane."
Though the final completion date for the project is set for May, the bulk of the work should be done by mid-December, said Rose.
"The goal is to finish as much as possible by the end of the year to reduce the impact on traffic," he said. "If that means coming back in the spring to finish striping or curb work, that's fine, but we want to get traffic back to normal as soon as possible and that kind of work would have little to no impact on traffic."
Brad Bauer contributed.