Minimize I-70 Project Woes

Brace yourself for a nightmare, local residents, and bear in mind it is going to be a long one.

West Virginia Division of Highways officials plan to open bids later this month for a major construction project on Interstate 70 right here in Ohio County. Seven miles of the highway will be rehabilitated. Along with that will go major work on 22 — count ’em, 22 — bridges on that stretch of road. Some of the spans need to be completely rebuilt. Work is not scheduled to be completed until June 2020. That will be if everything goes well. Does it ever, when a major highway project is involved?

Still, even if the schedule can be met, the project will be a traffic trap from which escape will be time-consuming and frustrating for many motorists.

At least we have Interstate 470 so non-local traffic can avoid the snarl, assuming all of them read and heed the warning signs. But for drivers attempting to get somewhere in Ohio County, the project will make life more difficult.

During a presentation on the plan about 10 days ago, DOH District 6 Acting Engineer David Brabham minced no words. During the two-year period, traffic in the construction zone is “going to be a nightmare,” he predicted. “We’re going to have a lot of congestion.”

That may well prove to be an understatement. DOH officials and local law enforcement agencies should do all in their power to make the trial less painful for local motorists.

Whatever detours can be arranged to make traffic flow more smoothly should be put in place immediately upon the start of construction. That needs to be a traffic control priority.

Plans for the work also should be kept in mind by city officials who have been contemplating a change in the traffic flow on sections of Main and Market streets in downtown Wheeling. The proposal is to make the streets, now one-way, open to bidirectional traffic.

Many local residents and business people have objected to the idea. The Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce is on record in opposition. One of the concerns is how such a change would affect traffic getting onto and off I-70 in downtown Wheeling.

Anything that could tend to cause more difficulty in that regard should be postponed, if not canceled. I-70 will be a big enough headache without adding to it for no good reason.

The work needs to be done. No doubt about that. Some inconvenience for motorists is unavoidable. But anything that could minimize the congestion should be done.