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Officials to study I-77 near Edens Fork exit

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - West Virginia transportation officials plan to complete a study before year's end on possible ways to reduce crashes on the stretch of Interstate 77 between Charleston and Sissonville.

The northbound lanes of I-77 near the Edens Fork exit were closed for nearly two hours Tuesday morning after a tractor-trailer hauling lumber lost control and overturned, covering the highway with lumber, just before 8:15 a.m.

No one was injured, but traffic was diverted off the interstate and onto W.Va.

21 while crews cleared the road.

The northbound lanes were reopened shortly after 10 a.m., but the northbound interstate entrance ramp remained closed all day Tuesday while crews continued cleanup.

Tuesday's tractor-trailer crash occurred within a few hundred feet from where a pedestrian was struck and killed last Wednesday morning.  

 Stephen Staudt, 54, of Ohio was standing near the northbound lanes of I-77 when a woman lost control of her car and hit him. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The interstate was also closed for several hours in April when a tractor-trailer carrying frozen turkey meat veered off the road and rolled onto the northbound entrance ramp.

That happened at the same location as Tuesday's incident.

Rain and wet road conditions may have played a role in all three incidents.

The Charleston to Sissonville stretch of I-77 has been plagued by a number of fatal crashes over the years. State Department of Transportation traffic engineers have been reviewing reports to see if road conditions played a role.

"We are studying that area right now," department spokeswoman Carrie Bly said Tuesday.

Bly said traffic engineers have talked about doing a field study of the road for some time. She said engineers now hope to complete the study before the end of the year.

"It's definitely on the top of our mind," she said. "I'd say this year, before it gets cold, it's going to happen."

Highways crews milled and installed new asphalt on the section of the road between Charleston and the Edens Fork exit last year.

Bly said the new smoother surface could increase the risk of crashes when motorists are driving too fast on wet roads.

She said engineers might look at putting a high-friction surface on the road, which can improve vehicle traction and water drainage.

They also will explore whether to install cable

barriers, which would prevent crashes resulting from

a vehicle crossing the median.

Bly said they would also see if signage should be installed instructing tractor-trailers to slow down in the area.

While these are all extra safety features, Bly said they still wouldn't prevent crashes if people continue to drive too fast in unfavorable conditions.

"It takes the drivers - that's the thing," she said. "When it's raining, or there's ice or snow or, it's night, you have to be cautious of it. If you're going in to a turn or curve, you need to slow down."

Contact writer Jared Hunt at jared.hunt@dailymail.com or 304-348-5148.


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