CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Construction on Interstate 77 bridges near Sissonville and Pocatalico is causing headaches for drivers, local officials say, as accidents have increased in the area since the work began.
While some officials and residents have pointed to the length of the merge area as a cause for collisions, others cite speed and careless driving as a factor. The topic has come up several times at meetings of the Greater Sissonville Development Council as well.
Crews are working to repair and replace the bridges that cross Tuppers Creek on I-77. Work began earlier this year and is scheduled for completion by the end of November.
But since the work began, complaints about the area - and accidents - have jumped.
"Our accident call volume in the stretch of interstate in the construction zone between the Tuppers Creek and Sissonville exits has increased," said Tom Miller, the secretary for the Sissonville, Millertown Pocatalico and Guthrie Fire Department.
Miller said there are more accidents than those to which the department is dispatched, since the department only responds to accidents with injuries.
"There have been other accidents without injuries," Miller said.
Some of the complaints about the construction have revolved around the distance of the "merging taper," which is the part of the work zone where traffic flow is merged. In this case, two lanes of traffic are merged into one lane.
A Daily Mail review of the federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices and the state supplement to that manual found that using the formulas provided, at a work zone speed limit of 55 mph, the merging taper needs to be about 660 feet.
West Virginia Department of Transportation spokesman Brent Walker said the merging areas are indeed 660 feet in length.