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Ohio County officials wary after interstate wrecks

BETHLEHEM, W.Va. — Until the West Virginia Department of Transportation pinpoints a possible flaw along a newly paved stretch of Interstate 470, local law enforcement officers have been asked to give the roadway extra attention.

Ohio County Chief Deputy Drage Flick said officers will pay additional attention to the highway and its drivers while on patrol, but he said the sheriff’s department will not offer targeted enforcement without financial aid from the Governor’s Highway Safety Program. He said this request has been made, but he is unsure when the money may arrive.

A string of recent accidents prompted DOT inspectors to investigate the surface of I-470 near Bethlehem as a possible cause of these incidents. The highway was repaved this summer as part of a $3 million contract, but since then accidents have spiked, according to Carrie Jones, a spokeswoman for WVDOT.

While it may be a matter of speed, she previously said there are many possible factors that may contribute to the situation.

Friday morning, with rainy weather, a tractor-trailer smashed into an electric pole. The night before another truck shot off the road, leading another tractor-trailer to strike two vehicles. Jones said six of the eight recent crashes involved semi-trucks.

Until the DOT can transport a piece of machinery to retest the road for skid resistance, which will likely take a week,

Jones said law enforcement will assist with the assessment to consider if speed is the culprit.

She said if skid resistance checks out, it’s quite likely speed is the answer. If the skid rate falters,

Jones said WVDOT and its Division of Highways will plan a course of action.

WVDOT met with officials from the Ohio County Sheriff’s Department and the Bethlehem Police Department on Tuesday to discuss their involvement, but Flick noted no specific plans are in place to monitor the area. For now, he said, Ohio County deputies will conduct extra patrols.

See more from The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register. 

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