A 14-car pileup on Interstate 70 last week happened in part because of dense fog, but deputies also believe that stopped traffic played a role, prompting changes in that area this weekend.
First responders rushed three people to the hospital after the pileup the morning of May 17 east of the Clark County Fairgrounds, the site of a large antiques show.
With another large event at the fairgrounds this weekend, authorities implemented new measures to improve safety.
The eastbound lanes of I-70 near the South Charleston Pike exit were shut down for four hours while the Ohio State Highway Patrol and Clark County Sheriff’s Office investigated and cleaned up the crash.
It’s the first pileup that Sheriff Gene Kelly said he has seen in the county involving white-out conditions. Visibility was estimated to be zero in some areas. The Ohio State Highway Patrol’s Springfield Post is still investigating the crash, but Lt. Cleaveland said weather played a part.
Many people involved in the crash said they were headed to the antiques show at the fairgrounds. Kelly said it’s likely slow or stopped traffic may have also contributed.
That’s why authorities met this week to come up with an operations plan to handle increased traffic levels for the Springfield Swap Meet & Car Show, which began Friday at the fairgrounds and runs through Sunday. Event organizers estimate 30,000 people — more than the turnout for the antiques show last weekend — will attend.
“We want people to come here and have a great time and get in and out with no problem,” Kelly said.
Ten deputies will rotate throughout the weekend to direct traffic to and from the fairgrounds. Deputies will be placed on the exit ramps to manually direct traffic onto South Charleston Pike if cars begin to back up onto the highway.
The Ohio Department of Transportation is also placing electronic signs several miles out from the exit ramps to warn motorists of an event ahead and to watch for stopped traffic. The signs are temporary, but Kelly said they could become a regular fixture for large events, depending on the cost.
Organizers are also directing event-goers inside the gates of the fairgrounds before stopping them to take ticket money. The idea is to prevent roadway slowdowns, swap meet Event Director Jim Wirth said.
“The goal that we have primarily is to get people off of that interstate and into these fairgrounds as quickly and efficiently as possible,” he said.
While the highway patrol won’t have troopers specifically stationed near the South Charleston exit, Cleaveland said there will be increased patrols for the holiday weekend. More than 1.3 million Ohioans are expected to hit the road Memorial Day Weekend, according to AAA Travel.