The Ohio State Highway Patrol plans to increase its presence and enforcement along an interstate construction zone in Clark County effective immediately.
Springfield Post Commander Lt. Brian Aller said plans already were in the works for more patrols even before a series of fiery crashes on the highway Thursday.
The first of those crashes happened around 7 a.m. when a semi truck hit a guard rail on I-70 westbound between U.S. 68 and U.S 72 and exploded into flames. Troopers said the driver of that semi didn’t get injured but that he was driving in the incorrect lane in the construction zone.
“With that first crash that occurred, that truck was actually in the right lane, where he shouldn’t have been,” Aller said.
The area where the accident happened was part of a construction zone where crews are working to widen I-70. The project is in the first of three phases and will eventually extend the highway to three lanes from Mile Post 52 to Mile Post 55.
Aller said that because of the construction, all semi trucks should be driving in the left lane.
The accident caused a back-up that resulted in another fiery multi-vehicle crash that killed truck driver Matthew Cornett, 37, of Wilmington, close to Mile Post 57.
That accident was outside the construction zone and caused traffic to back up even more for hours.
“When we have traffic backed up like this for two to three hours, it’s millions and millions of dollars,” Aller said. “It messes with a lot of not only commercial traffic, but also economical issues.”
Aller said troopers already began to make plans for extra enforcement before the crashes. He said they’ll be on the look-out for trucks driving in the wrong lane and for speeding. The speed limit in the construction zone is 65 miles per hour.
Aller said it’ll be a two-pronged approach — on the ground and in the air. Zones will be painted on the pavement in the area of construction every quarter mile.
“The pilot actually follows the car or truck all the way through the zone,” Aller said. “They’ll track the vehicle when it actually enters the zone. The first mark, they’ll start a stop watch.”
The pilot will give each vehicle a speed throughout each of the zones. Aller there will be at least one trooper waiting at the end. If a vehicle is in violation, the pilot verifies the vehicle with the trooper on the ground and a decision is made about whether to write a citation.
Aller said the enforcement will be in full effect once details about manpower are decided, and will continue until construction on I-70 is completed.
A third accident Thursday on I-70 eastbound near Enon killed another person, identified as Jimmy Carnegie of Englewood.
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