(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — With each accident in a construction zone, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation reviews its worksites to ensure safety standards are being met.
One particular work zone on Interstate 90 has seen multiple accidents in the past few weeks. It’s a stretch spanning mile markers three through five near the border with Ohio.
On Monday, June 6, a semi truck rolled over after striking a construction barrier and overcorrecting. On Sunday June 5, a motorcycle collided into the back of a semi truck in the construction zone. In that incident, the motorcyclist allegedly was looking down at something on the bike and didn’t see that the truck had stopped for a slowdown. On May 13, a 2022 Volvo struck a 2013 Ford F-150 during a slowdown.
“Every time we have an incident in the work zone, we go back and see the way the work zone is set up. We have a set of federal standards we need to meet. When we have an incident, we always go and check those to make sure everything is where it’s supposed to be,” said Jill Harry, PennDOT press officer. “And we always check two times a day. We’re very mindful of where we set up our work zones.”
Harry said there is no set number of accidents that initiate a safety change to a work zone, instead, changes are made on a “case-by-case basis.”
“Safety standards aren’t set willy nilly. There’s a lot of research that goes into determining the safety standards. We’re not guessing. We know what works and what doesn’t work.”
For example, a lower speed limit doesn’t mean a safer work zone.
“People think that if we lower the speed limit everyone will drive slower, but that’s not what happens — there are other things we do that can help encourage people to drive safer,” Harry said. “We can’t lower the speed limit too much compared to when they’re approaching the work zone. We really stick to the standards because of the amount of years that have gone into setting them.”
Concerns that a nearby weigh station may be creating some additional stress in the work zone was waved off.
“The construction is two miles from where the weigh station starts. We haven’t noticed any problems with that,” Harry said.
The project on that stretch of I-90 is a long-term, three-year project. This particular leg of work began last year. It’s expected to be completed by late October. Until the project is complete, Harry said PennDOT will continue to keep drivers informed of the construction before they have to navigate it.
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“We put out a lot of signs to help people prepare to go into the work zone. We let people know well in advance — four miles out,” Harry said. “We try to help everybody prepare, but it’s really important that drivers pay attention through work zones. Drivers should try to not be distracted, drive an appropriate speed, and leave enough space behind the car in front of them to react as needed.”