Police to monitor local I-70 detour
WHEELING — The Wheeling Police Department will assist the general contractor working on the I-70 Bridge Project by monitoring a local detour on National Road when the westbound lanes of Interstate 70 are closed beginning next week.
Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger said he was informed by state Division of Highway officials that Swank Construction will be providing and monitoring traffic control devices along the “local” National Road detour that will begin just off I-70 West at Exit 2A (Oglebay Park exit) when the interstate is closed at 6 a.m. Monday to reconstruct the Fulton Bridge. The interstate closure will take place for nine months on the westbound side of I-70 between Exit 2A (W.Va. 88/Oglebay Park) and Exit 1B (U.S. 250/W.Va 2 interchange).
Schwertfeger said while the contractor will be operating those signals, his department will have crews monitoring the detour route once the highway closure is enforced. He said the police department is currently “preparing guidance” for the officers who will be patrolling areas they believe may experience some traffic backups — especially in the area surrounding the Mt. deChantal intersection between Kroger and the Perkins restaurant.
“We specifically talked about the intersection at Perkins and changing the (traffic light) cycle,” Schwertfeger explained.
He said there will certainly be a learning curve to figuring out the traffic pattern and trying to correct any issues that may arise.
“We will monitor it and make adjustments as needed,” he added.
He said area first responders continue to discuss different strategies and plans of how they might route traffic should an emergency arise on any of the detour routes.
“We’re going to be sending messages to the large employers,” Schwertfeger explained. “It’s all about education.”
Schwertfeger said he was very pleased by the response from those who attended the public meeting Monday night. In general, he said people seem to understand the need for the project and that it’s going to take more time and patience in driving to different areas of the city at times.
“They were there to educate themselves, which is what we need … and we need people to slow down,” Schwertfeger commented.
The Wheeling Police Department has been proactive in trying to slow traffic down on the local highway in recent months as the speed limit has been reduced to 45 mph throughout most of the I-70 Bridge Project, with the exception of work zones and crossovers where the speed limit is lower. The department issued 627 citations from Oct. 1 through Jan. 27.
Schwertfeger said doesn’t believe there will be a need for resorting to overtime pay for additional police units once the detour takes effect.
“We use highway safety funds in workzones. … which can be expanded onto National Road,” Schwertfeger explained. “I don’t foresee the need of adding resources. … Right now, I think we can handle it with the on-duty officers. We will adapt and overcome,” he added.
West Virginia Department of Transportation/Division of Highway officials held an “open house” style public meeting at the Highlands Event Center in Ohio County this week to review detour routes and address traffic concerns in conjunction with the scheduled closure. DOH officials said the purpose of the meeting was to provide interested members of the public an opportunity to review detour routes as a result of the scheduled Fulton Bridge closure.
The main “thru detour” for motorists traveling west will be I-470 West at the I-70 split in Elm Grove, while the local detour will begin at Exit 2A (Oglebay Park Exit) near the Mt. deChantal Kroger and continuing west on National Road through Fulton, over Wheeling Hill and back down into North Wheeling, where motorists will be able to access the Fort Henry Bridge.
Clark said the Wheeling Tunnel will still be accessible via U.S. 250/W.Va. 2 north until late April, as they tentatively expect to close the U.S. 250/W.Va. 2 ramp leading west into the tunnel around that time. All exits on the eastbound side of the highway in that area will remain open, until February 2021, when construction is scheduled to start on the eastbound side of the Fulton Bridge.