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Reduce driving dangers

Driving in some areas of Wheeling can be frustrating during the annual Winter Festival of Lights at Oglebay Park.

Long lines of cars and trucks exiting Interstate 70 and on sections of U.S. 40 and W.Va. 88 leading to the park are common during the event, especially in the early evening.

Festival-related traffic tie-ups are likely to be aggravated this year, because of construction work involving I-70 bridges.

Once the $211 million project gets into full swing, some sections of I-70 will be closed to traffic. West Virginia Division of Highways officials say that stage will not begin until February, in order to avoid congestion during the festival. It is scheduled to begin Nov. 7 and continue until Jan. 5.

But some work in the area of the Wheeling Tunnel will be done during that period. DOH officials say some traffic delays will result from that.

Back-ups on I-70 exit ramps during the lights festival are more than an annoyance. They are dangerous.

We suspect quite a few local motorists have witnessed near-misses between vehicles stopped on I-70 near the ramps and fast-moving cars and trucks on the highway.

DOH officials and contractors should do all in their power to avoid aggravating the hazardous situation. That may mean suspending some work during early evening hours, while festival-related traffic flow coincides with a large number of motorists heading home from work.

Letting drivers know what is ahead, in plenty of time to plan for congestion or to use a detour such as Interstate 470 will be important, too.

If at all possible, large trucks should be kept off I-70 in the area of the tunnel during high-danger times of the day.

Local motorists should be aware of the congestion and able to plan ahead to deal with it.

The many out-of-town visitors to the festival are another story entirely.

Some amount of inconvenience and added danger is unavoidable during the I-70 bridge project. They will be multiplied while the Festival of Lights is in progress. Minimizing delays that could become dangerous needs to be a priority for the DOH and contractors.

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