Preventing Wrong-Way Crashes on Stretch of I-64

By: Carrie Cline Email
By: Carrie Cline Email

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Wrong-way crash prevention -- two major head-on collisions have happened on a stretch of Interstate 64 in the last seven months.

Both occurred after a car entered the interstate in Huntington going the wrong way. After a deadly crash in March, a local lawmaker requested action to prevent future deaths.

He got a response and a reaction.

“Sometimes people turn the wrong way out of our parking lot,” said Phyllis Hitchcock.

Hitchcock runs Classic Liquors along Adams Avenue in West Huntington. It's right next to an off ramp of U.S. 52 that leads from I-64. It was also a target by the West Virginia Division of Highways as a potential entry for a wrong-way crash.

“I don't ever remember someone getting on the highway here the wrong way,” Hitchcock said.

But, in the early morning hours of March 9, the driver of a pickup truck managed to enter U.S. 52 going the wrong way from somewhere. It entered I-64 at the West 17th Street exit ramp and collided head on into an SUV carrying a family of five.

The two people in the pickup truck died at the scene, the family of five--including three children survived, but suffered a range of injuries.

“After the accident, I drove through the area with a critical eye and realized we can do better,” State Senator Evan Jenkins, D-Cabell, said.

So, Jenkins sent a letter to the state Division of Highways asking for a review of the on and off ramps surrounding that exit 6 on I-64. A few months later, they responded with recommendations -- starting with bolder signage at on and off ramps leading to U.S. 52 warning drivers.

“I think the more signs and warnings, the better,” said Brian Bracey, a Huntington resident.

The last two recommendations deal with U.S. 52 and include raised pavement markers along the 17th Street West bridge to prevent cars from veering into oncoming traffic, as well as plastic tubular along the median -- again to prevent cars from hopping the currently low medians and accidentally ending up on the interstate going the wrong way.

“We need to take a holistic approach to this and when they talk about improved signage, separate and better lighting, I assume those are all going to apply throughout that area," Jenkins said. "And we'll have to see when they finish that work in that area, does more work need to be done?”

The last recommendation yet to be implemented is the installation of the tubular markers along the median of U.S. 52. That's expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Regarding Thursday's wrong-way crash near the 5th Street exit, a traffic engineer assessed the area and determined all proper signage and safety measures are already in place there.

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