News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

June 11, 2013

Planning eased aftermath of I-70 accident

TERRE HAUTE — Traffic — like water — often takes the path of least resistance.

When the customary channel for traffic is clogged by an overturned semi-trailer hauling hazardous waste — as was the case Thursday on Interstate 70 at the 10-mile marker — finding an alternate flow for detoured motorists will one day be a “playbook” away.

Coincidentally, the Wabash Valley Traffic Incident Management Group had met just a few hours before last week’s I-70 crash that backed up eastbound interstate traffic all the way to Illinois Route 1. A goal of the group is to prevent secondary crashes and to keep traffic moving by diverting vehicles to pre-determined routes.

Those two goals were met, according to local group chairman, Maj. Jeff Fox of the Vigo County Sheriff’s Office.

While city traffic was heavily congested because of interstate traffic on streets that weren’t designed to handle bumper-to-bumper traffic, no secondary crashes were reported, Fox said.

That was important, especially considering that in 2012, secondary accidents and some fatalities occurred along I-70 during the road construction season that often had the two-lane highway narrowed to one lane of traffic for several miles.

“When this closure occurred,” Fox said of Thursday’s incident, “we realized we would be sending traffic through several city intersections — First and Ohio, Third and Ohio, 13th and Ohio, 25th and Ohio.”

And that was possible because of the planning of the local traffic incident management group.

The next part of the planning process, Fox said, is to come up with a countywide “playbook” of the most appropriate alternate routes for highway closures in general areas of the county, Fox said.

J.D. Kesler, deputy director of the Vigo County Emergency Management Agency, was called in with large programmable message boards to notify traffic of the highway closure. He also blocked the eastbound I-70 access at Darwin Road.

Terre Haute Police Chief John Plasse said that while the congestion was a headache, it all worked out. “There is so much traffic that we have to deal with, that there’s always going to be some motorists trying to take a shortcut,” Plasse said. “We can’t block every intersection. We can enforce no semis on Ohio Boulevard, and we did that.”

For many years, he said, if I-70 was closed for an accident east of Indiana 46 (now U.S. 40) and west of Indiana 59, then traffic was detoured through Brazil on U.S. 40. But that reroute has been reconsidered with the development of new U.S. 40 and the growth of Brazil. So, the new route that will be used will likely take interstate traffic south on Indiana 46 through Riley to Indiana 59, and then north to the interstate.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @Trib

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