Swerve! Screech! Crash!
In the sound-effects world of highway travel, driving on Interstate 70 during calendar year 2012 has, at times, been a noisy odyssey of construction zones, snarled traffic and sirens with flashing emergency lights.
Come Friday, Dec. 21, the construction season will close for the winter on cross-state I-70. Lane restrictions have already been lifted along most of the four-lane superhighway. It will likely be a relief to motoring traffic that has traversed the lengthy orange-barrel-zones in recent months.
It has been a deadly year on I-70 as far as traffic accidents.
Last Sunday’s double fatality in Putnam County has been recorded as the 13th death of the year between the Illinois state line and the 68-mile marker at Marion County. That two-vehicle wreck was the 10th collision resulting in a fatality, and it was the 536th collision on that stretch of highway.
Interestingly, a look back at past years on the road show that while the total number of collisions has dropped in the past five years, 2012 was the most deadly.
“I don’t remember this many deaths in my 27 years as a trooper,” Sgt. Joe Watts of the Indiana State Police told the Tribune-Star on Friday.
While the construction zones undoubtedly contributed to the numerous accidents, driver error has been the main factor in crashes.
“It’s the same message every time,” Watts said. “People not paying attention to road conditions or due to distractions inside their car.”
Indeed, in a fiery September crash that killed a mother and toddler, it was believed that another driver who was following too closely too fast caused the deadly collision.
Several of the summer’s accidents were rear-end, multi-vehicle incidents that began when semi-tractor trailers could not get stopped in time as traffic slowed in front of them entering construction zones.
Go slow in cone zones
Its been a busy few years roadwork-wise on I-70. The Indiana Department of Transportation has 19 bridge projects awarded since 2008 or expected to be in progress in the next 18 months in the 68 miles from Indianapolis west to the state line. There are 11 roadway projects previously awarded or expected to be awarded in the next 18 months, according to the Indiana Department of Transportation.
One of the contracting companies -- Rieth-Riley Construction -- has been awarded several projects on the interstate, and business development manager Jeremy Kashman said that maintaining a safe work environment for the crews repairing and constructing the roads and bridges is a major concern.
Each project can have 50 to 70 employees at the work site, Kashman said, including people who produce supplies, operate machinery, deliver supplies and flag traffic. The economic investment of federal and state monies into the construction projects is not only seen in improved infrastructure, he said, but also in the economy of the workforce by providing good-paying jobs.
This year, Reith-Rielly handled four asphalt resurfacing jobs on I-70 between Indiana 59 in Clay County to Indiana 39 in Hendricks County costing more than $31 million. Wabash Valley Asphalt handled three projects including road patching, resurfacing and bridge deck replacement in Vigo and Clay counties with a cost of of about $19 million.
Generally, projects are paid for by a mixture of 90 percent federal highway funds and 10 percent state highway funds.
INDOT communications director Debbie Calder said that rehabilitation is the scope of the I-70 projects being completed this year and those scheduled for next year. The work includes subsurface drainage, patching, resurfacing and guardrail work.
“The general scope of the activities on I-70 is to prevent further deterioration and restore the roadway and provide acceptable pavement sections for smooth ride and pavement longevity while bringing the facility better in line with current standards,” Calder said.
No new lanes are being added to the highway east of Marion County, which is the Crawfordsville District of INDOT. However, widening is being done at many bridge locations to bring the structures to current standards, Calder said.
INDOT estimates that more than 30,000 vehicles travel I-70 eastbound from Vigo County toward Indianapolis every day.
Construction on I-70 began across the state in 1963, almost 50 years ago.
Because I-70 paralleled existing four-lane highway U.S., the interstate had a low construction priority, except for the bypasses in the Terre Haute and Richmond areas. Those bypasses were needed to relieve local congestion.
The Richmond bypass -- in far eastern Indiana -- was completed in September 1961, according to information published in “History of the Interstate System in Indiana,” published in 1975 by Purdue’s School of Engineering Joint Highway Research Project.
The start of construction on the Terre Haute bypass had been planned to start in 1960, but changes in interchange location and type, and a change in the alignment of I-70 through the strip mine area east of the city, delayed construction until the latter half of 1964.
The Terre Haute bypass from the state line to Indiana 46 was opened in August 1967.
The segment of interstate from U.S. 231 in Putnam County (what was then Indiana 43) to I-465 outside Indianapolis was opened on Aug. 30, 1968. The remaining segment of I-70 between Indiana 46 east of Terre Haute and U.S. 231 was opened on Oct. 21, 1969.
I-70 east of Indianapolis was opened on Dec. 2, 1968.
Still dangerous out there
The construction zones may be closed for now, but other traveling dangers will present themselves in the coming weeks.
“In the winter months, you can’t always tell when the black ice is out, or when the road is starting to freeze,” Sgt. Watts said.
A lack of snow during the past year may have contributed to fewer slide-offs and collisions during the past winter and early spring, Watts said, but just a glaze of precipitation combined with low temperatures can still make the roads slick as a skating rink.
“People still need to slow down, leave a buffer between their vehicles, and pay attention to others,” Watts said of motorists.
Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at (812) 231-4254 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.
There have been 13 traffic deaths on Interstate 70 this year between the Illinois State line and Marion County
Swerve! Screech! Crash!
Tasting their way to a cure
People appeared to be in high spirits Friday inside the historic Indiana Theatre as they gathered for an evening of wine, food and conversation while supporting efforts to find a cure for breast cancer.
Same-sex marriage: 4 couples sue state over ban
Four gay couples from southern Indiana sued the state Friday, seeking to force Indiana to recognize same-sex marriages from out of state and issue licenses to same-sex couples.
Time to check smoke alarms
Three years after a house fire on South Nine Street in Terre Haute resulted in the death of three people, a Terre Haute grandmother still wonders if the outcome of that fire would have been different if smoke detectors in the home had been working.
Indiana State Board extends president’s contract
Indiana State University has signed up Dan Bradley, the school’s president, for an additional three years of service.
New animal shelter gets welcome boost
The aging Terre Haute Humane Society shelter is not a place for the faint of heart.
Vigo County high school team in FIRST Robotics’ Crossroads Regional
Drivers of remote-controlled robots will match skills, similar to those used in basketball and soccer, to score in the FIRST Robotics’ Crossroads Regional on the campus of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
Benefit planned for daycare fire victim
Veronica Gray never met 19-month-old Emma Lloyd, but when she learned about the child’s tragic death in a Sullivan day care fire, she had to do something.
Winter’s costs add up for Vigo
While still within county and city budgets, the snowstorms of January and February were more costly than a year ago.
Mayor Bennett threatens veto of consultant funding
Mayor Duke Bennett is threatening to veto a measure before the Terre Haute City Council that would transfer money into the council’s budget allowing the body to again hire a financial consultant.
Semitrailer fire slows eastbound traffic on Interstate 70
Traffic on Interstate 70 was slowed Thursday afternoon by a semitrailer fire just east of Terre Haute.
Tests show Skittles had no unusual chemicals
The Indiana State Health Department has given Skittles a clean bill of health.
No problems reported in early 10-digit phone dialing
Just be grateful you (probably) aren’t using a rotary telephone these days.
Cloverdale woman sentenced to 10 years in molestation/neglect case
A Cloverdale woman received a 10-year prison sentence Thursday after pleading guilty to child molesting and neglect of a defendant in Vigo Superior Court 3.
College students spend alternative spring break helping in Vigo County
Pruning in the orchard and preparing plants for the garden has been part of the experience for a group of Minnesota students who are spending this week as an alternative spring break at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.
MARK BENNETT: How you approach the day will influence if you are a ‘morning person’
I can still see the stacks of coins, 40 cents in each, arranged on the dining room table.
Area Plan Department considering raising fees
The Vigo County Area Planning Department is exploring the possibility of raising the fees for its services.
Tuesday night crash leads to arrest on drug charges
A Terre Haute man was arrested on drug-related charges after a one-car accident Tuesday night in Clay County.
Clock ticking on downtown TIF district
The sun is setting on Terre Haute’s downtown tax increment finance district, which city economic development officials say has been crucial to downtown revitalization, following action this week from the Indiana General Assembly.
Lay pastor files guilty plea in child sex case
A Terre Haute man has pleaded guilty to seven felonies in connection with a child molestation that allegedly involved the man’s wife as well.
Man gets 1 year probation for child, animal neglect
A Vigo County man has been sentenced to one year on formal probation after pleading guilty to housing children and animals in a filthy house.
Three-vehicle crash on U.S. 41 injures three
Three people received minor injuries and one motorist was cited following a three-vehicle crash on U.S. 41 at Springhill Drive at 9:59 a.m. Wednesday.
Sullivan daycare fire victim ID’d
Sullivan County authorities have released the name of a 1 1⁄2-year-old girl who died Tuesday morning in a Sullivan County daycare fire.
Sullivan Daycare fire: Broken hearts
A 11⁄2-year-old girl tragically died early Tuesday morning as the result of a fire at Waterman’s Wonderland Daycare on Sullivan’s south side.
Sony DADC cutting 34 distribution jobs here
Sony DADC is halting product distribution operations from its Terre Haute plant at a cost of 34 jobs, a company official said Tuesday.
Bill ends automatic license suspensions for many crimes
Unpaid parking fines, falling behind on child support, drunken driving: So many offenses trigger a suspended driver’s license in Indiana that more than a half-million Hoosiers have lost their driving privileges. In fact, driving on a suspended license is the most common charged offense, prosecutors say.
Indiana same-sex marriage tax benefits nixed by Senate
Gay rights advocates said they’re deeply concerned about a split in state policy from a new federal approach to taxes recognizing same-sex marriage that the Indiana Senate approved 41-6 on Tuesday.
‘Slow’ start to Illinois early voting
Early voting is “slow” in Clark and Edgar counties in Illinois, election officials said Tuesday, even with the first-time permitting of 17-year-olds to register and vote in the March 18 primary election.
Brazil girl badly burned in Monday fire
A 6-year-old girl suffered second- and third-degree burns to her lower extremities in a Monday morning fire at 313 S. Vine St. in Brazil.
Helping out Hoosiers: 181st Intelligence Wing launches first aerial domestic support mission
The roar of the jets is long gone but Airmen from the 181st Intelligence Wing Indiana Air National Guard still stand watch for the Hoosiers of Indiana.
Indiana Attorney General launches statewide food drive
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller launched the statewide March Against Hunger food drive competition Tuesday in Terre Haute.
- More News Headlines
- Tasting their way to a cure