ERLANGER, Ky. -- Traffic, like the weather, is a constant source of people’s complaints. And like the weather, there’s typically not much you can do about it once you leave your home.
Lately in Northern Kentucky, the primary source of traffic complaints has been northbound Interstates 71/75 from Interstate 275 through the Buttermilk Pike exit. For now, drivers cannot access I-71/75 going north from Donaldson Road. Those passing along the busy corridor are spending more time to get through the relatively short stretch of highway leading up to the Cut in the Hill.
There is good news: With all the recent sunshine, construction is running on schedule for the project, according to Nancy Wood, public information officer for the Kentucky Department of Transportation, District 6.
“The weather has been very accommodating,” she said. “We will have traffic back into its original configuration by the end of November, but the contractors have until the middle of December to remove traffic control.”
Still, commuters are feeling the pain of the $26 million project during their daily drives.
Tony Keith commutes this stretch of highway daily from Union to Covington or to Reading.
“I noticed about three weeks ago, there were many more accidents in the express lane, in the morning and in the evening,” Keith said. “Now, I don’t even want to take the express lane. It’s not just one car, they are multi-car accidents. It’s too risky to lose an hour of my time -- it already takes long enough to get where I need to go.”
“The other thing I see is people who take the express lane have to cut across to get to Kyles Lane, and it’s hard to get across,” Keith said. “There’s not much notice. I’ve seen a lot of people come up on that not knowing what to do. If you haven’t driven it, you come up and there’s a barricade, so people cut over at the last second and cut people off. I’ve seen some near-accidents right there.”
Wood supports Keith’s observations.
“There has been an increase of accidents in the work zone,” she said. “Much of it is due to inattentive drivers who are following too closely.”
Lt. Michael Leming of the Erlanger Police Department said he has been part of the department through three or four major construction projects on the interstate, in addition to several minor projects. He said this is one of the smoother ones, from a design point of view.
“It’s not designed too bad. Those construction guys and the Department of Transportation are doing a phenomenal job. We have a great communication network set up. It’s people driving too fast and not paying attention,” he said.
So far during construction, there has been one fatal crash, although the traffic backup was a minor contributing factor, not the major contributing factor to the crash, he said.
Another drawback to this construction is that it takes longer to clean up crashes -- which are involving more vehicles, especially in the passing or contraflow lane.
“We are seeing a lot of multi-car accidents,” Leming said. “The only way to get to the contraflow lane is for the wrecker to back down the lane from Fort Mitchell. It also hinders our ability to get public safety equipment in there. We have to stop traffic on the southbound side to get to the northbound side.”
Leming estimated a more than 50 percent increase in crashes in that area, with between 25 and 30 each weekend.
“The folks that travel it every day are familiar with it and take precautions,” he said of weekday drivers.
In a recent news release from KDOT, the agency had this advice: “Drivers should exercise extreme caution and watch for traffic control devices, flaggers, construction personnel and equipment entering and leaving the work zone. Long delays can be expected. Drivers should consider alternate routes.”
Other things drivers should be aware of during construction:
- The speed limit in the work zone is 45 mph.
- If involved in a fender-bender situation, drivers should proceed to a safe and clear area, then contact law enforcement.
- The northbound ramp to I-71/75 from Donaldson Road won’t reopen until approximately Oct. 15.
- Pay attention to construction signs. They start six miles prior to the actual construction zone.