PennDOT stresses work zone safety

CLARK, Pa. (WKBN) — It may not seem all that much like spring yet, but with warmer weather on the way, it won’t be long until motorists see those familiar orange barrels popping up along local roads and bridges.

One such work zone is along Route 18 in Clark in Mercer County as crews have started removing the concrete bridge deck over the Shenango Reservoir to replace the deck and steel support beams. It has caused traffic in the area to be reduced to just one lane in each direction and southbound drivers will have to cross over to the northbound side as they pass over the bridge.

But before they get to that point, motorists will see signs urging them to turn on their headlights, which actually serves two purposes.

“Number one, for the workers. It makes the vehicles more visible so they can see them better. And the second purpose it serves is for the motorists. It’s an alert that there’s construction ahead,” said PennDOT project engineer Reggie Jannetti.

Monday was the start of National Work Zone Awareness Week.Drivers caught in construction areas without their lights on could face a $25 fine. And for added safety, if traffic is slowing down ahead, motorists are urged to turn on their hazard flashers.

“Let the motorist behind you know that things are coming to a stop or slowing down. So a little bit of common sense can go a long way,” Jannetti said.

Workers said work zone safety comes down to motorists always paying attention to their surroundings, especially for those driving through the construction area.

“A split second bad decision, if you’re on your cell phone, texting or calling, or trying to look up somebody’s cell phone number, could cause a fatal accident,” Jannetti said.

But besides urging motorists to avoid distractions behind the wheel, workers themselves sometimes need to be reminded to watch out for what’s on the road.

“You become commonplace to the traffic driving by here and after a while, you’re not hearing that. You’re hearing the jackhammers, you’re hearing all the other noise from the construction site rather than a car coming,” said Steve Reed of Mekis Construction, which is handling the Route 18 bridge project.

The $3.9 million project should be finished by the end of September.

The project will require some nighttime road closures. Route 18 over the Shenango River causeway will be closed in both directions from 10 p.m. Wednesday to 6 a.m. Thursday and from 10 p.m. Thursday to 6 a.m. Friday, weather permitting.

A detour will be posted using Route 18, Route 518, Route 846 and Rutledge Road (Route 3022).

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