The Ohio Department of Transportation kicked off "National Work Zone Safety Week" on Monday, but work-zone accidents blocked the Ohio Turnpike Wednesday and Thursday in Williams County before construction even got started.
One tractor-trailer rig struck another at mile marker 6, north of Edon near the West Gate Exit Wednesday afternoon, and it happened again Thursday morning. No serious injuries were reported in either incident.
"I've been sitting on the Turnpike for 45 minutes, between Exit 13 (in Holiday City) and the Indiana line," Mike Kurivial said Thursday morning when he called in the tip. "Might as well call because, ya know, I got nothing else to do."
Lieutenant Brent Meredith, Commander of the Ohio State Highway Patrol's Swanton Post that is dedicated to the western end of the Ohio Turnpike, said the work zone restriction contributed to both accidents.
"It's a new one and they're just getting the barrels and jersey barriers set up so they can get to work," Meredith said.
He expected issues, but not this soon or before work started.
"Construction made that an area of a concern for us so we scheduled a traffic safety meeting with the contractors, the Turnpike Commission, local fire and EMS, and wrecker services," Meredith said. "We wanted everyone to be prepared to handle whatever happened."
That traffic safety meeting was scheduled for Friday morning.
Drivers in both accidents were cited for assured clear distance ahead.
Thursday's crash started when one commercial vehicle struck the rear of a second and that got pushed into a third. "All minor injuries but with a massive extraction," Meredith said. "The rigs were all jammed together and two fire departments responded to pull them apart."
Wednesday afternoon's accident was "The same type of scenario, but with a lot less speed," he said. One commercial vehicle struck the rear of another when it stopped for the cones, but no injuries were reported.
"It's National Work Zone Safety Week and there literally hundreds of transportation agencies reaching out to the public, as are we," said Brian Newbacher, Public Information Officer for the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission (OTIC). "Please slow down, whether your driving a rig or a van full of children. It's everybody's responsibility to do the right thing.
"Coming into a work zone is not the time to pick up speed or pick up a cell zone," Newbacher said. "It's the time to pay even greater attention."
The West Gate interchange will be under construction for the next two years and "It's going to cause a little inconvenience but when it's complete and we flip the switch in 2023 it's going to be worth it," Newbacher said. "The Commission is modernizing it's entire toll collection system."