Safety is priority this holiday

staff report

COLUMBUS — The Memorial Day weekend is the first major travel event of the summer, and with highway construction season in full swing and more vehicles expected on the roads, the Ohio Department of Transportation wants drivers to put safety first and be prepared when using the state’s roads and highways.

A highway project that could impact a high number of Mahoning Valley travelers this holiday weekend is the Interstate 80 widening project in Austintown.

The project includes the widening of the roadway and construction of new twin bridges over the Meander Reservoir on I-80, between the Ohio Turnpike and the state Route 11 interchange. Two lanes of traffic are maintained in each direction, but the lanes have been narrowed due to construction. Ohltown Road under I-80 is closed until late June. Completion date is October 2009.

Last year, 2,124 highway crashes occurred during the Memorial Day weekend, which included 576 resulting in injuries, and 11 resulting in fatalities. Traffic increased most along rural interstate highways during the Friday before the 2007 holiday, when traffic levels rose more than 10 percent above the average Friday that May.

ODOT joins Gov. Ted Strickland’s Highway Safety Office, the Ohio Department of Public Safety, the Ohio State Patrol and other highway safety partners in supporting “Click It or Ticket,” a national enforcement initiative running through June 1 to remind drivers to buckle up day and night for safety.

While work is suspended in many of the state’s construction zones during this time, lane restrictions or detours may still affect holiday travel.