IVEL – The speed limit has been lowered to 45 miles per hour on US 23 at Ivel in Floyd County, through the area where a rockfall last week reduced traffic to two lanes. Drivers who will not slow down, and those who are speeding up to pass vehicles before merging into the single lane create a serious safety hazard in the area.
“We’ve had some close calls,” said Darold Slone, Engineering Branch Manager. “Some people insist on reckless driving, aggressive driving, trying to get in front of other vehicles before the road merges into a single lane, especially northbound drivers. They are putting themselves, other drivers, and our workers in danger.”
The hillside where the rockfall originated, near the 7.0 mile marker, is still unstable. Large dump trucks are backed up to the hillside with the beds tilted toward the mountain to act as a temporary barrier.
Slone said there is a spotter in a state vehicle stationed in the median to watch for any material that might come off the mountain. “When a rock or any material starts coming off the hillside, the spotter radios a crew on each end of the work zone and they immediately get out and stop traffic altogether until the roadway is cleared.”
At night, Slone said, even with portable work zone lighting, it is not always possible to see what is coming off the mountain. “You can usually hear it before you can see it,” he said. “We have to act quickly to stop traffic in a situation like that.”
Slone said it is critical that people merge as soon as they can once they see the big yellow merge arrow and it is even more important that people slow down to 45 miles an hour as soon as they see the posted speed limit signs. “Don’t wait until you get to the radar trailer,” he said. “That’s almost too late to keep from rear-ending someone who is obeying the signs.” He said he has observed people talking on mobile phones who are so distracted they don’t appear to see the reduced speed limit signs or the flashing arrow or the flashing radar trailer. “How people can be so irresponsible behind the wheel is amazing,” he said. “Please make sure you are not this type of driver. And please make sure your family members and friends are aware that traffic is reduced to one lane in each direction at this site. We do not want anyone to get hurt.”
Mary Westfall-Holbrook, Chief District Engineer, said that the Allen Maintenance Crew is staffing the area 24/7, with assistance from the Prestonsburg Section Office. “These people are literally putting their lives on the line to make sure motorists are safe through this section of US 23,” she said. “I cannot thank them enough for their willingness to protect the public, at great risk to themselves. They are working long hours, away from their families, in dismal weather, to try to keep this work zone safe. When people drive carelessly or refuse to pay attention to the reduced speed and the merge signs, they are creating an additional hazard for everyone quite separate from the danger posed by the hillside.”
Westfall-Holbrook said crashes can be avoided if people will remember that they are the safest thing about their vehicle. “I drive through this area on my way to and from work and home every day. There are times when I think someone is going to run up into my back windshield because I’m going 45 and they are driving too fast behind me. This is not necessary. The whole area is less than a quarter of a mile long. Slowing down to 45 is not going to delay anyone an inordinate amount of time. Not slowing down could kill someone.”