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January 29, 2013

I-35 construction zone creating traffic congestion

NORMAN — State engineers are working hard to make a potentially deadly construction zone safer for northbound motorists on Interstate 35, but efforts may have come too late for one man.

A man was critically injured Sunday night following a four car collision on the northbound lane of Interstate 35.

The wreck occurred just before 9 p.m. in the northbound lane of I-35, south of the Lindsey Street exit — an area motorists have been complaining about ever since construction began in the area. Engineers from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation have been working with the contractor to make the merge safer.

“We will have an extended merge installed by the end of this week,” said Caleb Riemer, ODOT engineer. “We’ve asked the contractor to get that done first, so we can provide greater merge distance for the public.”

The unidentified man, described as being in his “50s or 60s,” had gotten out of his vehicle following the collision and was reportedly hit by vehicles trying to merge onto I-35. Two other people also were transported from the accident scene by EMSStat.

Members of the public say they are not surprised. Some have called and emailed complaints to ODOT and city of Norman Public Works voicing concerns over the shortened merge.

“I know there have been a number of suggestions presented,” Riemer said. “It’s something we’ve gone in and made adjustments on since the first couple of days, and those adjustments have helped the situation. We’re working with the contractor to alleviate any concerns in the merge section this week.”

The public is asked to use caution in construction areas and to slow down. Multiple signs and arrows direct traffic. But some motorists complain that those signs and warnings don’t make up for what they believe is poor engineering.

“As far as the safety of that on ramp, we’ve had the Federal Highway Administration review the traffic control, as well as other DOT engineers,” Riemer said. “It’s been thoroughly reviewed.”

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