The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

July 17, 2013

Our Readers Speak - Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Turnpike surface was made more hazardous

In response to a study proposed on the recent increase of wrecks on the West Virginia Turnpike: Mr. Greg Barr would like to attribute the increase in accidents simply to truck speed. I will tell you the problem without a costly study.

You have to be a good follower to be a good leader. Although not nearly experienced as Mr. Barr, I worked for 25 years building roads and airports including years working building Interstates 65, 75, 77, 64, 79, 60, 70, 40, 80, 90 and others, also multiple other highways.

I worked building airports in Pittsburgh, Youngstown, Toledo, Indianapolis, Dayton and others. I labored. I hauled and operated the road-building trucks, heavy equipment and worked in all phases of road building.

I have tractor-trailer driving experience in excess of about 5 million accident-free miles and 33 years’ professional driving experience.

I have been turned down many times for employment by the Parkways Authority, possibly because my of lack of experience or high cost of my experience. I’m still concerned with helping the traveling public, thus my free opinion.

I like the smoothness of asphalt, but it comes with a hidden price. Previously, the Turnpike surface was concrete, which is basically sand, gravel, cement and fly ash — very good ingredients for traction. The most costly expense of concrete roads being local labor.

Recently, the Turnpike has been resurfaced with bituminus/asphalt/blacktop pavement. Asphalt is basically sand, gravel and bitumen oil (petroleum oil). The most costly ingredient of asphalt is the oil barrel.

When you get oil on your shoes it makes walking slick. Even after you walk through oil, your shoes can still be slick for some time. The recent increase of accidents on the Turnpike might be because trucks traveling for years on a surface with good traction are surprised that the surface is now slick.

For years, I have personally driven the Turnpike twice every day in a semi and greatly reduce my speed because of the new danger. The Turnpike administration’s choice of spending their money on oil barrels instead of local labor has created a new hazard that will not be admitted to; it’s easier to blame truckers.

Investors and politicians are very happy with the choice because they have vested interest in the oil barrel and none in local labor. The bottom line is, (my opinion) the Turnpike has been made more hazardous in the name of cost effectiveness, convenience, profit and politics at the expense of the traveling public.

A simple solution would be to add traction at a few obvious dangerous portions. But the added expense would not set well with shareholders interested in profit. A costly study would have to be made to determine accident prone areas, or I can save you trouble and money. Look at the barrier wall and guardrail where it has been repaired many, many times. Signs to slow down are not effective because drivers traveling the Turnpike hundreds of times have confidence, not realizing circumstances change. Circumstances make cases. Oil is Slick. Hummmm.



Steve Janney

Beckley