‘You've Got a Big Responsibility:' After Crash Closes Highway, Vt. Officials Urge Safety

Part of I-89 was closed for roughly eight hours Monday

Transportation and public safety officials in Vermont are pleading with the public to pay full attention while driving, especially on a stretch of Interstate 89 that was forced to close for nearly eight hours early Monday due to a nasty crash.

“It definitely has serious mobility impacts across the region,” said Wayne Symonds of the Vermont Agency of Transportation, describing the results of a crash Monday on I-89 north in Colchester.

North of Burlington, the complicated project now underway is replacing heavily-deteriorated decks on four bridges—two northbound, two southbound.

That stretch of roadway is part of a segment of highway the Vermont Transportation Agency considers the busiest in the entire state.

For a few months now, hundreds of thousands of trips through the area have seen slight delays and traffic pattern changes, and yes, occasional crashes.

A transportation agency spokesperson Monday said the project has seen seven or eight total crashes in the life of the project, which began in April. Two of those were considered “major” incidents, the spokesperson said, including Monday’s crash.

The Monday crash happened before construction work started for the day, when a tractor-trailer truck slammed into jersey barriers where the work zone sends the highway down to one lane. The crash, forced I-89 north through Colchester to shut down for hours for a tricky cleanup.

That wreck is still under still under investigation, but VTrans said the driver wasn’t badly injured.

“We’ve just got to continue to educate folks to say, ‘You know, you’ve got a big responsibility driving through a work zone or driving in general and you need to focus on your own safety and the safety of those around you,’” Symonds told necn.

Symonds noted the area will see a lot of work the rest of this week and next, adding that drivers should stay alert to signage, traffic pattern changes, and speed reductions.

Sgt. Jay Riggen of the Vermont State Police said state troopers have responded to four crashes in the work zone since mid-June, when the speed was reduced in the area.

“It would’ve been catastrophic if there had been workers on scene,” Riggen observed of Monday’s crash.

One of the crashes in the work zone was due to a medical emergency, Riggen noted. Given the project’s high-profile location and heavy traffic flow, Riggen acknowledged the area has a reputation locally as being trickier than it may really be.

The trooper reiterated a safety message.

“There are three revolving ghosts that seem to haunt us on our roadways,” Riggen said. “It’s elements of aggressive driving, impaired driving, and distracted driving. So while we’re still looking into what caused this thing this morning with the tractor trailer unit, these are the three elements that people have to take some personal responsibility for, and be accountable for their own survival.”

The bridge repair work is expected to be largely wrapped up by the end of November, Symonds said, with some smaller spot jobs remaining for next spring.

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