Parkways Authority works to make I-77 near Flat Top safer place to drive

Mercer County

Mile markers 20 to 27 on Flat Top Mountain is a stretch of Interstate 77 with hundreds of stories to tell, many ending in heartbreak.

In April of 2017, a southbound tractor-trailer crossed the median of I-77 near the Camp Creek exit, striking and killing a family of four from North Carolina.

In August of 2018, a  tractor-trailer crossed the median, hitting a West Virginia Parkways Authority vehicle, killing two on the scene and severely injuring one.

In February of 2019, a tractor trailer went over the hill near the Camp Creek exit and killed a man from Ohio.

This tragic list continues to grow General Manager of the West Virginia Parkways Authority, Greg Barr, recalled at a bridge naming ceremony for the two of his own who lost their lives.

“Since then and even before then, there have been some other accidents in this Camp Creek area that have a lot of people alarmed,” Barr stressed. “The Princeton Rescue Squad has talked with us and the families of people who’ve lost their lives have talked with us.”

Barr said the steep terrain between the mile markers is a treacherous drive for tractor trailers, with a 5 percent grade and 70 mph speed limit. Michigan semi-truck driver, Mark Nichols, passes through the area every week, and said on top of the mountainous mechanics, drivers in smaller vehicles are racing to get away from the trucks and throwing off their load, causing accidents.

“The people in the cars have no respect for anybody,” Nichols said. “They make it all about themselves and where they need to go.”

While Barr cannot control the actions of some drivers, he said the Parkways Authority is doing everything in their power to change what they can control, and they are taking action after conducting a comprehensive analysis of the interstate.

“We’re trying to look at it comprehensively and doing a lot of different things to make that highway as safe as we can,” Barr added. 

This means they will add more eyes on the road. Barr confirmed they are increasing the presence of State Police to enforce speed limits and they will hire a third Public Service Commission Officer.

While they already have two officers, a third will focus on reviewing and checking the equipment, as well as the speed enforcement of the semi-trucks.

Crews have also been seen putting flashing warning lights along the interstate’s sharp curves near the Camp Creek exit. They will soon put up black on white signs of a new 60 mph speed limit instead of a 70 mph speed limit.

Barr stressed these changes are happening immediately, but still being aware and respectful of the semi trucks around will only help make the exit safer.

‘We all know they’re dangerous,” Barr said. “We should all put down on our cell phones, focus on what were doing, and be defensive drivers.”

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