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Hwy. 36 headaches to continue until July 3

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By Phyllis McLaughlin

Weather and broken equipment both played a role in delaying the completion of the new bridge over Locust Creek on Hwy. 36 – and headaches for everyone involved, particularly anyone commuting between Carrollton and Milton.

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The new bridge and realigned approaches and roadway were supposed to be finished this week, but officials don’t expect the bridge to reopen now until July 3.

“It really, really has been a headache,” said Morgan Judy, executive vice president of the construction company. “We had persistent rain off the bat. And that creek takes a lot of backwater from the Ohio [River]. It can rain in Pittsburgh” and cause the river to rise and back up in Locust Creek.

Another major issue was the breakdown of the pile driver early on in the project, which was being used to drive the pilings for the bridge piers into the bedrock.

“We ended up renting one from West Virginia,” Judy said. “Nothing was close by.”

He said crews will be working overtime, putting in 10-hour days Monday through Friday and working Saturdays to get the project done by the first week of July.

The rain also has affected the fill dirt put in place where that section of Hwy. 36 will be rebuilt.

“We’ve worked fervently to get the fill dried,” Judy said.

Carroll County-Judge Executive Harold “Shorty” Tomlinson, who had worked for several years to get the project onto the state’s road plan, said he was “disappointed with the news” – but not surprised – that the highway would remain closed another month. “It didn’t seem to me things were progressing. … It’ll really be nice when it’s all done.”

The biggest headache for Carroll County Sheriff Jamie Kinman is traffic using the closest detour – Locust Road to West Prong Locust, then Fairview Ridge to Hunters Heights.

“People are not driving with caution,” he said. “I understand that people from different counties have to get to work, but it’s a small, winding road. It’s dangerous.”

He said the residents along Locust Creek are suffering the most.

“We’re getting complaints from residents about speeders and big trucks. We’ve had 20 semis that we’ve either had to back down off of Locust or to Notch Lick. That takes a good hour,” Kinman said. “A lot of them are truckers from other states who don’t pay attention to the signs.”

Some have said they didn’t see the large, bright-orange signs indicating the road is closed ahead and instructing traffic to take the U.S. 42 detour.

Turning the big trucks around also has caused damage to residents’ driveways and yards, he said.

With just himself and three deputies in his department, Kinman said he’s been doing his best to keep a law-enforcement present in the area, but it’s been difficult.

They tried leaving a cruiser at various visible locations along the route, hoping it would cause drivers to slow down. But, he admitted, once drivers realized no one was in the cruiser, they went back to their normal driving habits.

One local resident even fashioned a dummy to put in the cruiser seat, hoping to fool drivers into thinking that a deputy was on duty there. Eventually, the vehicle was vandalized and Kinman brought it back to town.

“The people who live there are frustrated. I’m frustrated with it,” Kinman said. “I grew up there, right at that intersection.” When he’s patrolled there, he said, the behavior of drivers traveling through “blew my mind.”

He said he is amazed that, so far, there have not been serious accidents along the detour.  “There have been a lot of sideswiped mirrors, 15 or 20 … but we haven’t had a bad wreck, thank God.”

Kinman said he just wants drivers to slow down and stay out of the middle of the lane. “The main thing is, just be safe.”

He also asks that large trucks or trucks hauling trailers use the Kings Ridge detour to U.S. 421 in Milton, or take U.S. 42 to U.S. 421 in Bedford.

“Please, don’t use Locust,” he said.

Tomlinson said Monday that the entire project didn’t go quite the way he wanted – he had hoped the new bridge would have been built a bit downstream from the old one, and he also had hoped the state would have done more to shore up the shoulders along the Locust detour to give drivers more room.

But, the new bridge will be a good thing, he said. Taking into account the accidents and fatalities that had occurred there over the years on the old bridge, which was too narrow, “even if it’s not quite as much as we’d like to see, it’s all about safety,” Tomlinson said. “I’ll be glad when it’s done, just like everyone else.”