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I-79 widening project getting started in Fairmont

FAIRMONT, W.Va. — Work on a $72.5 million widening project is getting started on Interstate 79 in Fairmont.

DOH District 4 Engineer Mike Cronin said Pennsylvania-based Swank Construction is doing the work on the 3.1-mile section between the South Fairmont and Pleasant Valley exits.

“We are widening the entire section to six lanes,” Cronin told MetroNews affiliate WAJR Radio.”Three lanes in each direction, so a total of six lanes and six bridges that will be worked on.”

Crews began installing barrier walls last week, Cronin said.

“We’re going to try to maintain four lanes of traffic, but they’ll be slightly narrowed. You’ll have two lanes in each direction at 11-foot each, so traffic, as long as they slow down and pay attention, shouldn’t be impeded a whole lot,” Cronin said.The project has multiple phases that will adjust traffic patterns, so it will be important for motorists to stay alert behind the wheel.

“When we start the bridge work there will be some shifts and different stage so there will be more congestion and delays then,” Cronin said.

Due to the amount of work, Cronin expects the contractor to work through the winter months to stay on schedule.

“Throughout the winter we’ll probably be working on some drainage work and different aspects along with the bridges getting started,” Cronin said.

The entire project is expected to take about three years, Cronin said.

Following a recent fatal crash in an I-81 work zone near Martinsburg, Gov. Jim Justice has ordered more strict enforcement of the 55-mile-per-hour work area speed limit. The cleanup and investigation of that crash resulted in seven hour closure of two lanes of I-81.

Cronin has a message for motorists.

“Pay attention, keep your head up, eyes on the road and your phones down,” Cronin said. “We’re finding that phones are causing a bunch of these.”

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