Crashes and suicidal threats disrupt I-81 in Martinsburg

West Virginia state seal. Used by written permission by Chief Deputy and Chief of Staff of West Virginia Chuck Flannery

Traffic on Interstate 81 through Martinsburg faced multiple disruptions on Wednesday evening stemming from different incidents.

The Berkeley County Sheriff’s Department received reports of a man threatening to jump off the Hammonds Mill Bridge over 81 at approximately 6:40 pm.

Deputies arrived on the scene and slowed traffic but reopened the road when they could not locate the male.

Then at 6:53 pm, a man matching the description of the person of interest was located at a nearby Sheetz and taken into custody without incident.

Joseph S. Jimenez, 35, was arrested and charged with a warrant for destruction of property.

Shortly after the interstate was reopened, a tractor trailer collided with a blue sedan and white SUV near mile marker 15.

The driver of the sedan was ejected from his vehicle and flown to a regional trauma center in critical condition.

A white SUV flipped onto its side after colliding with the tractor trailer as well.

The crash is still under investigation.

Then around 7 pm, a tanker truck overturned near mile marker 15 which shut down the interstate until 2:03 AM on Thursday.

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Grassland Partnership Program

Farms along the I-81 corridor that have pastureland that is used for forage production are invited to participate in the Grassland Partnership Project.

The project focuses on the impact of six grassland management practices.

The affect soil carbon storage, input cost, profitability, productivity and in some cases the response of birds and pollinators.

Funding is available to farmers who install at least three of the six practices and maintain them for at least five years.

The Grasslands Partnership  is a collaboration of the U.S. Department of Agriculture , VSU College of Agriculture, and Virginia Cooperative Extension.

For questions please contact Grasslands Project Coordinator Amanda “Mandy” Fletcher at 804-892-0108 or afletcher@vsu.edu.

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I-81 Auxiliary Lane Project begins near Staunton

crossover boulevard bridge

The Virginia Department of Transportation began the Interstate 81 Auxiliary Lane Project November 20th near Staunton.

Northbound and southbound traffic on I-81 will be lowered to 60 miles per hour between mile marker 220 and 221.5.

The work-zone speed limit will remain in place for the duration of the 18 month auxiliary lane project.

Route 635 (Barterbrook Road) south of exit 221, will close next week and remain closed until completion of construction.

During bridge construction, motorists will need to follow a 13-mile detour.

The full detour route follows:

  • West of the bridge (Staunton side), drivers will go west on Route 635, south on Route 11 (Greenville Avenue/Lee-Jackson Highway), south on Route 262 (Woodrow Wilson Parkway), north on I-81, east on I-64 to exit 91 (Fishersville), south on Route 285/608, and then west on Route 635 to the end of the detour.
  • East of the bridge (Fishersville side), drivers will go east on Route 635, north on Route 608/285, west on I-64, south on I-81 to exit 220 (Staunton), north on Route 262 (Woodrow Wilson Parkway), north on Route 11 (Lee-Jackson Highway/Greenville Avenue), and then east on Route 635 to the end of the detour.

Once completed, an auxiliary lane on 81 will help connect the I-64 junction with exit 220.

The bridge replacement provides additional space for merging and exiting traffic.

Building a new bridge also allows for future widening of I-81 and will reduce the cost and duration of the entire full project.

The contract was originally awarded to Fairfield-Echolls of Fishersville for $7.7 million in October, earlier this year and is scheduled for completion by October of 2025.

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VDOT schedules lane closure for I-81 in Warren County

road improvements

The Virginia Department of Transportation is scheduled to pour concrete for the widening of Route 840 (Water Plant Road) over I-81 southbound in Warren County on Tuesday, September 19.

The work requires the overnight lane closure of the left lane from 8 pm to 7 am from mile marker 298 to 300, near the I-81 and I 66 junction.

This is a regularly congested area so motorists should use caution when traveling through the work zone.

Drivers using Route 840 should be alert for flagger controlled traffic at the overpass bridge during the time of the scheduled work.

The bridge widening is part of the larger project to extend the on-ramp from I-66 to ease congestion and enhance safety.

The contract was originally awarded to Triton Construction for $7.1 million in May of 2022 with completion scheduled for November of 2024.

For up to date travel information, head to 511virginia.org.

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I-81 bridge replacement begins in Warren County

crossover boulevard bridge

The Virginia Department of Transportation will begin bridge replacement on I-81 north and southbound between mile marker 298-300.

The construction will require overnight, single-lane closures in both directions from 8 pm to 7 am Monday through Wednesday nights, July 24-26.

The schedule will allow contractors to position cranes and install concrete beams for the new southbound bridge over Route 840, Water Plant Road.

Monday night will see both directions left lanes closed, Tuesday night, just the southbound left lane will close, and Wednesday night, both directions left lanes will be closed again.

The area is just south of the I-81 junction with I-66 so please travel with additional caution through the work zones and be alert for flagger traffic control.

Funding for the improvements to the I-81 and I-66 exchange are provided by Virginia’s SMART SCALE program which is dedicated to reducing congestion and enhancing safety.

The entire project is expected to be completed by November of 2024.

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VDOT begins exit 300 improvement project

crossover boulevard bridge

The Virginia Department of Transportation is planning to shut down the ramp between I-66 westbound and I-81 southbound overnight from November 6th to November 9th.

The ramp and lane closures will take place from 8 pm to 7 am.

During that time, the left southbound lane of I-81 will also be closed between mile marker 303 and 298.

Motorists traveling from 66 to 81 southbound will need to first follow 81 north to exit 302 in Middletown then use that interchange to enter 81 south.

This is the beginning of the exit 300 improvement project which will extend the acceleration lane and replace the bridge over Route 840.

The work zone around the area will then be 55 mph for the remainder of the project.

The project is scheduled for completion in November of 2024 and will cost over $7 million.

For additional information on the project, click here.

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Emergency bridge repairs on I-81

crossover boulevard bridge

Emergency bridge repairs will take place on Interstate 81 at exit 247 following a hit and run bridge strike on June 6th.

Repairs will begin in Harrisonburg at 8 pm on Saturday and continue into Sunday morning.

After the incident, inspections were made which showed surface beam damage but the ramps and bridges were safe for traffic.

VDOT crews will perform barrier placement, guardrail and curb work on the Route 33 bridge over I-81.

This work will leave the acceleration lane narrowed and shortened until the bridge is replaced.

VDOT plans to award contracts to replace both Route 33 bridges later this year.

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VDOT plans sinkhole repairs in Shenandoah County

crossover boulevard bridge

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is urging motorists to make plans for upcoming sinkhole repairs in Shenandoah County.

According to an email from VDOT permanent repairs to the sinkhole at mile marker 268 will begin Wednesday at 7 p.m. and may extend into Thursday June 9.

The work may temporarily shut down northbound lanes between New Market and Mount Jackson.

Timing of the work is unknown until crews begin excavation.

No detour route is planned but should traffic backups occur VDOT recommends using Route 11 at exit 257 and rejoining 81 at exit 269.

A temporary patch has been in  place at the location since May 27 and has been monitored.

The work zone will begin at mile marker 266 to marker 269 starting Wednesday at 7 p.m. and remain in place until work is complete.

The exit at 264 will be closed at Route 211 in New Market due to tight turning areas for trucks trying to access Route 11 north.

Up to the minute travel information is readily available at all hours here.

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High speed chase through Frederick County

An email from Virginia State Police reports pursuit of a Chrysler on Interstate 81 from mile marker 303 to exit 302 at high rates of  speed.

At one point the Chrysler slammed on its breaks causing a tractor trailer to slam into its rear.

Using the emergency crossover the Chrysler sped back onto northbound 81 and exited at the 302 location.

Speeds reached over 100 miles per hour down Reliance Road.

The Chrysler at one point crossed the double yellow line to pass several cars before losing control running off the road.

The Chrysler struck two trees which fell on the pursuing trooper’s vehicle.

A passerby assisted the trooper to remove the driver of the smoking and damaged Chrysler.

The driver of the Chrysler, Damon S. Smith of Winchester was taken to Winchester Medical Center for treatment of serious injuries.

The 38 year old Smith faces a number of charges including felony eluding, driving suspended and reckless driving.

Other charges include aggressive driving, operating an uninsured vehicle, expired registration and various infractions during the pursuit.

No other injuries were reported in the incident which remains under investigation.

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Police chase ends in Frederick County

phone scam warning

A police chase began in Berkeley County where officers pursued a vehicle on 81 south under suspicion of a DUI.

The vehicle, listed as stolen in Jefferson County, then entered Frederick County before taking exit 323 and continuing south.

Officers deployed a successful spike strip at Welltown Road.

Then the suspect, Matthew Kerlin, 31, led the officers on a brief foot chase.

Kerlin claimed to have swallowed methamphetamines during the pursuit and showed signs of overdosing when EMS arrived at the location.

He was then taken to Winchester Medical Center for treatment.

Kerlin will face charges including possession of drugs and a stolen vehicle, felony eluding, and driving suspended.

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