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Turnpike traffic dips only slightly for holiday

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Holiday traffic on the West Virginia Turnpike was down less than 1 percent from the 2012 July 4th travel period -- which was better than expected, according to Parkways Authority general manager Greg Barr.

"I wouldn't have been surprised if it had been down 1 percent or even 2 percent," he said Monday.

Because July 4 falls on different days of the week, Parkways tracks an 11-day travel period each year, from the Thursday prior to the week of July 4 to the Sunday after.

This year, there were 1,405,370 toll transactions during the holiday period, down about 10,100 transactions from 2012.

Barr said year-to-date travel on the Turnpike has been down about 2 percent, and that a drop in gas prices just prior to the travel period may have helped pick up July 4 travel.

However, a tractor-trailer accident that closed all lanes of traffic for a time Sunday afternoon near Sharon didn't help on the busy travel day, Barr said.

At its worst, traffic backed up 13 to 15 miles in both directions, he said. All lanes were not reopened until Sunday evening.

"When you've got 2,500 cars an hour coming down the road, and you try to squeeze them into one lane, it doesn't take long when you've got that much traffic coming at you for it to back up," he said.

Not only was Sunday afternoon a peak travel time for people returning from July 4 travel, but westbound traffic leaving the rain-delayed Greenbrier Classic golf tournament contributed to the traffic headache, Barr said.

"It was unfortunate timing for a wreck like that," he said.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.


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