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West Virginia Parkways Authority reminds drivers to use caution during holiday travel

CHARLESTON, WV – Officials with the West Virginia Parkways Authority are bracing for heavier-than-usual traffic on the West Virginia Turnpike during the New Year’s holiday, though not at pre-COVID levels.

Executive Director of the Parkways Authority Jeff Miller said an average of about 85,000 cars a day usually traverse the 88 miles of the West Virginia Turnpike between Charleston and Princeton. During peak holiday times like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, those numbers usually jump up to anywhere from 110,000 to 115,000 cars a day as travelers make their way to and from home.

But Miller said traffic counts on the Turnpike have been down this year as fewer people chose to travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Compared to 2019 we’ve been down in traffic 20 percent during those peak traffic times,” Miller said. Miller expects a similar downturn during the New Year travel period from Thursday, Dec. 31, through Sunday, Jan. 3.

But, he added, “It’s still going to be a more crowded time on the Turnpike compared to a normal day and a normal weekend.”

“What I expect to see for 2021 is an increase compared to March through December of 2020,” he said. “I just don’t know at what point we’ll get back to pre-COVID levels.”

Because of the lower traffic counts, Parkways officials are estimating a 10 percent decrease.

Though overall use of the Turnpike has been down, Miller said some areas of the highway may still see occasional congestion. A widening project between mile markers 40 and 48 near Beckley is still underway, part of Gov. Jim Justice’s Roads to Prosperity program. That project, which has an anticipated completion date of November 2022, will improve safety through one of the most heavily traveled sections of the Turnpike.

With work continuing in all 55 counties across the state, the West Virginia Division of Highways and the West Virginia Department of Transportation remind the public of the importance of keeping everyone safe in work zones by keeping “Heads up; phones down!”

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