After recent wrecks on Rocheport bridge, officials say they'd like to see a wider version

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ROCHEPORT - Wrecks on the Rocheport bridge over I-70 are beginning to feel all too common this winter.

On Wednesday, a pileup backed up traffic on westbound I-70 for nearly 5 hours. MODOT says traffic was backed up nearly two miles by the time the bridge was reopened.

One issue with the bridge is the lack of space. There are no shoulders, and lanes butt up directly to the median and guardrail. Because space is such an issue, it made matters worse for many drivers stuck in Wednesday's crash.

"The problem we had was from that exit to the bridge, and getting those folks turned around," Sergeant Scott White, with Highway Patrol said. "We couldn't turn around the semis so those folks that were in the semi trucks and bigger vehicles had to wait the almost 5 hours while the roadway was blocked."

A potential solution could come during the bridges renovations next year. White says that having more lanes could be helpful to everyone.

"I think more lanes are beneficial, especially if you have a crash in one or two of the lanes, you still have a lane where traffic can go through," White said. "The problem with the Rocheport bridge is that when somebody crashes on the bridge, usually both lanes are blocked, and that's where we have that traffic standstill."

Adding an additional lane is something the renovation projects director, Brandi Baldwin, agrees with.

"I guess in theory, it could assist with traffic management during incidents," she said. "I mean, anytime you have more room for vehicles, we can be able to move safely around accidents."

White says drivers should always keep an emergency kit in their car, in case of a backup like this.

"Almost every time we have a big traffic backup we have people calling in saying 'I need medicine' or 'I need food' or 'I need water' or something like that, and so the emergency kit is not only for you if you're involved in crash, you may be a great driver, but you can't predict what other people are going to do out there," White said.

Baldwin said one solution could be having three lanes, with the outermost acting as a shoulder on the bridge. If needed, that lane could allow vehicles to pass by a wreck, rather than being blocked by them.

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