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Campbell and Whitley County, KY officials made plans to avoid potential traffic backups on I-75 SB

11:41 PM, Apr 17, 2012   |    comments
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It won't be just drivers occasionally frustrated using I-75 southbound in Campbell County, emergency service workers who use the main artery also could find some problems. TDOT estimated it could be August or September before construction is competed.

"It's a rural area. We're stretched out a lot in long transports," said Bryan Voyles, a paramedic for the North Regional EMS. The service is located about 20 miles north of an earth slide, closing one lane of traffic on the busy interstate for about three miles.

"Hectic is a real good word," when he described the weaving through the roadway to get to some of his emergency calls.

On some days, traffic is hardly noticeable.  Other days, especially during holidays and weekends, it's a different story. Traffic on the interstate has backed up for miles, as cars merge from two lanes to one, just north of the slide.

North Regional EMS has to rely on alternate routes to avoid the traffic backups.

"The alternate routes are curvy, and it is a little harder for the patients because they're in the back," Voyles said.

There have been a few instances of extra response time, according to EMS workers, but nothing that resulted in further problems for patients.

Other counties are working on alternate situations to avoid the potential backups, like Whitley County, Kentucky- north of the state line. County EMA director Danny Moses said ambulances have to occasionally use their snow emergency routes to get to Tennessee-based hospitals.

"Route 92 to to Highway 27... which will take them to avoid the slide," Moses said.

The Jellico Community Hospital has been using medical helicopters to help with transportation. That includes UT's Lifestar, according to hospital officials.

"We have typically average 2-3 transports a week, and with the traffic construction, it's up to 4-5 per week," said Jason Dunkel with Jellico Community Hospital.

With summer around the corner, it means those traffic backups are a definite possibility.  For EMS workers, like Bryan Voyles, it means preparing and knowing those back roads in case they need to use them.

"Heavy traffic, vacations, it makes our jobs harder," Voyles said.

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