Roadwork a hazard for Caltrans crews

Dec. 28, 2000
When you think of hazardous duty related to government work, what's the first occupation that comes to mind?
When you think of hazardous duty related to government work, what's the first occupation that comes to mind? According to James van Loben Sels, director of the California DOT (Caltrans), in the Golden Bear State, Caltrans workers are rated as having the most hazardous job among government personnel. Caltrans workers were cited for the dubious distinction over police and the California Highway Patrol.

In 1995, three Caltrans workers were killed in work-zone related accidents, and since 1992 the DOT has recorded 60 worker fatalities.

In a welcoming address before attendees at the American Traffic Safety Services Association's Traffic Expo '96 in San Diego in late January, van Loben Sels said Caltrans is taking measures to reduce hazards to Caltrans workers on roadways and keep its personnel off the highways as much as possible.

Toward this goal, the DOT is using drought-resistant plants, which require less maintenance and care, while also helping to conserve water. Likewise, concrete-instead of metal-guardrail is being used more because it requires less maintenance.

Additional measures being taken include locating access areas off of the freeway, and using longer-lasting light bulbs on freeway light poles. Gang maintenance-the use of inmates-to maintain highways is being examined.

Pressures from the public to keep roads operational at all times, especially at peak traffic times, is causing Caltrans to change the way it has traditionally performed maintenance. "It's becoming increasingly tougher to find time to perform maintenance on our highways," said van Loben Sels. "More work is being done at nighttime and on weekends." However, even with the pressures to keep roadways open, in order to increase the safety of workers on the roads during maintenance operations, van Loben Sels said the department plans to shut down a portion-in some instances all-of a freeway to perform maintenance.

Increased safety in maintenance operations will be necessary for Caltrans because, in coming years, maintenance will comprise much of the work Caltrans will do in the state, according to van Loben Sels. "Many of California's freeways are 30 to 40 years old," he said. "They are in need of rehabilitation."

Over the next seven years, the department plans to increase by 30% the amount of dollars invested on highway maintenance.

Traffic Expo '97 will be held Feb. 2­p;4, 1997 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. For more information, contact ATSSA, ATSSA Building, 5440 Jefferson Davis Highway, Fredericksburg, VA 22407-2673; call (540) 898-5400.

Following are selected exhibitors from Traffic Expo '96 in San Diego. For more information, circle the appropriate number on the reader service card in this issue and return it to ROADS & BRIDGES.

Barrier passes 60 mph mark

Guardian Barrier System, manufactured by Safety Barrier Systems, is the only polyethylene barrier system to successfully pass the NCHRP Report 350, Test Level 3, 100 KPH Crash Test, according to the maker. The system is designed for use on highway construction projects where vehicle speeds are as high as 60 mph. The product has been approved in Wisconsin, Kentucky, California and New York.

Retroreflectometer exhibited

The Retrolux 30 retroreflectometer by Advanced Retro Technology, a division of Gamma Scientific, is designed to meet ASTM and CEN geometry for retroreflection measurement of pavement-marking materials. The product features collimated optics for illumination and receiving, a handle trigger for initiating measurement sequence and can measure on wet or rough surfaces.

General purpose CMS

The CMS-GP432 general purpose changeable message sign (CMS) by American Signal Co. features an all LED, full-matrix display utilizing 17 deg ITE LEDs. Utilizing all LEDs provides legibility during all weather, daylight and nighttime conditions, the company said. The CMS's wide viewing angle is said to allow the sign to be legible at all times.

Quick-drying pavement marking

Thermo-Quik by Cataphote Inc. is an environmentally sound, quick-drying pavement marking system. According to the company, when following the manufacturer's recommended application procedures, the product has up to three times the effective life of water-based paints.

Reflective marking tape

The Stamark High Performance Tape Series 380 by 3M Traffic Controls Materials Division is a highly reflective, patterned pavement marking tape with warranted brightness retention. Primary uses are for lane lines, channelizing lines, gore markings, and symbols and legends on urban and rural roadways.

Solar-powered CMS

ADDCO Manufacturing Inc.'s high technology changeable message sign-the ALS-is all-LED and all-solar. The product is designed to reduce an owner's operating costs and save money. The product's S.T.A.R. system (Solar Tilt and Rotate) optimizes the free energy from the sun. The system's solar panels rotate 340 deg and tilt from zero to 40 deg.

SEG orange sheeting

Nippon Carbide Industries Inc. offers its super engineering-grade fluorescent orange sheeting. According to the company, the traffic sign technology is the only premium grade enclosed lens retroreflective sheeting with durable fluorescent color. The orange sheeting is said to be approximately 70% less expensive than microprismatic sheeting.

Portable traffic curb

The Qwick Curb portable traffic curb eliminates temporary asphalt curb dividing opposing traffic in construction zones. The product is reusable, fully portable and comes in a highly observable yellow color.

Perimeter alarm system

The Watchdog perimeter-intrusion alarm system by Kenco alerts workers to vehicles entering the work zone. The product is easily customized for differing work zone areas. It includes a 100 watt siren and is easy and fast to set up.

Recycled plastic delineator

Carsonite International offers the Survivor, a durable plastic delineator-post product. The delineator is the first in a series of products that utilizes recycled materials. With recycled thermoplastics in the delineator post and a reclaimable steel U-channel anchor, the product contains up to 75% recycled materials.

Intrusion alarm protects

The Myriad Safety Sentinel work-zone intrusion alarm from Traffic Management Systems Corp. incorporates microwave, digitally encoded visible and nonvisible light technologies previously used in military applications. The system also provides a second tier of protection through an advance caveat to drivers approaching the zone.

Solar detour light

Amida Industries Inc. manufactures battery, diesel, gasoline and solar-powered trailer-mounted detour traffic-warning systems, including vehicle-mounted and roadside models. The company's Solarrow solar-powered detour lite is now available with LED. When the product is in its down travel mode or storage position, the solar panels remain up to collect energy and charge batteries.

Sign-making software

Chromatek Inc. offers TrafficCAD, a Microsoft Windows-based sign-making software engineered to meet federal MUTCD specifications. The company supplies complete sign-making systems, including Pentium-CPU based PC units, traffic software and cutter.

Joint-sealing equipment

Berry Corp. is a manufacturer of joint- sealing equipment, including its BMA 100/60 and BMA 20 models. The joint-seal machines feature the Berry oil-heated hose system and full-blending agitation system.

Solar modules

Siemens is a provider of solar panels for traffic control and safety equipment. The company's PowerMax technology enables its solar modules to generate power even under low-light conditions.

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