Dec. 28, 2000
Work zone ahead
Work zone ahead The Laborer’s Health and Safety Fund of North America reports that, since 1994, highway construction has become the most dangerous occupation in the U.S. The risk of death is seven times higher for highway workers than for the average worker and the risk of injury is 66%higher according to the fund’s statistics. Since 1980, over 10,000 fatalities have occurred in highway work zones nationwide. Most crashes occur when drivers fail to maintain a safe speed and a proper following distance. The majority of work zone crashes occur when drivers collide with the vehicle in front of them, hit a barricade, sign or flag station, according to the Nebraska Department of Roads. (It takes less than a minute more to travel through a typical work zone at 45 mph than at 65 mph—just 52 seconds.)

Fish crossing
In Alaska, pulling water from streams and lakes into a tanker truck, then spraying it on a gravel road is a common method used by maintenance crews and contractors to hold down dust during road construction projects. While water is a very effective way of controlling dust, pumping from natural streams and lakes with strong pumps, coupled with either a large screening device or no screening device presents a problem. Many natural streams and lakes are fish habitats, and the fish get sucked into the tanker truck and then sprayed onto the road. Early pump intake screen devices and water intake structures used by the DOT, public facilities (PF) and other contractors were heavy, requiring two people to place one pump into the water source or to retrieve it. Since typically one person was assigned the task of watering the road, the pump intake screen frequently got neglected. In 1995, DOT and PF’s Dalton Highway Maintenance and Operations section, the Environmental section and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Habitat and Restoration Division began a two-year cooperative effort to develop alternatives to the traditional heavy, awkward box water intake structure. The final result of the research was the Alaska pump screen intake prototype, which has the ability to pump 1,000 gal per minute with a 6-in. intake and 500 to 600 gal per minute with a 4-in. intake.

Stop thief
The final resting place of James Dean once more fell victim to robbery recently. The rose-colored granite stone, a replacement for the original tombstone stolen in April 1983, recovered a month later, then stolen again that August, was stumbled upon by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy. The tombstone was reported stolen from Park Cemetery in Dean’s hometown of Fairmount, Ind., a farming community of 3,000 located 45 miles northeast of Indianapolis. Tippecanoe County Sheriff’s Deputy Aaron Gilman rammed into it with his car on an Indiana country road, tearing the transmission out. Dean, made famous in his roles in Giant, East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause, was killed in a car crash in California in 1955 at age 24. His grave draws thousands of visitors each year.

Dangerous territory
The southeastern U.S. consistently has the nation’s highest rate of fatal traffic crashes. These southeastern states—Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee—also have a significantly higher proportion of fatal crashes in which drivers were not wearing, or not properly wearing, their seat belts, according to a preliminary study done by the Georgia Institute of Technology, the Federal Highway Administration and the National Highway Safety Administration. “The southeast systematically ranks poorly with respect to fatal crashes compared to the remainder of the U.S.—we need to identify the causal factors and implement effective countermeasures,” said lead researcher Dr. Simon Washington, an assistant professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Now, with preliminary results in hand, that is what Washington, assistant civil engineering professor Dr. Karen Dixon and transportation officials from each southeastern state are doing. They have begun a two-year study to determine the causes for this trend. State safety officials will use this information to formulate solutions. Washington will coordinate the research effort, which will include university researchers from each of the southeastern states.

Watch your step
If you are driving down a road in central Florida and you encounter a pothole that looks big enough to swallow your car whole, proceed with caution—because it might. Earlier this year, a sinkhole swallowed a whole lane of SR 44 in Lake County. It was the fifth time in just over three years, and the second time within five months, that a sinkhole affected traffic on state roads in central Florida. In addition to flooding problems throughout the state, this winter’s unusually heavy rains are being blamed, at least in part, for sinkhole activity in north and central Florida. Experts believe significant changes in subsurface water levels are among the major causes of sinkholes. As the water rises, or as it falls following a period of high water, changes in pressure beneath the surface hasten the process of sand or clay migrating downward to fill ancient voids in the limestone layer deep beneath the ground. Two out-of-state drivers first encountered the start of the sinkhole, then not much bigger than a large pothole, in the two-lane highway. The hole grew to 20 ft deep and nearly 20-ft in diam. Over the next two weeks, 400 cu yd of dirt, followed by nearly 700 cu yd of concrete grout, were pumped into the voids in the limestone layer 60 to 70 ft beneath the road.

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