Texas DOT improves work-zone safety with multistage approach

Texas DOT improves work-zone safety with multistage approach

Texas leads the country in work-zone injuries and fatalities. To make their I-35 work zones safer, Texas DOT recently announced the installation of new traffic-safety countermeasures.

“We all know that a lane closure can be the most dangerous part of a construction project, so we are using numerous things to make sure motorists and drivers are as safe as possible,” said John Jasek, TxDOT’s director of construction in the Waco District.

Portable rumble strips will alert drivers well in advance of nighttime lane closures. Drivers and passengers will first see the strips, installed perpendicular to the travel lane; they will then simultaneously feel the vibrations and hear the significant “da-dump” sound as they cross the strips. Drivers in essence receive three alerts from the rumble strips. 

“The rumble strips are part of a three-pronged approach,” Jasek said. “They are the first thing motorists will notice when they get close to a work-zone lane closure.”

The second countermeasure: Drivers will encounter a portable changeable message sign that transmits current traffic information from the lane closure itself. And, before reaching the closure, drivers will cross another array of rumble strips. 

Lastly, TxDOT has deployed new speed-limit signs before each work zone. The signs warn of the newly reduced speed limit for nighttime closures, 60 mph, recently approved by the Texas Transportation Commission.

Jay Fonville, safety representative with Lane Construction Corp., said Texas may be the first state in the nation to have all three elements in place for a work zone.

He added, “When you drive at night, you tend to get complacent. I think the addition of rumble strips is a great idea. They certainly are an attention-getter.”

RoadQuake 2 Temporary Portable Rumble Strips were used on the I-35 job, and they also have gotten drivers’ attention in work zones near Tyler, Texas.

On a Highway 64 road-widening project, the general contractor, Big Creek Construction, Lorena, Texas, closes a lane of traffic every day. 

Russell Schnaufer, general superintendent of construction, described the problem: “People driving through the work zones don’t see the advanced warning signs. They’re on their cell phones, not paying attention.”

One driver barely escaped tragedy. Ignoring the flagger’s stop paddle, the driver took the open lane at full speed, just as a pilot car, leading vehicles, approached from the opposite direction in that same lane. To avert disaster, the offending driver hit the brakes and turned into the roadside ditch. The driver rolled the car, but walked away from the accident.

Largely because of distracted drivers, the project suffered an average of three accidents per week. To reduce accidents, Schnaufer decided to rent portable rumble strips. 

The results? From three accidents per week, Schnaufer said, “We haven’t seen an accident since we put the [rumble strips] up last July. They have made a lot of difference.”

Information about I-35 job was taken from the article, “Aware, Awake, Alert: TxDOT Deploys Rumble Strips for I-35 Work Zones.” The article first appeared in the TxDOT publication, “My35 Newsletter”, Feb, 2013 edition