Summer Work Zones

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By Art Anderson, ODOT Area Manager of the Rogue Valley

State highway projects are vital to Oregon’s economic health.

That is an important detail I regularly stress as part of my job, although I understand it is sometimes difficult for travelers to remember, especially during long, hot summer months, when construction work zones on state highways lead to traffic backups and delays.

I commute daily on Oregon 62 from Eagle Point to White City and also travel regularly along Interstate 5. I experience the frustration first-hand. Back-ups can happen quickly due to the high traffic volumes on these highways. A stoppage of only a couple of minutes can queue traffic longer than a mile.

Summer is our busy season.

Whether it is a multimodal project on Oregon 62 to increase capacity and improve safety or a chip seal on Oregon 140 to preserve the pavement, more construction projects, of course, require more work zones.

Traffic volumes increase more than 50 percent on average during the summer, although volumes climb even higher along popular tourism routes. Construction plans take these traffic volumes into account. We shut down work on our highways during the summer’s major holidays — Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day — to keep traffic flowing and prevent work zone crashes.

Our team works continuously to improve our construction work zones. We separate work from traffic with concrete barriers; we schedule work at night, when traffic volumes are lower; and we provide more training for our construction project staff to manage work zone traffic control.

We’ll continue to work hard to make our work zones understandable and clear as possible but we need your help to maintain safety.

• Slow down when you see orange signs, barrels and barricades.
• Obey posted speed limit signs.
• Don’t tailgate.
• Increase your following distance.
• Merge into the correct lane well in advance.
• Turn on your emergency flashers if traffic is slowing or stopping ahead.
• Use alternate routes during the peak traffic hours.
• Plan ahead. Call 511 or visit www.TripCheck.com before you hit the road.

Many work zone crashes occur in the transition zone. The typical work zone crash is a rear-end collision into a line of stopped vehicles. The two biggest causes of work zone crashes are speeding and drivers not paying attention, what is now known as distracted driving. Nearly all crashes are preventable and are the result of poor choices.

Work zone crashes tend to be more severe than other crashes and involve more fatalities. Slowing down and paying attention helps not only construction workers — your families, your friends, your neighbors — but will protect yourself. I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you more drivers than construction workers are killed and injured in work zone crashes.

I’m probably dating myself but I’ll end with one of the greatest catchphrases in television history, a valuable piece of advice from Sgt. Phil Esterhaus (Hill Street Blues) that I hope you and your family will take to heart this summer.

“Let’s be careful out there.”

About Art Anderson
As ODOT Area Manager for the Rogue Valley for the more than a decade, Art manages state highway construction projects in Josephine and Jackson counties. He represents the agency as a member of the Rogue Valley Area Commission on Transportation. Art also served our country for 20 years as a Civil Engineering Air Force officer.

« Back to the May 2017 edition