Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Common Courtesy Day: Reminders for the road

Does this scene sound familiar?

It’s rush hour. The stop and go traffic is exhausting and you may feel your blood begin to boil when an impatient driver cuts you off.  Your first reaction may be to lay on the horn angrily and yell at the driver in front of you.

Road rage is a very real behavior that has a way of snowballing out of control. Today is National Common Courtesy Day, and KDOT would like to provide you with some tips that will help you share the road with others. Hopefully, these tips will allow you to take moment and breathe when stressful situations occur

Don’t tailgate: While driving, it is easy to grow impatient and provide “hints” to drivers in front of us that they are going too slow. Don’t bully them into going faster.  If they have to brake suddenly, you could crash into them. Try to follow the three-second rule. Pick an object on the road, such as a post or a sign. When the car in front of you passes that object start counting, if you reach that object before you count to three, you are following too close.
Use your turn signal: In any relationship, communication is important. When you are on the road you are sharing your time and space with others, even if it’s only for a few seconds. It is important to indicate your intentions. Will you be turning at the next street? Do you need to exit? Your turn signal is a valuable communication device and will help other drivers know what you plan to do next.

Let others merge:   Small, kind gestures can make a world of difference in the lives of the people around you. Sometimes that can be as easy as acknowledging that someone needs to merge into your lane and allowing them time and space to do so safely. This could help you avoid a car crash.

Be patient/Don’t be a hazard: Driving isn’t a video game. Weaving in and out of traffic is unsafe. Try to go with the flow of traffic and follow the speed limit. Likewise, try to keep up with the speed limit so you don’t become a roadblock for other drivers.

Don’t blind other drivers:  When traveling at night it is always important to use your headlights. Sometimes the situation does require you to use your high beams to see farther away. But when you see another driver approaching you should switch them to your normal setting to avoid temporarily blinding them. They’ll appreciate you for it.

Provide space and time for bikers and pedestrians:  Pedestrians who use crosswalks need time to get across the street safely.  Be aware of their position and don’t move forward until they are safely out of your vehicle’s range of movement.

Focus on driving: Distracted driving can put you and others at risk. Put the phone away, have your music selected before you drive and remember that your car is not a dressing room. 

Many of these tips are common sense but in our busy, fast-paced world it is easy to be focused on what we need instead of the needs of others.

Today and every day, as you drive, keep in mind that those who you share the road with could be dealing with a lot of stress and simply being a courteous driver could help them more than you know.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Kansas couple accomplishes aerial feat

There are 137 public-use airports in Kansas and Kent and Cindy Stone decided to visit all of them.

On Friday, March 10, as their plane landed at the Philip Billard Municipal Airport in Topeka, they accomplished their goal with a total of 12 days of flying under their wings.   

Cindy and Kent Stone were honored with a certificate of merit from Kansas Department of Transportation Division of Aviation for visiting all 137 public-use airports

The couple began their flight in December and according to their Facebook page, they had visited all 52 airports in Western Kansas in just four days.

“Boredom got us going,” Kent said. He and his wife kept flying their renovated Beechcraft E33 Bonanza to the rest of the public-use airports in Kansas.

Although the couple took a break for a few weeks, they started up again early last month. Their arrival in Topeka ended their saga and earned them a certificate of merit from the KDOT Division of Aviation and the compliments of Aviation Director Merrill Atwater. 

“Kent and Cindy show how passion fuels aviation,” Atwater said. “They exemplify for anyone that aviation has something for everyone.”
Kent Stone (middle) shows off his well-earned certificate with representatives of  KDOT Division of Aviation: Dennis O'Connor (right) and Lindsey Dreiling. (left) 

After visiting 137 airports, the Stones said they still found something new each time they landed.

“Every airport has a story to tell or an experience to be enjoyed,” Kent said.
Their endeavor may have had a turbulent start over thirty years ago when the couple bought their Beechcraft E33 Bonanza.

“There was a long interval of engine troubles after buying the plane in 1986,” Kent said. “It kept cutting in and out after (doing) virtually everything to fix it. I had three choices: Hanger it, sell it, or start over and restore it.” 

It would appear that they made the correct choice.
No automatic alt text available.
This image from Kent and Cindy's Facebook page shows all 137 airports they visited. 

For more information on their journey check out their Facebook page.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Don't press your luck! This St. Patrick's Day, plan before you party

St. Patrick ’s Day is widely celebrated across the country and can be really fun. But that fun brings a dangerous side effect: Drunk driving. On this holiday, more drunk drivers are likely to drive on roadways.

In fact, the St. Patrick’s Day holiday period from 2011-2015 saw the loss of 252 lives due to drunk-driving crashes according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2015, 30 people were killed in drunk driving crashes over this holiday period.

After consuming alcohol there is no such thing as being, “OK to drive.” Just one or two beverages can impair your judgement and increase the risk of getting arrested for driving drunk—or worse. Nothing is worth putting your own and other lives at risk by drinking and driving.

Planning ahead is the key to staying safe after you’ve been drinking. Before the party begins, make a plan for how to get home safely. 

Most drivers aren’t leprechauns and don’t have a pot of gold on hand to pay for a DUI. The average DUI can cost $10,000. You’ll save more money if you use public transportation, or get a ride home from a friend.

The decision is up to you, whether you drink or you drive - but you can’t do both. Help those around you be responsible party goers as well. Walking while intoxicated can also bring bad luck as lack of attention and coordination puts you at risk of getting struck by a vehicle. If you know someone who has been drinking, take away their keys and help them find a safe ride home.

During this holiday, remember that Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

KDOT crews assisted firefighting efforts

More than a week has passed since the record-breaking wildfires burned over 1,000 square miles of the state. The flames, which were fueled by an abundance of grass, low humidity and strong winds, devastated lives and left some parts of Kansas looking like a barren wasteland.  Governor Sam Brownback has made a disaster declaration for 20 counties in Kansas.

One person was killed and 11 were injured as a result of these fires. The blazes destroyed at least 40 homes and countless livestock.
Last Monday, when the wildfires appeared to be the most numerous, 21 counties were reporting some form of fire event.

KDOT crews in several areas answered the call to assist the firefighters who stood on the front lines against these out-of-control flames.

In Northwest Kansas, Josh Hudson, the Supervisor at the Stockton Sub-Area, worked with his crew to help control traffic on Monday and Tuesday in Rooks County.  They were also able to help fight the flames along U.S. 183 south of Stockton.

U.S. 183 south of Stockton was among the many places affected by the wildfires in Kansas last week. 

KDOT crews were able to assist Firefighters in Rooks county. 

“Senior Equipment Operator, Chad Boyle and I worked with the fire departments and assisted on the fire trucks fighting the fire,” Hudson said. “It was a very long day."

“We had the loader and motor grader south of town making fire breaks to stop the fire from going any farther,” Hudson said.  “We had a truck with water being used.”

The large flames and smoky conditions proved to be a challenge for everyone involved.

Smoky conditions limited visibility and made fighting the flames difficult.

“The smoke made it impossible to see anything on U.S. 183 between town and the top of the hill south of Stockton,” Hudson said.  “There were flames taller than the motor grader burning the right of way.”

On Wednesday, the National Guard out of Salina provided 26 air drops with 660 gallons of water per drop to extinguish areas that they were not able to reach.

The Kansas National Guard out of Salina provided relief with 26 air drops to help extinguish the flames. 

“It was nice to see all the communities and government agencies work together to get this fire under control,” Hudson said.

Farther south, Clark County was hit hardest by the fires, with more than 500,000 acres of land devastated by the flames. One of the state’s smallest communities, Englewood, was severely affected, with at least 12 homes destroyed. 

A damaged sign rests on the charred ground in Clark County. 

Area Superintendent Galen Ludlow said that KDOT crews in the area mostly assisted with traffic control and closing routes where the smoke and fire burned the roadways.

“I was in contact with all my personnel in Ness, Hodgeman, Ford, Clark and Gray counties to get the crews in position to detour traffic,” Ludlow said. “We had to close the highways at the state line going both ways, so I was in contact with Oklahoma to stop traffic going into Oklahoma and vice versa coming into Kansas.”

The flames that destroyed more than 500,000 acres of land in Clark County also affected Kansas roads. Note the coloration change of this highway where the heat from the flames burned the asphalt. 

Ludlow said this was the first time he had ever been involved with a fire of that size and scale. 

“We started with the fire here in Dodge City at approximately 1 p.m.,” Ludlow said. “We received a call from the KHP and Ford County communications that they were requiring traffic assistance. It was a pretty big fire that was burning around the four-way stop at the U.S. 283 and U.S. 56/400 Junction on the south end of Dodge City.”

Ludlow said that the fire in Clark County had caused a great deal of damage to a lot of KDOT’s inventory such as signs and guardrails.

“620 of our guardrail systems were burned in Clark County,” Ludlow said. 

One of many damaged guardrail systems in Clark County. 

One of many damaged guardrail systems in Clark County. 

Ludlow said that it could take several months to clean up and rebuild.

“For us it will entail going out and replacing what was burned,” Ludlow said. “The locals will have lots of cleanup from buildings that have burned up. We are still in the process of deciding how we are going to handle the guardrail situation. It’s such a large scale that it could take an estimated several months to complete.”

Another damaged highway sign after it was burned by the flames. 

Zach Oswald, the Public Affairs Manager in Southcentral Kansas said that KDOT also assisted with traffic during the Reno County fires last week.

“KDOT crews were actively involved in flagging and redirecting traffic along alternative routes,” Oswald said.

“As of Friday, the burned area along K-61 extended along the west side from 56th Street to roughly Tobacco Road,” Oswald said. “The fire didn’t cross south of 56th Avenue.”

KDOT Right of Way burned from the Reno County wildfire. 

Oswald said that the closed section of K-61 was used as a fire block to prevent the fires from spreading east of K-61.

“The highway remained closed until the fires had been contained and was safe for public use.”

KDOT would like to thank all who risked their lives to help fight the fires that devastated parts of the state last week. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

U.S. 69 expansion project begins with groundbreaking celebration

Construction of the U.S. 69 expansion project was celebrated with a groundbreaking ceremony. 

U.S. 69 expansion project begins with groundbreaking celebration          
KDOT celebrated the start of the U.S. 69 expansion project with a groundbreaking ceremony earlier today in Bourbon County.

"We at KDOT are proud to be part of this important project and look forward to its successful completion." Transportation Secretary Richard Carlson said.
The $20.4 million T-WORKS construction project will expand a six-mile section of U.S. 69 to a four-lane upgradable expressway.  The project, which begins at the Crawford-Bourbon County line, extends north and ends at the divided four-lane pavement south of the city of Fort Scott.

Two lanes will be added to the existing highway, and at-grade intersections will be constructed at Arrowhead, Birch, Calvary, Deer and Fern roads.

The project is expected to reach completion by November 2018. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Transit Day at the Statehouse makes a stop at Kansas Capitol

A visitor stops by a booth which details transit routes in Kansas communities.  

KDOT and the Kansas Public Transit Association hosted Transit Day at the Statehouse in Topeka yesterday. The event, in its second year, highlighted the work that more than 150 different agencies from across the state do to provide reliable, clean and useful transit and paratransit services to the people of Kansas.

Attendees met with state’s service providers, toured new transit and paratransit vehicles and learned about new technologies being used. Secretary Richard Carlson, Rep. Richard Proehl, Sen. Jake LaTurner and Susan Duffy, Chair of the Kansas Public Transit Association, gave a briefing on public transportation in Kansas
during the event.
Visitors had the opportunity to stop and visit with different agencies that provide reliable, safe and useful transit services across the state. 

“Public transit is here for us all – rural, urban, young and old alike – but we don’t spend much time talking about it,” KDOT Public Transit Manager Mike Spadafore said. “We hope that Transit Day gave everyone the opportunity to ask questions and learn about transit and paratransit services available in Kansas. Our goal is to keep people living in and connected to their communities as long as possible.”

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

#IAMKDOT: Kevin Jirak

This month’s #IAMKDOT feature is Kevin Jirak who has worked at KDOT for more than 31 years in Marion.  Jirak began his career as an Equipment Operator I and over the past three decades he has been promoted several times starting with Equipment Operator II, followed by the Area Crew Supervisor in 1993. Twenty four years later, Jirak now serves as Area Superintendent.  Among his many duties, Jirak oversees four Subarea crews and one Area crew.

“I have a group of good supervisors and employees that do a great job,” Jirak said. “My Area Engineer has been very helpful to me since becoming the Area Superintendent. This makes my job easier. I also take care of permits, visit and listen with the public about their concerns and keep an eye on maintenance issues.”

When Jirak is not at work he enjoys a variety of activities that include coaching kids in sports.  He also is an avid Jayhawks and Chiefs fan. Jirak spends time in the great outdoors as a hunter and fisherman. He enjoys spending time with his wife and four children.

#IAMKDOT is an illustration project that recognizes KDOT employees who work hard to ensure Kansans enjoy safe roads, rails and skies. Safe and successful transportation also helps Kansans financially. Some employees of KDOT fill dangerous but necessary positions and this project also serves as a reminder for travelers to slow down and remember that underneath those neon vests, are individuals with families and hobbies waiting for them at home.

Do you know a KDOT worker that deserves recognition? Nominations are open! Email Mallory.Goeke@KS.gov today to get started!