Thursday, June 22, 2017

#IAMKDOT: Gelene Savage

This month’s #IAMKDOT feature is Gelene Savage. Gelene is the Managing Attorney for KDOT’s Office of Chief Counsel.  Gelene began her career with KDOT as a Law Clerk while still in law school in 1991.  She was hired as a Staff Attorney after passing the bar exam in 1992, and has been with the agency for 26 years.

 She has served as OCC’s main Litigation Attorney for several years, defending lawsuits of every nature brought against the agency.  Gelene is well-known throughout KDOT for presentations she makes on safety, risk management and other topics of interest to employees in the Districts.  She makes it a point to stop at any nearby Subarea or Area offices whether she is travelling on agency or personal business. 

Gelene is well-respected by judges and other lawyers throughout the state for her professionalism in the defense of KDOT.  She is very proud to tell other counsel, “I am KDOT,” so it is fitting that she was nominated by her co-workers for the #IAMKDOT campaign.  A graduate of Kansas State University, Gelene is a Wildcats football fan, particularly during the last four years when her nephew, Logan, played for the Wildcats.  She is “Aunt Genie” to many nieces and nephews. When not at work, Gelene also enjoys gardening.

#IAMKDOT is an illustration project that recognizes KDOT employees who work hard to keep Kansans moving. This series also serves as a reminder for travelers to slow down and remember that underneath those neon vests are individuals with families, friends and hobbies waiting for them at home.

Do you know a KDOT worker that deserves recognition? Nominations are open! Email
 today to get started! 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Work Zone Wednesday: U.S. 54 Expansion in Seward County

Work on the U.S. 54 expansion east of Liberal in Seward County has begun to wrap up. The project, which was started last April, will expand the 3 1/2 mile highway to four lanes and add a bridge over the Cimarron River.  

Work has begun to wrap up on the U.S. 54 expansion east of Liberal in Seward county. The project broke ground in April 2016, with Michel Corporation of Brownsville, Wis. as the primary contractor on this $14.6 million project that addresses the needs for a four-lane expressway on U.S. 54 and improves access to the Arkalon Energy Plant on this route. 

Crews remove old highway material from U.S. 54. Work is now in its
final phases.
This 3 ½ mile project includes building a four-lane expressway and a second bridge over the Cimarron river.  Most of the work has been completed off the original roadway limiting detours and delays for motorists and allowing for enhanced safety.  Greg Adams, KDOT Area Construction Engineer, attributes the enhanced safety and lack of accidents on this project to Michels Paving Project Manager, Charlie James, who has played a crucial role in keeping the project and site accident free.  “Consistent, active and visible safety leadership, positive recognition for safe work behaviors, and holding our people accountable is an important part of Michels' culture.  It has earned Michels Paving the reputation of being one of the safest contractors in the industry,” according to James.

The project is in its final phases, with crews working on signing, striping and completing tie-ins during the next several weeks.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Pollinator preservation part II: Planting milkweed

This week is Pollinator Week and the Kansas Department of Transportation, along with five other state DOTs and the Federal Highway Administration, signed an agreement that will improve pollinator habitat along I-35, a key migratory corridor for Monarch butterflies.

A recent blog discussed how KDOT’s Environmental Services team, along with KDOT crews from the Ottawa area, planted approximately 15 acres of wildflower seeds on three plots of land around the Homewood rest area along I-35. This project will provide an increase in habitat to several pollinator species, whose populations are declining.

A close up view of a milkweed weed plug that was planted on May 23 by KDOT crews form the Ottawa Area Office. 
On May 23, KDOT employees returned to the rest areas to plant the 1,152 milkweed plugs that KDOT received from the Monarch Watch: butterfly milkweed and common milkweed.

KDOT workers plant milkweed plugs on May 23 near the Homewood rest area along I-35 in an effort to assist in rebuilding the pollinator habitat.
Engineering Technician Specialist Melissa Davidson in KDOT’s Right of Way said that there were several steps involved to ensure the 15 acres of land were ready for planting.

“KDOT staff burned the site to clear it from dead and overgrown plant material,” Davidson said. “Next, they pulled out any remaining cedars to prevent them from spreading.”

The first step in making this project happen was to burn away the dead and overgrown plant material.

Davidson said that after burning and clearing the area they disked the soil, or cultivated the soil, using a disk harrow to prepare for the wildflower seeds and milkweed plugs. 

Disking the soil helped cultivate it so the wildflower seedlings and milkweed plugs would grow in healthy soil.

“The Monarch butterfly will only lay eggs on milkweed and the larva will only eat milkweed,” Davidson said, “so it’s very important to the survival of the species to have milkweed available to them.”

Using an auger to dig the holes, the 1,152 milkweed plugs were planted.

KDOT crews planted 1,152 milkweed plugs on May 23, near the Homewood rest area along I-35 in an effort to create more pollinator habitat. 
Scott Shields, KDOT’s Environmental Program Administrator, said that although these milkweed and wildflower plants usually bloom during the early spring and summer months into late fall, it may be a couple of years before they all bloom.

“It depends on moisture and how hot the summers get,” Shields said. “This will influence how much they bloom out.”

A butterfly rests on a butterfly milkweed plant on Monday, June 19. Less than a month has passed since it was planted at the Homewood rest area. 
According to KDOT employees from the Ottawa office, the wildflowers and milkweed plugs are doing very well and a few plants are in bloom this year.

If you want to learn how you can help save pollinators and learn about what kind of flowers typically grow along Kansas highways, check out this graphic and go to

Monday, June 19, 2017

Motoring Mondays: The Midland Railway

 Midland Railway Trains still operate on the original train lines constructed in 1867
     The Midland Railway is more than 150 years old - the rail lines were originally constructed by the Leavenworth, Lawrence and Fort Gibson Railroad Company in 1867 and thanks members who support it, the railroad is still operating today.

Train at the Midland Railway
     The Midland Railway Historical Association is located in Baldwin City, and offers train rides that take you on a 20-plus mile journey across Kansas.

     The popular railroading association attracts families, scout troops and anyone looking to explore the history behind this historical moving landmark.

     The railway association offers train rides Thursdays thru Sundays - visit Midland Railway Historical Association today to learn more.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Checking your Brake Pads, Disc Brakes and Brake fluids

Disc Brake
Brakes are vital safety components for every vehicle, so it is very important to pay attention to the condition of brake pads, disc brakes, and brake fluids.
Here are some helpful tips on maintaining healthy brakes:

The importance of checking all parts of the Disc Brakes:

According to the American Automobile Association, depending on the vehicle, the disc brakes are located in the front and back of the vehicle. The disc brakes consist of disc pads, rotors, and calipers. Consider which part of the brake needs repair.
Brake wear can be indicated by sounds of squealing, chirping or scraping. Brake wear may also be indicated by shaking, which is a sign of bad rotors.

If you feel your brakes need attention, visit your local mechanic.

Why it is important to check brake pads:

It is important to check your car’s brake pads on a regular basis.

According to some mechanics, if brake pads wear out, the metal backs on the brake pad will start to rub against the brake rotor. This connection can be damaging to the rotor and endangers motorists. To prevent this from happening, just check for the signs of brake pad wear and have them changed if needed.

If you are interested in learning how to replace brake pads yourself, research what is best for your vehicle or contact your mechanic.

Additionally, in order to maintain safe brakes, it is important to pay attention to your vehicle’s brake fluid levels.

Brake Pads at various stages of wear. 
To maintain a safe boiling point of your brake fluid and avoid brake failure, always check your brake fluid regularly. According to automobile manufacturers, it is generally recommended that you check your brake fluid every two years.

Your brake fluid is in your brake fluid reservoir, as shown in the image below:

Checking your brake fluid

Dark brown or black brake fluid means that the fluid needs to be replaced. According to AAA, here’s how you can check your brake fluid for yourself:

  • Remove the cap on the brake reservoir and check the level of the fluid.
  • Vehicles require specific types of brake fluid, make sure you check the type your car needs before adding the fluid.
  • Don’t mix fluids.
  • Fill your reservoir to the correct level as required by your vehicle.
    Brake Fluid Reservoir
For further inquiries contact your local mechanic.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Work Zone Wednesday: I-135 bridge deck repairs in Wichita

These photos are from last year’s project that repaired the northbound I-135 bridges in the same location. Similar work will occur on the southbound bridges and the project should be completed before winter weather begins.
Today’s Work Zone Wednesday features a bridge deck repair project on southbound I-135 in Wichita. Two bridges that span railroad tracks and 29th Street North are being repaired with deck patching, a concrete overlay on the driving surface (photo) and replacement of the expansion joints.

Traffic on southbound I-235 is reduced to two lanes (photo) and the speed limit has been reduced to 50 mph. The 29th Street Entrance Ramp onto southbound I-135 has been closed and will remain so throughout the life of the project (until December).
These photos are from last year’s project that repaired the northbound I-135 bridges in the same location. Similar work will occur on the southbound bridges and the project should be completed before winter weather begins.
The project will repair problems that have required numerous repairs by maintenance crews. Besides patching concrete potholes that result from the average daily traffic of over 40,000 vehicles, the concrete overlay will provide a much smoother driving surface. The repairs to the expansion joints should also create a better transition onto the bridges. 

While drivers may be slowed through the work zone now, the final product from this project will prolong the functionality of the bridges and maintain this important north-south corridor through Wichita.

Wildcat Concrete Services of Topeka is the prime contractor on the $1,367,856.24 project.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Pedestrian Safety Part II: Drivers and Pedestrians share responsibility

It’s Pedestrian Safety month and last week we discussed the rights that pedestrians have. This week we are going to look at how it is up to both drivers and pedestrians to help prevent tragedies.

Drivers:  Please follow these tips from so you can minimize the risk of hitting a pedestrian.

Watch for pedestrians at all times:
  • Continuously scan ahead and along the sides of roads for possible pedestrians. It is possible that they may not see you and dart into the road. Be alert and prepared for anything.
  • Before turning, look in every direction for pedestrians who could be crossing or coming up the road.
  • Ditch the distractions while driving. This includes using your cell phone, messing with the radio and even eating.
  • Don’t drive under the influence of alcohol and drugs. If you take prescription medication that affect how you drive, it is best to avoid getting behind the wheel.
  • Make sure you can see at all times by keeping your windows and windshield clear and your headlights on—  especially when driving at night.

At crosswalks pedestrians have the right of way:
  • Yield to pedestrians at crosswalks, even if they aren’t marked, and when turning into an intersection.
  • Don’t block or park on crosswalks.

Be Patient:
  • Drive the speed limit and avoid aggressive driving behaviors such as passing a vehicle that is already stopped for pedestrians.
  • Stop at all STOP signs
  • If children are playing along the street or if there are older pedestrians in the area, use extra caution. They may not see you.
  • Always be prepared to stop.

Pedestrians: You are vulnerable to serious injury if you are struck by a vehicle. Be responsible for your safety and follow these tips to ensure you stay safe:
  • When possible, cross the street at marked crosswalks or intersections and obey the WALK/DON’T WALK signs.
  • Watch for vehicles that may be turning and make sure the driver sees you.
  • Don’t assume all motorists will stop. Look across all lanes that you are attempting to cross and clear each lane before proceeding.
  • Don’t walk distracted. Wearing headphones and talking while crossing the street can be dangerous.
  • Be bright. Be seen. Wear bright or light-colored clothing and reflective materials — even in the daytime.
  • Carry a flashlight and cross streets in well-lit areas at night.
  • Before crossing, make sure you are clear of busses, bushes, parked vehicles and other obstacles so you can be seen by drivers.
  • Pedestrians should walk on the sidewalk. If no sidewalk is present, walk facing traffic as far away from moving vehicles as possible.
  • Don’t assume the driver can see you. Make eye contact with the driver and don’t cross until you are sure they have seen you.
  • When crossing the street, look left, right and left again before crossing the street, even if the pedestrian signals tell you it’s okay to cross.
  • When walking behind parked vehicles, use your eyes and ears to make sure you stay safe. If the backup lights are on, or if you hear the engine running, avoid walking behind the vehicle.
At some point we are all pedestrians, and by practicing patience and being alert, we can all help avoid pedestrian-related fatalities.  Next week we will discuss the increasing dangers of parking garages and lots.