Wednesday, March 21, 2018

#IAMKDOT: Sherri Hildebrandt

This months' #IAMKDOT feature gives hope to the homeless.

Take a walk around any KDOT work area and talk to people, and a common theme you’ll hear is that they’re here because they like improving lives for the people who use the roads, bike lanes and preservation areas KDOT builds and maintains.  For many employees, the sense of service extends beyond the workplace.  Sherri Hildebrandt, Administrative Specialist at District 1 Bonner Springs office, is an unassuming example of a personal commitment to making her community better.

“It makes me grateful to be part of something that makes someone’s life a little better,” Hildebrandt said.

Hildebrandt, a five-year KDOT veteran, serves at the Leavenworth Interfaith Shelter of Hope homeless shelter, where since 2014 she has been regularly working the night shift managing intake, supervising the floor, doing laundry or “whatever is needed” for the 15-20 people who sleep at the shelter each night.

She said she’s always felt called to serve.

Prior to working at KDOT, Hildebrandt worked with the Department of Children and Families, and was keenly aware of the needs of the unhoused in the community.
 “When I saw the need here, I knew I had to be part of the solution.”

In 2014, the shelter came together through donations and the leadership of several church and community organizations.

Sherri Hildebrandt prepares to open the Interfaith Shelter of Hope for the evening.  The shelter houses 15-20 homeless people each evening.
Hildebrandt says since beginning to serve as a volunteer at the shelter in 2014 and now in her part-time paid capacity, she’s met some incredibly resilient people and been part of several uplifting moments.  But it’s not always easy.

“It’s hard when you hear their stories sometimes,” she said.  “But the people who really need these services, they are the ones who help keep me going.”

At the same time, she said, serving in that sector makes her grateful.
“These are people living day to day,” she said.  “It’s easy to walk by them. But you never know what tomorrow could bring, it could easily be you or your family. 

Hildebrandt has seen some of the success stories during her time serving at the shelter. She’s seen people work through extremely difficult struggles to finish their education, get housing, and get jobs to support their family.  For her, these are why she says it’s important for her to serve.

“I love seeing people whose lives are a little better because of what we’re doing there.”
Linda Martin, Shelter of Hope director, says having Sherri on staff provides just the right mix of component supervision and compassion.

“She is one of the reasons our shelter is so successful,” Martin said.
Hildebrandt encourages everyone to consider getting involved locally in any capacity they feel able to serve. 

“It’s eye-opening,” she said. “It definitely makes me think twice before I judge anyone.”
Hildebrandt says she would describe herself as a volunteer and professional. She is a mother and her grandchildren call her Noni. She is a sister and a friend, she loves to shop and she is dedicated and compassionate.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Musical highways

When we hear that motorists who use our highways obey the speed limit, it is music to our ears. But did you know that there are actually some locations around the world that if you obey the speed limit, the roads will literally sing? 

Two of those locations exist right here in the United States. The first one was built in 2014 on Route 66 in New Mexico, between Albuquerque and Tijeras. 

According to an article from the Smithsonian Magazine, the New Mexico Department of Transportation created this to encourage drivers to slow down and bring a little excitement to the monotonous highway.  The music is created by rumble strips in the road that are perfectly spaced far enough apart that when a car rolls over them at just the ride speed, vibrations are created and the music is produced. Music notes are essentially vibrations in the air. The closer the grooves are, the faster the vibrations and the higher the note. 

 Vehicles must drive 45 MPH, or the music can't be heard. The song that drivers can hear  is "America the Beautiful." Check out the video:

The next location where you can hear music by following the speed limit is just outside Lancaster, Calif.  If you slow down to 55 MPH, you can hear "William Tell's Overture."

Japan has several musical roads, check out this one near Mt. Fuji.

What song would you like to hear in Kansas? 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A 'pawesome' story: KDOT crews rescue lost cat

Ron O’Neal was the first to hear the meow.

Equipment Operator Seniors Jorge Alvarado, Ryan Hunter and Ron O'Neal, shown left to right, helped get this cat out of a hole they were going to fill with concrete while working on the apron of a bridge at K-96 and Rock Road. They work out of the Wichita East Subarea shop
The Equipment Operator Senior and other members of the Wichita East Subarea crew were working on the apron of a bridge at K-96 and Rock Road, about to fill a hole with concrete. They stopped when O’Neal heard the plea for help.

This grey and white cat was saved by KDOT crews from Wichita.
He was reunited with his family. 
Equipment Operator Senior Ryan Hunter “sprang into action and dug him out of the hole,” Supervisor Ted Coleman said. “The hole was huge and required flowable fill. Ryan reached down about 3 feet to retrieve the kitty cat.” 

Coleman called Wichita Animal Control and took the cat home for the weekend, introducing him to his two dogs. It wasn’t the first time Coleman has gone above and beyond for animals. He once crossed four lanes of I-135 to rescue a dog that had been lost for several days. Coleman was recently featured in the #IAMDKOT series which illustrates that scene here: 

Workers at the Wichita Animal Shelter, which is situated next to the Kansas Humane Society, successfully scanned the cat for a microchip.

Turns out the kitty had been missing for a month and lived 12 miles away in Andover.

“The family was thrilled and excited to hear the good news,” Coleman said.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Time change safety tips

Last weekend saw most of the country’s clocks “spring forward” for daylight saving time, but those extra hours of sunlight didn’t come without risks.

According to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, fatal crashes increased by 17 percent on the Monday following the time change. Researchers at the University of Colorado also found that those crashes continue their uptick throughout the week, increasing by 6.3 percent above normal.

As you continue to adjust to the time change this week, keep in mind these driving safety tips from AAA:
  • Watch for pedestrians when backing up in parking lots or driveways. The darker morning hours can make these individuals harder to see!
  • Turn on your headlights to make yourself more visible.
  • Increase your following distance, especially if you are traveling into the sun. Those bright rays can make it hard to see what the car ahead of you is doing!
  • Watch for children and others who are outdoors in the lighter evening hours.
  • Always yield the right of way to pedestrians in crosswalks and never pass a vehicle that is stopped at a crosswalk.

And remember to buckle up! Every trip. Every time.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Improvements to north junction of U.S. 400 and U.S. 69 one of many projects in February letting

The north junction of U.S. 400 and U.S. 69 will add turning lanes and permanent traffic signals.

A project that will provide improvements to the north junction of U.S. 400 and U.S. 69 is one 27 projects approved as part of the Feb. 21, KDOT construction letting.
The project in southeast Kansas will add turning lanes and permanent traffic signals to accommodate the increased traffic to the Kansas Crossing Casino.
Amino Brothers Co. Inc., of Kansas City, is the awarded contractor at a contract cost of $2,538,505. The project is to be open to unrestricted traffic on or before Nov. 21 of this year.
To see all of the projects approved in the February 2018 letting, click here.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Safety coalitions across the state

Once upon a time, this mangled heap of metal was a Chevy Camaro. The teen occupants, who were wearing seat belts, survived, but according to KDOT, more than 450 other individuals in traffic crashes last year did not.

While 2017 data is unofficial at this time, current data shows there were more than 12,500 crashes resulting in 455 people killed, 961 disabled, 6,601 with minor injuries and 9,426 with possible
injuries. About 95 percent of these crashes were the result of driver behavior error, according to Lisa Hecker, KDOT Program Consultant with the Bureau of Transportation Safety and Technology.

Like many other individuals and organizations, KDOT is concerned with reducing fatalities and serious injuries in Kansas and has been working to establish traffic safety coalitions in communities throughout Kansas.

“Realizing that issues in Johnson County are very different than issues in southwest Kansas, we knew we needed coalitions at the local level in addition to the work we are already doing at the statewide level,” said Steven Buckley, KDOT’s State Highway Safety Engineer. “Local coalitions bring individuals and organizations together within a community to identify traffic safety concerns specific to the community and personalizes the work that the coalition does. This builds buy-in and ownership locally as members work to keep their friends, family and community safe.”

Because the coalitions are locally organized and led, Buckley expects that each coalition will be as different as the communities are across the state. “Some coalitions might organize at the city level while others may organize at the county level,” Buckley said. “While one coalition might be addressing seat belt usage, another might be addressing distracted driving or railroad crossing safety.”

KDOT’s role in the coalition is to find local champions that are interested in improving traffic safety in their community using the 4E’s of traffic safety: education, enforcement, engineering and emergency services. KDOT is also available to provide support, presentations, resource ideas and crash data, and in some situations, funding.

For example, the agency can assist with funding for behavioral programs like SAFE (Seatbelts Are for Everyone) - a student initiative aimed at getting students to buckle up - and for enforcement initiatives aimed at reducing speeding and drunk and distracted driving. To start a Traffic Safety Coalition, visit: or contact Lisa Hecker at 785-296-0845 or 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

It only takes a spark: Fire risk is high, use extreme caution


That's the message that Kansas emergency management, Department of Agriculture and Kansas Department of Transportation officials want Kansans to understand: It only takes one spark to set off a fire that that could rage across thousands of acres.

"Current dry weather conditions and high winds have created an extremely high risk for fire," said Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli, the adjutant general and director of the Kansas Division of Emergency Management. "More than once in recent years, we have seen the devastation that can result from wildfires. Homes have been destroyed, livestock killed, thousands of acres of farmland completely burned, resulting in millions of dollars in economic loss.
"It is vital that Kansans avoid any activity that could possibly start a fire," said Tafanalli, "such as driving vehicles across dry grass, or using work equipment on dry fields. As always, be careful that you extinguish any smoking materials completely. Basically, just be cautious when doing anything that might create the spark that starts a catastrophic fire."

The Dept. of Agriculture also advises to take extra precautions when welding or brush hogging. Always have a fire extinguisher in your vehicle as you are out working.

"KDOT would like to remind the traveling public this year to be mindful of any activity that could cause a spark, including pulling over on the side of a road that has tall grass," said State Transportation Engineer Catherine Patrick. "If you find yourself driving through an area where a fire has been reported and visibility is reduced, be cautious when driving through heavy smoke and do not pull over near a fire."

The Kansas Division of Emergency Management continues to monitor weather conditions that have sparked several wildfires across the state. KDEM personnel are in contact with county emergency managers to respond with state assistance, if needed.

The State Emergency Operation Center is activated to a level 3- Enhanced Steady State Activation to coordinate response efforts. Representatives from The Kansas Division of Emergency Management, the Kansas National Guard, Dept. of Agriculture, Wildlife and Parks and the office of the State Fire Marshal were in the SEOC.

The Kansas National Guard has placed several Black Hawk helicopters with Bambi buckets on stand-by. The KSNG's Joint Operations Center was also activated.