Thursday, April 27, 2017

Remember the Zipper Merge? These caterpillars do

KDOT implemented the zipper merge (or late merge) last year.

When a lane was closed in a construction zone, the "zipper merge" occurred when drivers  used both lanes up until they reached the defined merge area. They then took turns in a "zipper" fashion into the open lane.

If you didn't have a chance to experience this project, here are some caterpillars who can help demonstrate how the process worked.

We don't know where these little guys were headed, but they probably got there safely and efficiently using the zipper merge technique! 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

KDOT takes steps to protect the environment

In honor of the last week’s Earth day and the upcoming Arbor Day, here are some ways KDOT works to protect the environment while building and maintaining the highways.

One of many wetlands that KDOT worked to improve around the South Lawrence Trafficway.

KDOT's Environmental Services Section reviews KDOT projects and KDOT sponsored projects across the state that have the potential to impact the environment. These impacts can affect human and natural environments, and many projects must be cleared and permitted on a local, state and federal level.  Each of these reviews must evaluate potential impacts a project can have on noise, air quality, archeologic and historical resources, Native American lands, farmland, hazardous waste, storm-water erosion control, threatened and endangered species and impacts to wetlands and streams. 
An erosion control blanket is one way that KDOT works to protect the surrounding land so rain water won't wash the grass and mulch away. 

One example is a project in Cherokee County on K-7 to widen and raise the roadway plus add 10-foot shoulders for safety and flooding reasons. This project requires two channel changes to local streams, will fill some small wetland areas and possibly affect the habitat of a state-threatened chorus frog called the Spring Peeper. 
The Spring Peeper is a threatened chorus frog species and
KDOT is working to create more habitat pools for this small
amphibian. Photo Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 

To offset these impacts, KDOT designed new stream channels using the principles of natural channel design. In addition to the new channel, a planting bench is being added along each streambank with Sandbar Willow and Pin Oak trees to be planted to add stability to the stream. Outside of the planting bench, a new riparian area will be planted with native trees such as Bur Oak and Shellbark Hickory plus native grasses making up a 50-foot buffer along each side of the new stream channel. 

Inside each bend of the new stream channel, a new wetland area was designed where a wetland seed mix will be planted and bitternut hickory and Pin Oaks will be placed around the edges. These wetland areas, or ‘Peeper Pools.’ are to create habitat for the threatened Spring Peeper. In addition to these pools, stretches of the old stream channel and its riparian area that were not needed to be graded and filled will be preserved for additional habitat.  To restore aquatic passage to upstream segments, a perched culvert will replaced with an embedded or ‘buried’ culvert.

All in all this project will create more than 3,300 feet of new stream and riparian area, build six various sized Peeper Pools and plant more than 5,400 trees.

Riparian areas have been created and updated throughout the state, with more streams and areas to come.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Distracted driving on the rise: It can wait

The telephone has come a long way since it was first invented in 1876. Today, those telephones are portable mini-computers that help us navigate this fast-paced world.  
We may even feel the constant pull to multi-task and gather more information while we travel.

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as multi-tasking. If your mind is focused on your cell phone, the radio, eating, or even talking with passengers while you drive, there could be deadly consequences. 

There were 432 traffic fatalities in Kansas last year and The National Safety Council said that 40,200 people died in crashes across the United States. 

Many of those fatalities could be attributed to distracted driving, including the use of mobile phones.

The Federal Communications Commission has some sobering distracted driving statistics:

- Over 8 people are killed and 1,161 are injured daily in incidents reported as distraction
affected crashes in the United States.

- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that in 2015, there were 3,477
people killed and an estimated additional 391,000 people injured in motor vehicle crashes  
involving distracted drivers.

At any given daylight moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell
phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, a number that has held steady since

- In 2015, the National Occupant Protection Use Survey reported that handheld cell phone
use continued to be highest among 16-24 year old drivers.

For as often as we discuss the dangers of distracted driving, the numbers continue to rise. We need your help to get the message out to friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors that lives are on the line every time they use a phone while driving.

Be an example- You know that it is not safe to text and drive. You may know that no message, snapchat, social media post or Tweet is worth risking lives over. So act on that knowledge and teach others to do the same.  If you are teaching a new driver how to operate a vehicle, educate them on the importance of putting your phone away.

If you need to make a phone call, or check your phone, pull over to a safe place and answer or text before you return to the roadway.

Speak up- If you see a driver you are riding with texting or using social media, tell them to put their phone away while they are driving. It may seem hard to speak up, but be brave - it could save lives. 

Check out this powerful video from NHTSA and see how sending a message while driving could be the last words someone will ever say.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Adopt-A-Highway: Keep Kansas clean

Earth Day is this Saturday and it is a great reminder that we have the power to make our environment safe, clean and beautiful.
One way to help keep Kansas clean is through the Adopt-A-Highway program. This national program began in 1989.

Trash can be an unsightly problem. Participation in the program not only helps the environment; it also gives non-profit groups an opportunity to be active in their community and it saves tax dollars.

Here are some tips on how you can keep our state looking great:

How you can join
Any non-profit group that does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color or gender can participate in KDOT’s Adopt-A-Highway program by calling your closest KDOT office.  Phone numbers and application forms can be found at the Adopt-A-Highway Website.
  • Volunteers should have the following qualifications before heading out:Good physical condition, including sight and hearing
  • Mental alertness - don’t participate if you are tired or drowsy.
  • A sense of responsibility for the safety of the public and the crew.
  • A willingness to use good common sense.
  • Group members must be at least 11 years old and have adequate adult supervision,

Once you join
Most highway sections are two miles long. Groups that adopt a Kansas highway must agree to remove litter at least three times a year for two years per their convenience.

There is no cost to join the group – KDOT provides trash bags and safety vests.

Please contact your KDOT office before a scheduled cleanup.

  • Volunteers should only pick up litter along one side of the highway at a time and only work during daylight hours.
  • It is encouraged that volunteers carpool to the destination to reduce the number of vehicles needed and only park in the recommended areas.
  • Wear bright and light clothing with long sleeves if possible. Also wear a hat, sunscreen, insect replant and proper footware.
  • Be alert. Be aware of traffic at all times and if you see any suspected toxic/hazardous chemicals or dead animals, DO NOT try to handle or remove them. Notify your nearest KDOT office, the Kansas Highway Patrol, or local police department.

However you decide to get involved, it’s important to be safe while helping your community. For more tips, check out the Adopt-A-Highway website mentioned earlier. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Severe weather driving tips

That time of year is upon us. Severe weather can strike at any moment. If you must drive through storms, know the safety tips required to reach your destination safely.

Be Prepared:
The bottom line when driving during severe weather is to be prepared for anything. Before you travel check the weather forecast of your entire route.

If you see darkening skies tune into a local radio station or have your passengers look up the weather on their devices.

Driving in Rain:

Wipers on. Headlights on: This is Kansas law. Protect yourself and others around you. Headlights help increase the chances that you will be seen by other drivers.

Turn on Wipers and Keep Windows Clear: This may be a no-brainer, but a surprising number of people drive with windshield wipers that aren’t at their peak performance. It is suggested to get them replaced every 6-12 months. Use your de-frost function or air conditioner to keep your windows clear of fog.

Be Patient:  Take it slower than usual and give extra room to the drivers around you. Wet roads could cause your vehicle to hydroplane or lose traction.

Turn Around Don’t Drown: During severe weather, flash floods may occur. Never try to cross a flooded road way. The water may be deeper than you think and it is dangerous to try to drive over it. Find an alternate route. It only takes a few inches for the current to take you and your vehicle for an unwanted ride.  Abandon your vehicle if it stalls and seek higher ground.

Turn off Cruise Control:  Road conditions during severe weather are inconsistent. You need to be in control, not your vehicle. 

This is a photo that has been circulating social media.
It demonstrates how important it is to use your headlights.
Looking at this picture, you can hardly see the vehicle
approaching the driver., who also shouldn't have been using
his camera while driving. 

Driving during a hailstorm:
Take shelter:  Don’t leave your vehicle unless you can get inside quickly. The hailstones could cause injury.  If you are near an underpass or bridge it is safe to wait out the hail.

Pull over:  if you are not near any shelter, stay in your vehicle and pull to side of the road.

Driving During High Winds:

Watch for Flying Debris: High winds can pick up items that become dangerous weapons if they should hit your or your vehicle.

Be prepared for wind gusts: If you drive a high profile vehicle such as an SUV, bus, or semi truck, you have a higher risk of being affected by high wind gusts. Consider not traveling in these vehicles if you can avoid it.

Driving During a Tornado

This one is easy: Don’t. Never try to outrun a tornado, and don’t drive during one either.  Get out of your car and find shelter. If none can be found, get below the road’s surface and cover your head. A ditch or low area is suggested. Be aware of the water level around you and be on the lookout for flash floods. Never seek shelter in an underpass.

In every weather situation it is best to buckle up - every trip, every time - and pay attention to your environment. 

Check out some of the intense weather that citizens in Hays saw a week ago when a storm system stalled out and created a flash flood and hail situation on the streets, creating an unsafe and slushy situation for a lot of drivers.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Reminder: Drive work zone speed limit, or pay double fines

It's a simple message but not every driver pays attention to it:
"Drive the work zone speed limit, or pay double fines." 

Between 4:30 a.m. and 5 a.m. last Wednesday, a double major traffic incident occurred on both eastbound and westbound I-435 that snarled traffic through the morning rush hour, creating huge backups and major delays.

First, a vehicle hit the temporary barrier wall on westbound I-435 at Metcalf Avenue, shoving barrier into the eastbound I-435 lanes which were then struck by a vehicle and semi. More than forty 12.5-foot concrete barrier pieces were moved and had to be reset. One barrier piece was entirely broken and had to be replaced.

A close up of one of the broken barriers that had to be replaced. More than forty concrete barriers were either moved or broken following last week's crash.
A crane had to be brought in and the two eastbound I-435 through lanes from Quivira Road east through Metcalf Avenue were fully closed until 9 a.m. this morning to reset the barrier pieces.

KDOT Metro Area staff have said that they have not seen barriers broken or damaged  of this magnitude in their 20 years of experience.

This was NOT a closure planned for construction work on the I-435 Pavement Reconstruction Project. These delays and closures were due to traffic crashes. The highway had to be closed for the safety of the traveling public until all barrier pieces could be reset.

For construction phasing and schedule, traffic impacts and the various ways you can stay informed on the massive I-435 Pavement Reconstruction Project, click here to view the I-435 Pavement Reconstruction Project Factsheet.

The Kansas Department of Transportation urges all motorists to be alert, take it slow, #Drive55, obey the warning signs, put down the phone, focus fully on the road, and “Give ‘Em a Brake!” when approaching and driving through the project work zone.  

Save a life. Save some time and spare you wallet. Follow work zone speed limits.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

People Saving People winners announced at KDOT Safety Conference

People Saving People: Winners of the state’s 2017 People Saving People Award were honored on April 5 as part of the 23rd Kansas Transportation Safety Conference in Wichita.
The award highlights efforts of a person or organization that has a positive effect on transportation safety behavior. KDOT sponsors the award along with the Federal Highway Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor
Carriers Safety Administration.

This year’s award recipients were:

AAA Kansas Traffic Safety Fund Trustees receive their People Saving People Award at The 23rd Kansas Transportation Safety Conference in Wichita on April 5. 
AAA Kansas Traffic Safety Fund Trustees -The AAA Kansas Traffic Safety Fund Trustees are an important partner in educating the driving public and have provided funding for materials on various traffic safety issues.

Retired Sheriff Sandy Horton receives his People Saving People award at The 23rd Kansas Transportation Safety Conference in Wichita on April 5.   

Sheriff Sandy Horton, Retired - Sheriff 
Horton has been a traffic safety advocate throughout his law enforcement career and began the SAFE program in 2009. 

Undersheriff John Koelsch receives his People Saving People Award at The 23rd Kansas Transportation Safety Conference in Wichita on April 5. 

Undersheriff John Koelsch - Undersheriff Koelsch volunteers his time to enhance pedestrian and bicycle safety in Lyon County as well as teaching children in elementary school the fundamentals of walking and biking.

Kristin Nichols receives her People Saving People award at The 23rd Kansas Transportation Safety Conference in Wichita on April 5.  

Kristin Nichols - Nichols spends time 
educating the community, law enforcement, and other professionals on safe driving. She is one of nine people in the United States to hold the certification of American Occupational  Therapy Association Specialty Certification in
Driving and Community Mobility.

The Tweeting Troopers accept their People Saving People award at The 23rd Kansas Transportation Safety Conference in Wichita on April 5. 

Tweeting Troopers - Through Twitter, the Tweeting Troopers disseminate safety messages on a daily basis, reaching thousands of drivers daily - they are an integral part of the public outreach effort of the Kansas Highway Patrol.