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.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Motoring Monday: Fort Larned National Historic Site

Fort Larned will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Buffalo Soldier in the U.S. Army 
Fort Larned National Historic Site in Larned was originally constructed in 1859 to allow safe travels on the Sante Fe Trail from the Indians living nearby.

Now, there are Civil War reenactments, touring opportunities and educational opportunities for people to enjoy.

This year, Fort Larned National Historic Site is participating in the 150
th anniversary of the Buffalo Soldier in the U.S. Army, which honors the legacy of the African American soldier units who fought in the Civil War. There are many programs and events open to the public this year that celebrate their legacy.

There are also opportunities for ranger guided tours and mobile tours in the fort. 
A summer time highlight of the fort is the Heritage Garden. This is a unique garden drawing upon the fort’s historical roots, since many officers and soldiers planted gardens to keep from getting scurvy. 

There are great educational opportunities at Fort Larned. The park is an active participant in the Ticket to Ride program, which gives young students free transportation to parks throughout our nation.

The historical site is open every day to the public with no admittance fee. To learn more about this historical site visit
National Park Services: Fort Larned.
Shops at Fort Larned

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Do you believe in MAGIC? Camp shows girls new career opportunities

The Magic campers show off the mirrors they made while visiting Home Depot on Wednesday.
There is a lot to be excited about when it comes to learning about construction and transportation careers, and for 25 young women attending this year’s MAGIC (Mentoring a Girl in Construction) Camp, they have been able to experience that excitement first-hand.

The week-long MAGIC Camp provides high school girls ages 14 or older the chance to learn about trade skill occupations such as carpentry, safety, electrical and highway construction. This year’s group of campers had the chance to learn from women who have been finding success in these careers.

KDOT's Tammi Clark explains how road surfaces are tested during the Magic Campers' visit to the KDOT Materials Lab in Topeka on Tuesday. 
KDOT Civil Rights Administrator Doria Watson said that it is important to help these young women learn about job opportunities in previously non-traditional fields.

Magic Campers learn how to create their own mirrors while visiting Home Depot.

“The camp gives students self-confidence as they explore new career possibilities they may not have considered before,” Watson said.

Trinity Dillehunt, a sophomore from Topeka, said that she was inspired to come to MAGIC camp because it focuses on women’s empowerment.

Magic Campers create their own bird house rain gauges on their first day of camp. 
“We can do the same things that guys can do,” Dillehunt said. “I want to be an EMT first responder flight nurse. I want to be able to take care of the patient until the air ambulance arrives and during the flight.”

Savannah Buckley, who recently graduated high school from Topeka, said that it just made sense that she would come to MAGIC camp.

“I have always enjoyed doing stuff with my hands and building things,” Buckley said. Her favorite part of camp was getting to know the other girls and finding out what their dream jobs are.

The Magic Campers visit BNSF Railraod on Tuesday. 
Claire Westfall, a senior from Topeka, said that part of the reason she came to MAGIC camp was to learn about what her mom does for a living.

“My mom works for KDOT and she talked about how I would be touring around the areas where she worked and learn about her background,” Westfall said. “It sounded really interesting.”

Magic Campers visit the Air Combat Museum at Forbes Field and learn about aviation. 
Throughout the week the campers have visited various work places, including the Air Combat Museum at Forbes Field on Monday.
Te’raiya Jones, a junior from Topeka, said that she wants to be able to use the skills she has learned at MAGIC camp to grow as a person and to help others who need to be encouraged in the work field.

On Tuesday, the campers visited the KDOT materials lab where they learned about testing asphalt and concrete, how sign paint is made, how rebar strength is tested other areas of the transportation construction field.

Nicole Carter, KDOT Concrete Engineering Associate, explained the importance of Engineering to the campers.

“The chairs that you are all sitting in were designed by an engineer,” Carter said. “Every structure that you see was designed by an engineer. Engineering is a big deal. Our job is to keep everyone safe.”

Magic Campers visit Topeka Metro and learn about different modes of transportation in the City of Topeka.
The campers also visited the BNSF Railroad, Home Depot and Topeka Metro. The rest of the week they will have the opportunity to visit Habitat for Humanity, and Victor L. Phillips Company. The last day of MAGIC camp is tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Work Zone Wednesday: K- 51, near Hugoton

Looking west, the pavement reconstruction project located on K-51 in Hugoton will address long term drainage issues in the area and extend the pavement life of the roadway.

Today's Work Zone Wednesday features a pavement reconstruction project on K-51 in Hugoton, which is located in Southwest Kansas. 
In April, KDOT began this project designed to address a long term drainage issue in the area and improve and extend the pavement life of the roadway, the project includes replacing or upgrading 17 storm sewer inlets with drop inlets to improve drainage in the area, installation of a new box, seven new pipes and a new submersible pump that will improve drainage and correct an existing long term issue with standing water in the area.
The pavement reconstruction project along K-51 includes upgrading 17 storm sewer inlets to improve drainage in the area.

Asphalt pavement is being removed and replaced with 8-inch concrete pavement that will improve road conditions and extend pavement life.  Curbing will be replaced as needed and ADA ramps will be installed to meet current standards.  The project will also increase the turning radius at the intersection of U.S. 56 and K-51 to better accommodate truck traffic. Work will be completed in four phases and is expected to be completed by October 31, 2017. 

The pavement reconstruction project along K-51 includes upgrading 17 storm sewer inlets to improve drainage in the area.

Smoky Hill, LLC. of Salina is the primary contractor on the project with a construction cost of approximately $3.9 million.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Pedestrian Safety Month Part 1: Pedestrians’ rights

The month of June is Pedestrian Safety Month.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, (NHTSA) 5,376 pedestrians were killed in 2015.  At some point, we are all pedestrians. Whether you are simply walking around your neighborhood, through a parking lot or to the grocery store, you are a pedestrian. Whether they are on foot or in a vehicle, good safety habits can help protect you and those around you.

The Public Health Law Center and the Kansas Health Foundation recently put out an informative report entitled Using Kansas Roads & Sidewalks for Active Transportation.

The report is helpful for understanding the laws surrounding pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle transportation as they interact with each other.

While motorists should always use caution and watch out for pedestrians, those traveling on foot have safety responsibilities as well:
  •  Pedestrians must always exercise care for their own safety even when they have the right-of-way.
  • Pedestrians who begin to cross a road when no vehicles are present and traffic-control signals are not in place have the right to continue to cross the entire road and have approaching vehicles stop or slow down to yield the pedestrian’s right-of-way at all marked crosswalks or intersections with unmarked crosswalks.
  • Pedestrians are prohibited from suddenly leaving a curb or other place of safety. Pedestrians are also prohibited from walking or running into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to stop.
  • Blind pedestrians carrying a clearly visible white cane or accompanied by a guide dog have the right of-way before other traffic at all places, including all crosswalks and intersections and the middle of the road.
  • Pedestrians are prohibited from crossing outside of a marked crosswalk between intersections where traffic-control signals are in operation.
  • Pedestrians crossing a road at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection are required to yield the right-of-way to all vehicles on the road.
  • Pedestrians are prohibited from crossing an intersection diagonally — unless authorized and as instructed by official traffic-control devices.
  • Pedestrians are required to travel on the right half of crosswalks, when practicable.
  • Pedestrians have the right-of-way before any vehicle on sidewalks.
  • Pedestrians must use sidewalks rather than a roadway where a sidewalk is provided and usable.
  • Pedestrians traveling on the road because of no available and usable sidewalk must travel on the shoulder, as far as practicable from the edge of the roadway— and, if on a two-way roadway, must walk only on the left side of the roadway.
  • Pedestrians traveling on a roadway are required to yield the right-of-way to all vehicles on the road.Pedestrians are prohibited from entering or traveling on any railroad property (including a railroad track, rail, or bridge) without permission. Anyone who does so is trespassing and is guilty of a misdemeanor.

For more information on other laws surrounding pedestrians, bicycles and vehicles check out the rest of the report.

Join us next week when we discuss how drivers in vehicles and pedestrians should work together to keep each other safe. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Motoring Mondays: Kansas Landscape Arboretum

The Kansas Landscape Arboretum can be found just south of Wakefield. Courtesy photo.

   The Kansas Landscape Arboretum can be found just south of Wakefield on the west side of Milford Reservoir. The 193 wooded acres feature more than 1,000 species of native and exotic woody plants adapted to the state’s environment.
   Although the area is managed for plant life, wildlife can also be seen such as deer, eastern bluebirds, northern cardinals, blue jays and several species of woodpeckers. The pond on the Bird Sanctuary Trails often times has wood ducks and green herons.
   The causeway at the north end of the reservoir is one of the best sites for wildlife viewing. In addition to numerous bald eagles, flocks of white pelicans, ducks, geese, grebes, gulls and shorebirds are abundant during migrations.
   Four short trails around the arboretum are available to walk along. For more information, go to