Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Art and transportation: It all comes together

Art is way of communicating a message or a thought through visual creation and design.
There is a great deal of art that we may take for granted while traveling across Kansas roads: The way that highways are designed, how traffic signs use color and graphic design to communicate informative messages as we travel and how a bridge is created so that these infrastructures can bear the weight of thousands of vehicles a day traveling across them.

All of these aspects of transportation and more required an artist’s hand at some point and the end result, while not exactly something you can hang on your office or living room wall, are still incredible works that can be appreciated by experiencing them.

Along Kellogg/U.S. 54 in Wichita, travelers get the chance to experience the infrastructure and incredible bas-relief sculptures that were created by artist, Steven Weitzman.

Bas-relief sculptures are created when the sculpted elements remain attached to the background.

One of Weitzman’s sculptures in Wichita is a piece titled “Time Passages,” and it includes 36 cast stone bas-relief panels that span 16,000 square feet. It was created using form liners.
A section of Steven Weitzman's "Time Passages" sculpture from a distance. Photo Credit: Steven Weitzman creativedesignresolutions.com

Weitzman’s website, creativedesignresolutions.com, said this sculpture was selected as the aesthetic theme for the Kellogg/Oliver interchange. 

“The designs include quotations regarding the passage of time, monumental roman clocks, a 25-foot vertical working sundial and enormous leaves that appear to be scattered by the wind and passing vehicles,” the website said. “The quotation cast into the parapet fascia of the bridge serves as a pleasant reminder to the commuters that ‘The Journey is the reward.’”
A car drives past a secion of Steven Weitzman's bas-relief sculpture, "Time Passages" along Kellogg/U.S. 54. Photo credit: Steven Weitzman. creativedesignresolutions.com

We had the opportunity to interview the artist about his work, and his experiences as he creates other works similar to “Time Passages.” Weitzman explains how art is essential to transportation. 

What was your inspiration for placing these bas-relief sculptures along highways and bridges?

SW: Storytelling and discovery is the hallmark of my design work. At the Kellogg and Woodlawn interchange, you would discover a dynamic, non-repetitive bas-relief sculpture which is 25 feet high. This exciting, highly-detailed retaining wall affects changes with the movement of the sun. It was made entirely from only 36 form liners and also includes landscaped areas.  My projects have to be affordable for the client and easily fabricated by normal construction means and methods. In this case, we were able to create unlimited combinations and permutations showing stylized planted fields of the Kansas landscape as seen from high above simply by rotating and re-configuring the placement of these beautiful liner sections.
A section of a retaining wall at the Kellogg/Oliver Interchange in Wichita.Photo credit: Steven Weitzman. creativedesignresolutions.com

How are these works along highways created? How long can it take? 

To begin with, I am normally brought on to serve as a liaison between a DOT and their engineers of record as well as their constituents to help translate the engineering requirements and needs of the DOT with the interests of their constituents. The final goal is to produce low cost (often 1 percent or under), low-maintenance, high-quality and site-specific safe infrastructure enhancements. I vet the information derived from these community outreach meetings and our own research with the DOT, and then I return to present the conceptual design to the community. This can include on-site computer models, highly realistic drive-throughs and fly-throughs, and any other means to accurately show the DOT and their constituents their aesthetic options and possible alternatives for their specific project. The timeline is usually predicated on the letting dates, but it can take as little as five months or as long as the engineering design team requires, since we coordinate with the engineering development.
A detail of the retaining wall texture at the Kellogg/Oliver interchange. Weitzman[ uses form liners in his work to create these bas-relief sculptures. Photo courtesy Steven Weitzman. creativedesignresolutions.com

What is the reception of these projects when they are installed? Who do they impact?

I have been humbled by the outpouring of compliments, gratitude, and awards my company has received over the years for our context-sensitive infrastructure projects. DOT Directors of Operations, District Engineers, community leaders, and constituents have expressed to me and my staff the positive effect our work has had in transforming the everyday lives of their citizens.  They appreciate the way we tell the story of their community through the art that my company, Creative Design Resolutions, creates for them.

What messages do these sculptures share with the communities that they are installed in?

We tell the story of the place and the people it serves. That story begins with the community’s involvement and is balanced by the needs and requirements of the DOT.  When completed, it reflects the significance of the people, their environment, their history, and their future. We understand that people want to be proud of where they live. In this regard, transportation infrastructure projects function as local or regional landmarks, gateways to cities or other symbols for communities, and may thus make a strong impression on residents and visitors alike.
 A section of the bas-relief sculpture, "Time Passages" along Kellogg/U.S 54. Photo credit: Steven Weitzman. creativedesignresolutions.com

Do you feel that art and transportation can work together? If so, how?

Absolutely.  They have to. First, the integration of the aesthetic enhancements must coordinate with the overall project timeline and fit with the budget. The art should also meet the community’s vision. Additionally, the chosen artist needs to be familiar with the engineering requirements of these types of projects.  They will need to work closely with the engineers of record throughout their engineering design process. This can be done in a more cost-effective way by getting the artist involved early in the engineering design phases of the project, because at that point many of the aesthetic decisions can be incorporated into the superstructure or base structure without adding any extra costs.

Mr. Weitzman, thank you for your time in answering these questions. Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about your work?

SW: I have been extremely fortunate to have worked in the transportation design and public art industries since 1971. My company, Creative Design Resolutions, was created in 1998 to focus solely on aesthetic integration in highway and transportation projects. Since that time, we have worked with many Departments of Transportation in the country and numerous architectural and engineering firms nationwide. I am gratified to have completed dozens of signature projects that may have had a small but lasting effect on the beauty of America's Interstate highway system.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

When it comes to safety, even the pros stay on track

“Drivers start your engines!”

These four words will signal the start of NASCAR’s version of the Super Bowl, The Daytona 500, on Sunday. And at least 43 engines will roar to life as fans both in the stands and at home cheer their favorite driver on.

While these high-tech racing machines are built for entertainment, NASCAR drivers don’t take safety lightly. In fact, anyone who has ever climbed into a regular vehicle can learn a lot from these athletes. Here are a few tips on how staying safe during a NASCAR event compares to everyday driving.

Before drivers even start their engines, they are strapped in to their seats with their safety harnesses. 
Although the safety belt system in a race car is a bit different from a normal vehicle’s seat belts, you won’t see a NASCAR driver go around the race track without it. The safety restraint in a NASCAR vehicle is actually a five-point harness that is designed to help keep the driver in their seat and slow down with the car at the same time. Do what the pros do. It is important to buckle up every trip, every lap and every time.

Driving a race car requires total concentration. 
Contrary to popular belief, those are real athletes inside a race car. Being a good athlete requires total focus.  Every lap counts and at times, NASCAR events have lasted more than six hours. If a driver were to get distracted, the consequences could be life-threatening and costly. 

When you are behind the wheel of a vehicle, try to treat each trip as important as a NASCAR driver would during a race. Checking text messages or changing the radio station at the wrong moment puts your life and others at risk. Focus on driving and avoid all distractions.

Race cars need to be ready for long-haul. 
Some races require drivers to race around the track for more than 500 miles. That’s farther than a road trip across Kansas. During these long events, cars could be exceeding 220 miles per hour. That puts a lot of pressure on these racing machines. NASCAR teams have to understand what the mileage does to the important components of their vehicle such as the engine or tires. In fact, the tires are checked and changed regularly during an event to avoid devastating losses should one of the tires blow during high speeds. 

While teams do their best, it is inevitable that something could malfunction at any time during the course of the race. The same could be said for anyone who takes a road trip to a fun vacation spot, or just down the road to Grandma’s. Anything can happen and the best way to be prepared is to ensure that your car is up-to-date on fluid changes, tire rotation and checkups.

There are plenty of other lessons that can be learned from watching professional racing. But if you follow these tips, you could be well on your way to the winner’s circle.
What are some other tips that you have seen while watching auto racing? Let us know in the comments! 

For more racing fun, check out this Throwback Thursday video when Kansas native, Clint Bowyer gave a PSA for S.A.F.E. in 2014. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

KDOT announces winners of aviation art contest

The Kansas Department of Transportation’s Division of Aviation announces the Kansas winners of the 2017 International Aviation Art Contest.

The contest, whose theme this year was “Beyond the Clouds,” was for artists ages 6 to 17. The artwork was intended to celebrate the adventures and excitement only available in that special place beyond the clouds.

The first place winner in each age group earns a $500 scholarship from the Kansas Commission on Aerospace Education, to be used toward an aviation education activity as well as advance to the national completion. Those winners are Jade Benimon, 9, Lawrence; Kendra Hurla, 10, Delia; and Luke Schawe, 15, Hutchinson.

Jade Benimon, 9, of Lawrence won First Place in Group I.

Kendra Hurla, 10, of Delia, won First Place in Group II

Luke Schawe, 15, of Hutchinson won First Place in Group III

Other top winners in each age group who are also advancing to the national competition include: Julietta Otter, 9, Lawrence; Tyler Hill, 6, Derby; Katie Golder, 13, Topeka; Lindsay Hayes, 10, Lawrence; and Christina Walton, 15, Topeka.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Zero Milestone Marker and a journey across country: Eisenhower’s interstate inspiration

Today is President’s Day and it was thanks to Kansas native, President Dwight D. Eisenhower that we have a lot to be proud of when it comes to our state’s interstate systems. So much history is told along these multi-lane highways. In June 1956, President Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Act of 1956 and on November 14 of that same year, Kansas opened the first section of interstate in the U.S., just west of Topeka. 

34th U.S. President, Dwight D. Eisenhower 

All great ideas need inspiration and President Eisenhower’s came from a military convoy cross-country journey that he joined in 1919. The journey began after a dedication of a temporary small monument in Washington, D.C.: The Zero Milestone Marker.
According to an article by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), The Zero Milestone Marker was conceived by good roads advocate Dr. S.M. Johnson to designate a point at which the U.S. road system begins and he cited the ancient city of Rome as his inspiration. The article quotes Johnson as saying:

Rome marked the beginning of her system of highways which bound her widely scattered people together by a golden milestone in the Forum. The system of highways radiating from Washington to all the boundaries of the national domain and all parts of the Western hemisphere will do vastly more for national unity and for human unity than even the roads of the Roman Empire . . . .”

After a temporary marker was dedicated, the U.S. Army attempted to send a military convoy of 60 trucks and more than 200 men.
In 1919, a young officer, brevet Lt. Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower made the journey famous because of the conditions of the cross-country trip was the stuff of nightmares.
The FHWA said in their article that not only did the convoy face typical mechanical problems but there were also infrastructure issues to deal with as well.
“ …The convoy had to deal with vehicles stuck in mud or crashing through wooden bridges, roads as slippery as ice (25 trucks skidded into a roadside ditch west of North Platte, Nebraska), roads with the consistency of "gumbo" or built on shifting sand, and extremes of weather from desert heat to Rocky Mountain freezing,” the FHWA article said.

After two months and 3,200 miles, the convoy pulled into San Francisco. In a formal report of the trip, Eisenhower said that the trip had been difficult and tiring but also fun. He discussed the challenges he saw while on the journey.
“Extended trips by trucks through the middle western part of the United States are impracticable until roads are improved, and then only a light truck should be used on long hauls,” Eisenhower said.

The FHWA’s article mentions that the participants of that day were convinced that the United States’ roads needed improvements. While it would be another 37 years before Eisenhower could begin the interstate system, he cites this journey, and the Autobahn in Germany as his inspiration for having good roads.
The Zero Milestone Marker soon after it's dedication in 1923.
Photo source: FHWA.dot.gov

“A third of a century later, after seeing the autobahns of modern Germany and knowing the asset those highways were to the Germans, I decided, as President, to put an emphasis on this kind of road building,” Eisenhower said. “When we finally secured the necessary congressional approval, we started the 41,000 miles of super highways [now 42,800 miles] that are already proving their worth. This was one of the things that I felt deeply about, and I made a personal and absolute decision to see that the nation would benefit by it. The old convoy had started me thinking about good, two-lane highways, but Germany had made me see the wisdom of broader ribbons across the land.”

The Zero Milestone Marker stands on the South Lawn of the White House.

The Zero Milestone Marker, a small pylon that stands in the South Lawn of the White House, was officially dedicated in 1923. While this little monument’s purpose was never fully realized, as roads don’t all begin and end in Washington D.C., the reason behind its creation still rings true today: America’s road systems connect all of us and we all depend on quality infrastructure to thrive. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

No butts about it: Roadside grass fires are preventable

It has been almost a year since the largest wildfire in Kansas’ history blazed across the south-central portion of the state. As reported in an earlier post, The Anderson Creek Wildfire burned over 400,000 acres and the images of charred landscapes, homes and structures have not been forgotten.

Last summer, KWCH reported that the wildfire was ruled “accidental.” The article noted that investigators found the cause of the fire could have been sparked by radial tire cables or snow chains.

According to the U.S.  Fire Administration, the majority of wildfires like the Anderson Creek Wildfire are unintentional.

Many roadside blazes are caused by sparks created by metal hitting the pavement on roads. Other fires could be caused by cars that are parked in tall grass that come in contact with a hot engine or exhaust system. Some are even caused by cigarette butts carelessly thrown out of car windows.

Grass Fire on Monday on U.S.-69.

While grass fires are not rare in Kansas, at least three roadside blazes were battled in the past week along U.S. 69 in Northeast Kansas. In an article written by the Kansas City Star, The Overland Park Fire Department said that the suspected culprits were discarded cigarettes.

While the causes for the majority of grass fires are accidental, there are plenty of ways you can avoid unintentionally starting a grass fire while driving.

Ensure trailer safety chains are secured. Dangling chains can get hot as they hit the pavement and cause sparks.

Don’t park your car in tall vegetation. Emergencies happen. Sometimes you need to safely pull off to the side of the road. Be aware of your surroundings. Your car’s hot engine or exhaust system could ignite tall grass if it smolders long enough.

Check your exhaust system: Loose or damaged exhaust systems could allow small sparks to escape.

Don’t throw cigarette butts out of your vehicle. Cigarettes are manufactured to burn slowly. When thrown out of car windows, they have the potential to ignite dry grass and brush hours after being tossed out of a moving car.

Grass fires along the side of the roads are serious and can impede traffic due to lack of visibility. Taking these preventative steps could keep you and other travelers safe. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Avoid a Valentine’s Day tragedy: Apps that can help you get home

Ah, Valentine’s Day. For some, this is a day of celebration with your significant other. For others, it is a reminder that tomorrow discounted chocolate and candy will be readily available. 

If you have special plans this evening that could include alcohol, or if you simply need a quick getaway from that awkward date, keep in mind that the U.S. Department of Transportation has designed apps that can help you keep this day from ending in heartbreak. Here are a few options that you can check out:

This app is brought to you by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and it provides a simple way to get home safely. It has three easy-to-use buttons on the home screen. Features of this app include:

Get Taxi: Taxi service information for  your area with the ability to press a button to call for a ride home.

Call Friend:  You can pre-program contact information for a friend who has identified themselves as a reliable source of transportation, and the app gives you the option to call them if you need a ride.

Where Am I?:  Are you lost and need to figure out where you are? This button provides a map to help you.

You can download that app here: 


The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has created an app based on hits “Look before you book,” program. Since  not every bus company is safe and up-to-date on the federal safety regulations, and others simply operate illegally, it is always best to book your next bus ride with careful research.
This app allows you to do the following:

Check to see if the bus company is allowed to operate.
Review the bus’s safety performance.File complaints.

You can download the app here:

For a full list of other helpful transportation mobile apps, click here.

Don’t forget to have a conversation about traffic safety with your sweethearts! 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Interest in aircraft, UAS soar at Aviation Day at the Capitol

The aviation industry is incredibly important to the state of Kansas. On Thursday, that fact was celebrated at the Aviation Day at the Capitol. The event welcomed both the public and legislatures to tour and learn from 30 aviation businesses and organizations.

"Aviation, as you all know, has a huge impact in our state," Transportation Secretary Richard Carlson said. "Kansas is home to one of the five world-largest clusters of aviation. More than 48,000 jobs are created directly by our businesses, our tenants and other activities located at commercial services and general aviation airports in the state of Kansas."
The Kansas Air National Guard was just one of the 30 organizations that were represented at Aviation Day at the Capitol. 

Ed Young, Vice President of the Kansas Commission on Aerospace Education (KCAE), said that this event drives all levels of aviation together so they can meet with legislatures about how important aviation is to Kansas.

Joe N. Miniace, the Central Region Regional Administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration, said that 76 percent of the world's fleet of aircraft have been manufactured in Kansas.

One of the biggest presences at this year's Aviation Day at the Capitol was Unmanned Aerial Systems. Dean of Research at Kansas State University, Kurt Barnhart, said that the one of the major reasons for the use of UAS devices was to help people.
Kansas State University's Booth at the Aviation Day at the Capitol event. 

“We are doing the things we have always done, with less risk and a fraction of the cost,” Barnhart said. "We are excited. It's a revolution." 

The University of Kansas Department of Aerospace Engineering partnered with NASA to display a 65 pound UAS system, dubbed the Argus, that will be testing flight in the next month. 
University of Kansas' 65 pound UAS, Argus, on display at the Aviation Day at the Capitol event. 

The Argus is an airborne radar sensor built for collision avoidance. 
With over 2.5 hours of flight time, this device could replace older models that fly over glaciers in West Greenland to determine the thickness of the ice. The older models could only fly for 1 hour. 

Businesses like Westar Energy, explained that at times they use UAS devices when they inspect potential damage to various infrastructures because it could be safer than sending out a technician in dangerous situations.

Check out a video of some of the speakers at the event below:

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Transload Talk: Facilities receive first wind turbine blades

The Garden City transload facility was completed Jan. 4, and received its first shipment of wind turbine blades on Jan. 25. This transload facility received a $3 million grant from the State Rail Service Improvement Fund. 

Transload facilities that were first discussed by the Kansas Freight Advisory Committee in 2015 have received their first deliveries of wind energy components at Great Bend and Garden City.
Transportation Partners and Logistics (TPL) at Garden City, which was completed Jan. 4, received its first wind blades Jan. 25. BNSF Railway is the serving railroad for the facility, which received a $3 million grant from the State Rail Service Improvement Fund managed by KDOT. TPL has expanded from 50 acres in 2011 to more than 200 acres. TPL serves clients in the wind energy, solar component and other related industries.

Wind Turbine Components began arriving at the Great Bend transload facility in January. The recently-operational facility also received a $3 million grant from the State Rail Service Improvement Fund. 
The Great Bend facility, which is operated by Sherwood Companies and served by the Kansas and Oklahoma Railroad, also began receiving wind blades and tower sections in January. This month, shipments of nacelles (another wind energy component) began arriving. The facility will also be receiving aggregates soon. Phase 1 of the site development comprises 18 acres. Dirt work is underway for new rail construction and rehabilitation of the existing industrial rail will be completed this month. Materials are on site and construction of the new rail yard should be completed in April.

Great Bend and Garden City emerged from 111 sites that were submitted to the Transload Facility Site Analysis team in 2015 as locations for transload facilities.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

#IAMKDOT: George Dockery

This month’s #IAMKDOT feature is George Dockery, P.E., Pittsburg Area Engineer in District Four.   

Dockery just celebrated 50 years of service to the Kansas Department of Transportation.

He started his employment at KDOT in February 1967 at the Fort Scott construction office. He began in KDOT’s Rotational Training Program, which is a program designed to encourage cross training across the fields and give opportunities to experience different types of engineering career paths that KDOT has to offer.

In 1978, Dockery became the Area Engineer for the Pittsburg office. Part of his position includes working with city and county officials on roads and bridges that receive KDOT funding. He also administers and monitors new construction on the state highway system.
Dockery oversees the maintenance of several counties in District Four.

During his 50 years at KDOT, the highway system has seen improvements during the three statewide transportation programs.

When Dockery is not at work, he is an active member of his church where he serves as an elder. He also enjoys woodworking. He is a husband, father and grandfather as well.

#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! 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

2017-2018 State Transportation Maps offer new features

Visiting the Sunflower State? Want to get away for the weekend? The Kansas Department of Transportation can help you plan your next trip with the new 2017-2018 Kansas Official State Transportation Map.  

The map, which was published by KDOT, includes a distance map that will help motorists pick the best route to reach their destination. Travelers will also have helpful phone numbers, road condition numbers, websites and a list of state recreation areas and museums in their hands.

The map’s reverse side also includes inset maps of 17 Kansas cities and towns, including Wichita, Kansas City and Topeka.

Little Jerusalem Chalk Badlands will open to the public later this year.  
Later this year, the Little Jerusalem Chalk Badlands will open to public in Logan County. The rock formation is even bigger than Monument Rocks, which lie just the east of the soon-to-be opened tourist attraction.

New to the map are several renamed recreation areas and visitor hotspots:
Two popular tourist destinations in Hutchinson have name changes in the current maps:
The “Underground Salt Museum” has been changed to “Strataca.”

The “Kansas Cosmosphere and Spacecenter” has been shortened to “Cosmosphere.”

The newly-named Land & Sky Scenic Byway and the extension of the Native Stone Scenic Byway are also included in the map.

Maps will be available at various travel information centers, attractions and other locations across the state. They can also be requested on the KDOT website at http://www.ksdot.org/maps.asp.

A limited supply of 2015-2016 maps is still available for schools and other groups to use as a learning tool. To receive old maps, please send an email request to

Monday, February 6, 2017

Now that's a high bridge!

Those who are afraid of heights, beware!

After three years of construction, Beipanjiang bridge, the world's highest bridge from the ground up finished completion late last year. Check out the video below to see just how tall this structure is.

Would you be willing to cross a bridge this high? 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Bridge rehabilitation project one of approved January lettings

Vehicles drive over a bridge on U.S. 50 east of the Reno/Stafford county line.  

A bridge rehabilitation project on U.S. 50 in Reno County is one of
the projects to be approved in the January KDOT letting.
The bridge is located about three miles east of the Reno/Stafford county line just west of the City of Sylvia, and was built in 1976. The last maintenance done to this bridge occurred in 1997 when the deck was resurfaced with a silica fume overlay.  
Now the bridge is now in need of more extensive maintenance, and this project will remove and replace the existing concrete deck. One lane of traffic will be maintained throughout the construction, which should be finished in September. Bridges, Inc., of Newton is the contractor on the $1.1 million project.

For more information on all the projects included in January’s letting, click here.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Elaine Chao confirmed as Secretary of Transportation

Image source: elainechao.com

In a 96-3 vote, the U.S. Senate voted to confirm Elaine Chao as the 18th U.S. Transportation Secretary.

Chao’s responsibility will be to help the administration improve our country’s infrastructure.

In an article written by the Washington Post, Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said Secretary Chao has the experience necessary to advise the government.

This isn’t Chao’s first time working in the U.S. Department of Transportation. In 1989, Chao served as Deputy Secretary of Transportation and in 1986, she was the USDOT Deputy Administrator.

Chao has also served as the Secretary of Labor for the George W. Bush administration.