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 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

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:

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.