Tuesday, February 20, 2018

KDOT and Topeka Metro Bikes team up to increase bike share accessibility


While KDOT is known primarily for its maintenance, repair and construction projects on Kansas state roads, there is also a bureau responsible for planning the travel needs of pedestrians and bicyclists, and they have granted the bike share program in Topeka over $76,000 to make traveling by bike more accessible in the Topeka metro area.

Mallory Goeke, a Communications Specialist for KDOT,
demonstrates how to check out a Metro Bike.
Topeka Metro Bikes has been awarded Transportation Alternatives (TA) funds to add over 200 bicycle parking spots and five bikeshare stations in Topeka.  The new stations and parking spots combined with a corporate sponsorship that increases the number of publicly available bikes in the program will make the city’s bike share program the largest among comparably sized metropolitan areas. 

“Walking and bicycling are important modes of travel for people of all ages and abilities throughout our state,” said Matthew Messina, bike and pedestrian coordinator for KDOT.  “By addressing these transportation needs, we help improve the quality of life for our communities by providing healthy and affordable forms of transportation that connect people to places of work, worship, education, public transit and recreation.”

Karl Fundenberger, Metro Bike director at the Topeka Metropolitan Transit Authority, said the funds will be used to help address the first mile-last mile gap for transit riders and provide infrastructure for a rapidly growing bike share program.

“Bike Share is thriving in Topeka,” Fundenberger said. “Biking provides additional mobility options, reduces traffic congestion and adds money to the local economy.”

The Transportation Alternatives (TA) Program provides funding for projects and programs defined as transportation alternatives that advance non-motorized transportation facilities.  Those federal dollars come directly to KDOT to be used specifically to assist in developing accessible transportation for those who can’t or choose not to use motorized transportation.

Mallory Goeke, a KDOT Communications Specialist, takes a spin on a Metro Bike. Topeka Metro Bikes was recently awarded a KDOT Transportation Alternatives grant to help expand biking as a transportation option in Topeka.
Topeka Metro Bikes has been working on helping biking grow as a transportation alternative in Topeka, starting in 2015 with 100 bikes available to rent and growing to 300 in 2018. 
“It’s going to get easier and easier to be able to choose to ride a bike in Topeka,” Fundenberger said.  “When more people choose alternative transportation, traffic flows smoother and more parking spaces are available.”

Both Messina and Fundenberger said addressing the equitability of transportation options is an important way to improve both the culture and the economy of the local area.
“By addressing the last mile barrier, the program helps contribute to the growth of our state by helping connect people to the rest of the city,” Messina said.

Fundenberger said the TA grant will be used in part to help fill in bikeshare gaps in eastern Topeka.  TA grant money will also be used to retrofit bus stops with racks to lock bikes and will add bike share stations as well as public bike racks in high-use areas. 

For more information on riding with Topeka Metro Bikes or to learn more about biking in Topeka, visit www.topekametrobikes.org or contact Karl Fundenberger at 785-730-8615.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Aviation Day Expands! Industry growth, economic development the focus for Mar. 1


The Kansas Department of Transportation Division of Aviation, in partnership with the Kansas Commission on Aerospace Education (KCAE) will hold their 4th annual Aviation Day event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday, Mar. 1.

The event was initially created to provide networking opportunities and industry exposure but has expanded in scope and purpose. During this year’s event, a large gathering of legislators, manufacturers, suppliers, and aviation organizations, is structured specifically to help facilitate industry growth opportunities and address development potentials for Kansas economic stakeholders.

To facilitate, KDOT Division of Aviation will host an economic development training event for city officials at Memorial Hall from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., before the start of Aviation Day. This will prepare commerce and development stakeholders to discuss, with over 36 industry leaders, how best to harness state and local resources to boost the aviation industry and best address global aviation and UAS needs for the future.

“This event highlights strong partnerships that Kansas manufacturers enjoy as a globally recognized aviation team,” said Bob Brock, KDOT’s Director of Aviation. “We are honored by the enthusiastic response to this event, and look forward to a year of growth for this industry.” 

In addition to the available industry development opportunities throughout the day, the event also serves to spread awareness regarding STEM and aviation education through the Kansas Commission on Aerospace Education (KCAE). Lindsey Dreiling, President of KCAE, also highlighted the mentorship opportunities that the event provides Kansas aviation organizations. “Today, we celebrate the opportunity for aviation leaders to shape the future of our state by leveraging their resources to train Kansas youth as leaders of tomorrow.”

Companies that will be present include: Airmap, Bombardier, Garmin, Spirit Aerosystems, Textron Aviation, University of Kansas Engineering, Wichita State University, Lee Aerospace, Kansas Air National Guard, Westar, AOPA, Butler Community College, Burns & McDonnell, Civil Air Patrol, Commemorative Air Force, Cosmosphere, Explorer Post 8, Flight Safety, Garver, Kansas Associate of Airports, Manhattan Regional Airport, Kansas Agricultural Aviation Association, Kansas State Polytechnic, Lifeteam, NIAR, Pilots for Christ, Pulse Aerospace, VAA, Wichita Aero Club, Exploration Place, Dodge City Community College, Kiewit, Kansas Aviation Museum, EAA Chapter 88, NBAA, Wichita Area Technical College, NCAT, National Weather Service, and Mission Aviation Fellowship

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Black History Month transportation legends: Garrett Morgan



There is a lot of technology in the modern day that our society takes for granted. Yet, all the technology we use on daily basis came from inventions created to make life a little easier, and in some cases, safer. Today’s featured transportation legend saw a problem that needed to be fixed and laid down the foundation for an object most people use every day: The three-signal traffic light.

Garrett Morgan was an inventor who was born on March 4, 1877, in Paris, Kentucky.  After leaving home at the age of 14, he made it to Ohio and became a handyman in Cincinnati. Later, he moved to Cleveland and worked as a sewing machine repairman. After a few years, he was able to open his own sewing machine repair shop.

In the early 1920s, horse-drawn carriages, bikes, wagons, streetcars, automobiles and pedestrians shared the same infrastructure and streets became quickly congested. At this time, there were manually operated traffic signals at intersections but their effectiveness left much to be desired. They switched between “Stop” and “Go” quickly and gave drivers little-to-no warning. Without time to react, collisions were common.

 It is said that Morgan saw a serious crash and it prompted to him to design a three-way traffic signal to help give drivers more time and clear intersections before traffic entered.

“The signal Morgan patented was a T-shaped pole with three settings,” according to History.com. “At night, when traffic was light, it could be set at half-mast (like a blinking yellow light today), warning drivers to proceed carefully through the intersection.”

An example of Morgan's traffic signal. Source: National Museum of American History
Ohio History Central’s website said that the invention had three types of signals that said; “Stop,” “Go,” and “Stop in all directions.” The latter signal was created to allow pedestrians to cross the streets safely.

Morgan sold the rights to his invention to General Electric for $40,000. He is responsible for several other inventions, including the gas mask. He even developed his own newspaper called the Cleveland Call.

Morgan died in 1963 and although his traffic signal is not the same model we use today, it is because of Morgan that we have an interim or “caution” signal that helps clear intersections so traffic can move at a safer pace.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Show someone how much you care: Drive safely




Valentine’s Day means different things to different people. Today can be a day of romance, a day to celebrate with friends or even treating yourself to that extra piece of chocolate.

Whether you are celebrating today, or looking forward to the discounted candy tomorrow, keep in mind there are many ways to express that you care about others. One of those ways is by driving responsibly and teaching others to do the same.

You can teach those you care about to protect themselves every time they get in a vehicle by explaining the importance of seat belt use. Lead by example and wear a seat belt each and every time you get behind the wheel. They’ll get the message.

Driving while distracted, especially with other people in the vehicle can seem like it’s not a big deal. At the same time, if someone is looking at their phone and texting while driving, a message is sent in more ways than one. It only takes a few seconds for a seemingly harmless message to change the lives of the people in  your vehicle forever.

Similarly, driving over the speed limit or not following the rules of the road can send the message that getting to your destination is more important than the lives of the people you share the road with.

Showing care for others is both a verb and a choice. By making smart decisions, like wearing a seat belt, ditching the distractions, driving sober and obeying the speed limit, you express to everyone how much you truly care.
What message will you send the next time you get behind the wheel?

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Who designs the highways?

When KDOT undertakes any construction project, there’s always a team that leads that project, taking it from a study, through the coordination and design, to handing it off to the construction team to break ground. And every team has a leader responsible for implementing the project and coordinating all aspects. For the Lewis and Clark Viaduct, one of those key people is Debbie Tanking, a 13-year Road Design Engineer with KDOT and Project Manager for the I-70 westbound bridge replacement. 

The Lewis and Clark Viaduct project overhead map of alternative routes during the construction project.

“It’s a team effort,” Tanking said. “I worked with a lot of great people on this project.” Tanking’s team has been working on the Lewis and Clark Viaduct project since its inception in 2012, and it’s the biggest she’s seen in terms of traffic impact and the long-term options it delivers.


“We all knew this was going to be huge,” she said. “The coordination between all the stakeholders was one of the biggest challenges we faced as we developed proposed concepts.” 

A concept design of the partial reconstruction of the Lewis and Clark Viaduct I-70 WB bridge.

As a Road Design Engineer, it’s Tanking’s responsibility to understand how humans, vehicles and the roadway interact with each other. “We look at the geometry of the road to check factors such as curves, grades, sight distances and clearances so they are appropriate for the speeds, volume and uses the road is designed for.” Tanking said she takes pride in being part of a team whose work benefits Kansas long term.


“The great thing about being part of the KDOT team is that we all work here because we want to help make infrastructure work better for Kansas,” Tanking said. “All of us at KDOT have families that use our state’s roads and bridges. It’s one reason we try so hard to do the right thing.” 

No project, no matter how big or small, happens without a team of experts who work closely together and with all the stakeholders to plan, design and construct the roads and bridges. The $64 million bridge replacement addresses not only the projected expense of repairs that would have been needed to maintain the bridge long term if it had not been replaced, but also addresses the need for a future route of travel as downtown Kansas City continues to grow. It also addresses the commercial traffic, airport traffic and even the railway that passes under the bridge.

The Lewis and Clark Viaduct WB I-70 lanes closed last week for the duration of the project.
“The design process and construction can be difficult to work through but when things are back to normal and the traveling public appreciates the improvements, that’s the best feeling.”

Monday, February 12, 2018

Called to action: When crashes occur KDOT crews play an important role

I-35 closed for 19 hours: A semitrailer crashed into a median and caught fire on northbound I-35 near Mission Road just after midnight on Feb. 1. Lamar Highway Maintenance Supervisor Rick Looper was the first KDOT employee on the scene to assist in closing both north and south I-35 traffic.
KDOT crews remove a semitrailer from I-35 on February 1. The vehicle crashed near Mission Road in Kansas City, which prompted officials to close parts of the highway for 19 hours. 

The closure distance around the crash site changed at times due to toxic fumes from the fire and cargo, Looper said, but it was necessary to keep portions of I-35 closed for about 19 hours. Four KDOT Equipment Operators, three impact attenuators and a truck with a message board helped direct traffic.


Haz-Mat crews work to clean and clear the scene after a semitrailer crashed on I-35. The vehicle crashed near Mission Road in Kansas City, which prompted officials to close parts of the high for 19 hours.
“Our responsibility is to close the highway down to keep the traveling public away from the danger of the fire and accident scene,” he said. “We also provide a safe working environment for the fire department, local police, KHP, haz-mat crew, clean-up crew and tow trucks and protect the scene for investigative purposes.” 

Closing highways is always a challenge, Looper said. “We have many locations with ramps and interchanges that can get congested real fast with traffic backups,” he said. “Closing a major highway is not always popular with the traveling public, but we do this for safety reasons. We want to be in and out as quickly as possible with little to no impact to traffic, but that does not always happen as with this crash involving hazardous materials.”

It’s important to know how, when and where to deploy KDOT employees to be safe and effective in situations like the Feb. 1 crash. “We have to be quick in responding and quick in closing a highway,” Looper said. “We put our lives on the line each and every day that we step out on the highway. My safety and the safety for my crew comes first while planning out my road closure.”

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Winter weather recap: Mid-week snow storm photos

Parts of the state saw snow on Tuesday, while some waited for snow that never came. According to the Topeka National Weather Service in twitter page, there was limited moisture in the upper levels of the atmosphere. The snow was “eaten,” when the snow sublimated, or dried up from the dry air between the surface and 5,000 feet. 

The National Weather Service in Topeka shared this post about what happened
to the snow that was expected for parts of the state.
 
In the counties that did receive snow fall totals, KDOT crews were hard at work, treating the roads. Here are some photos from the field.

Crews from southwest Kansas treat roads along K-96 from Dighton to Ness City earlier this week. 
Crews from northwest Kansas treat roads along U.S. 36 in Phillips County during the winter storm. 

Crews from north central Kansas work to clear the roads around Concordia during Tuesday's storm.
One of our Public Affairs Managers from north central Kansas had the opportunity to ride along with a KDOT crew from Concordia as they worked to clear the roads. In each of the newer trucks, monitors are mounted to provide real-time information that crews can use to monitor how much brine remains in the tanks, and the air and road temperatures.  

Monitors like this one are mounted inside newer KDOT trucks to allow crews to see how effective the equipment is working. 

According to Jim Frye, KDOT’s Field Maintenance Manager, KDOT crews rely on this information to understand how to treat the roads. Surface temperature is an important factor. If a road is less than 32 degrees and moisture is in the area, the roads can be treated. Bridges freeze faster than other road surfaces because the air flow beneath can cause any moisture to freeze a lot faster. For example, if the regular road surface is 34 degrees, the surface of a bridge could actually be somewhere around 29 degrees and the bridge could be treated.

A second monitor is used by KDOT crews to show what the road and air temperature is. In this photo, the air temperature was 12 degrees, while the road temperature was warmer, at 17 degrees. This monitor also shows how much brine solution is left in the tank. 

The air temperature is also important, especially if its bitterly cold, or the wind is blowing.

KDOT recently acquired new trucks for crews to use throughout the year. We got a chance to ride along on a test drive, so check back next week for an in-depth look at how KDOT uses technology to combat winter weather. 
A view from the passenger seat looking into the rearview mirror shows the wing plow, a second, smaller plow that extends off the side of the truck, in action as it works to help clear to roads.
More winter weather could be on the way this weekend, so remember to drive for conditions. If the snow arrives, give our crews plenty of room to work. And check out www.kandrive.org for updated road conditions. 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Winter weather safety and kits are important, here's why:

You never know when you are going to need a winter safety kit, and that is why you should always have one on hand. Inclement winter weather can cause traffic nightmares for anyone at any time and it is always best to be prepared.


In this drone video from earlier this week, a crash on I-44 just outside of Springfield, Mo., forced officials to close the highway for 15 hours. Two people were killed, and at least 60 vehicles were involved. 


Practicing safe winter weather driving and packing an emergency kit is essential for scary situations just like this one. 

Winter is not over yet, here's our recommended list that you should pack during these cold winter months:


  • A flash light
  • Extra warm clothing
  • Extra batteries
  • Extra Vehicle Fluid
  • A shovel
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Non-perishable snack food
  • Bottled water
  • Matches and candles
  • First aid kit
  • Pocket knife
  • Tow chain and/or rope
  • Booster cables
  • Road flares
  • Fluorescent Distress flag
  • Blankets 


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Mapping history

Pages of Kansas transportation history – some yellowed, others wrinkled, all fascinating – reside in KDOT offices across the state. John Wiens, an Engineering Technician Senior, keeps watch over roughly 2,000 as-built completed construction plans for the South Central District Office in Hutchinson.
John Wiens, Senior Engineering Technician in District 5, views microfilm in the basement of the Hutchinson office, which is filled with old plans and documents. 

He holds the documents in high regard, believing that they deserve to be preserved.
“I’ve got plans that go back to 1919 – probably even some older than that,” said Wiens, who has worked for KDOT since 1979.

Wiens’ office also features dozens of metal file cabinets holding old project files – records such as contracts, payrolls and change orders. One document dated Feb. 15, 1934, about a K-14 project in Harper County shows the cost of a shovel at $1.19 and a gallon of kerosene at 6 cents.


A report dated Feb. 15, 1934, about a K-14 project in Harper County shows the cost of a shovel at $1.19 and a gallon of kerosene at 6 cents.

The Southeast District Office has a records vault filled with orange project diaries that inspectors have filled out through the years. In the Southwest District Office, KDOT staff members have discovered original bills from the construction of their building.


Shelves of orange project diaries that District 4 inspectors have filled out over the years are pieces of Kansas transportation history.


KDOT has digital files of project documents, but Wiens thinks there’s something to pulling out a plan and spreading it out over a wooden table.

He’s running out of room in his office, but maintenance staff is building him new storage.
Wiens keeps plans hung up on racks “to keep them in good condition instead of just rolled up and thrown in the corner,” he said.



Plans in the District 5 office are stored on racks to keep them in good condition.

“To me, I really feel like they’re important. It’s kind of like a library. It’s history. We have a lot of outside surveyors and engineers who call me daily wanting information from these old records. It’s invaluable, some of it.”

***


Watch for #TBT (Throwback Thursday) posts from the South Central District Office on Facebook and Twitter every week. 

Monday, February 5, 2018

Black History Month Transportation Legends: Bessie Coleman


She said that she refused to take no for an answer, even when she was denied entry to flight school. She taught herself French and moved to France where she became the first black woman to earn a pilot’s license in 1922. Her name was Bessie Coleman and she quickly became known as, “Queen Bessie.”

Born on January 26, 1892 to family of sharecroppers in Atlanta, Texas, Coleman was one of 13 children.  She attended a one-room, segregated school and excelled in math and reading.

According to Biography.com, in 1915, Coleman moved in with her brothers in Chicago and became a manicurist. But not long after she moved to the “Windy City,” she read stories about World War I pilots and heard stories of their adventures in the skies. This sparked her interest in aviation.

Despite gender and racial discrimination, which was common in the early 1920s, she earned her pilot’s license from a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale in France. She had high hopes of starting a flying school for African Americans. Although she didn’t get a chance to see that dream become a reality, she did return to the United States and soared to fame with exhibition flying. Coleman performed complicated stunts and aerial tricks while flying for spectators across the country. During this time, she earned her nickname.

Only a few years after she received her pilot’s license, Coleman was tragically killed when an accident during a show rehearsal caused her plane to crash. She was only 34.
Although she left this world at a young age, she continues to inspire all who wish to achieve their dream of flying.


“The air is the only place free of prejudices,” she once said. 

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Super Bowl Sunday: The winning game plan is to drive sober


Super Bowl Sunday is easily the single largest sports celebration of the year, an event that combines friends, family, food and—for many people—alcohol.  With more than 110 million people tuning in to watch the game, the most dangerous place to be on February 4 isn’t on the field.  It’s on the road.
Research shows that men between the ages of 21 and 35  dominate NFL viewership.  According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, they are also the demographic group that make up the highest percentage of drunk drivers.  These factors combined mean that drunk driving and alcohol-involved crashes spike during the game and in the hours following it.  More alcohol-related accidents, DUI-related injuries and fatalities occur on Super Bowl Sunday than on any other day of the year, except New Year’s. According to Mothers against Drunk Driving (MADD), more than two-thirds of Super Bowl Sunday traffic fatalities involve drunk drivers. 
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that drunk driving accounts for almost one of every three deaths on our nation’s roads every year with 10,497 people killed in drunk-driving crashes in 2016. That’s one person every 50 minutes. 
Your winning game plan is to never drink and drive. Before the big game, make a plan.  Designate a driver, take advantage of public transportation, take a cab or use a ride share option.  Just remember fans don’t let fans drive drunk.