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.”

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