Monday, March 19, 2018

Musical highways

When we hear that motorists who use our highways obey the speed limit, it is music to our ears. But did you know that there are actually some locations around the world that if you obey the speed limit, the roads will literally sing? 

Two of those locations exist right here in the United States. The first one was built in 2014 on Route 66 in New Mexico, between Albuquerque and Tijeras. 

According to an article from the Smithsonian Magazine, the New Mexico Department of Transportation created this to encourage drivers to slow down and bring a little excitement to the monotonous highway.  The music is created by rumble strips in the road that are perfectly spaced far enough apart that when a car rolls over them at just the ride speed, vibrations are created and the music is produced. Music notes are essentially vibrations in the air. The closer the grooves are, the faster the vibrations and the higher the note. 

 Vehicles must drive 45 MPH, or the music can't be heard. The song that drivers can hear  is "America the Beautiful." Check out the video:

The next location where you can hear music by following the speed limit is just outside Lancaster, Calif.  If you slow down to 55 MPH, you can hear "William Tell's Overture."

Japan has several musical roads, check out this one near Mt. Fuji.

What song would you like to hear in Kansas? 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A 'pawesome' story: KDOT crews rescue lost cat

Ron O’Neal was the first to hear the meow.

Equipment Operator Seniors Jorge Alvarado, Ryan Hunter and Ron O'Neal, shown left to right, helped get this cat out of a hole they were going to fill with concrete while working on the apron of a bridge at K-96 and Rock Road. They work out of the Wichita East Subarea shop
The Equipment Operator Senior and other members of the Wichita East Subarea crew were working on the apron of a bridge at K-96 and Rock Road, about to fill a hole with concrete. They stopped when O’Neal heard the plea for help.

This grey and white cat was saved by KDOT crews from Wichita.
He was reunited with his family. 
Equipment Operator Senior Ryan Hunter “sprang into action and dug him out of the hole,” Supervisor Ted Coleman said. “The hole was huge and required flowable fill. Ryan reached down about 3 feet to retrieve the kitty cat.” 

Coleman called Wichita Animal Control and took the cat home for the weekend, introducing him to his two dogs. It wasn’t the first time Coleman has gone above and beyond for animals. He once crossed four lanes of I-135 to rescue a dog that had been lost for several days. Coleman was recently featured in the #IAMDKOT series which illustrates that scene here: 

Workers at the Wichita Animal Shelter, which is situated next to the Kansas Humane Society, successfully scanned the cat for a microchip.

Turns out the kitty had been missing for a month and lived 12 miles away in Andover.

“The family was thrilled and excited to hear the good news,” Coleman said.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Time change safety tips

Last weekend saw most of the country’s clocks “spring forward” for daylight saving time, but those extra hours of sunlight didn’t come without risks.

According to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, fatal crashes increased by 17 percent on the Monday following the time change. Researchers at the University of Colorado also found that those crashes continue their uptick throughout the week, increasing by 6.3 percent above normal.

As you continue to adjust to the time change this week, keep in mind these driving safety tips from AAA:
  • Watch for pedestrians when backing up in parking lots or driveways. The darker morning hours can make these individuals harder to see!
  • Turn on your headlights to make yourself more visible.
  • Increase your following distance, especially if you are traveling into the sun. Those bright rays can make it hard to see what the car ahead of you is doing!
  • Watch for children and others who are outdoors in the lighter evening hours.
  • Always yield the right of way to pedestrians in crosswalks and never pass a vehicle that is stopped at a crosswalk.

And remember to buckle up! Every trip. Every time.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Improvements to north junction of U.S. 400 and U.S. 69 one of many projects in February letting

The north junction of U.S. 400 and U.S. 69 will add turning lanes and permanent traffic signals.

A project that will provide improvements to the north junction of U.S. 400 and U.S. 69 is one 27 projects approved as part of the Feb. 21, KDOT construction letting.
The project in southeast Kansas will add turning lanes and permanent traffic signals to accommodate the increased traffic to the Kansas Crossing Casino.
Amino Brothers Co. Inc., of Kansas City, is the awarded contractor at a contract cost of $2,538,505. The project is to be open to unrestricted traffic on or before Nov. 21 of this year.
To see all of the projects approved in the February 2018 letting, click here.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Safety coalitions across the state

Once upon a time, this mangled heap of metal was a Chevy Camaro. The teen occupants, who were wearing seat belts, survived, but according to KDOT, more than 450 other individuals in traffic crashes last year did not.

While 2017 data is unofficial at this time, current data shows there were more than 12,500 crashes resulting in 455 people killed, 961 disabled, 6,601 with minor injuries and 9,426 with possible
injuries. About 95 percent of these crashes were the result of driver behavior error, according to Lisa Hecker, KDOT Program Consultant with the Bureau of Transportation Safety and Technology.

Like many other individuals and organizations, KDOT is concerned with reducing fatalities and serious injuries in Kansas and has been working to establish traffic safety coalitions in communities throughout Kansas.

“Realizing that issues in Johnson County are very different than issues in southwest Kansas, we knew we needed coalitions at the local level in addition to the work we are already doing at the statewide level,” said Steven Buckley, KDOT’s State Highway Safety Engineer. “Local coalitions bring individuals and organizations together within a community to identify traffic safety concerns specific to the community and personalizes the work that the coalition does. This builds buy-in and ownership locally as members work to keep their friends, family and community safe.”

Because the coalitions are locally organized and led, Buckley expects that each coalition will be as different as the communities are across the state. “Some coalitions might organize at the city level while others may organize at the county level,” Buckley said. “While one coalition might be addressing seat belt usage, another might be addressing distracted driving or railroad crossing safety.”

KDOT’s role in the coalition is to find local champions that are interested in improving traffic safety in their community using the 4E’s of traffic safety: education, enforcement, engineering and emergency services. KDOT is also available to provide support, presentations, resource ideas and crash data, and in some situations, funding.

For example, the agency can assist with funding for behavioral programs like SAFE (Seatbelts Are for Everyone) - a student initiative aimed at getting students to buckle up - and for enforcement initiatives aimed at reducing speeding and drunk and distracted driving. To start a Traffic Safety Coalition, visit: or contact Lisa Hecker at 785-296-0845 or 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

It only takes a spark: Fire risk is high, use extreme caution


That's the message that Kansas emergency management, Department of Agriculture and Kansas Department of Transportation officials want Kansans to understand: It only takes one spark to set off a fire that that could rage across thousands of acres.

"Current dry weather conditions and high winds have created an extremely high risk for fire," said Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli, the adjutant general and director of the Kansas Division of Emergency Management. "More than once in recent years, we have seen the devastation that can result from wildfires. Homes have been destroyed, livestock killed, thousands of acres of farmland completely burned, resulting in millions of dollars in economic loss.
"It is vital that Kansans avoid any activity that could possibly start a fire," said Tafanalli, "such as driving vehicles across dry grass, or using work equipment on dry fields. As always, be careful that you extinguish any smoking materials completely. Basically, just be cautious when doing anything that might create the spark that starts a catastrophic fire."

The Dept. of Agriculture also advises to take extra precautions when welding or brush hogging. Always have a fire extinguisher in your vehicle as you are out working.

"KDOT would like to remind the traveling public this year to be mindful of any activity that could cause a spark, including pulling over on the side of a road that has tall grass," said State Transportation Engineer Catherine Patrick. "If you find yourself driving through an area where a fire has been reported and visibility is reduced, be cautious when driving through heavy smoke and do not pull over near a fire."

The Kansas Division of Emergency Management continues to monitor weather conditions that have sparked several wildfires across the state. KDEM personnel are in contact with county emergency managers to respond with state assistance, if needed.

The State Emergency Operation Center is activated to a level 3- Enhanced Steady State Activation to coordinate response efforts. Representatives from The Kansas Division of Emergency Management, the Kansas National Guard, Dept. of Agriculture, Wildlife and Parks and the office of the State Fire Marshal were in the SEOC.

The Kansas National Guard has placed several Black Hawk helicopters with Bambi buckets on stand-by. The KSNG's Joint Operations Center was also activated.

Work on K-18 and U.S. 77 in Geary County is close to completion

K-18 bridge over U.S. 77 looking west.

The K-18 and U.S. 77 interchange is now 77 percent complete and is anticipated to be open to unrestricted traffic by June 29, weather permitting.  The box culvert shown below is half complete, with another section to be completed to the right. While this is taking place, work will begin on the bridge approach connecting these two sections of K-18.

K-18 box culvert looking east.

Previously, this interchange was half diamond and half cloverleaf.  It will now be a full diamond interchange. On and off ramps are complete on the east side of U.S. 77. The foundation of the ramps on the west side has been placed, but they won’t be completed until the work on K-18 is finished.  

K-18 bridge looking south on U.S. 77
This is the third stage of the project with Hamm, Inc. of Perry as contractor at a cost of approximately $15 million.  The first and second stages started from the diverging diamond at the interchange of I-70 and U.S. 77 to the south, to Rucker Road and U.S. 77 to the north.  KDOT partnered with the city of Junction City in putting in a walk/bike path, which crosses U.S. 77.  

A walk/bike path that cross U.S. 77 has also been added. 

Monday, March 5, 2018

Severe Weather Awareness Week: Driving tips

Anyone who has lived in Kansas long enough understands that severe weather can hit fast and it can be devastating. Damaging winds, large hail, flash floods and even tornadoes are common threats that we all know too well.  This week, The National Weather Service is focusing on Severe Weather Awareness Week. 

We wanted to take a moment to share some severe weather safety tips, If you must drive through storms, these tips could help you reach your destination destination safely.

Be Prepared:
The bottom line when driving during severe weather is to be prepared for anything. Before you travel check the weather forecast of your entire route.

If you see darkening skies tune into a local radio station or have your passengers look up the weather on their devices.

Driving in Rain:

Wipers on. Headlights on: This is Kansas law. Protect yourself and others around you. Headlights help increase the chances that you will be seen by other drivers.

Turn on Wipers and Keep Windows Clear: This may be a no-brainer, but a surprising number of people drive with windshield wipers that aren’t at their peak performance. It is suggested to get them replaced every 6-12 months. Use your de-frost function or air conditioner to keep your windows clear of fog.

Be Patient:  Take it slower than usual and give extra room to the drivers around you. Wet roads could cause your vehicle to hydroplane or lose traction.

Turn Around Don’t Drown: During severe weather, flash floods may occur. Never try to cross a flooded road way. The water may be deeper than you think and it is dangerous to try to drive over it. Find an alternate route. It only takes a few inches for the current to take you and your vehicle for an unwanted ride.  Abandon your vehicle if it stalls and seek higher ground.

Turn off Cruise Control:  Road conditions during severe weather are inconsistent. You need to be in control, not your vehicle. 

This is a photo that has been circulating social media.
It demonstrates how important it is to use your headlights.
Looking at this picture, you can hardly see the vehicle
approaching the driver., who also shouldn't have been using
his camera while driving. 

Driving during a hailstorm:
Take shelter:  Don’t leave your vehicle unless you can get inside quickly. The hailstones could cause injury.  If you are near an underpass or bridge it is safe to wait out the hail.

Pull over:  if you are not near any shelter, stay in your vehicle and pull to side of the road.

Driving During High Winds:

Watch for Flying Debris: High winds can pick up items that become dangerous weapons if they should hit your or your vehicle.

Be prepared for wind gusts: If you drive a high profile vehicle such as an SUV, bus, or semi truck, you have a higher risk of being affected by high wind gusts. Consider not traveling in these vehicles if you can avoid it.

Driving During a Tornado

This one is easy: Don’t. Never try to outrun a tornado, and don’t drive during one either.  Get out of your car and find shelter. If none can be found, get below the road’s surface and cover your head. A ditch or low area is suggested. Be aware of the water level around you and be on the lookout for flash floods. Never seek shelter in an underpass.

In every weather situation it is best to buckle up - every trip, every time - and pay attention to your environment. 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

TBT: Pig poop pavement

March 1 is National Pig Day, and it just happens that today is also Thursday, so let's have a throwback post from July 2016, where we discussed the exploration of using pig poop in pavement:

Is pig poop the future of pavement?

We have all heard the story of the three little pigs. That third little pig was an engineering pro who stopped the Big Bad Wolf from blowing his house down. That was a great story, but what pigs could do for the future of transportation is no fairy tale.

Although still in the testing stage, students at North Carolina A&T State University and the National Science Foundation have teamed up to explore the possibilities of using pig manure as a binder, or bio-adhesive, for an asphalt substitute. Currently, asphalt requires petroleum, which is a fossil fuel and cannot be replenished as quickly. 

With asphalt created with bio-adhesives, the opposite is true.  According to a video produced by the NSF, 43 billion pounds of swine manure is generated in one year. In fact, some places in the world have so much pig waste that their water supplies are being contaminated.  At 56 cents per gallon this renewable resource could pave the road for a more environmentally and financially-sound solution to fossil fuel dependency. 

It’s not just the transportation industry that could benefit from successful bio-adhesive roads; the farming industry around the world would still be able to use the leftovers from the manufacturing process as fertilizer.

Think this idea is full of it? Check out The National Science Foundation’s video for a closer look at how the process is being tested. And tell us what you think. Would you be willing to travel down a road made from pig poop?