Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Celebrating women who made transportation history

From the sea, across land, and all the way to the stars, women have made an incredible difference on our world.  March is Women’s History Month and we would like to take the time to share with you some incredible women who had a great impact on transportation.

Nellie Bly: Have you ever read the book by Jules Vern, Around the World in 80 Days? The classic adventure told the story of Phileas Fogg and his desire to circumnavigate the earth in 80 days. Elizabeth Jane Cochrane was a journalist who went by the name Nellie Bly, and she was inspired by the book. In 1889, at the age of 25, she traveled around the world — and she did it in 72 days, 6 hours, 11 minutes and 14 seconds. According to she used a variety of transportation methods to achieve her lofty goal, including: ship, horse, rickshaw, sampan, burro and other vehicles.

Anne Rainford French Bush: In 1900, cars were just starting to be manufactured and there were only a handful of people who actually owned and drove them.  According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Anne Rainford French Bush was the first woman who obtained a “steam engineer’s license,” which allowed her to operate a four-wheeled vehicle powered by steam or gas.” In an article in Life Magazine from Sept. 1952, Bush said that the speed limit was nine miles an hour, and her father was pulled over for going 12 miles an hour in his convertible.

Alice Huyler Ramsey: In 1909, 22 year-old Alice Huyler Ramsey, drover her way into history as the first woman to drive coast to coast across the United States. According the Smithsonian Magazine, her 3,800 journey from New York to California took 59 days to complete. In those days, there was no GPS and the majority of America’s roads were not fit for long distance travel. Ramsey relied on the Blue Book travel guides with directions that weren’t always accurate. Ramsey and her three women passengers had to conquer many obstacles, including car trouble, inclement weather, and the fact that there were no directions west of the Mississippi River. Ramsey would eventually be the founder of the Women’s Motoring Club.

Olive Dennis: According to, In 1920, Dennis was hired by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad to work as a bridge designer in the engineering department. Later, her role changed to a service engineer where she was responsible for engineering upgrades that would make train rides more comfortable. Dennis invented reclining seats, stain resistant upholstery, adjustable ceiling lights that could be dimmed in the passenger cars. Arguably her greatest invention was the window vents that brought in fresh air, but kept the dust out and air conditioning that was used aboard the trains and also implemented in planes and busses. Dennis said, “No matter how successful a business may seem to be, it can gain even greater success if it gives consideration to the women’s viewpoint.” She was also the first female member of the American Railway Engineering Association.

Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) During World War II, the army was desperate for pilots to deliver newly built training aircraft to flight schools. Twenty-eight women pilots volunteered to take job of ferrying these aircraft. For the next two years, 1,074 more women volunteered and they were trained to ferry, tow gunnery targets, transport equipment and personnel, and test aircraft that had been repaired. 

According to, the WASP served at 120 different bases around the country and carried out a variety of aviation-related positions. The WASP asked Walt Disney if they could use a female gremlin character, called Fifinella, from an unaired cartoon as their mascot.

Although It took another 37 years before they were granted military status, these women played an important role in WWII.

“These 1,102 Women Airforce Service Pilots flew wingtip to wingtip with their male counterparts,” the site said. “And they were just as vital to war effort.”

Rosie the Riveter:  This famous icon represents all the women who went to work as the men were fighting in World War II. Rosie the Riveter was a campaign geared toward recruiting workers for defense industries. By the end of the war, one out four women worked outside the home.

The aviation industry saw the most women workers. According to, 310,000 women went to work in the U.S. aircraft industry.

Rosie the Riveter is slightly based on a real-life munitions worker, and she stressed the patriotic need for women to continue working. The term is also based on a song of the same name.  The most popular illustration of Rosie was created by artist Jay Howard Miller in 1942. Norman Rockwell also created his own Rosie in 1943.

Rosie the Riveter continues to be an inspirational icon for women across the world.

Janet Guthrie: Ever since auto racing got its start, it has been a predominantly male sport. But in the early 1970's a woman with a degree in physics by the name of Janet Guthrie wanted to change that. In 1976, she became the first woman to compete in a NASCAR race, and in the following year she became the first female driver to start in the Daytona 500. She won Top Rookie honors because of her 12th place finish in NASCAR’s biggest race. Later that year she qualified for the Indy 500. Although her racing career never saw her in victory lane, she paved the way for countless female race car drivers. In 2005 she was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.

Sally Ride: Nasa was formed in 1958, and it would be another 25 years before an American woman would blast off into Earth’s Orbit. Sally Ride, was born on May 26, 1951. Ride received her doctorate in physics in 1978. After she completed her studies, she applied to become an astronaut for NASA and was selected, she began spacing training that same year. On June 18, 1983, Ride took her first space flight on the Challenger. She returned to space in 1984 and continued to work for NASA until 1987 and began teaching at the University of California in San Diego to help women and young girls study science and math. She was added to the Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2003.

Mae C. Jemison Nine years after Ride took her first spaceflight, Mae C. Jemison became the first African-American woman in space. Jemison was born on Oct. 17, 1956. She studied chemical engineering. According to, Jemison also received her M.D., and worked as a medical officer for the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone and Liberia. In 1985, she returned to the United States and followed her dream to become an astronaut for NASA. In 1987, she was chosen and after five years of working for NASA, she boarded Space Shuttle Endeavor and blasted off on Sept. 12, 1992. She spent eight days in space and conducted experiments on weightlessness and motion sickness on the crew and herself.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

KDOT crews and contractors awarded

The Kansas Contractors Association and KDOT handed out its partnering awards recently for the 2017 heavy highway construction season.

The awards highlight the multitude of ways contractors and KDOT employees work together to ensure the best outcome on projects.

Receiving awards were:
District 1 in Northeast Kansas

One-inch cold mill with one-inch overlay: Bettis Asphalt and the Bonner Springs Construction Office the project cost $1.3 million to complete. 

District 2 in North Central Kansas:

Grading and concrete pavement of bike path and lighting system: Hamm Construction, Kaw Valley and the Junction City Construction Office. The project cost $938,132 to complete. 

District 3 in Northwest Kansas:

Bridge repair work: Bridges, Inc. and the Oakley Construction Office. The project cost $972,718 to complete. 

Intersection improvement on U.S. 75/160: B&B Bridge Company LLC and the Independence Construction Office. The project cost $835,924 to complete. 

Surfacing, side roads and entrances on K-68: Hamm Inc. and the Garnett Construction Office The project cost $2,529,720 to complete. 

District 5 in South Central Kansas:

Bridge repairs: King Construction Company and the El Dorado Construction Office ($2,726,787)

“By working together and not against one another, we were able to solve problems in a timely manner, and the outcome was a great looking project completed before the winter hit.” Jordan Toogood, King’s Project Manager 

Kansas Turnpike Authority Award Winner:

RCB Construction and Grading: Hamm Construction and the KTA ($3,153,466)

Statewide Project Award Winner:

“Due to tremendous cooperation with Ebert, KDOT, Lochner, city and county governments, this project was completed two months ahead of schedule and is an excellent example of partnering in action.” Scott Swanson of KDOT when announcing the award

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

#IAMKDOT: Sherri Hildebrandt

This months' #IAMKDOT feature gives hope to the homeless.

Take a walk around any KDOT work area and talk to people, and a common theme you’ll hear is that they’re here because they like improving lives for the people who use the roads, bike lanes and preservation areas KDOT builds and maintains.  For many employees, the sense of service extends beyond the workplace.  Sherri Hildebrandt, Administrative Specialist at District 1 Bonner Springs office, is an unassuming example of a personal commitment to making her community better.

“It makes me grateful to be part of something that makes someone’s life a little better,” Hildebrandt said.

Hildebrandt, a five-year KDOT veteran, serves at the Leavenworth Interfaith Shelter of Hope homeless shelter, where since 2014 she has been regularly working the night shift managing intake, supervising the floor, doing laundry or “whatever is needed” for the 15-20 people who sleep at the shelter each night.

She said she’s always felt called to serve.

Prior to working at KDOT, Hildebrandt worked with the Department of Children and Families, and was keenly aware of the needs of the unhoused in the community.
 “When I saw the need here, I knew I had to be part of the solution.”

In 2014, the shelter came together through donations and the leadership of several church and community organizations.

Sherri Hildebrandt prepares to open the Interfaith Shelter of Hope for the evening.  The shelter houses 15-20 homeless people each evening.
Hildebrandt says since beginning to serve as a volunteer at the shelter in 2014 and now in her part-time paid capacity, she’s met some incredibly resilient people and been part of several uplifting moments.  But it’s not always easy.

“It’s hard when you hear their stories sometimes,” she said.  “But the people who really need these services, they are the ones who help keep me going.”

At the same time, she said, serving in that sector makes her grateful.
“These are people living day to day,” she said.  “It’s easy to walk by them. But you never know what tomorrow could bring, it could easily be you or your family. 

Hildebrandt has seen some of the success stories during her time serving at the shelter. She’s seen people work through extremely difficult struggles to finish their education, get housing, and get jobs to support their family.  For her, these are why she says it’s important for her to serve.

“I love seeing people whose lives are a little better because of what we’re doing there.”
Linda Martin, Shelter of Hope director, says having Sherri on staff provides just the right mix of component supervision and compassion.

“She is one of the reasons our shelter is so successful,” Martin said.
Hildebrandt encourages everyone to consider getting involved locally in any capacity they feel able to serve. 

“It’s eye-opening,” she said. “It definitely makes me think twice before I judge anyone.”
Hildebrandt says she would describe herself as a volunteer and professional. She is a mother and her grandchildren call her Noni. She is a sister and a friend, she loves to shop and she is dedicated and compassionate.

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?