Thursday, January 17, 2019

Governor appoints Lorenz to lead KDOT

Julie Lorenz was appointed by Gov. Laura Kelly to lead KDOT as Interim Secretary of Transportation.
Gov. Laura Kelly has appointed Julie Lorenz to lead the Kansas Department of Transportation as Interim Secretary. She succeeds Richard Carlson, who retired on Jan. 11.
While new to this position, this is her second tour of duty for KDOT, serving as the Director of Public Affairs and Special Assistant from 2003 to 2011. During that time, Lorenz led the development of several efforts at the agency, including the development and eventual legislative passage of the $8.2 billion, 10-year T-WORKS funding program in spring 2010.
“I am honored to be back at KDOT,” Lorenz said. “I’m excited to help develop new opportunities to expand our transportation investments across the state while also working to maintain the existing system. Transportation is a part of everyone’s lives and the work KDOT does is critical to our state.”
Lorenz comes from Burns & McDonnell where she was a Principal specializing in strategic business consulting and planning and policy development for the transportation industry at the national, regional and local levels.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

ITS Heartland wins NOCoE award at Transportation Research Board Meeting in Washgington D.C.

By Tom Hein, Public Affairs Manager for Sedgwick County

At the 98th Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board in Washington D.C. this week, the National Operations Center of Excellence (NOCoE) presented the ITS Heartland chapter with an award in the category of Improving Agency TSMO Capabilities. TSMO is a Federal Highway Administration toolbox for Transportation Systems Management and Operations.

According to the ITS Heartland’s website, TSMO focuses on actively managing the multi-modal transportation network to deliver improved safety and mobility outcomes. Its philosophy is managing our valuable transportation system in a way that preserves what we have already built by using investments wisely on projects that improve operations.

Presenting the award is NOCoE managing director Patrick Son (left) and accepting is Randy Johnson, KC Scout manager and ITS Heartland president, Tom Hein, WICHway manager and project administrator, and consultant project manager Matt Volz.

Kansas DOT is the lead state for the ITS Heartland project. The chapter is a five-state Intelligent Transportation Systems coalition that also includes Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma DOTs, transportation industry consultants and product suppliers.

ITS Heartland’s mission is to improve the quality of life for those transportation uses who live and invest in America’s Heartland, though advanced transportation technologies and communications.

The TSMO University Education program created a series of archived webinars and live training sessions. 

The winning project was the ITS Heartland TSMO University Education Program, which created a series of archived webinars and hosted live training sessions on traffic incident management, highlights intelligent transportation technologies that increase roadway safety and improve traffic information sharing. The webinars encourage cross-jurisdictional agency cooperation and provide continuing traffic operations and management outreach to transportation administrators, planners, designers, maintenance crews, first responders and other transportation professionals.

NOCoE received more than 60 entries in four award categories. Other winners were the Arizona DOT for best TSMO project, North Carolina DOT for their response to a major incident or special event (Hurricane Florence), and in the public communication category, Oregon Traffic Incident Management responders for their use of social media.

For more information visit the NOCoE website at

Learn more about the ITS Heartland TSMO program at

Monday, January 14, 2019

Inside KDOT: Tracy Eaton has a hidden talent under the orange hat

Tracy Eaton, Equipment Operator for the Concordia Subarea

By Ashley Tammen, Public Affairs Manager for north central Kansas

When we think of the equipment operators here at KDOT we probably picture them in an orange vest and hat working hard on the roads but overlook their other skills, hobbies, or talents they may have. One of those hidden talents was found in District Two in Concordia.

Tracy Eaton's mixed media drawing of an angry snow plow moving snow, Snow Matter.

The Concordia Subarea employees and Supervisor, David Casper, discovered their coworker, Tracy Eaton, had been coming into work early every morning before getting to work so he could draw pictures. Tracy Eaton’s pictures were not just paper sketches that any person could draw but rather artistic artwork he had created of KDOT equipment and more. Tracy enjoys drawing and says he must have been born with his artistic talent because he’s drawn his whole life.  Although he has never taken art lessons, he did take 2nd place in his high school art class!

Eaton's colored pencil drawing of a classic car. 
Tracy’s coworkers liked his pictures so much that they began asking him for specific drawings of the KDOT snow plows, cars, etc. Tracy keeps several sketch pads in the break room at work to draw in when he is on break.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

KDOT deploys Truck Parking Management System to benefit professional drivers

TPIMS Ties 8 Midwest states together to provide commercial truck drivers info to 
make smarter, more efficient parking decisions in real-time along commercial trucking corridors.

TPIMS deploys: A management system that will provide commercial truck drivers with reliable, real-time information as they travel in parts of the Midwest has officially begun operation. KDOT highlighted this new system on Jan. 4 at the westbound Paxico rest area.

The Truck Parking Information Management System (TPIMS) project coordinates the trucking industry and the eight states in the Mid-America Association of State Transportation Officials (MAASTO). It will help commercial truck drivers make more efficient truck
parking decisions along corridors using computer-monitored truck parking areas, dynamic message signs and web and mobile applications.

KDOT Transportation Planner and TPIMS Regional Project Leader Davonna Moore explains the importance of the TPIMS program to a group of onlookers at the ribbon cutting that took place on Jan. 4. 

“This project is one of the biggest steps forward in improving efficiency and safety for our commercial truckers,” said Davonna Moore, KDOT Transportation Planner and TPIMS Regional Project Leader. “More efficient movement of goods, reduced fuel costs and safer parking benefits markets globally.” 

The system is funded through a $25 million federal grant and each participating state contributed additional funds for the project. The system will use existing intelligent transportation systems (ITS) infrastructure and capabilities, along with emerging vehicle detection and data collection technologies, to monitor the availability of truck parking. It will then provide real-time information to commercial vehicle operators for more than150 parking sites across the MAASTO region. More information about TPIMS is available here

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Hidden winter challenge: Static electricity

Each season brings their own set of obstacles to overcome, especially when it comes to transportation. In the summer, we deal with extreme heat that can wreak havoc on vehicles. Likewise, there are some certain things to remember to look out for in the colder months as well. Each week we will discuss a winter transportation challenge that could be overlooked. This week’s topic is shocking: 

Static electricity while fueling up your car: static electricity is an electric charge caused by an imbalance of electrons on the surface of a material. For example, static electricity is that little shock you feel when you put on your coat or what makes your hair stand on up after you take off a hat. 

Static Electricity poses a real threat when someone is refueling their vehicle and they don’t take steps to release the static electricity buildup after exiting. An unknowing person can have static electricity buildup, and upon touching the gas pump, a spark ignites the gasoline vapors around the nozzle and a flash fire is created. The fire will continue to burn until the fuel supply is cut off. Serious injury and property damage can occur in these situations. 
According to a Purdue University report There are ways that you can prevent static electricity fires while at the pump: 

1. Turn your vehicle off when you refuel your car.

2. Do not return to your vehicle while refueling. This is how most static electricity fires begin. Drivers re-enter their vehicles for various reasons, and when they depart to reach for the gas nozzle, they don’t discharge the static electricity buildup.

3. If you must return to your vehicle, you can discharge the buildup by touching the outside metal portion of your vehicle — if it’s far enough away from the gas tank. 

According to the report, if you find yourself in a situation where a flash fire occurs while at the pump, don’t panic. Simply leave the nozzle in the vehicle fill pipe. Make sure everyone is out of the vehicle and alert the station attendant immediately. They can shut off the pumps with emergency controls. 

Always be aware of your surroundings when refueling, when in doubt, just touch the metal part of your vehicle before reaching for the nozzle, especially when its cold and dry outside

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Transportation Secretary Richard Carlson to retire from KDOT

Richard Carlson will depart the Kansas Department of Transportation this week. Carlson has served as the Secretary of Transportation since July 2016.  

A St. Marys native, Carlson first became involved in politics through his work as a Pottawatomie County Commissioner, a position he held for 12 years before being elected to the state legislature. He then served in the Kansas House of Representatives for 10 years, representing the 61st District of Pottawatomie County and northern Wabaunsee County. In addition to his work as Chairman of the House Taxation Committee for six years, Carlson was also a member of the Appropriations Committee and Commerce and Labor Committee. He later served as the Legislative Liaison and Tax Policy Adviser for the Kansas Department of Revenue from December 2014 until his transportation appointment.
During his time as KDOT’s Transportation Secretary, several projects have reached completion.

Here are a few highlights:

Aerial view of a portion of the Johnson County Gateway

Johnson County Gateway Phase 2: This $288 million project is a vital economic corridor for the region and for Kansas. The project consisted of reconstruction and capacity improvements within the I-435, I-35 and K-10 interchange area, along with improvements at several major local interchanges. Within the project area, there were 56 new lane miles added as well as 22 new and five rehabilitated bridges, including three new two-lane flyover bridge ramps and widened bridges on I-435 and I-35.  The conclusion of the project took place in December 2016.

The South Lawrence Trafficway is a four-lane, six-mile free way. 

South Lawrence Trafficway: After more than two decades of planning, and construction, the South Lawrence Trafficway opened to travelers in November 2016. The four-lane, six-mile freeway provides an important connection for Douglas, Johnson and Shawnee counties. Travelers have experienced traffic congestion relief and a reduction of travel time. The project also impacted the environment in a positive way. Although KDOT used approximately 58 acres of wetlands, a mitigation package expanded the original wetland area and restored 317 acres of wetlands, 37 acres of upland prairie and 16 acres of riparian habitats.

Two transload facilities were opened in 2017. Photo credit by Brandon Stelnert. 

Two transload facilities in Great Bend and Garden City: In 2017 KDOT celebrated the opening of two transload facilities in Kansas. These facilities are designed to increase opportunities for freight shipping and provide cost effective ways to improve state infrastructure and benefit the communities where they are located.  

Three major construction projects along U.S. 54 were continued or initiated during Sec. Carlson's tenure.

Progress on projects in Wichita: Three major construction projects along U.S. 54, the main east-west highway through Wichita, continued or were initiated during Sec. Carlson’s tenure. The first phase of the interchange reconstruction of I-235 and U.S. 54 has nearly finished and includes seven new bridges, two new flyover ramps, auxiliary lanes on I-235 and many other safety and transportation efficiency improvements.

Extension of the U.S. 54 freeway in east Wichita is also advancing. Two projects from Webb Road to the interchange with K-96 extends the six-lane freeway three miles, adds new interchanges at Webb and Greenwich roads and includes open road tolling on new entrances and exits of the Kansas Turnpike. These two projects are the result of an enhanced KDOT partnership with the City of Wichita and the Kansas Turnpike Authority.

The TPIMS system was deployed last week and will help professional drivers locate real-time
parking availability easier and safer.

Truck Parking Information Management System: KDOT deployed the TPIMS, which is designed to help professional drivers locate real-time parking availability easier and safer. This regional project exists because of the partnership between eight participating states. Drivers will receive availability information through dynamic message signs, smartphone applications, in-cab technology and traveler information websites.  

Division of Innovative Technologies: KDOT created a Division of Innovative Technologies in fall 2017 to propel Kansas into the future. It will also work to bring innovative technologies that relate to transportation, management and data to the state.

These are just a few of the many accomplishments Carlson has helped KDOT achieve and we would like to thank him for leading the agency for the past two and a half years.

Monday, January 7, 2019

KDOT employees revive military history

By Deb Gruver,
Public Affairs Manager for south central Kansas 

 Mic Huddleston jokes about how he got involved in helping restore World War II vehicles.

"Wrong place at the wrong time," he says with a chuckle.
Mic Huddleston, Area Supervisor for Area Four in District Five, right, chats with Kevin Lockwood about the World War II vehicles they have restored together.

But surrounded by some of the half-track and other vehicles his tinkering has helped brought back to life, it's obvious Huddleston loves spending time at Kevin Lockwood's spacious shop.

Huddleston is the Area Supervisor for District Five's Area Four in Great Bend. He's been helping restore Lockwood's WWII collection for about 20 years.

"This would not be here without Mic," Lockwood says.

Mic Huddleston has been helping Kevin Lockwood restore World War II vehicles for about 20 years. He says it's one way to honor those in his and Lockwood's family who have served in the military..

Both Huddleston's and Lockwood's families "have a good history of military service," Huddleston says.

Lockwood and his team of volunteers take the vehicles to schools, air shows and other events. Huddleston really enjoyed going to Fort Hays for Hays Days. 

Lockwood owns the vehicles. He bought his first one in 1990. Since then, he and the crew have restored about eight, including an LVT-3 Bushmaster, thought to be the only operational one of its kind in the world. Used in the Pacific Theater, it could load a Jeep or a canon and haul Marines onto a beach or rescue wounded.

"This is basically a ship that crawls on land," Lockwood says.

This LVT-3 Bushmaster is believed to be the only operational one in the world. 

An average restoration takes a couple of years, the two men say. About five people, including Lockwood, show regularly to help out. 

It's a lot of work, Huddleston says, but worth it.

"It's one way to pay back," he says.

This is what the LVT-3 Bushmaster that Kevin Lockwood, Mic Huddleston and other volunteers restored looked like when they first got it. Both vehicles were in about the same shape, and the crew decided to restore the other one.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Enjoy riding your bike in the winter — with preparation

Riding a bike in the winter can still be an enjoyable experience, if you prepare correctly.
Photo Courtesy: Andrew Escandon
By Mallory Goeke
KDOT Communications Specialist

Riding a bike during the winter is not as crazy as some people may think. We should know: We asked our social media followers who ride their bikes this time of year and received so many responses. Biking when it’s cold outside may not be for everyone, but according to these winter bicyclists, you can hop on those two wheels and take off with some planning.
Megan Merryman said one of the challenges bikers face is other drivers.

“Staying safe during winter cycling is a bit tricky and challenging,” Merryman said. “Drivers are not expecting to see cyclists out on the roads this time of year, and visibility can be questionable on any given day. Plus, conditions can change quickly. It can be perfectly clear all day and then the low clouds and fog can settle in late in the day, which makes my evening commute a little dicey.”

Merryman suggests wearing reflective clothing while riding a bike because the days are shorter and they increase your chance of being seen.

“For commuting, my bike panniers have large reflective squares on them, and my cycling jacket has a reflective stripe on the back,” Merryman said.
Nancy Naethe Baker agrees and adds that staying aware of where you ride is also important.

“Biking in the winter frequently means lower light, even during daylight hours, so I make sure my clothes are bright and reflective, and I have a headlight and taillight on at all times,” Baker said. “I'm also more cautious about which roads I ride and what times I'm on them -- the difference in light levels, different sunrise and sunsets, and angle of the sun all mean changes in when the drivers have the sun in their eyes and are less able to see a cyclist at the side of the road.  I am aware of these things in other seasons, but they're all more prevalent during late fall and winter.”

Vincent Needham said it’s important to have a kit you can mix and match to meet the conditions you are riding in.

 “Versatility is key here, since morning and evening conditions can be quite different,” Needham said. “Modern LED lights are small and convenient, and I never actually take them off the commuter bike. It concerns me when I see out students riding without lights in winter darkness, and I've donated several sets of lights in an effort to fix that.”
Andrew Escandon, a volunteer at the Topeka Community Cycle Project, said when it comes to winter biking, preparation is key and the clothes you wear can make a big difference.
“Staying warm and comfortable is almost as important as staying visible,” Escandon said. “If you don’t wear adequate gloves and your fingers go numb, your ability to brake in time for unexpected obstacles greatly decreases.”

Escandon said dressing properly is different for everyone, and it’s important to find out what works for you.
Protecting yourself from the elements is key to winter bike riding. Photo Courtesy: Andrew Escandon

“For my face, I try and think of dressing as if I were going sledding or skiing,” Escandon said. “When it’s really cold, I wear a balaclava, scarf or face mask. The one drawback to this is the warm air from your breath will fog up most eyewear. To solve this problem, I invested in a snowboard helmet and ski goggles. The lens is positioned farther away from your face, which reduces fogging, and you can wear prescription eyewear underneath them.”
Merryman said being comfortable while riding a bike in the cold is easier if you dress in layers that are easy to remove.

One factor that is important to remember is how easy it is to overheat, even in the cold weather.

“You’d be surprised once your core is warmed up from the exercise how much easier it is to overheat in the winter,” Escandon said.  “When it’s between 18-25 degrees F, I’ll wear a base layer, fleece jacket and wind layer. The wind chill at those temperatures can be really uncomfortable. Anything over 30F, and I tend to leave off the wind layer, as it traps heat and makes you sweat more. The worst part is usually the start. It feels a lot colder than you will be once you’ve been pedaling for 15 minutes. More often than not, I end up over-dressing and have to stop to remove layers.”

One common caution we heard from winter bicyclists is that riding in the snow and ice can be tricky, especially when it comes to braking.

Baker said while she chooses not to ride on snow and ice, there are times when she’ll run into an icy patch on the road.

“I do not ride on ice, but if there's a patch I didn't expect and can't avoid, I coast over it -- no pedaling, no brakes, and no attempts to steer as any of those things can cause the bike to slide out of control,” Baker said.

Out of the many responses we received, only a small handful said they would try to ride their bikes if there were snow and ice on the roads. Most said they choose to wait until the roads are clear.

If you do choose to try to ride in the snow and ice, wider tires are available that can handle snow, and you would also want to use tires with studs in them to increase traction when it’s icy. Following the same rules as driving a car during inclement weather can still be followed:
  • Slow down
  •  Don’t brake suddenly
  •  Maintain a safe distance
  • Plan for more time to reach your destination.
Thanks to everyone who answered our questions! Do you think you’d ever try riding a bike in the winter?

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

U.S. 169 reconstruction continues with closure on the south end of the project

After U.S. 169 was closed between Delaware and Hawaii roads, pavement demolition immediately began on the concrete mainline and ramp pavement.
U.S. 169 north of Hawaii Road is completed and open to
traffic to and from Humboldt.

In early December, activity on the seven-mile long U.S. 169 pavement reconstruction project in Allen County switched from north to south. Emery Sapp & Sons, Inc., the contractor, has now closed to traffic the south two miles on the project, between Delaware (Tank Farm) Road and Hawaii Road at Humboldt. Following closure of the south end, the newly constructed five-mile stretch from Hawaii north to Minnesota roads was reopened to two-way traffic.

Work on the entire $16 million improvement began in May 2018. All concrete on the mainline highway pavement and ramps is being replaced, along with the reestablishment of a new subgrade base for the highway. KDOT has also installed wicking geotextile fabric in two 1,000-foot long test sections to help solve moisture-related problems and prolong the life of the pavement.

The official detour route is signed on K-39, U.S. 75 and U.S. 54. KDOT expects to open the entire seven miles of new U.S. 169 roadway in late spring 2019, weather permitting.