Thursday, September 19, 2019

Stay curious: How STEM opportunities can change the world

By Mallory Goeke
Communications Specialist
Our country and our world are experiencing technological advances at a rapid pace. We often hear stories about the next new invention that improves lives makes headlines.
The roads we traveled on, the water system that we drink from, and even items like our smart phones had to be invented and engineered by someone. Who knows? maybe someone who reads this article could create the next big invention.

Any new discovery or piece of technology requires knowledge and the critical thinking skills to create change. And that is where Science, Technology, Engineering and Math comes in. 
According to the U.S. Department of Education, STEM programs help us understand the world by preparing students with the knowledge and skills to solve problems, make sense of information and interpret data to make decisions and choices that will lead us into the future. 

In an article by the PEW Research Center, STEM occupations have grown 79% since 1990. That means there are 17.3 million jobs related to these fields today. Jobs in scientific and technological fields pay well and those who work in those jobs are making a big difference and saving lives.

Students today may not realize it now, but the choices they make and the classes they attend will have an impact on the world around them. Now is the time to begin thinking about how they can create change.

Students had the opportunity to attend a STEM Camp sponsored by KDOT at Washburn University earlier this summer.

The Smithsonian Institute presented this scenario: There are four billion people on the planet who use a mobile phone. In the past two years, 90% of all of Earth’s data has been generated. The future is already here and citizens of the world who are fluent in STEM are needed.

In January 2018, The PEW Research Center found the U.S. placed 38/71 in math and 24th in science. One reason could be that some students do not expand past what is familiar and comfortable.

Change and growth takes time and it means stretching past our comfort zones to learn and improve. We should be expanding our limits and learning new skills.

After all, if we had never looked to the stars and felt unsatisfied with not knowing what’s beyond our atmosphere, would we ever have made it to the moon and beyond?

Changing the world knows no age limitation. A recent story from NPR featured Nora Keegan, a fifth grader who wanted to make a difference for children who were overwhelmed by the noise that hand dryers produce. Using a professional decibel meter, she visited more than 40 public restrooms between 2015 and 2017. She discovered that public hand dryers do produce noise that exceeds 100 decibels, which can lead to hearing loss, learning disabilities and ruptured ear drums. 

Nora is 13 now, and her studies were recently published in the Canadian Journal Paediatric and Child Health.

So, whether you are a student, entering the work force or you’re already have a career it’s never too late to learn something new.  

We encourage everyone to stay curious and look for opportunities where they can change their world.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Cruise control: Setting the speed limits in Kansas

By Ashley Tammen
Public Affairs Manager
Northcentral Kansas

When it comes to setting the speed limits in Kansas, “Increase the speed” is often a statement we hear the most. As you may already know, safety is a top priority for KDOT, and we look at many factors to determine a safe speed for a road or highway. KDOT determines the speed limit of a roadway through a speed study which may be conducted multiple times in a given year.

What is a speed study?

A speed study is done using a radar gun to collect speed data.  Normally, this data is collected during off-peak hours from about 50 random vehicles on a given roadway in each direction at free flow speeds. The vehicles are selected at random to avoid bias in the study results and the 85th percentile speed is the speed at which 85% of the drivers are traveling at or below. The 85th percentile speed reflects the safe speed as determined by a large majority of drivers.

All factors considered!

Many factors are considered in speed studies including crash history, roadway geometry, activity within the driving environment, and politics or state law. According to Brian Gower, Bureau Chief of KDOT’s Bureau of Transportation Safety and Technology, one of the most important factors considered in a speed study is engineering judgement from a traffic engineer. The engineering judgment of a traffic engineer may determine, if any, of the factors in a speed study warrant a downward adjustment of the 85th percentile speeds.

Establishing realistic speed limits

Often, speed studies may not result in a speed change as this may not be the best decision for everyone such as the speed study conducted in February 2016 of K-9 from Beloit to Clifton. Other times, only sections of a roadway may result in a speed zone change like the speed study conducted in May, 2015 of U.S. 81 and K-9 in Cloud County where it was recommended only to raise the speed limit at State Street. Once all variables are considered, a safe and reasonable speed limit is established for a given road section.

Now that you’ve learned all this you may be wondering how we determine when a speed study will be conducted or who initiates the request for a speed study. Anybody can initiate a traffic study or check when the last one was completed, simply contact your local KDOT office.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Summer recap: Large jaws make quick work of old bridge

By Tom Hein 
Wichita Public Affairs Manager
Have you ever wondered what goes into demolishing a bridge?

Using machinery that resembles Jurassic Period predators, a deconstruction crew removed a 1960s era bridge over I-235 in north Wichita earlier this summer, which required a weekend shut down of a 3-mile section. 

The removal of the bridge makes way for continuous auxiliary lanes between North Meridian Avenue and Broadway. 

The section of I-235 under construction is also part of K-96

A 1960s era bridge was demolished over I-235 in north Wichita earlier this summer. 
To protect I-235 from the heavy equipment used for the demolition, a dirt cushion was placed over the concrete lanes. After the bridge was down, removing the debris took several hours as concrete and steel were separated and hauled away.

To protect the road surface from the heavy equipment a dirt cushion was placed over the concrete lanes.

Dirt was also removed from the bridge abutments and will be used to construct the new ramps at the I-235 and Broadway interchange.

In order to construct new ramps at the I-235 and Broadway interchange, dirt had to be removed. 
The average daily traffic for this area is between 45,000 and 52,000 vehicles per day.

The Green Project is the first phase of the Wichita North Junction reconstruction.

To find out more about the project, see the Green Project fact sheet here  .

 A fact sheet for the North Junction phases can be found here 

Monday, September 16, 2019

Motoring Monday - Bird watching across Kansas

The Wetlands & Wildlife National Scenic Byway in Barton, Stafford and Reno counties
in central Kansas has lots of areas to watch birds.
Bird watching is a big pastime in Kansas. The state has two important stopover sites for migrating birds and has recorded more than 460 bird species, making it the 16th most popular bird state in the country, according to the Audubon website.
The top two places to see birds includes the Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area and the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. The spring and fall migration times are especially good for seeing a variety of birds pass through the state.
The Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area is
the largest wetland in the interior U.S.
The Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area is a central flyaway for millions of birds. This Kansas wetland area is the largest in the interior U.S. with 41,000 acres. Some 320 species of birds frequent Cheyenne Bottoms, including the Bald Eagle, Whooping Crane, Peregrine Falcon, Least Tern and Piping Plover.
The Quivira National Wildlife Refuge includes more than 22,000 acres and is managed primarily to provide migratory birds with food, water and shelter. More than 300 species of birds have been seen on the refuge at different times of the year.
According to the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, there are lots of great spots to watch birds. The top 10 locations are:
1 - Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area
2 - Quivira National Wildlife Refuge
3 - Cimarron National Grassland
4 - Baker Wetlands Research and Natural Area
5 - Gypsum Hills Scenic Byway
6 - Historic Lake Scott State Park and Wildlife Area
7 - Marais des Cygnes Wildlife Area
8 - Konza Prairie Biological Station
9 - Toronto Reservoir, Cross Timbers State Park and Toronto Wildlife Area
10 - Wilson Reservoir, State Park and Wildlife Area
State parks are also great places to see birds. According to KDWPT, in the late winter, Lovewell Reservoir, State Park and Wildlife Area can host up to one million snow geese in flocks large enough to be seen on weather radar.


Thursday, September 12, 2019

Safety first — For your family and mine: New safety slogan and logo announced

By Mallory Goeke

Communications Specialist
KDOT Headquarters
“Safety First — For your family and mine.” Is the new safety slogan at KDOT.  With the help of the newly-formed Statewide Safety Committee and the Executive Staff, the slogan by Bonnie Hirsh, Administrative Specialist in Dodge City, was selected this summer.

A new slogan needs a new logo and the Statewide Safety Committee worked with internal staff to create the logo which will be used in a variety of ways to help share the important message of safety. The logo was conceptualized by Chief Geologist Kyle Halverson and designed by Communications Specialist Mallory Goeke.

Catherine Patrick, Special Assistant to the Secretary said that KDOT hopes to achieve a safer workplace; ultimately with the goal of zero injuries and fatalities.

“We want it to remind us of the importance of safety in all the work we do at KDOT,” Patrick said. “We want the message to encourage employees to stop and think about doing things safely; not only for themselves, but for their families and our family; as we perform all the various types of work at KDOT.

Halverson said that the concept for the logo came from a series of ideas that the new safety committee had come up with.

“As an agency that covers the entire state, we need to look at safety, not only as a personal obligation, but as an agency obligation,” Halverson said. “So that outline of the state represents that obligation to me. The road is obvious, but I think it means more The road to a safer workplace and the goal to achieve zero accidents and zero fatalities is a long road, but with the proper education and awareness we can get there.”

Patrick said that the highway was a universal symbol that represented the work we do in designing, building and maintaining our infrastructure and the relationship that ties us all together, not only within KDOT but with the traveling public.

When the logo was presented to the Statewide Safety Committee, we all just knew “this logo is the one,” Patrick said.

There are many plans to utilize the logo moving forward that will help spread this important message:

“Safety first— For your family and mine.” 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

5 insights into “big dance” of KDOT road-striping crew

A work truck, far left, passes the KDOT paint crew convoy near Pratt.
By Tim Potter,
Public Affairs Manager
South Central Kansas 
Kansas highways are striped with paint: yellow lines to guide motorists and to aid in preventing collisions, white lines to mark the road’s edge.

It takes skill and coordinated teamwork to put those lines down safely and neatly, with reflective paint that drivers can see in different conditions. As one Kansas Department of Transportation paint crew supervisor says of the work, “It’s a big dance.”

Here’s a look at how and why those lines get methodically painted, from a recent ride in the Pratt area with the KDOT District Five road-striping crew based in Hutchinson:

This KDOT paint crew truck has an attenuator on the back. The attenuator is a safety device designed to absorb impact. It’s like a gigantic rear bumper.

Insight No. 1:  Safety is a priority partly because the paint truck leading the slow-moving convoy of three crew trucks rolls only at about 8 mph when spraying the paint.

To help prevent faster-moving motorists from colliding with each other or with the KDOT trucks, the District Five crew positions three trucks so they work in concert and help shield one another.

A truck in the rear, driven by Christy DeSantis, Equipment Operator Trainee, carries a rear-facing digital display alerting traffic to the paint crew ahead. The rear truck also bears an impact-absorbing assembly called an attenuator. It’s essentially a gigantic rear bumper.

A few years ago, a semi going a highway speed crashed into an attenuator on a KDOT truck on U.S. 50 near Kinsley. The attenuator absorbed so much impact that everyone escaped serious injury, said Chris Craig, District Five Paint Crew Supervisor.
A second, middle truck also carries a rear-facing alert message and another attenuator. “I’ve had close calls where the truck’s almost been hit” from behind, said Allen Palmatier Sr., Equipment Operator Senior and driver of the middle truck.

The two rear trucks help protect the paint crew in the third, lead truck. All three trucks have flashing lights so other motorists can see them.

The idea is to allow vehicles to safely pass the paint convoy. The KDOT drivers keep enough distance between their trucks to allow a passing vehicle to pull in if needed -- but not so much distance as to encourage a line of cars to pull in between the trucks. Sometimes, the KDOT convoy pulls over if traffic becomes too congested.

Through radio headsets, the drivers of the three trucks alert each other to passing and approaching vehicles, whose drivers sometimes illegally pass on both sides, in no-passing zones and on right shoulders.

A sample of the reflective glass beads that are embedded in road stripe paint so traffic lines can be seen by motorists in different conditions.

Insight No. 2.: To be seen by motorists at night or in bad weather, the painted lines are designed to reflect back to motorists. So when the yellow or white paint gets sprayed down, it is embedded with tiny glass beads that are also applied by the truck. The beads give the paint its reflective quality, so it is visible at night and in bad weather.

Onboard-bead containers carry up to 36,000 pounds of beads.
The crew checks to make sure it’s sending out the right concentration of beads.

Palmatier periodically stops and gets out to measure the newly sprayed lines to make sure they are the correct width.

In one previous close call, while outside one of the trucks near Larned, Palmatier said, he had to leap into a ditch to escape. A semi going too fast stopped just inches from the back of his truck’s attenuator.

Insight No. 3: The striping work takes skill and coordination.
Chris Blume, one of the painters, sits in a glass-encased booth on the back of the paint truck. They call the booth “the doghouse.” From a chair on the right side, he peers down and from the side – on the white-line side -- and uses a steering wheel and other visual aids to put new paint and beads down over existing faded lines. The paint shoots and beads drop from carriages extending from both sides of the truck. It takes a practiced skill to be able start and stop the paint at the right instant, in the right configuration: double lines, single lines, curving lines, lines with gaps in between.

Using both hands, Blume flips switches on a control board to operate different paint guns. A black hose from a paint tank in front of the “doghouse” pulses with hydraulic pressure.

By headset, Blume communicates with Craig, the crew supervisor, known by the crew as “Corky.” Craig has been on a paint crew for 17 years. He monitors a screen to make sure he is driving the paint truck on a course to put the paint down right in line.

From the driver’s seat, Craig keeps Blume informed of the configuration of upcoming lines, so Blume will know how and when to apply the paint. Before the paint shoots out, “dusters” mounted on the truck blow away debris so the new paint will adhere. The new paint is noticeably brighter and more reflective.
The communication and coordination required is why Craig calls the work “the big dance.”

Insight No. 4: Sometimes, motorists mess up the fresh paint, and that can create more work for KDOT.

Normally, it takes about 10 minutes for the paint to dry enough for it not to be tracked by cars rolling over it. It takes hours more for it to cure.
Motorists can avoid getting fresh paint on their cars by watching out for paint crews or by avoiding passing.

During one pass over the highway, someone on the crew blurted out over the radio, “Screwing up our paint. … Thank you, buddy!” as a passing semi tracked through fresh paint.

“If they tear it up too much, we go back and redo it,” Craig said. Sometimes, KDOT will have to shut down a lane to grind off the mess. It’s not just about cleaning things up. Tires passing over fresh paint can remove the beads, and they have to be reapplied.

KDOT’s Allen Palmatier Sr. periodically checks to make sure the new painted lines are the correct width.

Insight No. 5: The painting goes on for months and sometimes at night, from around late April often into November and December. The paint can’t be applied if it’s wet, too cold or too windy.

Because of heavy traffic volume on certain highways in Newton or Wichita, the crew works at night. They use lights to illuminate their work.

“It’s like a Christmas tree at night,” Craig said.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

KDOT summer interns discuss learning experiences in southeast Kansas

By Priscilla Petersen,
Public Affairs Manager
Southeast Kansas
Two interns in KDOT’s District Four, Stephen “Alex” Link and Will Geary, honed their engineering skills at field construction offices and spent many hours working in the summer sun this year.

Steven "Alex" Link participated worked at
KDOT this summer as an Engineering
Technician at the Area Office in Garnett.
Link grew up in Burlington, and is beginning his junior year as a civil engineering major at Kansas State University. His internship was as an Engineering Technician at the Area Office in Garnett. Link said he appreciated the broad range of activities that KDOT offers. “Lots of internships don’t allow you to see something all the way through,” he explained. He worked on a variety of projects and was able to experience “what goes into making something.”

Among his learning experiences was a surface recycle on K-239. “I didn’t even know they could recycle asphalt,” he said.

Link said he was drawn to engineering since it’s more balanced between the indoor and outdoor working environments: “I’m not confined to the office all day.”

“The people have all been great,” he said of his co-workers at Garnett. Link kept active all summer, “trying to get as much experience as I can.” He said he might look into working at KDOT again, expanding his knowledge next summer with the research and design units at Topeka.

Will Geary, was an Engineering Technician Intern
at the Pittsburg Area Office this summer.
An Engineering Technician intern at the Pittsburg Area Office, Will Geary said engineering is a “very viable” career option. He plans to pursue professional options in football, his first choice, when he graduates from Kansas State University in December. Geary has played football for K-State, most recently during the 2017 season.

His major is mechanical engineering, but Geary said the civil engineering side has impressed him with its roads and bridges that “don’t move” the way machines do. “It’s been good learning as much as I can,” he said, praising the Pittsburg office for its supportive team players.

Much of his summer has been spent gaining knowledge about overlay projects. As it has rained fairly often, Geary has also become familiar with storm water pollution prevention plans.

He said he “really studied up” on the current bridge replacement project on K-126 at Pittsburg, in which the bridge is being constructed one half at a time. Unfortunately, he noted, wet weather has delayed progress.

Geary is from Topeka. His father was raised in McCune, where his grandmother still lives. “It’s been good spending time with Grandma,” he said, adding that “she’s been treating me right” and that he was able to help her out over the summer.

 Are you or someone you know interested in pushing your career further? Contact Debbie Wallace, KDOT Engineering Recruiter at 

Monday, September 9, 2019

Motoring Monday - Great Mural Wall of Topeka

Check out the Great Mural Wall in Topeka on Fillmore Street and Western
Avenue between 19th and 20th streets and also 20th Street.
Residents of the capital city of Kansas decided to give a little color to some blank walls. According to the Atlas Obscura, the Great Mural Wall of Topeka project honors the cultural history and ongoing spirit of residents and their neighborhoods. The mural is featured on a wall surrounding a former water reservoir, which is owned by the city of Topeka Water Division.
Inspired by Great Wall of Los Angeles, the goal of the project was to beautify the Chesney Park Neighborhood, lift up community spirit and discourage graffiti. In 2007, the first installment of the mural was created. The project then became a community-wide effort supported by volunteers, donations and organizations.  The mural currently features nine separate murals that showcase the history of Topeka. 
Other murals created over the past decade discuss important topics such as Brown v. the Board of Education, animals in need of protection, how Topeka got its name and even women’s rights.
The Great Mural of Topeka can be found on Fillmore Street and Western Avenue between 19th and 20th streets and also 20th Street. The lead artists who created the mural are Dave Lowenstein, KT Walsh and Ashley Jane Laird and various community assistants.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

KDOT works to reduce and control stormwater runoff

By Lisa Knoll
Public Affairs Manager,
Southwest Kansas
There’s something about a rainy day that people love.  Maybe it’s that amazingly fresh smell that comes with rain, not having to water the lawn or the flowers that day or just an excuse to sleep in and binge watch Netflix.  Whatever it is, most people love a rainy day every now and then.

But with rain comes an often-overlooked issue: stormwater runoff.  Most water that falls to earth as rain or snow is usually absorbed by trees, plants and the soil, which naturally filters the water before it flows back into rivers, streams and waterways. 

However, the Federal Highway Administration reports that precipitation that occurs over highways and other impervious surfaces, like parking lots and driveways, results in stormwater runoff that can carry debris, sediment and chemicals into water sources such as rivers, streams and waterways— diminishing the quality of water sources. 

Because stormwater runoff can have devastating effects on the environment, KDOT works to reduce and control this runoff as much as possible during construction projects.  This includes implementing an approved stormwater pollution prevention plan (SWPPP) for each highway project that disturbs one acre or more of vegetation.   

According to Scott Shields, KDOT’s Environmental Program Administrator, a SWPPP will include both soil erosion and sediment erosion controls.  Perimeter controls are used during a project until all grade work is completed.  Perimeter controls are temporary barriers that ensure that sediment and contaminants are contained on the project site and do not end up contaminating surface water.  They include silt fences, erosion controls, rock checks and biodegradable logs.   

A silt fence may be used in highway construction projects to retain soil and sediment on a project site so that it does not run into natural water bodies.  Silt fences usually remain in place until revegetation and permanent soil stabilization begins.

Sediment controls are used to control the sediment until the vegetation grows back.  Sediment controls include perimeter controls, ditch checks and slope barriers.  These controls will control sediment runoff until native grasses grow back.  Native grasses work with the soil to slow down and filter runoff so that surface water does not become contaminated. 

Mulch can be used an erosion control device and is usually crimped in, as shown here, using a spade or roller.
An erosion control blanket is in place around a box/winged culvert providing protection from rain and wind erosion on highway projects. 

Shields said KDOT has several standard seed mixes. 

“Each mix is customized by district and includes cool season perennial grasses along with native grasses that grow well in the area,” said Shields. “Cool season perennial grasses will last one to two years until the native grasses become established.” 

He said native grasses are important because they grow naturally in an area, and provide benefits for pollinator insects, roadside aesthetics and natural landscapes. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

KDOT’s new Cost Share Program now accepting applications

The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) has launched a new program designed to provide state funding for transportation projects while also leveraging local and private funding. The new Cost Share Program will provide funding to local entities for transportation projects that improve safety, support job retention and growth, improve access or mobility, relieve congestion and help areas across the state improve the transportation system.

Up to $50 million will be available in the program for fiscal year 2020. The on-going program, which has at least $11 million available, requires a minimum of 15% non-state cash match.  Additional consideration will be given to project applications that commit more than the minimum required match amount. The funding above the base $11 million comes from a one-time, $50 million State General Fund transfer. A minimum 25% match is required for projects to qualify for the one-time funds.

The Cost Share Program is open to all transportation projects including roadway (on and off the state highway system), rail, airport, bicycle/pedestrian and public transit. Funds from the program can only be used for construction.

“Creating the Cost Share Program allows us to leverage both state and local dollars to help address important transportation needs across Kansas,” said Kansas Secretary Julie Lorenz. “We look forward to working with Kansas communities to build projects that improve safety and keep the Kansas economy moving.”

Funding for the program is part of the $216 million in sales tax authorized by the Legislature and Gov. Laura Kelly to remain in the state highway fund in fiscal year 2020. In addition to the Cost Share Program, those funds are being used to increase highway preservation, help complete delayed T-WORKS projects, improve safety and provide new funding opportunities for cities and counties.

Applications will be accepted on an ongoing basis beginning Sept. 3, 2019, and will be reviewed twice annually, in October and March. To be included in the first review period, applications must be submitted by Oct. 11, 2019. Selection criteria will include consideration of projects that meet program objectives, eligibility categories and requirements. Geographic distribution also will be considered during project selection.
Application and a fact sheet on the Cost Share Program can be found at or with the links below:

Monday, September 2, 2019

Motoring Monday: Go take a hike - at Elk City State Park

Lots of beautiful scenery at Elk City State Park.

Elk City State Park is a hiker’s delight. This park on the eastern shores of the beautiful Elk City Reservoir adjoins 12,000 acres of wildlife habitat. Its network of hiking trails is nationally recognized.

Hikers can take an easy but scenic trek through woodlands on the Post Oak Trail or make their way along limestone bluffs and through rocky passages on the Table Mound Hiking Trail. The 15-mile Elk River Hiking Trail takes a winding course, starting at the Elk City dam and ending at the Elk River Bridge south of the town of Elk City. There’s also the four-mile Eagle Rock Mountain Bike Trail for the cycling crowd.

The park, lake and wildlife area are located five miles northwest of Independence and one mile north of U.S. 160. The lake is a regional favorite for water sports and fishing. Elk City State Park also has a swimming beach, campsites and playgrounds.