Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Healthy mocktails could help you ring in the new year safely

In just a few hours we will be ringing in a brand new decade, surrounded by loved ones, great friends and delicious food and drinks — both alcoholic and non-alcoholic alike.  

Hats off to the designated drivers who chose to go alcohol free and help get their friends and loved ones home this holiday season.

In years past, being the designated driver meant an evening of sugary juice filled mocktails, caffeinated colas or ginger ale.  But according to the Washington Post a new era of moderation seems to be upon us, with health-conscious Americans drinking less.  In fact, the Washington Post reports that 30% of Americans do not consume alcohol at all and an additional 30% consume two drinks or less per week. 
The food and beverage industry has responded with non-alcoholic beers, wines and spirits, and zero-proof cocktails taking center stage on many drink menus, making it easier and more enjoyable than ever to go alcohol free at home or at holiday events. 
So, if you’re the holiday host, the designated driver or just going alcohol free for your own reasons this year, you’ll find options that are both satisfying and interesting.  Here’s to getting off to a healthier, safer new year with zero proof and zero fatalities.

We have found a couple of recipes that we think you’ll enjoy at your next party.
Serves: Makes 2 drinks
Hands On Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
6 strawberries, sliced, plus more for garnish
6 lime rounds
2 springs fresh mint
1/2 ounce agave syrup or honey
Ice cubes
Strawberry or plain sparkling water, to top off the glass

Divide the strawberries, lime rounds and mint between two glasses of your choice. Muddle the fruit until it releases its juices. Muddle in the agave. Fill the glass with ice cubes, then top with the sparkling water. With a long spoon, stir all of the ingredients together. Garnish with additional strawberries and enjoy immediately.

∙ 1 ½ ounces Seedlip Garden
∙ ½ ounce aquafaba
∙ ¼ ounce simple syrup
∙ ¼ ounce celery
∙ ½ ounce apple
∙ ¼ ounce lemon Nigella seeds garnish
Method: Pour all ingredients into a Boston shaker. Dry shake (without ice). Add ice (enough to fill small side of cocktail shaker) and shake until frothy. Double strain into an 8-ounce coupe using Hawthorne and mesh strainers. Garnish with Nigella seeds.

Remember, if you do choose to drink alcohol, to rely on a sober designated driver, or call a ride share service to help get you home safely. 

Monday, December 23, 2019

Knights of the Night: How KDOT heroes help clear the roads after dark

By Ashley Perez
North Central Kansas
Public Affairs Manager
KDOT workers say that clearing the highways is rewarding, but the job can be dangerous.
Some crew members spend late nights during a snow storm driving defensively and hoping that nobody is about to pass them as they come up on a big snowdrift. They also must be able use their lights to try to see the edge of the road underneath all the snow.  

We  spoke to several KDOT workers to get more insight on working a snowstorm at night and even got a few suggestions from them for motorists so everyone can be equipped with the knowledge of how to travel safer this winter, here is a what they have to say:

Our crews not only battle colder temperatures, but also lower visibility at night. 

Low visibility:
“You have to work twice as hard at night because you don’t have the sun’s warmth to help thaw out the snow,” said Richard Adams, Equipment Operator in Minneapolis.
“Visibility at night is already low as the snow reflected off plow lights can be blinding, and when vehicles pass us and throw more snow in the air it is even harder to see where we are going,” said Max Bell, Shop Supervisor in Salina. “So we ask that you please avoid passing us and keep a safe distance.”
Damaged plows take important equipment off the roads for a long period of time,
please remember to give our crews room and time to work. 

Don’t crowd the plow
“We would like to remind motorists that although it may seem safer for traffic to follow right behind a plow truck, please keep your distance. It can be dangerous when vehicles follow too closely, because if we have to come to a sudden stop or slow down due to snow, they’ll hit us.  Not only do we have to pay attention to what we’re doing but also to them,” said David Bergman, Equipment Operator Specialist in Minneapolis.

The subarea crew in Beloit says this puts a damper on them when a truck is down due to being hit, and it take much longer to treat roads with less trucks.

If you’re stranded, stay in your car until help arrives
Brett Kuntz, Equipment Operator Senior in Abilene, would like to remind motorists how critical it is that they stay in their car and turn on their hazards or lights if they are stranded on the side of the road.

“This is important because we can’t see you until we get right up on you. ” said Kuntz.

Dennis Senters, Equipment Operator Senior in Beloit, also said to stay in your car if you are on the side of the road and added that it helps to yell because they try to listen when they come by as they often drive with the windows down in a cold cab to keep the windshield from fogging up and the snow from sticking.
“Wave a flashlight or flash dome light to help flag us down if you are on the side of a road,” says Brett Wildfong, Equipment Operator Specialist in Beloit.

Slow down, give us room

Jason Britt, Equipment Operator Specialist in Junction City would like to urge motorists to slow down and give them room. He says, “Although there’s less traffic at night, it’s also more dangerous as the temperatures drop. It’s scary to see cars spin out right in front of me and unfortunately, I’ve been hit twice in a truck.”

For some, such as Doug Newquist, Highway Supervisor in Beloit, working at night isn’t really a nightmare at all but rather an opportunity to be the community’s unsung hero. He says, “I will never forget when one journalist called us the “knights of the night” which couldn’t be more true because when we are out there we are able to check on motorists who may be stranded and in need of help when no one else is able to get to them, it’s very rewarding.” Like Doug, KDOT workers are ready to help you get to your destination safely this winter.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Don’t ruin the holidays by being a “pedtextrian"

The hustle and bustle of the holidays are upon us, and with just a week until Christmas is about to get even more distracting. Visiting shopping centers, attending parties, discussing holiday gifts with loved ones and even online shopping are a huge part of the season. During this festive time of year, we need to remember one thing – stay alert while traveling.

Whether you text or drive, or text and walk at the same time, both activities are dangerous. The National Safety Council said that distracted walking incidents are on the rise and everyone with a cell phone is at risk of serious injury if they don’t pay attention while walking.

In 2016, 5,987 pedestrians were killed in the United States.  A contributing factor for this rise in fatalities is not paying attention to our surroundings. This is putting our safety, and the safety of others, at risk.

The solution is simple: Stop using phones while walking, even if you aren’t at a crosswalk or intersection. Distracted walking incidents can happen virtually anywhere, even in our own homes or familiar places.

An added hazard to texting while walking is sidewalks that are covered in ice.
Both the NSC and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have some great tips to help walk safer and smarter:
  • Don’t use your phone or smart device while walking.  If you aren’t paying attention, you may as well be walking blindfolded.
  • Pay attention to vehicles: look left, then right, and then left again. Vehicles can travel large distances in a short timeframe. Never assume that you can beat a moving automobile.
  • Be bright. Wear light colored clothing.
  • Don’t wear headphones while walking. Like texting and walking, when we wear headphones we are sacrificing a crucial sense: our hearing.  The ability to hear an approaching vehicle can be an important warning sign that traffic is coming toward you.
  • Never rely on a driver to stop, make sure they can see you. A great way to do this is to make eye contact with them. If you aren’t sure they have spotted you, don’t cross until it is safe.
  • If your vision is blocked by another car or object, move to a safer location before crossing.
  • Use crosswalks.
  • Walk in groups.
  • Never allow children younger than 10 to cross the street alone.

The holidays can be a wonderful time of year for many, and although our minds may be filled with presents, holiday treats, family and candy canes; if we use these tips the holidays could be jollier for everyone.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Saving lives in more ways than one: KDOT crews attend first-aid and CPR training

By Tim Potter
South Central Kansas
Public Affairs Manager 

KDOT employees recently had the opportunity to participate in critical first-aid and CPR training across the state. 

During KDOT first-aid/CPR training in Hutchinson, Hutchinson Community College
trainer Leann Bravi shows how to give a rescue breath

First aid tips to remember

Here are key tips from recent KDOT first-aid and CPR training provided by instructors with Hutchinson Community College.

--When you encounter an emergency, pause before approaching and ask yourself: Is it safe?

--If the person is responsive, ask them if you can help.

-Unresponsive patient, chest not moving for five seconds? Call 911, or have someone call 911 while you tend to the person. More steps below.

--Bleeding profusely? Put direct pressure on the wound immediately. More below.
--Possible poisoning? See hotline number at bottom.

--Use common sense. Extensive medical knowledge is not necessary.

--Keep safety gloves and glasses in your first aid kit. Regularly replace gloves before they deteriorate. Use them for your protection. Know how to remove the gloves without contaminating yourself or others.

--Don’t move someone unless they are in imminent danger.

--You should not leave the person you are aiding until other help is available.

During KDOT first-aid/CPR training in Hutchinson, trainer Leann Bravi demonstrates chest compressions

How to revive

--If the person is in cardiac arrest or not breathing, remember that EMS is probably at least nine to 10 minutes away, so the person needs immediate CPR. You can provide life-saving help with a combination of high-quality chest compressions, rescue breaths and an AED (automated external defibrillator), a portable device that analyzes a heart’s rhythm during sudden cardiac arrest and gives an electric shock to restore a life-saving rhythm.

--What are high-quality chest compressions? With the person on their back on a flat and firm surface, get your hands in place, remembering that the heart is centrally located in the chest, says Leann Bravi, Public Health and Safety instructor/coordinator with Hutchinson Community College. For an adult, remember to push down at least 2 inches with targeted pressure from the heel of your hand. For a small child, the compression depth should be a little less, about 2 inches. Let the chest fully rebound with each compression. Give 100 to 120 compressions per minute. Count them. In most cases, it takes more than two minutes for CPR to revive the person.

--When giving rescue breaths, first lift the jaw to clear the airway. Give two rescue breaths at a time in close repetition, using a mask if you have one in your kit.

KDOT District Five employees practice using an AED during first aid/CPR training in Wichita.

--Using an AED: There are different brands, but the same basic steps apply. The device will tell you what to do. Get clear of the patient before you hit the shock button.

--With an opioid overdose that causes a person to stop breathing, “CPR would be your primary intervention,” Bravi says. One way to revive the person is to administer naloxone, a medication that counters the effects of an overdose.

How to stop bleeding

KDOT District Five employees learn how to use a tourniquet during first
 aid training in Wichita.

--If direct pressure from your hand or knee doesn’t work, pack the wound, using gauze from your kit or improvised material like a T-shirt or rag. Poke the material toward the heart. And don’t be afraid to use a tourniquet above the wound. If you don’t have a tourniquet in your kit, improvise with a ratchet strap or belt.

--It’s preventable: “Nobody has to die from bleeding,” Bravi says. “It can be controlled by packing, pressure, tourniquets.”

--Bleeding can cause the person to go into shock. “Probably some of the best first aid a person can give is that ‘calm, comfort, reassure,’” Bravi says.

How to deal with poisoning
--Call the Poison Control Center hotline: 1-800-222-1222.

One of the key take-aways crews in Bonner Springs took away was overcoming doubt about when and how to help using the acronym F.E.A.R: Face Everything And Rise. 

Crews in Bonner Springs watch as their instructor demonstrates how to revive someone in need of emergency first aid. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Being a ‘snow fighter’ means overcoming obstacles

Craig Kenyon, Equipment Operator Senior with the District Five Bridge Crew, teaches the snow fighters obstacle course.

By Tim Potter and Kelly Kultala
South Central Kansas and Northeast Kansas
Public Affairs Managers

You could tell Craig Kenyon was proud of the obstacle course for snow-plow trucks.
That’s where KDOT snow-and-ice (SNICE) crew operators learned or practiced skills needed to keep Kansas highways open this winter.

It was part of two days of annual “snow fighters” training, which took place in early November at a KDOT south central Kansas facility in Hutchinson and at the Hutchinson Sub Area yard.

It was the second year the obstacle course has been set up. Kenyon was an obstacle course instructor. “I dreamed this course,” said Kenyon, Equipment Operator Senior with the District Bridge Crew.

On a brilliantly sunny, obnoxiously windy, bitter-cold morning, Kenyon explained that the course is designed to help KDOT drivers get the feel of operating a snow plow in all kinds of situations.

A plow truck maneuvers along the obstacle course at the Hutchinson Sub Area yard.
There were many how-to’s: how to line up the plow as it rolls down the road, how to clear a bridge deck without shoving snow onto traffic below, how to lift the plow before crossing railroad tracks, how to retract the wing plow on the passenger side when encountering a broken-down car on a shoulder, how to be prepared if the plow suddenly snags on something.

The obstacle course was outlined with traffic cones, stretching about a half a mile, round trip. Barrels were used at one spot to simulate a stalled car on a shoulder to be avoided. Trainees also encountered a simulated railroad crossing, complete with an RR sign.
“They (the trainees) enjoy the hands-on,” Kenyon said.

He showed how controls in the truck cab operate the front plow, wing plow and other functions. “There’s a lot of things you need to keep focused on,” Kenyon said.

At other spots, crews learned from other teachers how to mix brine in a brine maker used to treat ice and how to plow wet snow using sand as the practice material.

Equipment Operator Steven Dvorak explained how to service a brine maker. “The really complicated part,” he said, “is when you start shutting it down and you winterize it. Once you get the hang of it.”

Earlier this fall other areas across the state also underwent snow and ice training in order to prepare for more winter weather this season.  In northeast Kansas, about 40 new employees completed their training.

"Training is very important because the people that are attending are new hires with less than one year of experience and have never done snow and ice removal," Said Brian Hoke, Highway Maintenance Supervisor from Overland Park. "The trainers have many years of experience and enjoy meeting all of the new hires and sharing their experience and information.”

In the classroom training the trainees go over proper decision making and plowing procedures. They learn how to put tire chains on and do a walk around a dump truck with spreader and plow on to make sure that everything is working properly. They go over the different types of chemicals and salt brine that are used to melt the snow and learn how to apply them.

In addition, new employees attend the winter safety class where the District Safety Specialist goes over all the safety precautions of extreme weather conditions, what to wear and how to prepare for working long hours. They also go over the truck and attachments with a mechanic and he talks about common break downs and how some of them could be prevented. The mechanic also goes over proper clean up procedures with the equipment after the snow and ice event is over.  You might think that learning how to clean a snowplow would be easy, however, there are a lot of parts and pieces and nooks and crannies that need to be cleaned out.

Because many of the new employees have never used a torch, which is used to cut off bolts that can’t be removed otherwise, there is torch training which includes the basics of how to use a torch safely.

Many of the trainees had the most fun learning how to scoop up sand and rock with a loader and how to drive a snowplow on a course by pushing a bowling ball into a goal, which requires depth perception and hand/eye coordination.

 Here are some photos from similar events across the state: 

Crews in north central Kansas train on the brine applicator process.

Crews in north central Kansas practice plowing earlier this fall. 
Crews check out the different types of equipment
it takes to fight snow and ice in northeast Kansas.

Crews in northwest Kansas practice loading snow fighting contents like
salt or sand into the dump trucks.
Crews in northwest Kansas practice loading snow fighting contents like
salt or sand into the dump trucks.
Crews in northwest Kansas practice a driving course during their training. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Holiday season is filled with many choices, make sure yours is to drive sober

We are surrounded by choices every day, and this time of year is no different. Do we get Sally an engineering kit or the Wonder Woman action figure she always wanted? Does Billy get a Transformers toy, or a tool kit? The results can make happy memories that we can cherish throughout the year. Another choice people face is whether to get behind the wheel after drinking, which can create devastating memories.  

This holiday season The Kansas Department of Transportation is teaming up with the state and local law enforcement officers and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to remind all drivers about the dangers of drinking and driving. We’ll be working together to remind everyone of the importance of planning a sober ride home before heading out to enjoy the holiday festivities and en route to seasonal travel destinations. This holiday season, and every day, remember: Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving.

According to NHTSA, 37,133 people were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2017, and 29% (10,874) of those fatalities occurred in crashes during which a driver had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over the legal limit of .08. In fact, 885 people lost their lives in traffic crashes involving a drunk driver during the month of December 2017 alone. The holidays prove to be extra dangerous to drivers, as more people — drivers and pedestrians alike — are out on the roads.

In Kansas, around 400 lives are lost each year in traffic crashes, which is more than one per day.

“Of these 400 fatalities, about 1 in 4 are the result of an impaired driver,” Julie Lorenz, Kansas Secretary of Transportation said. “That equates to about 100 persons losing their lives on Kansas roads due to an impaired driver. Beyond the tragic loss of more than 100 people each year, we must consider the countless other lives impacted by this preventable action. These fatalities have a ripple effect, impacting family, friends, coworkers and loved ones.”

Drunk driving isn’t the only risk on the road: Drug-impaired driving is an increasing problem, for men and for women alike. If drivers are impaired by any substance — alcohol or other drugs — they should not get behind the wheel of a vehicle. It is illegal in all states to drive impaired by alcohol or drugs. Remember: Driving while impaired is illegal, period. The bottom line is this: If You Feel Different, You Drive Different. It’s that simple.

Drinking and driving should never be combined. It’s essential to plan a sober ride in advance if the holiday celebration will include alcohol. The alternative could change your life, not to mention the lives of your passengers, of pedestrians, or of other drivers and passengers nearby.

This holiday season, KDOT, local law enforcement and NHTSA urge drivers to designate a sober driver before heading out for the evening. If you plan on drinking, plan on not driving.

Party with a Plan
First and foremost: Plan ahead. Be honest with yourself: You know whether you’ll be drinking. If you plan to drink, plan for a sober driver to take you home. Is it your turn to be the designated driver? Take that role seriously — your friends are relying on you.

  • Remember that it is never okay to drink and drive. Even if you’ve had only one alcoholic beverage, designate a sober driver or plan to use public transportation or a ride service to get home safely.
  • If available, use your community’s sober ride program
  • If you see a drunk driver on the road, contact your local law enforcement.
  • Have a friend who is about to drink and drive? Take the keys away and make arrangements to get your friend home safely.
“The decision to drive impaired is a choice and the wrong choice can be a fatal result,” Lorenz said.  “Wear a seat belt, buckle up every time, so you can get home to your family and friends.
The celebrations and the love and warmth is waiting there for you.”

Monday, December 9, 2019

It all begins with an idea: How research moves Kansas forward

Audrey Atkinson
Mallory Aye
Marie Manthe
KDOT Bureau of Research

KDOT helps keep Kansas moving and it is all thanks to research. In fact, many state Departments of Transportation boast that research is the oldest continuous federal highway activity they partake in, and Kansas is no exception. However, at its core, research is not about longevity and legacy, it’s about solving problems. KDOT’s Bureau of Research is dedicated to identifying issues in Kansas transportation, throughout all its aspects, and conducting research to devise solutions for these issues. The Bureau of Research has three central missions:
  • To support and encourage innovation through research.
  • To evaluate problems as they arise and provide timely responses.
  • To serve as an information resource for agency management.

KDOT’s Bureau of Research is fortunate to have staff with expertise in a number of subject areas, and in-house research is performed on a regular basis. Additionally, research for the bureau is conducted by students and faculty from two major universities: The University of Kansas and Kansas State University. Their research collaborations are made possible by the Kansas Transportation Research and New Developments (K-TRAN) Program. 

KDOT also collaborates with other state DOTs, universities and organizations on research problems at the national level through National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) projects and participation in Transportation Pooled Fund (TPF) studies.

Our scope of research utilizes a diverse range of scientific fields to address the various issues within transportation including chemistry, engineering and applied physics. Most research projects begin as a simple “problem statement,” a solicitation for research into an observed issue. These problem statements are typically submitted by staff members within KDOT, agency contractors and suppliers or representatives from the academic community. A research period can last anywhere from a few months to several years. 

The results of these projects are then recorded and reported to the Bureau Chief and the project monitor before they are published. After completion of the final report, it must be determined whether the research findings can be implemented.

If implementation will occur, projects are evaluated to develop a justifiable estimate of potential project benefits. These benefits are not just monetary— implementation of research findings contribute toward the preservation of roads and bridges, reduces usage of construction and emergency resources and above all, contributes to the safety of all who use our state’s transportation system.

In the Bureau of Research, we work with our KDOT colleagues and other partners to make sure Kansas has the finest transportation system possible. It doesn’t matter if people travel by car, bus, plane or bicycle; or if they transport goods by train or truck— what matters is that they all reach their destinations safely.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

O Christmas Tree transportation tips

By Lisa Mussman
Northwest Kansas
Public Affairs Manager

No matter if you prefer to go faux or with the real deal, Christmas trees are an essential part of holiday decorating. A recent survey from AAA found that nearly 84 million Americans plan to purchase a real tree this holiday season and face the task of transporting it home safely.

A loosely-secured tree may not only cause damage to your vehicle, it can also have devastating consequences to other motorists. Over a four-year period, a separate study from AAA found road debris was responsible for more than 200,000 crashes, which resulted in nearly 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths.

But there’s no need to get your tinsel in a tangle. You can be rocking around the Christmas tree in no time by following these Christmas tree transport tips from AAA:

  • Get in gear: be sure to take a strong rope or nylon ratchet strap, old blanket, gloves and, most importantly, the right vehicle! One with a roof rack is ideal, but a truck, SUV or van can work just as well.

  • Wrap it up: ask the lot or store to wrap your tree in netting before loading it. You can also secure loose branches with rope or twine to help protect the tree from damage.

  • Take cover: if you’re transporting the tree on a roof rack, cover the roof with an old blanket to prevent scratches or damage to your vehicle.

  • Face forward: place the tree on the roof rack of in the truck bed with the trunk facing forward. Or, if your vehicle is large enough, place the tree inside.

  • Tie it down: secure the tree at the bottom, center and top with rope or ratchet straps. Be sure to loop the rope or strap around the tree trunk and above one of the branches to further minimize movement. Make sure it’s completely secure by giving it a few tugs afterwards.

  • Take your time: driving at higher speeds can create airflow that can damage your tree and loosen your tie-downs. Slow down!

All of us at KDOT wish you a very safe and happy holiday season!

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Between the folds: Why maps are awesome

By Bonnie Paine
KDOT Administration Specialist 

If you rely on your Google Maps, MapQuest, or other online mapping software to get you to your destination, then you’re probably in the majority.  However, as surprising at it may seem, there are still many, many of us who prefer a good ol’ paper map.  

Why do we like them, you ask, because we can fold it into whatever configuration we need to see where we’re going? Plus, the only misdirection I may encounter will be because of my own, or my navigator’s sense of direction.

While online directional software is convenient and offers a pleasantly stilted voice telling you when and where to turn, a paper map is often used by a friendly travelling partner and adds the “human element” of companionship missing in software.  It should be noted that both online and traditional paper map users can make errors in the directions provided.  

This should be taken in stride by the driver and handled in a calm, responsible manner. 

Drivers should either reprogram the instructions given to the software or take a look at the paper map for himself or herself.  However, all drivers should use caution to avoid being distracted by either studying the map or arguing with their navigator. 

So, let’s talk about paper maps -- my personal favorite.  One important aspect of my position with KDOT is to mail (snail mail) many thousands of paper maps.  They’re free of charge and may be obtained by going to either http://www.ksdot.org/maps.asp or calling 785-296-3640.  

So far this year, I've mailed out more than 28,000 maps to individuals, businesses and schools. 

A common misconception is that only “old folks” still use a paper map.  On the contrary, many, many schools use them to teach students, not only how to read a map, but to illustrate distances, points of interest, scenic roadways, and a multitude of other features found on paper maps.  And people of all ages – from both in-state and out-of-state -- request paper maps. 

Many hotels, chambers of commerce, visitor centers, tour groups and clubs keep supplies of Kansas maps. And get this, no internet is necessary to read a paper map. Plus, if you read them in daylight, you won’t need a battery-powered device to read it either.

Here are just a few of the comments I’ve heard from people requesting paper maps.
  • I just love a map I can hold it and see what’s coming up down the road. Maybe I’ll decide to take a side-trip to check out something that looks interesting. Online mapping won’t give you that kind of friendly information.
  • I’m fascinated by maps, in fact, I’d like to study cartography.
  • I have great memories of my Dad teaching me how to use a map and follow our path as we vacationed when I was a kid. That’s probably why I still prefer a paper map.
  • One of my best memories of elementary school was the fourth-grade lessons on Kansas when my teacher, Mrs. Adams, gave each of us our own map and we learned how to find all sorts of things.
  • There is so much to see on a paper map that it makes traveling much more interesting.
No matter what you use to navigate the safest, most expeditious route, be sure to check
www.kandrive.org to learn what current road conditions and constructions projects may be occurring on the route you choose.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Innovative possible solution to icy problem

KDOT Mechanic Curtis Watts with the brine bar he crafted as part of a pilot project.

You could call it a salty solution to a big challenge: A pilot project to possibly modify KDOT plow trucks – at low cost – to efficiently treat Sedgwick County roads with brine so traffic can move safely in snow and ice.

The request came from David Lechner, Maintenance Superintendent for the Wichita Metro.
The innovative potential solution came from a veteran KDOT mechanic, Curtis Watts. He built it, with among other things, about $30 worth of PVC pipe and less than $8 in auto-parts-store exhaust clamps.

Lechner, one of Watts’ supervisors, put it this way: “To be able to pre-treat the whole town (Wichita metro) in a few hours is the whole goal. … Curtis put all this together.”
Ask Watts how he designed it, he says, “Just in my head.” The Equipment Mechanic Senior can draw on his 35 years of KDOT know-how.

The nozzles attach/detach with simple clamps.

KDOT gave him room to create. “We felt like we had the freedom to do whatever (was needed), and I just passed it on to Curtis,” Lechner said.

The idea was to build something workable at a lower cost than a manufacturer’s price.

As far as spreading brine, “Why not use PVC?” the thought went. It’s inexpensive, easy to work with, easy to repair.

In a day, Watts crafted a brine spreader bar out of inch-and-a-half PVC, in a straight line that bends out at both capped ends to fully distribute the liquid. He drilled holes spaced for 12 nozzles. They spray down in a cone shape and angled out to the side, on the back of a truck. It treats two lanes in one pass. For nozzles, he used stainless steel ones used in agriculture and available online. The nozzles attach/detach with simple clamps. He picked standard auto exhaust pipe clamps to attach the bar.

Watts and his team also found a bigger pump to bring brine from 400-gallon saddle tanks on either side of the truck.

A button in the cab activates it all. Equipment Operator Senior Tim Kyle demonstrated the cold-weather system as others on the brine-bar team, including Shop Supervisor Shane Stubbs, watched at the Wichita area office.

The brine-bar set-up worked fine last winter, Watts noted. The brine bar has been installed on four trucks; three of the trucks are being equipped with other components to complete the system. And all four trucks will be rolling this winter, Lechner said.

As far as cost, the whole new brine-bar system comes to about $1,500 per vehicle, with the biggest portion going to the pump and electric valve. Watts gave an itemized breakdown in perfectly neat handwriting: $1,389.35 plus PVC, fittings and hoses, for the total of around $1,500, which seemed to be a relatively low-cost addition to a $170,000 truck.

The new brine system can be used with salting and plowing and allows KDOT to treat more in less time, which is crucial for Wichita metro traffic flow, Lechner said.

KDOT’s Bureau of Maintenance has reviewed the brine bar pilot project, and with revisions it could be part of an improved system for treating roadways.

“This is just something we did to help our work situation” – and to protect motorists, Lechner said. “That’s our job.”