Since the holidays are over and my last blog was a little on the humorous side I thought this would be a good time to discuss a more serious issue: work zone safety. I have worked in the toll road industry for almost 20 years now. Mostly it’s been a fun and gratifying experience. But every now and then I hate my job. Like back in 2003 when the organization I worked for was in the process of reconstructing one of our toll plazas in Orlando, Florida.
The contractor on the project was doing a great job and was actually ahead of schedule. In fact, the new lanes were already open and the contractor was on the verge of closing out the job, when tragedy struck. A highway crew was installing reflective pavement markers as part of a night time operation when a drunk driver barreled into the work zone at more than 85 mph. The result was catastrophic. 38-year old traffic maintenance supervisor Grady Hill was killed and two other workers seriously injured. Hill left behind a wife and several children. (More information >>)
That leads me to the MoPac Improvement Project. We are now closing lanes nightly, lanes are being realigned, construction barriers are going up, and an increasing number of construction vehicles and workers are in the field. The speed limit is now reduced to 55 mph southbound between US 183 and RM 2222 and as work expands to other sections of the project the speed limit will be reduced in those areas too. I should also remind everyone that speeding fines are doubled when workers are present and you are supposed to reduce your speed by 20 mph when driving in a lane adjacent to a stopped emergency vehicle, TxDOT vehicle, or tow truck.
I know construction zone speed limit reductions can seem like an inconvenience, but they are there for a reason. The unfortunate fact is that nationally more than 700 people are killed in work zones each year. In 2012 there were more than 16,000 accidents and 137 deaths in Texas work zones. And, the majority of those deaths involved drivers and/or vehicle occupants, not highway workers. So for your own safety as well as the people I work with, please slow down and keep an eye out for the changing conditions. I want all of us to be able to enjoy the benefits of the project when it is completed in 2015.