Spring is here and so is road construction season. Officials with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KTC) are encouraging motorists to pay attention to surroundings while driving in work zones.
“What we are trying to emphasis is for motorists to be alert,” said Sara George, information officer with the KTC District 12 office. “The public sometimes doesn’t pay attention.”
Chuck Childers, Whitesburg section supervisor with KTC in District 12, said several projects are underway in Letcher County, including a $2.8 million project on business KY 15 to widen bridges and a road from the school bus garage to just past Wendy’s restaurant. Childers estimated the project to be completed later this summer.
Greg Tackett, an engineer with KTC in District 12, said a motorist hit a barrier at the Whitesburg construction work zone on April 6. Tackett said a man, thought to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, drove a vehicle off the road on the other side of the bridge then came back across it, hitting the barrier wall. Tackett said the barrier wall moved three feet and the vehicle came back and hit someone head on. No highway construction workers were injured during the accident.
“The safety device worked,” said Tackett. “We just do the best we can to prepare for something like that.” workers are too busy working to always be watching for motorists entering work areas.
“You’ve got guys working within arm’s reach of this traffic with just a barrier between them,” said Childers. “They depend on people to take their time, pay attention and slow down. They can’t be looking at traffic all the time. They have to work too.”
Childers said motorists should slow down and obey speed limits.
“I think the biggest thing people need to be aware of is to slow down,” said Childers. “If you speed up a little bit at all, it takes you longer to stop. Your reaction time when you are going a little faster may not get you out of a situation that the speed gets you into.”
Childers said drivers also need to eliminate distractions.
“And especially in a work zone they need to put their cell phones away,” said Childers. “Texting is a dangerous habit to do anywhere on the road but especially in a work zone. They are putting theirselves as risk as well as our workers by trying to do those things during work zones.”
Tackett said people should be aware that traffic patterns can change from time to time.
“That’s why they need to looks at signs at all times, because they do change,” said Tackett. “We’ve got message boards on both ends of the job that will reflect any sudden changes. Don’t just take them for granted that they always say the same thing.”
Childers said motorists should be careful not to hit safety devices.
“If they drive by and drift over a foot and clip one of those barrels, that barrel is going to go flying,” he said. “It may hit a worker and may knock him off the bridge or into traffic somewhere else.”
In addition to major construction on business KY 15, the road will be resurfaced from the school bus garage to Pizza Hut. Other asphalt resurfacing projects include three miles of KY 931, 3.125 miles of KY 343, KY 7 from mile point 2.6 to 5.897 and KY 7 from mile point 23.335 to mile point 25.225.
Major construction is being done on the valley floor section of US 119 at the Letcher/Harlan county line. A 30-day project involves bridge deck restoration and waterproofing on US 119 at mile point 20.640.
George said highway workers will also be replacing broken signs, mowing, cleaning ditches and installing cross drains.
“We just need the public to be aware we are out there and we are going to have signs up to alert them that we are there but they need to be cautious,” said Childers.