Work zone safety in the spotlight as construction season begins

The Wyoming Department of Transportation will pilot a new program this construction season in its continued effort to provide a safe and efficient transportation system.

The department will use rumble strips in work zones on Interstate 80 in the Cheyenne area to make work zones safer for employees and the travelling public. Rumble strips catch driver attention as they enter work zones. 

“We just thought with all the near misses … we needed to do something different here,” Area Foreman Tony Avila said. “We’re just not getting their attention.”

The goal of the pilot program is to see how the rumble strips work with I-80’s truck and traffic volume. If the pilot yields results, the state would expand use of rumble strips on interstate projects on all of interstates 80, 25 and 90.

“This will alert the distracted drivers in plenty of time so they can move over,” Avila said. “So they can avoid collisions with our equipment, avoiding injuries to our employees or themselves.”

Rumble strips have already been in use on secondary roads in the northern part of the state for 15 years, Avila said. And other states have successfully used rumble strips on interstates regularly.

The rumble strips are simple, temporary three-quarter-inch high pieces of heavy-duty rubber laid on top of the road. It doesn’t need to be mounted, so there is no damage to the road and they can be easily removed. They will stay in place as long as speeds are 65 or lower, so the speed limit will have to lowered where they are in use. 

There is no cost associated with the pilot as the department is using equipment that has already been purchased for use in the northern part of the state.

April 8-12 is National Work Zone Awareness Week, and driver distraction is a concern in construction zones.

The number of crashes in work zones spiked in 2018 in Wyoming with 322 crashes. Typically these events still make up more than 200 crashes each year. There have been a total of 1,338 in the past five years in Wyoming. And, more than 30 percent of those crashes led to injuries or fatalities. 

Construction season in Wyoming can start as early as April but typically gets under way in May. WYDOT will have construction along interstates 80, 25 and 90, and secondary highways.

“We want the traveling public and everyone out there to be safe,” said Kevin Erickson, resident engineer in Cheyenne. “Our crews are out there working on the roads in an area where traffic is traveling close by. We want everyone to pay attention and be aware of each other so we don’t have any accidents.”

When traveling in work zones, motorists may encounter narrower lanes because crews are working. Those areas also have construction activities, which means motorists need to slow down to protect themselves and the crews who are working. 

WYDOT also posts safety signs before construction sites to alert motorists of upcoming work. In work zones, motorists may see traffic cones, concrete barriers, flaggers, reduced speed signs and other safety-related measures.

“There’s a lot going on, on these construction sites. There’s a lot of equipment, there’s a lot of workers out on the road, there’s flaggers, traffic control people. But we really want to encourage people to stay focused on the road and stay focused on what’s ahead of them.”

When traveling in or near work zones, motorists should:

  • Plan ahead and give themselves extra time to reach their destinations.
  • Slow down and follow speed limit signs.
  • Pay attention to other drivers.
  • Don’t drive distracted.
  • Wear their seat belts.
  • Visit WYDOT’s 511 website at wyoroad.info for the latest road and travel information.

Work zone safety links

Work Zone Safety poster (13.29  MB)
Work Zone Safety Infograph (19.43  KB)
FHWA Work Zone Safety fact sheet (239.05  KB)

National Work Zone Awareness Week - The Federal Highway Administration has resources available to educate the public about work zone safety. This year, National Work Zone Awareness Week is April 9-13.