Transportation Nation

100 Died in Texas Work Zone Fatalities in 2010

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Houston police on the scene of a freeway work zone accident. Photo courtesy Texas Department of Transportation

(Houston, TX -- Gail Delaughter, KUHF)  A line of Texas Transportation Department workers in orange safety vests stood before a memorial that lists the names of 24 Houston-area highway workers who've been killed on the job since 1951.  They held photos of friends they work with and family members they go home to every day.

TXDot supervisor Jeff Volk says they all have stories about close calls in work zones. He keeps a crumpled hard hat to remember his brush with a big rig.  "I was out on State Highway 146 in a coned-off lane of the freeway, when an 18-wheeler doing 65 miles-per-hour sucked the helmet right off my head, and it banged down the concrete pavement in the draft of that big truck and five or six people ran over it."

Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia was one of the speakers at a Houston event marking National Work Zone Awareness Week, an annual campaign sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration. Garcia doesn't mince words when he talks about the dangers TXDot employees face every day.

"Construction workers are having to dodge flying debris, tires that come off, tread that comes off other vehicles, rocks that are being clipped by tires, loads that are being lost. They are having to dodge all of these dangers and they don't need an idiot of a driver not paying attention."  He says all that stands between a worker and a fast-moving vehicle is "a flimsy cone, a simple barricade, a sign. That's all that's protecting them."

TXDot says at any given time there are more than 1000 work zones on the state's 80,000 miles of highways. 100 people were killed in work zone accidents in Texas in 2010. That includes both workers and people in vehicles. The Houston area had over 2800 work zone crashes that left 21 people dead.

Houston Police Chief Charles McClellan says drivers need to realize there's little room for error when crews are working in the next lane.  "People don't realize how just trying to change the station on your radio, or making a call on your cell phone, or exceeding the speed limit can change someone's life instantly by having a fatal crash."

So what's behind these wrecks?  TXDot says they're caused primarily by drivers who are drunk, speeding, following too closely, or simply not paying attention. Of the the 100 Texas fatalities in 2010, officials say more than 60% had to do with alcohol, drugs, distracted driving, or a combination of the three.  Statistics show 45% of fatal work zone accidents are caused by drivers under 35.  Most of the people who die in work zone accidents are drivers or their passengers.

Former TXDot District Engineer Delvin Dennis remembers the phone call he got back in 2008 telling him a worker had been killed by a drunk driver on a freeway near downtown Houston. "Life is busy, time is precious, but please understand when you're in a hurry and drive dangerously through a work zone, you're not just putting the lives of highway workers at risk, you're risking your own life and the lives of other motorists."

Texas law is tough on drivers who are ticketed in work zones, even if there's not an accident. The law allows for the usual traffic fines to be doubled.

You can listen to the KUHF story here.

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Transportation Nation

Carmageddon in Photos

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Work crews chip away at the Mulholland Drive bridge over the southbound lanes of the 405 freeway. The demolition required an unprecedented 53-hour shutdown of the key southern California freeway, marking the first time the highway has been silent in more than 50 years.

(Photo with permission, Anthony Citrano,

It seems odd to make a banner headline out of smooth flowing freeways, but the city of LA is pleasantly mystified at the lack of traffic this weekend, billed as Carmageddon. The precious 405 highway and the city did not grind to a halt, in fact alternate routes weren't even jammed. The NYT is reporting on idle traffic cops around the city watching empty roads. Depending on how you look at it, the hype was either misguided hysteria, or effective and necessary, working so well that drivers fled the city and holed up at home in such numbers that crisis was averted.

For a better sense of the project and why the shutdown happened see Friday's post. But for now, join Angelenos and marvel and the bizarre glory of open pavement in car city.

Here are a few carmageddon photos, and videos for a visual roundup of the non-event in Los Angeles. You could actually watch portions of the 405 have almost no traffic on CalTrans live traffic cams.

Here's a sampling captured to You Tube late Sunday morning.

A California Highway Patrol vehicle straddles a quiet 405 freeway.

(Photo with permission, Anthony Citrano,



Flickr user i be GINZ took this on the 405N near Inglewood, writing "Awesome. Zero traffic on the 405N. Carmageddon should happen more often."

Traffic Police had little to do around town. (Photo (cc) by Flickr user Malingering)

The dreaded intersection of the 10 and the 405, blissfully swift as captured by Flickr user johnathanhstrauss.

And in a weekend of unexpected transportation events, a bike team raced an airplane and won. The LA bike team, Wolfpack, doubled down on JetBlue's opportunism and raced the airline's special $4 flight from Burbank to Long Beach. They blogged about it here. This is what they looked like:

Burbank to Long Beach, Bikes: 1:34, Flight Passenger 2:50 (Photo: (cc) Flickr user Waltarrrrr)

If you have videos or more pictures send them to us at transponation at gmail, or post them in the comments. Some funny videos are already starting to pop up on You Tube.


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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Taking Down Freeways Goes Mainstream, Bay Area Floats Transit-Oriented Development Plan, and Massachusetts Picks New Commuter Rail Line Route

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Image from the "One Bay Area" presentation of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments.

San Francisco's regional transportation and housing agencies (One Bay Area) are floating a 25 year-plan to prepare for a future in which the Bay Area has 2 million more people and 902,000 housing units -- and most of it built near rail stations, bus lines, walking paths or bike lanes. (Contra Costa Times)

Half a century after cities put up freeways, many of those roads are reaching the end of their useful lives. But instead of replacing them, a growing number of cities are thinking it makes more sense just to tear them down. (NPR)  You can see our earlier coverage of this issue here, on Marketplace.

Massachusetts transportation officials hoping to build a new commuter rail line have decided on a preferred route to connect Boston to New Bedford and Fall River. The state hopes to have the line built by 2017 -- but the funding has not been secured yet. (Boston Globe)

New Yorkers can now contest parking tickets online. (WNYC)

The Federal Highway Administration launched new standards for bridge inspections (The Hill), which Ray LaHood says will allow the FHWA to more clearly and easily identify bridge issues in each state.

United Auto Workers made concessions in 2008, when the American auto industry was limping. Now, Detroit car manufacturers are newly profitable -- and UAW officials are meeting today to map out strategy in advance of labor contract talks. (Marketplace)

Google has become the first customer for a new wireless EV charging station. The inductive charging system requires only proximity to the charging unit -- no plug or outlet necessary. (Wired/Autopia)

Some fuel-efficient cars can take years to reach the break-even point.  (KUHF)

Georgia's DeKalb County is expected today to approve a $2.7 billion wish list of transportation upgrades, but county officials are still reluctant to support asking residents to pay more in sales tax. And it sounds like no one thinks there's enough local control of the money. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

A Foursquare add-on will give users real-time transit schedules when they check in near a transit stop. (Mashable)

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: NY's City Hall goes on a bike lane offensive, and Mayor Bloomberg speaks -- diplomatically -- about Iris Weinshall, who's not a bike lane fan. The Chinese demand for coal is pushing some American freight lines to the max. A former Metro executive is now working for a transportation lobbying firm. Watch a visualization of London's bike share system on the day of a tube strike. And: happy 200th anniversary, Manhattan street grid.

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Transportation Nation

The second stimulus, I-69, and the battle for local control

Thursday, September 09, 2010

(Matt Dellinger, Transportation Nation)  Along with the proposal to jump-start a six-year transportation authorization with $50 Billion in funding, President Obama on Monday also suggested changes in the way such federal dollars are spent. His Administration's promotion of a National Infrastructure Bank and other reforms are early, tentative steps towards what could be a major reworking of the way we decide which projects to construct.

But deciding how to decide won't be easy. Anyone looking for an object lesson in the difficult issues ahead would do well to study the Interstate 69 controversy in Bloomington, Indiana, where the state and the city have locked horns over the biggest highway project in years.

At Eastern Greene Middle School in southern Indiana, citizens peruse maps of the state's route for Interstate 69

The proposed 1400-mile extension of Interstate 69 into a Canada-to Mexico "NAFTA" highway has been on the books for twenty years. It was one of the high-priority corridors designated in the 1991 transportation reauthorization—a notable exception in a bill that was otherwise hyped as the beginning of post-interstate multimodalism and increased local control over planning.

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Transportation Nation

LA's Famed Freeway Murals May Become Graffiti, Vinyl

Monday, August 09, 2010

Courtesy: Ruth Wallach, USC Libraries

The misery of driving on LA's freeways is well known.  At times, the traffic isn't even the worst part -- it's the smog, the scenery, the utter lack of anything else to look at, besides the bumper of the car in front of you.  Sadly, this is about to get worse.

After fighting an onslaught of graffiti for years, California's Department of Transportation says it can no longer restore and maintain LA's famous freeway murals.  Started with CalTrans' permission around the 1984 Olympics, the murals have been a point of artistic pride, Chicano identity and the cultural landscape of LA.  Now, at best, some will be turned into vinyl banners. -- Collin Campbell, TN

More from Southern California Public Radio.

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