April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month
April 6, 2015: In 2013, 3,154 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver.
According to a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, sending or receiving a text takes a driver's eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent of driving blind at 55 miles per hour for the length of an entire football field.
To tackle this ever-increasing problem, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is focusing on ways to change the behavior of drivers through legislation, enforcement, public awareness and education — the same tactics that have curbed drinking and driving and increased seat belt use.
NHTSA’s message is simple – “One Text or Call Could Wreck it All.” The campaign to stop distracted driving has pledged its support to help spread the message that distracted drivers are not only a danger to themselves, but everyone else on the road.
This month, state and local law enforcement will also aggressively ticket drivers who are texting or using their mobile devices when behind the wheel.
Work Zone Awareness Week Vigil Held
March 26, 2015: The rain held off as VDOT and our safety partners held a moving Work Zone Awareness Week Vigil at the Workers' Memorial on Afton Mountain in Albemarle County.
Speakers included Commissioner Charlie Kilpatrick, P.E., Culpeper District Administrator John Lynch, P.E. (pictured, far right), Lebanon Residency Administrator Conrad Hill, Jeff Southard, executive vice president of the Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance, Drive Smart Virginia's Janet Brooking and Lt. Paul D. Watts, Virginia State Police (pictured).
All of the speakers recognized the families of departed workers who were in attendance. The vigil ended with a moment of silence for the 133 workers whose names are etched on the memorial.
"No matter which way you will travel home tonight, you’re likely to encounter a work zone," said Lynch. "In memory of those we are here to honor, and for those who work hard to make Virginia’s roads the safest and best-maintained in the country, please drive carefully."
Culpeper Tiger Team Deploys to Hampton Roads
March. 5, 2015: On Feb. 25, the VDOT Culpeper District deployed a 14-man Tiger Team to assist Chesapeake with snow removal. The team took five dump trucks with plows and spreaders, as well as a stocked mechanic’s truck for mobile equipment servicing.
For many of the employees, this was a trip into familiar territory: Culpeper sent two teams to Chesapeake on a similar assignment in late January last year.
“It was an adventure, to say the least,” said Wayne Sutphin, Madison area headquarters superintendent and Tiger Team leader. “Learning their way, compared to our way, of snow removal was an experience, but as a team, we adjusted and cleared the roads to the best of our ability.
"All of our operators were teamed with a Chesapeake operator as a navigator, and their trucks joined ours to form plow trains. This worked well to clear roads from curb to curb, sometimes with police officers assisting with rolling traffic blocks, which made a world of difference.”
There were some equipment issues, but by taking mechanics along who could quickly make repairs, the trucks were soon back in action.
“To sum it up, we had a well-experienced team that was ready and willing to respond to any type of emergency, regardless of where in the state,” said Sutphin. “They are willing to leave their families and drop everything on a moment’s notice to help others, and for that they deserve much more than a thank you.”
VDOT Wins Award For Bridge
Feb. 25, 2015: Described as “some of the most stunning entries in the history of the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) Virginia's Engineering Excellence Awards competition,” five grand award finalists were recently chosen to compete for the Pinnacle Award presented at the ACEC Virginia Gala on Feb. 5 at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond.
And drumroll please…the top honor went to VDOT for the Gilmerton Bridge project in the Hampton Roads District.
Modjeski and Masters used innovative methods to construct the $134 million bridge replacement in Chesapeake. The new towers for the bridge's vertical lift span were built over and under the existing bridge. The replacement bridge's 250-foot by 87-foot lift span is one of the widest lift spans ever designed...weighing in at nearly five million pounds.
It was fabricated offsite, floated down river (see slideshow below) and installed above the existing span – all without disruption to the existing span and to vehicular, marine or rail traffic. This was a complex design assignment due to the deteriorated state of the 1938 bridge as well as the increase in traffic and the need for taller ship clearance.
“We cannot underestimate the hard work of our VDOT employees that made this project possible,” said State Structure and Bridge Engineer Kendal Walus. “Of particular mention, senior structural engineer Russell Martin, who has worked on this from the early days of the project and coordinated all efforts between VDOT and its consultant, Modjeski and Masters.”
The Gilmerton is one of five critical bridges in the region and carries Route 13/Military Highway across the Southern Branch Elizabeth River. With the new bridge in place, the number of openings will be reduced by 40 percent, which eases the strain placed on this bridge and allows for smoother traffic flow (both maritime and vehicular).
Check out this VDOT slideshow of the Gilmerton Bridge Float-In from January 2013.
From Behind a Desk to Behind the Wheel
Feb. 24, 2015: When VDOT switches to emergency response mode, our responsibilities shift. However, some roles take us closer to the winter weather than others.
Lynchburg District employee Tiffany Tweedy (pictured) normally fills the role of Land Use technician, but last week she was behind the wheel of a snowplow, and like crews statewide, helped the district cover 12-hour shifts.
She joined the district crews plow and treat routes in Campbell County and Appomattox, a task that until recently wasn't in her job description.
As part of a 2010 staff reduction plan, employees like Tweedy from outside Maintenance began assisting with emergency response efforts.
Tweedy got her commercial driver's license in order to help out with winter weather response.
"It's dangerous. I really have a huge respect for the men that do this every day," said Tweedy. "I'm exhausted at the end of the day and I know that these guys are twice as exhausted."
Watch video of Tweedy on the job from WSET TV-13 (ABC).
Reporting for Snow Duty
Feb. 18, 2015: "Anything interesting happen at work today?"
As the collective VDOT team continued to respond to the winter storm Tuesday, Feb. 17, staff in the Richmond District got a bigger surprise.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne reported for snow duty Tuesday morning at Chesterfield's Pocahontas AHQ in the Richmond District.
The crews appreciated the visit and enjoyed the chance to meet our leaders.