Bay Bridge construction project suspended after causing major traffic issues

Oakland_Bay_Bridge_Western_PartCaltrans officials have decided it was best to suspend a big construction project on the Bay Bridge after metal plates used to secure the area were causing major traffic issues.

Caltrans crews were in the process of replacing a number of aging expansion joints on the western section of the bridge after an inspection discovered several cracks.   The plates, about an inch and a half thick, were used to cover the construction zones during commute hours.

Unfortunately, most motorists who drove over the first plate, would end up slowing down significantly as they approached the second plate. As a result, there were major traffic delays in the area.

At first Caltrans officials said they were planning to increase the scope of their public awareness campaign, and that that drivers would eventually get used to the uneven pavement.

Now Caltrans officials are taking a different approach. The project has been put on hold and the plates have been removed. Caltrans engineers are brainstorming different approaches to the joint replacement project that has less of an impact on traffic congestion.

How new healthcare laws will affect worker’s compensation care

OB-ON330_f_E_20110629125125The new health care reform law will have both negative and positive effects on worker’s compensation systems throughout the nation, Dr. David Deitz, national medical director of commercial insurance strategic practices at Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. in Boston, told attendees during the Disability Management Employer Coalition in Las Vegas.

In his keynote presentation, Dietz pointed out that because worker’s compensation regulations vary by state that also means those covered under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) will have differing benefits.

Although Dietz couldn’t say whether there would be a negative or positive impact, he said that with more people covered under PPACA, employers could see general reduction in “the number of uninsured workers who are going to look for worker’s compensation because they have no other health coverage,” according to Business Insurance coverage from the convention.

There could be “trickle-down” effects from this because it could spur employers to shift from hiring full-time employees to hiring part-time employees, Dietz pointed out during his speech. He also said that because part-time workers typically have higher rates of workers compensation filings and more injuries, this could mean consequences.

This also brings up concerns of access to care in some states because it varies how each state reimburses doctors.


Have you had any issues with worker’s compensation in the past? Are you nervous going forward knowing about these changes? Let me know at

ARTBA now accepting 2015 Globe Awards nominees

ARTBA logoThe American Road & Transportation Builders Association Transportation Development Foundation (ARTBA-TDF) has announces it’s now accepting nominations for its 2015 Globe Awards program.  The annual competition recognizes surface transportation projects and transportation construction firms that utilize exemplary environmental processes to protect or enhance the natural environment.The Globe Awards competition is structured into the following two categories:

Project Awards:

Project awards recognize private-sector firms and public-sector transportation agencies that do an outstanding job in protecting and/or enhancing the natural environment in the planning, design and construction of U.S. transportation infrastructure projects.

Nominations may be made for projects in the following seven categories: highways, local or secondary roads, bridges, public transit, airports, railroads­, and waterways and ports.

Process Awards:

Process awards honor companies that have exhibited environmentally responsible manufacturing, production, resource extraction or other processes related to surface transportation construction.  Such organizations may include:

  • Heavy construction equipment and transportation safety product manufacturers (environmentally responsible manufacturing); or
  • Materials companies (environmentally responsible resource extraction and/or production).

Nominations for the 2015 Globe Awards program must be submitted online at by January 30.

HCEA advances plan for National Construction Equipment Museum

A rendering of the National Construction Equipment Museum.

A rendering of the National Construction Equipment Museum.

Long out of space at its cramped 7,000-square-foot headquarters, the Historical Construction Equipment Association launched a new campaign this month to fund the 20,000-square-foot National Construction Equipment Museum. The goal: to have a grand opening of the $1.5 million building in September, 2016, during the group’s annual convention.

Plans for the museum have shifted, says Thomas Berry, HCEA archivist. “We previously wanted to add on to our existing building, but now we have a whole new approach.” HCEA’s present building at the group’s headquarters in Bowling Green, Ohio, will be converted to a storage facility, and a new building will take center stage as the museum.

“We’ve basically been the victim of success,” says Don Frantz, an HCEA national director. “For example, one of our members restored a Koehring paver, and we’re going to have to take machines out of our present building to make room for it.” Several other machines are also sitting outside.

The new facility will include:

  • A machinery hall with a clear span vaulted ceiling to allow cranes and shovels to be displayed with booms raised.
  • A visitor’s center, including a merchandise store and an area for meetings and special displays.
  • A 1,200-square-foot education center that will include interactive displays.
  • A 1,200-square-foot archives annex, offering climate controlled storage for seldom-accessed material.

Working under David Munson, its director of development, HCEA began the 375 Club campaign this month, directed to its approximately 4,000 members with this logic: If each member donates $375, funding for the building is assured.  “There are national museums for cars, trains and trucks, but not for the equipment that built this nation,” Frantz says. “It’s time.”

Donations have already started; others are doing in-kind efforts. For example, HCEA member Phil Rudolph, vice president of business development with general contractor Rudolph/Libbe , Walbridge, Ohio, donated the design of the steel building, Frantz says. Another critical donation came closer to home: Frantz’s son Vincent put his company’s skills to work to create the group’s new video promoting the museum (see below).


This article was written by Editorial Director, Marcia Gruver Doyle.

Iowa DOT adds new colors to 511 road conditions map

iowa road conditions mapThe Iowa Department of Transportation has made some color changes to its 511 road conditions map.

Purple will now mean that ”travel is not advised” and light blue will be used to show “wet” conditions. Below is what all of the colors will mean on the Iowa conditions map.

Dry = green.
Wet = light blue.
Partially covered = blue.
Completely covered = pink.
Travel not advised = purple.
Closed = red.

“Each year we try to improve the system by listening to what our customers tell us and making adjustments. Last year there was some confusion about the ‘travel not advised’ statement. This year we are dedicating a road color (purple) on the map to ‘travel not advised’ to assure people can clearly see the seriousness of the situation on the roadway. Customers also wanted to know how much snow and ice was on the pavement. That is now included in the comments when a road is designated as ‘travel not advised,’” said Sinclair Stolle, Iowa DOT 511 administrator.

MnDOT up a creek without a paddle due to mine expansion

A billboard on Highway 53 that's part of a campaign against relocation. Photo: Jeff Wheeler/StarTribune

A billboard on Highway 53 that’s part of a campaign against relocation. Photo: Jeff Wheeler/StarTribune


The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is now paying for a decision it made nearly a half century ago. Back then, MnDOT decided to save some time and money by cutting a deal with the local mining companies to lease the stretch of land leading into Virginia instead of buying it outright.

For five decades it was a great deal for MnDOT. The state got free use of the land while the property owners focused on iron deposits that were bigger and richer than the low-grade taconite under all the asphalt.

Now, however, the older mines are all played out and the taconite under the highway through the state’s Iron Range is worth hundreds of millions of dollars and mining it could extend the life of an operation that employs 514 people.

But there’s a problem, rerouting the four-lane highway is not going to be easy. Hwy. 53 links Duluth to International Falls and it binds the Quad Cities of the Iron Range — Virginia, Eveleth, Gilbert, and Mountain Iron — together.

Shutting down the highway could kill several businesses in the area.

“You sever that, you cut me off,” said Bill Aho, who owns a Super 8 Motel in Eveleth and an AmericInn Lodge in Virginia, just off the highway on opposite sides of the future mine site. Like others in the region, he’s been waiting and worrying over the highway relocation for years. Without Hwy. 53, he said, “We would be shut off. It would be devastating.”

To make matters worse, MnDOT only has until 2017 to come up with a solution.

“If it was easy, or clear, we would have already made a decision. But it’s not,” said Patrick Huston, MnDOT’s Hwy. 53 project director. “It’s a tremendous challenge.”

MnDOT is currently weighing its options which range from building the tallest bridge in Minnesota over some of the hardest rock on the planet to letting the highway dead-end at the mine. The state could also opt to ignore the situation, but that would likely result in a lawsuit from the landowners.

None of MnDOT’s options are ideal, and none of them are cheap. Right now all MnDOT can do is pick the lesser of all evils.

Stay tuned…

Asphalt pavement mixes are greener, more sustainable than ever

Asphalt-Road_full2-e1370867938412Asphalt pavement mixes are more sustainable than ever thanks to the increased use of recycled materials and energy-saving warm-mix technologies.

According to a survey of asphalt mix producers conducted by the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA) in partnership with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), 106.4 million tons of warm-mix asphalt was used during the 2013 construction season. That’s nearly a third of all asphalt pavement mix production.

The results of the survey mark a greater than 533 percent increase in the use of warm mix since 2009.

Warm-mix asphalt is produced with a range of technologies that reduce the production and placement temperature of asphalt pavement mixtures. A variety of environmental, worker safety, and construction benefits have been realized through the adoption of warm-mix asphalt.

“Innovation is an important principle for the asphalt pavement industry. The use of warm-mix technologies, as well as recycled materials, helps us improve both the quality and sustainability of asphalt pavements,” said Bill Ensor, NAPA 2014 Chairman and President of Maryland Paving Inc. “These latest survey results reveal just how cool and green today’s asphalt pavements are, but we continue to seek greater use and adoption of these technologies.”

In 2013, approximately 72 million tons of reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP) and 1.7 million tons of reclaimed asphalt shingles (RAS) were used in new asphalt pavement mixes in the United States. Reclaiming and reusing the asphalt cement in RAP and RAS saved about $2 billion in 2013 compared to the use of virgin asphalt binder. The use of RAP also conserved more than 68 million tons of virgin aggregate.

“These latest survey results reveal just how cool and green today’s asphalt pavements are…”Producers involved in the survey were asked about ground tire rubber, steel and blast furnace slag, and other waste material repurposed into pavements. Although national estimates of usage were not calculated, survey respondents reported using nearly 1.2 million tons of these materials in 2013 in the production of more than 6.6 million tons of asphalt pavement mixes.

“In the decade since warm mix was introduced to the U.S., its adoption by industry and agencies has been remarkable,” said NAPA President Mike Acott. “Now we are looking to focus research and engineering on using warm mix in combination with greater levels of recycled materials to make our long-lasting, high performance asphalt pavements even more sustainable.”

The tons of asphalt pavement mixtures produced using recycled and reclaimed materials was predominately flat from 2012 to 2013, despite a 2.5 percent drop in total tons of asphalt produced during 2013 compared to 2012. However, the percentage of tons produced using these materials was greater in 2013 than 2012.

The survey was conducted in mid-2014. Results from 249 companies with 1,281 plants in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, along with data from State Asphalt Pavement Associations for 38 states were used to compile the report.

Bad roads cost Massachusetts drivers $8.3 billion a year

rough-road-light-upDeficient and congested roads and bridges ends up costing Massachusetts drivers a total of $8.3 billion statewide annually, and as much as 1,900 per driver according to the latest TRIP report.

Drivers end up paying so much money annually due to several reasons including higher vehicle operating costs, traffic crashes and congestion-related delays.

The report found that approximately one-fifth of major roads and highways are in poor condition and more than half of Massachusetts’ bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. To make matters worse, the state’s major urban roads have high levels of congestion, with drivers wasting significant amounts of time and fuel each year.

Worst of all, Massachusetts’ rural non-interstate traffic fatality rate is more than three-and-a-half times higher than the fatality rate on all other roads in the state.

A breakdown of the costs per motorist in each of Massachusetts’ largest urban areas, and a statewide total.

A breakdown of the costs per motorist in each of Massachusetts’ largest urban areas, and a statewide total.


The report claims 19 percent of Massachusetts’ major roads and highways have pavements in poor condition, with an additional 64 percent of the state’s major roads rated to be in mediocre condition. The remaining 17 percent are rated in in good condition.

Driving on deteriorated roads costs the state’s motorists $2.3 billion each year in extra vehicle operating costs, including accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs, and increased fuel consumption and tire wear.

Massachusetts’ bridges could use a lot of work too. A total of 52 percent of the states bridges show significant deterioration and nine percent are structurally deficient. An additional 43 percent of the state’s bridges are functionally obsolete.

“The TRIP report is the latest study documenting the desperate conditions of the state’s roads and bridges which pose public safety risks as well as major costs for Massachusetts drivers,” said Michael J. Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. “Indexing of the gas tax was one of the key recommendations of the Transportation Finance Commission in order to raise the funds to maintain our roads and bridges and public transit systems.”

Traffic congestion is mounting across the state, costing each driver as much as $1,147 annually in lost time and wasted fuel, a total of $3.9 billion statewide.

Traffic crashes in Massachusetts claimed the lives of 1,697 people between 2008 and 2012.

“Improvements to our infrastructure are an investment in public safety – whether it be for drivers, cyclists or pedestrians,” said Mary Maguire, director of public and government affairs for AAA Southern New England.

Traffic crashes in Massachusetts claimed the lives of 1,697 people between 2008 and 2012. Traffic crashes on Massachusetts’ non-Interstate rural roads are particularly deadly, with a fatality rate in 2012 of 2.07 traffic fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel, more than three-and-a-half times the fatality rate of 0.58 on all other roads and highways in the state.

The efficiency of Massachusetts’ transportation system, particularly its highways, is critical to the health of the state’s economy. A 2007 analysis by the Federal Highway Administration found that every $1 billion invested in highway construction would support approximately 27,800 jobs.

Unfortunately, Massachusetts seems to be following a common trend among states researched by TRIP. A few weeks ago TRIP reported that 47 percent of New York roads and bridges need work. In August it was reported that deficient roads in Alabama cost drivers $3.1 billion annually.

MDOT receives ITS Award

MDOTThe Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) has won the Best New Innovative Practice – Partnership Deployment award in the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) America’s “Best of ITS Awards,” honoring the most innovative, effective and influential achievements in the ITS industry.

MDOT was recognized for the Mississippi River Bridges – Incident Management, Freight Movement and Security ITS Project. Working with the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD) and the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (LDOTD), a regional ITS network was constructed to improve operational efficiency at the four Mississippi River crossings in the state through traffic monitors and dynamic message boards, and other means to convey traveler information.

 “It was an honor to be recognized at the premier ITS event of the year among thousands of public sector and transportation industry professionals,” said MDOT Executive Director Melinda McGrath.

The Best of ITS Awards annually recognize the best and brightest of the high-tech transportation community. This highly competitive program recognizes the organizations whose projects have demonstrated specific and measurable outcomes and exemplified innovation by establishing a “new dimension” of performance.

In September, MDOT also took home the top honors in the southeast regional America’s Transportation Awards.

RIDOT redesigned website wins National Award

RIDOT_logo_web_opt_1The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) newly redesigned website has been named ‘Best DOT Website, Without Consultant’ by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Communications Subcommittee (Transcomm). Transcomm is comprised of representatives from DOTs across the country.

“We are honored to have been selected by our peers across the country for this award,” RIDOT Director Michael P. Lewis said. “This new website, coupled with our social media pages, is part of a much broader effort on our part to transform how we engage with the public and transparently share information in today’s digital age. It is also a key part of our evolution as a department into one that is customer and performance focused.”

The new website was launched last May and offers a first-of-its-kind web experience among state agency sites in Rhode Island – includes timely updates on travel conditions, live news and social media feeds, safety resources, bid announcements, enhanced traffic camera access, and in-depth information on construction projects around the state.

This past summer, RIDOT claims more than 100,000 people logged on over the course of 10 days to watch live coverage of the new Barton Corner Bridges being moved into place along I-95. It was the first time RIDOT was able to provide that type of access. Earlier this month, a time-lapse video of the project was added to the site.

A performance dashboard is the latest feature to be added to the site. Its design mimics a car’s dashboard – with gauge displays that offer statistics on highway congestion levels, seat belt usage, the condition of RIDOT’s bridges, status of construction projects, and salt usage during winter operations.


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