Better Roads Staff
Civilian Flaggers: Are they worth it?
Massachusetts has saved nearly $12 million in the year-plus since it started using civilian flaggers to direct traffic at some road construction sites, state officials say, providing factual underpinning to what has become a hotly debated issue in the 2010 gubernatorial election campaign, according to the Gloucester (Mass.) Daily Times.
A job-by-job breakdown provided to The Associated Press shows how the state saved $28,000 during four relatively slow days in May by paying lower wages for flaggers to either replace or supplement the police officers who formerly had exclusive rights to stand watch over highway and side-road work zones.
Essex Police Chief Peter Silva said he’s still not convinced. “The savings that are being described may be mirage-like,” Silva said. “They are telling us that this is going to save us a substantial amount of money; I want to see where the savings are.” Silva also highlighted the dangerousness of the work, and the value of having extra police officers on the road. “It’s second to none having a police officer on a work site,” he said. “They have instant communication with the police, ambulance, and fire officials in our community, which the flaggers currently do not have.”
Police are still used exclusively in high-speed or otherwise dangerous locations.v
Fund Gap = Road Gap
A gap in funding will lead to a gap in a busy stretch of roadway in West Virginia, say state highway officials.
Officials with the Department of Highways are floating the idea of tolls to help fund the reconstruction of a 14.6-mile stretch of U.S. Route 35 from Buffalo to Henderson. The unfunded two-lane stretch lies between a completed piece of widened U.S. 35 and another portion slated for completion this fall. “As this gap section gets narrower and narrower, the issues of safety become more and more,” Greg Bailey, DOH director of engineers, told a public meeting in Winfield.
Between $200 million and $250 million is needed for the yet unfunded stretch, which has a long history of fatal accidents, says Putnum County Commissioner Steve Andes. “There’s more truck traffic on the stretch of road than I think on any other road certainly in West Virginia and the surrounding area,” he says.
DOH has yet to decide on a final funding package, says Bailey, but even with tolls, “the amount of revenues that appear we could generate is not enough revenue to complete the entire 15 miles of highway construction. We would have to take some of our normal construction funds and apply it to the project.” Without local tolls, the road would be built as funding become available, one mile at a time, DOH spokesman Brent Walker has said.
Some area residents attending the public meeting balked at the idea of having to pay $1-$4 to travel U.S. 35 each time out. “We’ve already paid for that road,” said Frazier’s Bottom resident Rob Logus. v
To The Editor:
Kirk Landers sure holds onto a grudge, doesn’t he? (“Failure to Bash,” July) Why else would he feel compelled to write today about events that happened almost a decade ago?
I can’t speak to Mr. Landers’ experience in 2001. I wasn’t with FHWA at the time, the current public affairs staff was not here, nor was our Administrator, Victor Mendez. Mr. Landers acknowledges an “aversion” for government employees, meaning the deck was probably stacked against any staff member he dealt with.
But beyond his personal experience, Mr. Landers raises questions about the role of FHWA, the professionalism of our communications staff and the quality of the information we provide the public.
FHWA works in partnership with the states to create a highway system that is second to none. Under the leadership of Administrator Mendez, we are constantly looking for ways to provide the best service to the American people. An experienced, professional communications staff – knowledgeable in everything from asphalt temperatures to work zone safety – works hard every day to help keep the public informed.