Wrongly fired DOT employees return to work

52d9779cc491c.imageTwo years after being fired from their jobs, Steven Scott and Ken Morrow have returned to work for the Iowa Department of Transportation. An administrative law judge ruled that both men should be reinstated to their jobs they were fired from in August of 2012.

The judge also ordered the state to pay back wages, legal fees and other compensation. All in all, the state will have to pay back around $400,000.

Morrow and Scott worked for the state for several years and were promoted to an Osceola garage from other jobs. Both men successfully argued that other employees at the garage treated them like outsiders and resented the fact that they were hired as managers. The judge said several state employees lied as part of an effort to end Scott’s and Morrow’s careers.

State officials refuse to comment on the situation, citing confidentiality in a personnel matter. Employees who lied have yet to be punished

“There is absolutely no accountability for anybody that did anything wrong. There’s no reason for them to deter what they’re doing,” Scott told the Des Moines Register. “There is no recourse for them. They’re safe and they know it.”

Scott and Morrow previously rejected settlement offers due to confidentiality clauses prohibiting them from speaking publicly about their ousters.

Construction error and weather causes new pavement to crumble within hours

Road-Construction-AheadEmergency highway repairs were needed on Interstate 65, near Corridor X, in Alabama following a construction error. Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) officials say the wrong pavement mix, and weather, caused fresh asphalt to start crumbling and breaking apart just two hours after commuters were allowed to drive on the surface.

Potholes immediately began to form which sent particles into the air, and incoming traffic.

ALDOT officials knew the problem had to be fixed, and fast. Emergency highway construction crews rushed to the scene so nobody would be injured, or killed, from the crumbling road.

“We had to take the three lanes of 65 down to one lane of traffic which was a nightmare most of the morning and nightmare all day long today. We have a milling machine, a grinding machine grinding up that asphalt to get it out and get new asphalt in,” ALDOT spokesperson Brian Davis said.

The problem was eventually remedied, and traffic is once again moving at a normal pace. However, ALDOT will continue to run tests on the failed pavement to make sure the problem never happens again.

New ARTBA awards program to highlight good works

artba-logoConstruction firms intent on giving back to their communities may now be honored for their good works. The Transportation Development Foundation, an American Road and Transportation Builders Association foundation that promotes research, education and public awareness, is launching the Helping Hand Awards, which recognizes transportation design, construction and safety firms that improve the quality of life in their communities.

 The requirements to be named a Helping Hand Award winner are:

Develop or engage in programs or initiatives that benefit residents in communities where the firm is either headquartered or conducts business. Examples include helping the disabled, mentoring school children, providing services to disadvantaged neighborhoods and more.

Nominees must contribute significant personal time to the program, as well as committing money, materials or other in-kind services or resources.

The majority of the program must have been conducted in the previous 18-month period; however, ongoing efforts will also be considered as an illustration of the depth of the nominee’s commitment.

Nominees will be judged on the overall level of impact their contribution has had on the community. Nominations can be submitted online at www.artbatdf.org by February 6, 2015. Winners will be honored during the 2015 ARTBA Federal Issues Program, scheduled April 13-15 in Washington, D.C.

This post was written by Amy Materson, Managing Editor of Equipment World.

Highway users, road builders oppose bill to surrender federal highway authority

Click to enlarge. (See related post below for a link to slides detailing state and federal transportation spending).

Click to enlarge. (See related post below for a link to slides detailing state and federal transportation spending).

Transportation interests have written Congress to express opposition to the so-called “devolution” of the federal highway program and the proposed Transportation Empowerment Act.

The bill, introduced in the House and Senate last fall, transfers almost all authority over federal highway and transit programs to the states over a five-year period.

It would lower the federal gas tax to 3.7 cents from 18.4 cents over the transition period, and during the five-year phase out states would receive block grants that come with fewer federal controls over how the money is spent.

“TEA is ill-conceived and by stripping away most federal funding for surface transportation projects, would virtually eliminate the federal government’s constitutionally mandated role in promoting interstate commerce,” the letter, dated Sept. 16, says. “Devolution … would prove disastrous to state and local governments’ ability to maintain and improve their transportation systems when it is widely acknowledged that current resources are seriously insufficient.”

Along with ATA, the coalition includes AAA, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the American Highway Users Alliance, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Associated General Contractors of America and others.

The bill sponsors, however, frame the legislation with conservative principles such as increased local control and a streamlined, more efficient use of taxpayer dollars.

“Under the Transportation Empowerment Act, Americans would no longer have to send significant gas-tax revenue to Washington, where sticky-fingered politicians, bureaucrats, and lobbyists take their cut before sending it back with strings attached,” said Sen. Mike Lee, R.-Utah, who sponsored the bill in the Senate. “Local communities should finally have the flexibility to develop the kind of transportation system they want, for less money, without politicians and special interests from other parts of the country telling them how, when, what, and where they should build.”

In the video below, House sponsor Rep. Tom Graves, R.-Ga., explains the bill to Fox News.

GovTrack gives HR 3486 – which has 52 co-sponsors, all Republicans – a 2 percent chance of getting out of committee and 1 percent chance of being enacted.

Indeed, “devolution proposals are not a solution to the long-term infrastructure funding question, but rather serve as a distraction from the debate about how best to fund our nation’s infrastructure,” the opposition letter concludes, calling on lawmakers to work toward a new surface transportation bill before MAP-21 expires in May. “Congress must act now to avoid prolonging the ongoing funding crisis that is the result of failure to provide long-term, stable funding for transportation.” 

Also Tuesday at the Capitol, Governors Highway Safety Association Chairman Kendell Poole told a Senate hearing that the passage of a long-term transportation reauthorization would improve safety on the roadways.

Speaking before a Commerce subcommittee looking into federal oversight of highway safety grant programs under MAP-21, Poole said it’s difficult for states to adequately plan and forecast future needs and attain performance targets when funding and program authority are uncertain.

The safety association also suggested Congress and NHTSA should simplify and streamline grant processes so states can spend more time on life-saving programming and less time on administrative paperwork.

This article was written by Kevin Jones, Senior Editor for CCJ Digital.

Hawaii DOT to pay over $1 million for stormwater violations

dotlogoThe Hawaii Department of Transportation will pay a $1.2 million penalty for federal Clean Water Act stormwater violations at the Honolulu and Kalaeloa harbors on Oahu. This comes after an inspection in 2008 found trash and chemicals on HDOT land could enter the water through runoff.

The $1.2 million in penalties will be divided equally between the State of Hawaii and the United States. In addition to the penalties, HDOT is required to take the following steps toward improving the management of stormwater runoff at the two harbors, including:

  • Create a new Office of Environmental Compliance to ensure all HDOT facilities comply with federal, state and local environmental regulations. Develop a stormwater prevention outreach and training program to communicate with the public using harbor facilities, to inform the public about how their activities impact the quality of stormwater runoff.
  • Rank all harbor tenants annually based on their activities and risk of pollutant discharges. Inspect all high risk tenants twice per year, medium risk tenants once per year, and low risk tenants every five years.
  • Inspect stormwater outfalls during wet and dry weather for the presence of non-stormwater discharges, and assess the physical condition of each outfall to determine if maintenance is needed.
  • Establish a comprehensive Construction Runoff Control Program to control discharges from sites subject to new development or redevelopment. HDOT will study the feasibility of retrofitting construction projects, and complete at least three retrofits.

“The Hawaii DOT has already made major strides in improving storm water run-off management plans in its Highways and Airports Divisions,” said HDOT interim director Ford Fuchigami. “The creation of the environmental compliance office will ensure that HDOT has staff strictly focused on environmental issues across all divisions.”

Foxx announces 72 TIGER 2014 recipients

Anthony_Foxx_official_portraitThe Department of Transportation (DOT) will provide $600 million for 72 transportation projects in 46 states and the District of Columbia from its TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) 2014 program.

The DOT received 797 eligible applications from 49 states, U.S. territories and the District of Columbia. That’s a huge increase from the 585 applications received in 2013. Overall, applicants requested 15 times the $600 million available for the program, or $9 billion for needed transportation projects.

“As uncertainty about the future of long-term federal funding continues, this round of TIGER will be a shot in the arm for these innovative, job-creating and quality of life-enhancing projects,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said. “We’re building bridges from Maine to Mississippi. We’re creating ladders of opportunity for the middle-class and those seeking to enter the middle-class by investing in transit, road and rail projects from Los Angeles to Detroit to New York City, increasing access to jobs and quality of life. For every project we select, however, we must turn dozens more away – projects that could be getting done if Congress passed the GROW AMERICA Act, which would double the funding available for TIGER and growing the number of projects we could support.”

Projects funded through this round of TIGER support several key transportation goals which were explained in a press release from the DOT:

Improving Access to Jobs and Creating New “Ladders of Opportunity: Americans are increasingly challenged by longer travel times, which take away from time on the job and at home.  For those looking for work, unpredictable travel times can make finding work and keeping a job even harder.  This round of TIGER invests in projects designed to cut down on travel times, increase predictability and, in some cases, attract new middle-class jobs into communities.  Examples include:

  • A $24.9 million investment in the construction of a 7.6 mile bus rapid transit line in Richmond will connect transit-dependent residents to jobs and retail centers as well as spur mixed use and transit-oriented development in a city with the highest poverty rate in Virginia.
  • A $15 million TIGER grant will develop a new bus rapid transit spine for Omaha, Neb., dramatically reducing travel time to major employment hubs in the city.  Roughly 16 percent of the households within a quarter of a mile of the proposed bus-rapid transit route do not currently have access to a vehicle.
  • A $20 million TIGER grant will pay for the modernization of Boston’s Ruggles Station, which will include the construction of a new 797-foot long, 12-foot wide high-level passenger platform between the Ruggles Station headhouse and Northeastern University’s Columbus Avenue parking garage.
  • A $10.8 million investment in the Wando Welch Terminal Rehabilitation project in South Carolina will help make structural repairs, strengthen the berth, and make related paving and safety improvements. The TIGER funding will also be used for the installation of jacket repairs for damaged piles.

Reversing neglect by repairing U.S. infrastructure, enhancing quality of life and commerce:

  • The New Route 47 Missouri River Bridge Project will replace the decaying, 78 year-old Route 47 Deck and Warren Truss Bridge over the Missouri River in Washington, MO. A $10 million TIGER grant will be put to use to ensure this vital community and economic link continues to serve not only the people of Franklin and Warren Counties but the region as a whole.  With the bridge nearing the end of its useful life, its age and condition create an on-going need for maintenance, resulting in substantial expense to taxpayers and inconvenience to the public. The project includes doubling the travel way from 22 feet to 44 feet, removing the overhead truss, widening the shoulders and adding separated bicycle and pedestrian facilities. 
  • The Three County Roadway Improvements Program will move forward thanks to a $17.9 million TIGER grant that will help Claiborne County, Mississippi improve motor vehicle transportation reliability and safety in an economically-disadvantaged rural region by creating a fully-connected and safe county transportation system that allows direct movement of citizens and goods from rural areas to local economic points of interest. 

Supporting Game-Changing Local Initiatives: The $25 million TIGER grant for the Vision Zero project will bolster New York City’s multi-agency plan to reduce traffic-related deaths and injuries by redesigning intersections near schools, creating safer pedestrian access to transit and fill a major gap in the city’s protected bicycle lane network that will connect lower-income communities to industrial zones.

Helping communities plan for the future:  An example of a project that is utilizing innovative methodologies to plan for the future is the Land Use Connections for Sustainable Schools project in North Texas that will create a program and implementation plan for a regional working group to promote multimodal transportation options to schools, advance long-term planning for school siting, improve transportation safety near schools and encourage coordination between local governments, independent school districts, and transit agencies within the 12-county area for resource efficiency and sustainability.

Since the program’s inception in 2009, TIGER has helped fund several transportation projects. The program has provided nearly $4.1 billion to 342 projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Man steals Caterpillar excavator and other construction equipment

Kettenbagger_CAT_325C_LNPolice have arrested a man in Beaufort County, N.C., after he allegedly stole a Caterpillar excavator and other construction equipment from his employer.

The thief, Herbert Lee Garriss, 46, has been charged with three counts of larceny.

Authorities say Garriss stole a Caterpillar excavator, a Kawasaki Mule UTV (utility task vehicle) and a portable fuel tank from the local construction business where he worked. The stolen equipment was found at his home on Camp Leech Road, about 12 miles southeast of Washington.

The Washington Police Department arrested Garriss who was held under a $10,000 secured bond at the Beaufort County Detention Center.

Thieves have always loved to get their hands on pricey equipment. Luckily, there are ways to keep equipment from being stolen – click here for some great advice.

How to protect roadworkers from hearing loss

4_operating_a_jackhammerDifferent levels of noise are all around crewmembers every day on jobsites.

However, whenever workers are exposed to some of those sounds for hours on end every day, hearing loss can become a serious problem.

Approximately 22 million Americans are exposed to noise levels loud enough to damage hearing every year, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

In fact, 4 million workers go to work each day with damaging noise, and 10 million people in the U.S. have a noise-related hearing loss.

“In 2008, approximately 2 million U.S. workers were exposed to noise levels at work that put them at risk of hearing loss,” NIOSH says. “In 2007, approximately 23,000 cases were reported of occupational hearing loss that was great enough to cause hearing impairment. Reported cases of hearing loss accounted for 14 percent of occupational illness in 2007.”

For safety, NIOSH recommends that workers should not be exposed to noise levels that amount to more than 85 decibels for eight hours.

The organization put together a Noise Meter to help show how many decibels certain pieces of equipment put out.

For instance, a chainsaw has a sound intensity of 110 dB, and without proper personal protective equipment, running a chainsaw for two minutes can be dangerous to the human ear.

To help workers be more aware of hearing loss issues, NIOSH created a program called “Buy Quiet.”

The initiative is designed to encourage businesses to purchase quieter machinery.

“While Buy Quiet is simple in concept, the tools necessary to implement it have been lacking,” NIOSH says. “Noise level data for specific pieces of equipment or machinery have not been readily available for business owners and those purchasing equipment and machinery.

Some of the benefits of the program include:

  • Reducing the risk of hearing loss.
  • Reducing the long-term costs of audiometric testing, personal protective equipment and workers compensation. Conservative estimates provide $100 per dBA of savings when purchasing the quieter product. This savings is applicable across a wide variety of machinery and equipment.
  • Helping companies comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and other noise regulation requirements.
  • Reducing the impact of noise on the community.

Another tool to help provide information on hearing loss is OSHA’s pocket guide.

The pocket guide goes into detail talking about hearing loss, how it happens and how to prevent it.

According to NIOSH, noise-induced hearing loss can’t be reversed, but it is 100 percent preventable.

This article was written by Patty Vaughan, Online Managing Editor for Total Landscape Care.

New use of carbon fiber grid in precast concrete piles

ROUND PRECAST C GRID PILE

U.S. Patent 8,677,720, “Precast concrete pile with carbon fiber reinforced grid,” is a new technology promising to dramatically extend the service life of precast concrete bridge piles by dramatically improving their corrosion resistance through the use of carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) grid.

The technology is a composite support structure with a plurality of support strands surrounded by a CFRP mesh and encapsulated by structural concrete. The support structure provides high corrosive resistance in additional to various advantages in withstanding compressive, tensile and shear loading as compared to carbon steel spirals commonly used in piles today.

AltusGroup intends to market the technology as a CarbonCast product line extension into the pile market sector – its first major foray into the DOT and transportation segment. The CarbonCast brand name is already associated with CarbonCast Enclosure Systems for building exteriors and CarbonCast Double Tees for structured parking. All CarbonCast products use C-GRID CFRP grid from Chomarat NA, LLC, as a carbon fiber composite reinforcing material.

Tolling becoming the solution of choice for most Americans

Weston_Toll_PlazaEvery day it seems like more Americans are beginning to understand the importance of transportation funding. That was again evident when HTNB Corporation released details of its recent tolling survey.

According to the survey, 79 percent (more than 3 in 4) of Americans are in favor of a toll on a non-tolled surface transportation facility if it results in safer and congestion-free transportation. 83 percent of people surveyed said they would support tolling on existing highways. They would be increasingly motivated to use toll roads more if the funds would go toward improving the safety of interstates (52 percent), local roads, bridges and highways (51 percent) and the highway that’s being tolled itself (42 percent).

Others would approve tolls on existing facilities if the money went toward congestion-related improvements, including reducing bottlenecks on interstates in urban areas (45 percent) and adding capacity to improve a section of an interstate (39 percent).

Even tolling existing interstates, which traditionally have been free of tolls, is backed by more than 4 in 5 (78 percent) Americans if the funds collected would solely go toward improving that particular interstate.

Tolling is becoming the solution of choice.“Tolling is becoming the solution of choice for generating additional user-based transportation revenue,” said Jim Ely, HNTB chair toll services and senior vice president. “It’s a proven source of funding that’s being seriously considered for expanded use by cities, states and even the federal government with support from elected officials across the political spectrum.”

The survey also found many Americans would prefer electronic tolling on interstates via transponders (41 percent) versus video (30 percent) or mobile phone apps (22 percent).

Among drivers polled, 81 percent (4 in 5), said they’d be willing to pay a toll if it means getting to their destination quicker (60 percent) and with less traffic (54 percent).

Today’s toll lanes are safe, fast and efficient.“Today’s toll lanes are safe, fast and efficient,” Ely said. “Technological advancements make toll booths a thing of the past, with cars, buses and trucks moving at highway speeds under gantries armed with electronic devices and video cameras that can read transponder signals and license plates.”

With no long-term solution to the Highway Trust Fund in sight, it’s clear that Americans are starting to understand the importance of transportation funding. More tolls across the country is becoming more and more likely.

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