The Fast LaneRSS

The official blog of the Kansas Turnpike Authority

Last summer Alan Bakaitis took on the role of KTA's Chief Operations Officer. Since then he's been working with KTA leaders to consider improvements to the K-TAG program. Here he writes about these recent changes designed to improve our customers' travel experience.

Since early last fall the Kansas Turnpike has been on a quest to learn more about our customers' travel experience and what they, and the general public, expect from our roadway. It's our desire to make your travel experience even better.

With that end in mind, we conducted electronic surveys and commissioned many telephone surveys and a few focus groups. We learned a lot and now we're making some exciting changes.

The biggest change is that K-TAG stickers are now FREE! This means you can have one for every vehicle you own and not have to mess with moving a hard case tag between vehicles. We believe this change will be appealing to infrequent customers. They will be able to receive discounted tolls without the expense of the actual K-TAG.

Free K-TAGs can be obtained online at www.myktag.com and at select retail locations. (Right now they are not available at our toll booths. That will happen later this summer when additional computer programming changes are complete.)

We've also changed these aspects of our K-TAG program:

  • Passenger vehicles (class 2-4) now save exactly 15% on every toll. Larger, commercial vehicles (class 5+) save exactly 5% on every toll. (We use to offer an 'average' savings and now the savings is exact.)
  • No fees (monthly, annual) are associated with the K-TAG payment options.
  • The application process, including applying through our website, has been simplified.
  • At select toll plazas, we're leaving the K-TAG gate arms up (opened) during busier times to help ease congestion.

Another change, which we announced earlier this spring, was our new partnership with the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority. We are currently hard at work on programming changes and other technical aspects. By the end of 2014, you'll be able to use your K-TAG on any of the 10 turnpikes in Oklahoma and their PikePass will work here.

These changes are all part of the Authority's overall effort to provide a simplified and positive customer experience to motorists choosing to travel on the Kansas Turnpike. We hope you're as excited as we are about them and about the future of transportation here in Kansas.

Each day Kansas Highway Patrol troopers and other law enforcement officers suit up to serve and protect the citizens of Kansas. It’s a risky job being on the road. Statistics continue to show that more law enforcement officers get hurt from traffic than any other thing. This is why we are asking drivers to ‘Make the Move’ to another lane when they see flashing lights on the side of the road.

Here on the Kansas Turnpike, with the 51 troopers assigned to Troop G, we’ve had three such incidents in the past two years.

In late March a KTA Trooper’s patrol car was struck from behind while he sat inside completing paper work on a commercial vehicle inspection. The impact slammed his car into the tractor/trailer he was inspecting, causing the patrol car to spin 180 degrees. While the trooper did sustain serious injuries, he is very fortunate to have fared as well as he did considering the severe damage to the vehicle.

Another KTA incident involved Master Trooper Lane Larimer. He was doing traffic control for an accident where a semi had gone off the road when an impatient driver moved back into the lane closest to the accident and hit him from behind.

“We’re trained for these types of situations, but in the moment you feel somewhat helpless,” said Trooper Larimer. “I was an accident victim and yet still a trooper wanting to look out for the safety of others.”

The law in Kansas requires drivers to approach stopped emergency vehicles, tow trucks, and temporary work zones with caution when they see flashing lights, and to move away from the vehicle and/or work zone if it’s safe to do so. If you can’t change lanes safely, or you’re on a two-lane highway, you should always slow down.

With the number of road side incidents involving emergency responders and maintenance workers, it seems like many drivers are not aware a ‘move over’ law exists even though it’s been in effect for 14 years and is a law in all 50 states. In Kansas, violation of the law can result in fines in excess of $180 on top of court costs.

While the law and its penalty can be a deterrent, it’s not enough to make our roads safer for those working on them each day. When just one driver slows down and changes lanes, others follow. This is why we’re asking for the public’s help to educate and inform drivers to ‘make the move’ to another lane.  

 “If drivers would just take a second to slow down and to manage the distractions in their vehicles, we’d all be a lot safer,” Trooper Larimer said.

Now the decision is up to you.  What will you do the next time you see those flashing lights? We hope you’ll ‘Make the Move’.

Jake Jackson, KTA Equipment Foreman, shares a personal story about work zone safety and asks the traveling public to be involved in a partnership to keep everyone safe in work zones.

I’ll never forget that day last spring. My crew and I were applying high friction surface coating to a bridge near El Dorado on the Turnpike. It was a pretty normal day and project.  We’d set up the work zone shutting down the right-hand lane of Northbound traffic. Things were going well and we were at the half-way point of the bridge.

The next thing we knew a car rear-ended another car, careened out of the left-bound lane and entered our work zone. The crew and I fled the area and the car stopped just feet from where we’d been working. We were okay just terribly shaken up.  (On bridges, there’s just nowhere to go!)

It would have been nice to catch our breath, but the reality is we couldn’t. Traffic was now blocked in both lanes. We had to quickly take action as traffic would be backing up, greatly increasing the likelihood of yet another accident.

We notified dispatch and called for a tow truck. Because traffic backed-up behind the accident, these emergency helpers had to drive against traffic to get to us. We had patrol, not assigned to the Turnpike, assist as well. It was a mess to say the least. Traffic was backed up about 2 ½ miles in just the 10 minutes it took to clear a lane and get things moving again.

So what do I want you to learn from this story? It’s that work zone safety is a partnership. We’ll set up work zones, but we need you – the traveling public – to work hard at keeping yourself safe. If you do this, you’ll keep us safe, too.

Here’s what we do to make work zones safe:

  1. Activate the digital message signs along the turnpike.
  2. Close lanes for work, measuring and marking well in advance of the actual work zone.
  3. Set up width restrictions so wide loads are diverted and not allowed to travel in the work area.
  4. Wear reflective clothing.
  5. Keep the number of workers to a minimum.

Here are some things we’d like you to remember when near or in a work zone:

  1. Be prepared for merging or changing lanes
  2. Watch for flaggers
  3. Go slow; be prepared to stop
  4. Maintain a safe following distance
  5. Avoid distracted driving

As far as my crew and I, we’re back at it – just extra cautious. We hope this spring and summer will be work-zone accident free and that you’ll be joining us to keep work zones safe for everyone.

Mike King, Transportation Secretary and Director of the Kansas Turnpike, shares his thoughts on KTA’s recent decision pertaining to interoperability with Oklahoma.

Change is constant. It spurs growth and innovation. Personally, I like change. I like it even better when it’s tied to good customer service and economic development.  

Gov. Sam Brownback and I agree this move is not only good for travelers, it’s also good for business. It’s a fine example of bringing good business ideas to life and something he wanted to see through the formalized partnership between KDOT and KTA. This is why I’m very pleased we recently decided to embark on interoperability with Oklahoma.

Interoperability is something the Kansas Turnpike has considered for about two decades. Recently though, our customers having been telling us, through various surveys and focus groups, they want to use one ‘tag’ for electronic toll collection rather than multiple devices. In essence, they want us to be ‘interoperable’ with other states. Based upon this feedback, we decided it was time to give interoperability a fresh look.

Since Oklahoma is a bordering state, and we have a good working relationship with the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority, we started there. For the past several months key leaders from both Kansas and Oklahoma have discussed logistical details of this new business partnership. We concluded the time is right to add this service to our electronic toll collection program and the board endorsed the plan.

In the coming months we will be working with Oklahoma on a few final details. We need to ensure the system works as planned so our customers are satisfied with the change. If everything goes as expected we’ll be interoperable by the end of the year.

Interoperability is just one of many ideas we are working on to improve our customers’ travel experience. This change alone removes the need for two electronic devices, decreases the need for cash, eases congestion, speeds up travel and perhaps will spur economic growth. Ultimately, it will be simpler for travelers to go between the two states. And that, is a good thing!

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KTA Fact

The original 1954 bond issue has been paid off and new bonds have been issued for financing safety improvements, major reconstruction projects and upgrading.

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