The Fast LaneRSS

The official blog of the Kansas Turnpike Authority

Dale Sparr, KTA Highway Shop Superintendent, has some tips to get your vehicle ready for the upcoming storm season.

The weather is beginning to warm up, and the spring “storm” season is right around the corner. As we transition away from winter to this new climate, there are some things we need to do to make sure our vehicle is ready.

Check and replace windshield wipers. Your windshield wipers are your biggest allies in driving in stormy weather. Damaged wipers won’t effectively keep your windshield clear. The winter weather puts a beating on wipers due to ice and freezing temperatures, so check yours for cracks and tears.

Check your headlights. It is Kansas law that when you are using your windshield wipers, your headlights should be on. Other drivers will need to see you, so make sure both of your headlights are in proper, working condition.

Check your tires. The temperatures from the winter season lower tire pressure. Also, make sure your tread is still in good condition. Proper tire tread gives a better grip, giving you a better chance against hydroplaning and skidding. Test your tread by using a penny—if Lincoln’s head is covered by the tread, the depth is considered acceptable.

Maintain your vehicle. Regular maintenance (approximately every 5,000 miles) is your best defense against becoming stranded alongside the road. Get your fluids, oil, filters, and belts checked regularly – especially before a longer trip.

Make/replenish an emergency kit. Hopefully, you have one already in your vehicle from the winter season. If not, it’s time to make one. Flashlights, batteries, high protein snacks, and extra phone chargers are just some of the things that should be in your kit in case you are stuck along the road.

Driving in inclement weather is more than just the act itself; it requires preparation. These simple tips can help keep you safe and do not take much work. Look for next month’s Turnpike Times for severe weather driving tips.

Scott Thompson, KTA Assistant Foreman, shares his scary, personal story about a work zone incident last October.

It was October 28, 2014. I remember it was around lunchtime and it was a nice, bright sunny day. We were working on patching a part of the road at mile marker 204 and the road was down to one lane on the outside. To keep safe, we had a crash barrier with an arrow board on the back of a truck to signal to drivers we were around.

The wind was breezy that day, so I let a car pass by—I didn’t want it to get asphalt on it. Then I stepped out on the divider line. I saw another car coming, and I believed I was making eye contact with the driver. The next thing I knew, that car swerved over and hit the cone just in front of our barrier truck. I yelled, “Look out!” and rushed two steps back. The car went down into that hole where I was standing! The driver came out of the hole and just barely missed our other truck. She took out more cones while she fled the scene.

Fortunately, we were able to call it in to troopers who caught up with the driver later down the road, thanks to the good description a fellow co-worker got of the vehicle and the driver. We later learned that she admitted to the trooper she fell asleep at the wheel.

If I hadn’t seen that vehicle, it’s likely I wouldn’t have gotten out of the way in time. My co-worker who was on a truck would have most likely been hit as well. I guess it just wasn’t my day to die, and I’m grateful for that!

If you’re driving through a work zone, remember to slow down and pay attention. Move over for workers. When you see those arrow boards telling you to move over, do so immediately, not later. Workers put their lives at risk making the roads better for you.

 The Mailbag

I received an email from E-ZPass saying I owe tolls. I haven’t driven on the Turnpike recently, so I don’t know why I am receiving this email.

This email is part of an email scam, disguised as an E-ZPass request for payment of unpaid tolls. It has been making its way around for multiple months. This email attempts to steal personal information. K-TAG accounts are not part of the E-ZPass toll collection system. We advise you to not open or respond to it. The safest thing to do is to delete the email.

 

Since there is no toll collector at some of your booths, what happens if I need help paying my toll with your automated machine?

Though some toll plazas are fully automated, or automated during certain nighttime hours, they are consistently monitored. On the machine, there is a button customers may press if they are in need of any help. Cameras at the plazas allow us to assist customers with any issues they may have. The picture to the left shows where this button is located in case you are in need of assistance at an automated plaza.

 

I have a friend who told me that construction zone speeds are only when the workers are out. Is this true?

No, speed limits that are reduced in work zones are enforced continuously, despite the activity of the workers. Remember—fines are double for speeding in a work zone.

David Jacobson, KTA Director of Engineering gives insight about the preparation it takes for the construction season.

 

In the next couple of months, the weather will warm up, pushing out the salt and brine season and bringing in a new one: construction season. The process to prepare for this time of the year is ongoing. For our large projects, it can even take years. Our smaller projects take less time, but still require planning and hard work.

The two main types of construction we perform on the Turnpike are maintenance and reconstruction of the roads and bridges. Moisture is the biggest enemy to both, so we continually work to maintain and seal our roadways and bridges. Upkeep is crucial—it preserves the roads and bridges for a longer time period.

When determining what roads and bridges need work, we use pavement condition surveys and bridge inspection reports. The pavement surveys include information on cracking, rutting, and smoothness data. Bridge reports include condition ratings for the different bridge components (concrete deck, substructure, and structural steel).  Also, since the KTA is only 236 miles compared to the thousands of miles of state roads, our maintenance crews and engineering staff are able to keep a continual eye out on which areas will need attention.

In preparing for construction season, we have to solicit bids from contractors. We must gather details and specifications for the project, which includes survey information, right-of-way needs, and any possible utility conflicts. All the information is bundled together into contract documents for the contractors to review and bid on. Since more bids are better than just a few, we advertise projects to solicit interest from contractors. Interested contractors submit their bid packet on the letting day, then it is decided which contractor will get the job.

The construction preparation process is extensive and time consuming, but ultimately necessary. Though driving through a construction zone can be inconvenient, the benefits of better roads and bridges make it all worth it in the end.

* Watch for next month’s article on what you can do to make work zones safer for travelers and workers!

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KTA Fact

SPEED LIMIT CHANGES
1956 - 1957
Reasonable and Prudent

1957 - 1970
80 mph Maximum
40 mph Minimum

1970 - 1974
75 mph Maximum - Day
70 mph Maximum - Night
40 mph Minimum

1974 - 1987
55 mph Maximum

May 1987
65 mph on rural interstates
55 mph through town of 50,000 or more and from Emporia to Topeka

October 1987
Emporia to Topeka re-classified as I-335 and now 65 mph

1993
65 mph around Wichita & Topeka

1996
70 mph from Oklahoma line to I-70/435. 65 mph from I-70 to 18th St.

1997
Entire Turnpike changed to 70 mph

2011
Turnpike from K-7 near Bonner Springs south to Oklahoma border changed to 75 mph

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