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2013-05-30

TxDOT debuts new work zone warning system

Contributed

With more roadway construction underway than ever in the Lone Star State, the Texas Department of Transportation is introducing a first-in-Texas highway safety feature that incorporates an End-of-Queue Warning System and temporary rumble strips to reduce work-zone collisions. Last year, nearly 17,000 statewide work-zone crashes resulted in 132 fatalities and many more injuries. To date this year there have been 4,713 work-zone crashes, resulting in 24 fatalities.
Making its debut along a Central Texas stretch of I-35, the End-of-Queue Warning System uses sensors to measure the speeds of approaching vehicles and then warns drivers through portable, electronic signs about upcoming traffic backups due to nighttime lane closures in work zones. The rumble strips are spaced between sensors to send mild vibrations through oncoming vehicles to get the attention of distracted or drowsy drivers. Spanning McLennan, Bell, Falls and Hill counties, this first-in-Texas combination is deployed as needed through construction zones and is designed to improve safety in one of the most heavily traveled corridors in the country. Each day, between 55,000 and 115,000 vehicles travel this I-35 corridor, 25 to 35 percent of which are trucks.
"We're proud to unveil this innovative, new safety technology and are hopeful we can expand the system in other areas of the state," said Phil Wilson, TxDOT executive director. "This technology represents the future of roadway safety as it uses a comprehensive approach to warn drivers of traffic backups, thereby decreasing the likelihood they will enter a work zone at an unsafe speed. Any technology that has the potential to simultaneously protect motorists and roadside maintenance workers is well worth pursuing."
The advance warning system is being implemented as part of the 96-mile, Central Texas I-35 expansion project that will widen the highway from four to six lanes (eight lanes in Temple and Waco) and change two-way frontage roads into one-way lanes. The projects under construction are scheduled for completion in 2017.