By Janet Ewing, FHWA Office of Safety
Due in no small part to the attention work zone safety has received over the last decade, work zone fatalities and injuries have fallen.
National Work Zone Awareness Week kick off event was held April 7 at the Humpback Bridge Replacement Project on the George Washington Parkway near Washington, D.C. – one of America’s most congested commuter corridors. During the event, Associate Administrator Joe Toole of the Office of Safety spoke to a crowd of nearly 100, including several television stations and newspaper reporters.
Nearby, Jose Quiñones – FHWA’s project engineer for the Humpback Bridge Replacement – was interviewed about the project and the need for work zone safety by Univision, one of the world’s largest Spanish-language broadcast networks. Now in his 15th year with the agency, Quiñones – a Project Engineer for FHWA’s Eastern Federal Lands Highway Division – earned his bachelor of science degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus, in 1992. In Spanish – the most widely spoken language in North and South America – Quinones spoke about the need to be alert when traveling through highway work zones because the lives of drivers and workers depend on it.
The annual observance, now in its tenth year, encourages safe driving through roadway repair and construction sites. It is observed nationally the first week of April, which coincides with the start of most highway construction season. As a result of $27 billion in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act fueling thousands of highway projects nationwide, more work zones this summer may increase the risks drivers face.
Due in no small part to the attention work zone safety has received over the last decade, work zone fatalities and injuries have fallen. The 17-percent drop in 2007, compared to the previous year, represents the sharpest single-year percentage decline since the week’s inception. This continues a multi-year trend of increasingly safe roads. There were 835 fatalities in 2007, a decrease from 1,004 fatalities in 2006.
The reasons for replacing the Humpback Bridge are many. More than 75,000 vehicles cross the bridge every day, far more than it was designed to carry when it was built in 1932. For this reason, the bridge is being replaced to meet current traffic demands. Insufficient sight distances over the bridge have resulted in frequent accidents caused by sudden braking of vehicles. Approximately 20 percent involve personal injury. Users of the Mount Vernon Trail wishing to cross the bridge are confined to a narrow sidewalk with speeding traffic on one side and the bridge wall on the other. This has created high safety risks for motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Pedestrians and bicyclists crossing the Parkway at the Columbia Island Marina entrance must do so in the face of oncoming vehicle traffic traveling at a high rate of speed in both directions.
The project will improve safety for motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians and improve traffic flow. It will replace the historic Humpback Bridge, using similar materials and configuration of the existing bridge, to feature wider traffic lanes, a new acceleration lane for northbound traffic from the I-395 on-ramp and a separate wider lane for users of the Mount Vernon Trail. The project will provide a barrier along the Humpback Bridge to separate users of the Mount Vernon Trail from traffic.
For more information on National Work Zone Awareness Week:
For more information on the Humpback Bridge Replacement Project: http://www.efl.fhwa.dot.gov/projects/traffic-humpback-bridge.aspx.
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