April 28, 2021

Work Zone Awareness Week – Driving Safe to Save Lives

By Mahmood Shehata

This week we recognize National Work Zone Awareness Week, the annual spring campaign held at the start of construction season that encourages safe driving through highway work zones. The key message of the event is for drivers to use extra caution in work zones, which is reflected in this year’s campaign theme: “Drive safe. Work safe. Save lives.”

Work zone safety is important to me because everyone deserves to make it home safely every day.

Being in the engineering/construction industry, work zone safety is near and dear to my heart. Many of my coworkers are out in highway work zones every day, and most of us have performed some portion of our duties within a highway work zone. Work zone safety is important to me because everyone deserves to make it home safely every day.

Pennsylvania Turnpike Lost Worker Memorial

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Lost Worker Memorial, which honors the men and women who have lost their lives while working on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Throughout my career, I have had the privilege of working on multiple work zone traffic control projects. I was lead author of a work zone Transportation Management Plan for a complicated interstate reconstruction and configuration project. Undertaking that effort helped the client, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) District 12-0, balance mobility and safety throughout work zones. I’ve also developed more complicated work zone traffic control plans, such as the SR 222/Schantz Road corridor in PennDOT District 5-0, outside of Allentown, PA.

At RK&K, our team consistently and efficiently employs technology to make work zones safer.

At RK&K, our team consistently and efficiently employs technology to make work zones safer. On the Pennsylvania Turnpike/I-95 interchange project, we helped procure and deploy a Smart Work Zone system, providing technology for better monitoring of traffic in work zones and helping avoid mobility challenges that could result in safety concerns.

We are currently supporting PennDOT with refining its work zone speed limit policy to ultimately reduce crashes in work zones. We are using work zone performance data to clearly define if and when highway traffic adjacent to a work zone should have a reduced speed limit.

RK&K is also working on a statewide Automated Work Zone Speed Enforcement (AWZSE) program in Pennsylvania. AWZSE is a five-year pilot program designed to make work zones throughout the Commonwealth safer for both workers and drivers. Since the passage of Act 86 in October 2018, PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) have developed a joint AWZSE program. Program field operations began in November 2019 with formal violations beginning in March 2020.

Pennsylvania Automated Work Zone Mobile Unit

A mobile speed-detection unit in a Pennsylvania work zone.

AWZSE includes deploying a vehicle-based mobile unit to an active work zone, detecting passing vehicles traveling 11 miles per hour or more over the posted speed limit. When a vehicle exceeds that threshold, the system captures images of the front and rear license plates, and violations are mailed to the registered owner of the violating vehicle. AWZSE deployments can take place in active work zones on any federally aided PennDOT-owned roadway or any PTC-owned roadway.

After being fully operational for more than a year, the AWZSE program has already provided tangible benefits in Pennsylvania work zones, which include:

  • Reducing speeding by 17%
  • Reducing excessive speeding (vehicles exceeding the speed limit by > 11 MPH) by 44%
  • Zero crashes in work zones while AWZSE has been deployed

I’m proud to have had a part in several efforts to increase safety in highway work zones, and I encourage others to do their part. Drive safe. Work safe. Your efforts can save lives. If everyone slows down, we all win!

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