By Rex E. Flinn
KDOT work zone set-ups have become safer through the years with the advent of the high intensity sheeting on signs, the use of cones to separate the traffic from the work zone and crash attenuators to protect the work area. This being said, it is still the responsibility of both the traveling public and the highway workers to be aware of what is happening around them.
The traveling public needs to realize with the coming of spring, the road work signs and workers will become more prominent on the highways. This is also the season for travel and farm work to become more noticeable. We as state highway workers try our best to not disrupt travel schedules by keeping delays to a minimum. We have all heard before how we don’t do any work on this road until harvest time. This is where they need to realize that their busy time also coincides with the best time for us and contractors to be working. Nobody can get much done when the weather doesn’t cooperate.
I remember two close calls I have had while flagging in work zones. The first happened on a clear morning while an overlay on the road was in progress. While flagging, I had a semi-truck and trailer approach blowing their air horn and not appearing to slow down. Fortunately, I had no other traffic held at the time as I stepped out of the lane of traffic. The truck blew by my stop sign and another quarter-mile down the road through the tack oil we had on the road preparing for overlay. The truck at this time turned out of the oil and proceeded to the other end where he stopped at the flagman and told him the reason he didn’t stop was because he didn’t have any brakes. Don’t you think this would be something to check before they were needed?
The second was again while flagging on an overlay project. I had two vehicles stopped when I saw another vehicle approaching at a high rate of speed. I began waving my stop/slow paddle over my head in an attempt to gain their attention. As they kept coming, I was trying to figure out which was going to be the safest escape route when they suddenly swerved around the traffic I had stopped. The car (I still remember it was from Ohio) turned a complete circle in the road as it went by where I was standing, coming to a stop facing me. As they drove back by me, the comment that was made was they must have been sleeping because they hadn’t seen any signs or the traffic that was stopped until they noticed the wildly waving of the sign.
The next time you are approaching a work zone, be thinking – what can I do to make this a safe working environment for the workers because we are out there to make the highway a safer place for you.
As we begin a new season, let’s all strive to make it a safe and enjoyable one for all. This can sometimes be accomplished with a smile and a friendly greeting. Come to work with a positive outlook and you will be surprised how many nice people you may meet.
Here’s wishing everyone a safe and productive construction and maintenance season.

Rex E. Flinn is the KDOT Area Superintendent at Mankato

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