With road construction projects already underway around the state, the Utah Department of Transportation and Utah Highway Patrol took time Tuesday morning to remind motorists to use caution while driving through work zones.
There were 2,400 traffic accidents in work zones throughout the state last year, according to UDOT. Those accidents occurred for many of the same reasons that cause a majority of accidents around the country, including driving under the influence and drowsy, distracted and aggressive driving, said UDOT Executive Director Carlos Braceras.
“Driving is a serious business.” Braceras said. “When you’re behind the wheel of a car, that’s where you should spend 100 percent of your attention.”
Both Braceras and UHP Col. Michael Rapich said drivers need to slow down, be aware of their surroundings and look for construction workers, UHP troopers and signage directing them where to go. Braceras said there are more than 10,000 people working on construction projects around the state this year.
“If you drive through a work zone one day, you could go back the next day and it could be in a completely different configuration,” he said. “So pay attention to signs, pay attention to the people that are out there helping you get through safely.”
While motorists should slow down to ensure work zones are safe, Rapich said there will be extra traffic control and speed enforcement at construction zones around the state. Last year, UHP issued about 1,500 citations in work zones.
“This year, we hope we don’t issue any, because people see the construction zones, they slow down and they realize what they need to do,” Rapich said. “… It’s going to be a short amount of time and traffic is probably going to be slowing down anyway.”
Rapich said drivers need to be careful in freeway construction sites, especially in areas with higher speed limits to ensure they’re not traveling too quickly. There will be signs in advance of construction zones to alert drivers and give them the opportunity to slow down as they approach work zones.
“Construction zones are definitely not designed for 80 mph traffic,” Rapich said.
The Exit 99 interchange bridge and two bridges over the Union Pacific railroad tracks on Interstate 80 near Black Rock will be replaced this year, according to UDOT. The $30 million project to replace the bridges is in environmental review and design, with construction slated to start mid-summer and continue into fall.
In addition to the bridge project, UDOT will repave I-80 between mileposts 30 and 40 near the Knolls interchange as part of planned maintenance on the interstate, according to UDOT. Crews will also install cable median barriers along I-80 between mileposts 18 and 33 near the Tree of Life sculpture.
UDOT will also repave 15 miles of state Route 36, from the junction with state Route 73 to a mile north of the Pony Express Trail. All told, UDOT has 188 highway construction projects scheduled across the state, with a total value of $1.46 billion.
With a busy construction season underway, Rapich reminded drivers to be alert to the unique hazards found in work zones to ensure safety for motorists, construction workers and troopers.
“Be a partner with us,” Rapich said. “Help us keep the work zones safe.”