TEMPLE — The Texas Department of Transportation takes measures to avoid creating hazardous driving situations.
The Texas Department of Transportation lowers the speed limit on overnight main lane closures to 60 mph, said Jodi Wheatley, Interstate 35 specialist for TxDOT.
The speed limit also decreases to 60 mph in places where concrete barriers are on both sides of the lanes and the shoulder is reduced to less than 10 feet wide for a mile or more.
“The lanes themselves are exactly the same size they always were. They just look narrower because you now have the barrier in your field of vision,” Wheatley said.
When possible, extra room is allowed between the lanes and the walls, Wheatley said.
“The fact that the highway is being expanded means that sometimes we are going to be working really close to traffic, and in Temple, you’ll probably see a lot of that since the new lanes are being constructed in such a highly built-up area. That requires the use of barriers that can do the job of controlling the vehicles in the event of a crash.”
Barrier walls have two purposes: to keep traffic in a limited area so construction workers are protected from traffic coming off main lanes into work zones and to stop drivers from leaving the road and crashing into machines or a concrete culvert in a construction area — and to keep them from going into the opposite lanes of travel into incoming traffic.
“They are designed to cause a vehicle to come back into the lane it tried to leave, helping to prevent rollovers when a vehicle would otherwise have hit the median or slope and tipped,” Wheatley said.
John Habermann, a spokesman for the A&M Transportation Institute, which consults with TxDOT on construction and does research on crashes and traffic flow, said many times the construction work creates drop-offs varying from a few inches to several feet, and the barriers are needed to keep travelers from going off the edge of the road.
Currently there are 200 lane miles of I-35 under construction in the Waco District, and only 11 percent — or 22 miles — of that are lined with concrete barriers.
New speed limit signs with red borders and additional speed display signs alert the drivers to the 60 mph speed limit in the barrier areas.
TxDOT knows about the ponding problem on southbound I-35 south of Salado, Habermann said, adding there are plans to fix that section once the weather stabilizes and warms up. At that time, a work schedule will be publicized.
More speed limit signs are being added where the speed limit is reduced to 60 mph and signs will be put on both sides of the highway at each location in case a driver can’t see the sign because it’s blocked by an 18-wheeler in the lane next to their vehicle, Wheatley said.
One of the new additions for overnight lane closures will be the end-of-queue warning system. The system will have portable rumble strips to get a driver’s attention followed by a lighted sign informing motorists about the road condition ahead.
Two radar speed trailers will show drivers what their current speed is compared to the actual speed limit, Wheatley said.
Habermann said TxDOT increased the bridge height signs for large trucks, too.
Sometime this year, TxDOT will be part of a pilot program that will test variable speed limits to see if that gets a driver’s attention earlier and better and works to slow traffic.
“We are confident more ideas will rise as brainstorming and research continue,” Habermann said.