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Work Zone Design Saves Lives

New Guiding Principle on Work Zone Design is Designed to Save Lives

“The best work zone design and management plan will maintain safety and mobility, a balance that shall be analyzed continuously throughout the lifecycle of the facility.”

The goal: Zero fatalities and injuries in work zones.That sentence is one of the key statements in an important guiding principle on work zone safety that defines a balanced approach to writing management plans and traffic control plans in highway construction work zones—an approach that’s meant to save lives. The Associated General Contractors and a task force of partners including ODOT, the Oregon Trucking Associations, AAA Oregon/Idaho, and the Oregon State Police recently finalized the guiding principle; state agencies are now putting it into action.

Maintenance and construction work on Oregon’s highways has to continue; work zone crashes, injuries and deaths don’t.

The strategy: Whener practical, workers should be separated from traffic.According to ODOT, on average, a work zone crash happens every 19 hours in Oregon. A fatal or serious injury work zone crash happens every two weeks. And about seven people die in work zone crashes each year in Oregon.

“We believe this new approach, putting into strong words our overall goal and spelling out a specific strategy to achieve the goal, will save lives,” said Bob Pappé, ODOT State traffic/roadway engineer. “And that always has to come first.”

To accomplish the goal, project teams must consider the full range of options to protect workers in work zones, including complete separation of traffic lanes from construction work areas; speed reductions; the presence of law enforcement; enhanced traffic control devices such as “Your speed is” indicators mounted on moving road equipment and photo radar; and new approaches to work zone design such as even slower travel speeds through active work zones. The strategy acknowledges there’s no single solution appropriate in all cases, but it also calls out one particular tactic: Whenever practical, workers should be separated from traffic.

“You can’t get home unless you’re safe,” said ODOT Director Mat Garrett. “We’re taking important steps to design work zones so that everybody gets home.”

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