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Scotty’s Contracting Completes Roundabout

Bowling Green, KY – Mayor Bruce Wilkerson put a black helmet on his head this morning at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Bowling Green’s new roundabout.

“I’m ready,” he said, after donning what could be construed as a crash helmet, apparently an inside joke. “Let’s cut this ribbon.”

The roundabout – at the intersection of U.S. 31-W/Nashville Road, University Boulevard and Loving Way – is open for traffic.

The one-way circular intersection is the state’s first modern multi-lane roundabout, said Greg Meredith, chief district engineer at the Department of Highways in Bowling Green. It has two lanes.

Total cost of the project is about $9.8 million, with about $3.9 million for construction, about $2 million for utilities, about $3 million for right-of-way acquisition and about $977,000 for design.

The roundabout was completed in about 38 months from design to opening, said Wes Watt, public information officer for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet District 3, on Wednesday. Construction began May 4 by Scotty’s Contracting & Stone, LLC.

“The crews have worked long hours and, you know, weekends and everything to make sure that this got done before (Western Kentucky University) went back to school, and we had such a tight window because we couldn’t start until WKU was out of school,” Watt said. “That was definitely the best time to construct this thing.”

Good weather helped move the project forward swiftly, he said.

Wilkerson said he has been one of the biggest skeptics of the roundabout throughout the process.

“This is a magnificent construction project,” Wilkerson said. “I’m anxious to see how it works.”

Others speaking at the ribbon cutting ceremony had more positive comments about the roundabout.

Modern roundabouts are designed to regulate speeds of drivers, Meredith said, and the goal was to create a modern-day model of a safer intersection.

“I’m proud that we as a cabinet, we as community and we as a university choose to lead,” Meredith said.

State Rep. Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, said the roundabout has greatly improved the attractiveness of the intersection.

The idea for the roundabout came out of a series of neighborhood meetings about city streets where it became clear that a fix was needed for the intersection.

“The configuration that was here was not suitable, and this is much more functional,” he said.

Many people are underestimating the experience of drivers in Kentucky using roundabouts, Richards said. Drivers throughout the south are accustomed to using roundabouts around county courthouses.

“If motorists will follow my three rules, it’ll be fine,” he said. “Follow the signs, slow down, but keep moving.”

Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon said that the intersection has been a major bottleneck causing traffic congestion for many years.

“Regardless of how many jobs are created in an area and regardless of how many people are employed, if they can’t get to work safe and on time, it’s almost futile,” he said.

The roundabout will help keep traffic moving safely and continuously, Buchanon said.

“I think this is going to be an extraordinary advantage to the people of Warren County and Bowling Green,” he said. “It’s going to help them commute safely, it’s going to help them get home to their families more safely.”

Bryan Russell, chief facilities officer at WKU, said that he was impressed with the efficiency with which the project was completed.

About 17,000 students will be coming to WKU’s campus when classes start in late August and WKU workers try to get major projects done by Aug. 15, he said.

“This project was completed ahead of schedule and it’s absolutely tremendous,” Russell said.

The opening of the roundabout has been highly awaited, with one person opening a Twitter account in the project’s name. This morning a tweet from the account exclaimed: “Sooooo excited. Can’t wait to see everyone today.”


10 Hot-Weather Safety Tips for Construction

construction_11587231 copyKeeping a crew safe on a jobsite presents unique challenges when the mercury creeps above 90 degrees. Heat stress is increasingly being recognized for contributing to the rapid onset of fatigue, distraction, inattention to details and other deficiencies.

Rule No. 1 is to maintain proper hydration. This sounds logical, but there are practical challenges.

Here are some bedrock tips to share at your summer safety meeting.

  1. Hydrate. Water is arguably the best hydrating beverage, but it’s tasteless and boring. Enter the electrolytic beverages: Gatorade, Squincher, etc. Even a slice of lemon will add some taste to a cooler. These additives make plain old water more drinkable, and they also supply electrolytes to the body – sort of like what a low dose of battery acid does to a wet cell battery. The body loves it. In the old days, salt tablets were distributed, although this practice has been proven outdated. We typically eat enough junk food to replace salt lost through perspiration.
  2. Avoid designer beverages (Red Bull etc.) because they offer minimal hydration. And avoid carbonated sodas and sugary concoctions. Iced tea is on the borderline, and anything with caffeine is a diuretic and should be avoided. Lemonade, and most citrus beverages are fine, but it’s a good idea to cut them with 50% water. Try also to cut down on cigarettes. In high heat they make it harder to respirate oxygen to where it needs to go.
  3. Select your lunch carefully. Junk food is high in fat and preservative, and it’s going to put a high caloric load on your digestive system. In high heat, that will stress the body. Try eating a bigger breakfast, so you’re not ravenous at lunch, and light lunches, such as fruit and vegetable salads (skip the fries).
  4. Pay attention to Circadian Rhythms. The body’s internal clock that governs our sleep-wake cycle programs most humans for the day shift. But a blip on the chart called the “Post Lunch Dip” puts most humans in the mood to nap after lunch. Siesta cultures acknowledge the drop in productivity and safety every day, when the whole country basically shuts down for a nap during the hottest hours. Eating a light lunch can help minimize the afternoon slump. Conversely, bulking up at lunch can make it more pronounced. If you’re running a motor grader or a working around a paving machine, we need alertness.
  5. Schedule for cooler work. In extreme heat (ninety degrees and above), consider rescheduling to work in cooler parts of the day. Can this job be done at night, or can you modify a shift for earlier morning starts? Supervisors should watch more closely for indicators of fatigue and call for breaks more frequently. Going in and out of air conditioned spaces can be tricky. Change out of soaked shirts when in the AC.
  6. Bring shade. Whenever possible, configure work in shaded areas, and use canopies or umbrellas to avoid direct sun exposures, even if only for intermittent protection. Some shade is better than none. Provide heavy duty sun-block for crew members with sensitive skin. Switch to wide-brim hard hats. MSA actually makes a lightweight visor for their wide brim hats that offers a lot of protection. Full sleeves, nape protectors, vented hard hats and cooling vests and bandanas are also on the market. Try a variety of clothing and devices and provide whatever the crew seems to like. Talk with your safety hardware vendor.
  7. Check with your uniform supplier. Shirts should be lighter color to reflect sun, and fabric should contain as much cotton as possible. Typical uniform shirts are mostly polyester, because they don’t wear out as quickly, but they don’t breathe as well. Look for new garments with engineered fabrics that actually provide a cooling effect when they absorb sweat. They are mostly found in high-end recreational and outdoor apparel stores and can be a little pricey, but they might be worth trying out with your Safety Committee. As a rule, bare-back, tank tops and other forms of designer fashion wear are not effective and should not be permitted. Sun protection is not a beauty contest.
  8. Keep an eye on one another, and be alert for signs of heat exhaustion. They need to know that strange behavior may be a sign of heat-related illness and to take some early steps to intervene. Early symptoms include lethargy, disorientation, stumbling, dropping tools, slurred speech or unresponsiveness. You can’t have this happen around moving machinery, so it’s serious stuff to manage.
  9. Basic first aid for heat exposure includes having the person lie down in the shade or a cooler area with feet elevated above the heart. This allows blood to flow to the brain more easily and decreases cardio loading. Remove work boots. Get some fans going to lower body temperature and provide evaporative cooling. In case of unconsciousness, call 911.
  10. The usual progression of heat illness is heat exhaustion to heat cramps followed by heat stroke. Heat stroke can be deadly for some folks, such as people who are already dehydrated. It’s also avoidable if we manage the hot weather as well as the rest of our jobs.


U.S. Congress Passes $10.8B Highway Funding Bill

ATS ConstructionThe United States Congress has passed a $10.8B Highway funding bill to prevent a 28 percent cut in federal highway and mass transit aid at the height of the summer construction season.

The Senate voted Thursday night for a House-passed measure to augment the federal Highway Trust Fund with in infusion of $10.8 billion from the general Treasury — enough to keep the fund solvent through May. The Transportation Department set Friday as the date the fund would no longer be able to provide all the aid promised from incoming gasoline and diesel fuel taxes.

The two houses played legislative ping pong with the issue in recent days over what critics called a “gimmick” to fund the measure by letting companies defer government-required contributions to their employees’ pension plans. The bill now goes to the president.

The bill raises the money through:

—Pension “smoothing.” Raises $6.4 billion by allowing companies to reduce the amount that they contribute to their pension funds now and make up for it later. Since pension contributions are tax deductible, companies would owe more tax revenue in the next few years as more of their earnings are taxed. But in the later years, they would be able to claim higher deductions from larger contributions to their pension funds, costing the government revenue. Over time, the pension measure doesn’t raise revenue. But over the next 10 years — the time frame used to estimate the cost of legislation — it does. Critics warn it could cost taxpayers in the long run if federally insured pension plans can’t meet their obligations and the government’s Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. has to cover them.

—Customs user fees. Raises $3.5 billion by extending for one year — through 2024 — various user fees paid to the Customs Service for goods, vehicles and people entering the U.S. Critics say it’s a gimmick that allows lawmakers to spend the money now and not pay it back for 10 years.

—Leaking underground storage tanks. Transfers $1 billion from an overfunded trust fund established to pay for cleaning up sites fouled by pollution from leaking underground storage tanks, including those at gas stations. Most problem sites have been cleaned up and the leaking tanks fund runs a surplus of about $200 million a year.

President Obama Pushes Public-Private-Partnership Transportation Initiatives

Obama Pushes PPP President Obama says he would encourage partnerships between state and local governments, and public and private developers and investors…

President Barack Obama delivered a speech in Wilmington, Delaware, July 17, using the recently-closed I-495 bridge as a backdrop, to apply additional pressure on Congress to pass a long-term surface transportation reauthorization bill.  Touting the administration’s four-year, $302 billion proposal introduced this spring, he also said that he would sign a presidential memorandum to establish the Build America Investment Initiative.  The program would offer expertise to state and local governments and investors looking to put together public-private partnerships to advance transportation projects.  According to the president, the program would be paid for, “in part by closing loopholes for companies that are shipping profits overseas and are avoiding paying their fair share of taxes.”

As part of the plan, the administration is launching a Build America Transportation Investment Center to be housed in Department of Transportation. It is designed to serve as a one-stop-shop for state and local governments, public and private developers and investors seeking to utilize innovative finance strategies for transportation infrastructure projects.

The initiative includes a Build America Interagency Working Group to be co-chaired by the secretaries of Treasury and Transportation to do a focused review with the best and the brightest from the public and private sector to expand and increase private investment and collaboration in infrastructure.

Finally, an Infrastructure Investment Summit will be held Sept. 9, bringing together project developers and institutional investors with state and local officials and their federal counterparts. The summit, to be hosted by DOT, will focus on innovative financing approaches to infrastructure and highlight the opportunities for infrastructure investment.

Challenges and Solutions For America’s Roads

Ensuring Drivability

The nation’s roads and highways are critical to social and economic mobility; however, years of deferred maintenance and underinvestment have left the countrywith a road network that does not meet drivers’ expectations for a safe, smooth, comfortable ride. This neglect has direct costs for drivers in terms of vehicle wear-and-tear and it has broader economic costs connected with the slowed delivery of goods and services. 

To better understand the expectations and experiences of road users and owners alike, Edelman Berland, on behalf of the Asphalt Pavement Alliance, a partnership of the Asphalt Institute, the National Asphalt Pavement Association, and the State Asphalt Pavement Associations, conducted a series of interviews and surveys with pavement specifiers and drivers. 

 The surveys found that drivers understand the connection between poor road conditions and underinvestment in infrastructure. They see that departments of transportation and public works agencies do not have the resources needed to properly maintain roads at a level of good ride quality, and they are willing to see user fees increase if it means money goes into maintaining and improving roads. It was discovered that the attributes pavement engineers associate most closely with asphalt match up best with what drivers want from their roads: a smooth surface that’s easy to maintain with minimally disruptive roadway work zones. Specifically, the survey of drivers and commercial truckers found that: 

 84% of drivers and 73% of commercial truckers want well-maintained roads without the inconvenience of roadway shutdowns by having maintenance performed during off-peak hours and the road open for rush hour. 

 Most drivers, 69%, said they are willing to accept periodic maintenance delays if it means they get to enjoy a smooth driving experience. Smooth, well-maintained roads are more comfortable for drivers; they also cause less wear-and-tear on vehicles, reducing operating costs. 

 86% of drivers and 78% of commercial truckers feel spending priorities should focus on the maintenance and repair of existing roads, rather than on building new roads. 

 A majority, 51% of drivers and 52% of truckers, support new or additional funding mechanisms to ensure adequate funding for roadway maintenance and construction. 

 It is a tall order for DOTs and other pavement decision makers to fill, but they do have widespread public support across the country for increased funding when it is devoted to transportation maintenance and improvement projects.

Click here to read the full survey report.

Senate Moves to Pass Short-term Highway Trust Fund Patch

Night_Paving_Photo_The Senate is poised to vote on legislation to ensure federal highway funds continue to flow to the states before Congress adjourns for the five-week August recess.  The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill July 15 that transfers $10.8 billion from the general fund into the Highway Trust Fund and extends current highway and transit policy and funding through May 31, 2015.  Senate leaders reached an agreement July 23 to take up the House-passed version and hold votes on four amendments, but the timing of the votes is not yet clear. 

Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), chairman and ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee respectively, offered an amendment to replace the House’s funding offsets with differing tax-compliance provisions.  Senate EPW Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) has teamed up with Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) on an amendment to reduce the offset package from $10.8 billion to $8 billion and to shorten the duration of the extension to December, which would force Congress to deal with a long-term solution to the funding crisis during the lame duck period.  Sen. Pat Toomey’s (R-Pa.) amendment would expedite road and bridge repair projects following declared emergencies.  
There is also an amendment offered by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) that would reduce the federal gas user fee from 18.4 cents per gallon to 3.7 cents per gallon over a five-year period. It also would remove nearly all authority over the nation’s highway and transit programs from the federal government. 
All amendments are subject to a 60-vote threshold under the agreement.  Should any of the amendments pass, the bill will return to the House for consideration.  If all amendments fail, the Senate will pass the House-passed version and the president is expected to sign it with only days to spare before the Department of Transportation is scheduled to delay payments to states.  
DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx  told members of the National Press Club July 21 that the department was planning to release a 30-year vision for the nation’s transportation infrastructure by the end of the year.  He also took a swipe at Congress for moving toward yet another short-term patch for the Highway Trust Fund.  “Every time Congress passes another patch, they drive another nail into the idea that America’s going to solve our transportation spending problem,” Foxx said.  The House passed a 10-month, $11 billion fix for the HTF July 15 by a vote of 367 to 55, and the Senate is preparing to take up the bill this week.  Foxx, along with 11 of his predecessors, sent a letter to Congress urging them to work together to draft and pass a long-term transportation bill without delay.

Secretary Foxx and 11 Former DOT Secretaries Urging Congress to Act

Anthony_Foxx_official_portraitWASHINGTON – As Congress considers legislation to avoid a shortfall of the Highway Trust Fund, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and 11 of his predecessors offered the following open letter to Congress. In addition to Secretary Foxx, Secretaries Ray LaHood, Mary Peters, Norman Mineta, Rodney Slater, Frederico Peña, Samuel Skinner, Andrew Card, James Burnley, Elizabeth Dole, William Coleman and Alan Boyd all signed the letter. Their message: Congress’ work doesn’t end with the bill under consideration. Transportation in America still needs a much larger, longer-term investment. The text of the letter is below:

This week, it appears that Congress will act to stave off the looming insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund. The bill, if passed, should extend surface transportation funding until next May.

We are hopeful that Congress appears willing to avert the immediate crisis. But we want to be clear: This bill will not “fix” America’s transportation system. For that, we need a much larger and longer-term investment. On this, all twelve of us agree.

Taken together, we have led the U.S. Department of Transportation for over 35 years. One of us was there on day one, at its founding. We’ve served seven presidents, both Republicans and Democrats, including Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.

Suffice it to say, we’ve been around the block. We probably helped pave it.

So it is with some knowledge and experience that we can write: Never in our nation’s history has America’s transportation system been on a more unsustainable course.

In recent years, Congress has largely funded transportation in fits and starts. Federal funding bills once sustained our transportation system for up to six years, but over the past five years, Congress has passed 27 short-term measures. Today, we are more than a decade past the last six-year funding measure.

This is no way to run a railroad, fill a pothole, or repair a bridge. In fact, the unpredictability about when, or if, funding will come has caused states to delay or cancel projects altogether.

The result has been an enormous infrastructure deficit – a nationwide backlog of repairing and rebuilding. Right now, there are so many structurally deficient bridges in America that, if you lined them up end-to-end, they’d stretch from Boston to Miami. What’s worse, the American people are paying for this inaction in a number of ways.

Bad roads, for example, are costing individual drivers hundreds of dollars a year due to side effects like extra wear-and-tear on their vehicles and time spent in traffic.

Simply put, the United States of America is in a united state of disrepair, a crisis made worse by the fact that, over the next generation, more will be demanded of our transportation system than ever before. By 2050, this country will be home to up to 100 million new people. And we’ll have to move 14 billion additional tons of freight, almost twice what we move now.

Without increasing investment in transportation, we won’t be able to meet these challenges. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, we need to invest $1.8 trillion by 2020 just to bring our surface transportation infrastructure to an adequate level.

So, what America needs is to break this cycle of governing crisis-to-crisis, only to enact a stopgap measure at the last moment. We need to make a commitment to the American people and the American economy.

There is hope on this front. Some leaders in Washington, including those at the U.S. Department of Transportation, are stepping forward with ideas for paying for our roads, rails, and transit systems for the long-term.

While we – the twelve transportation secretaries – may differ on the details of these proposals, there is one essential goal with which all twelve of us agree: We cannot continue funding our transportation with measures that are short-term and short of the funding we need.

On this, we are of one mind. And Congress should be, too.

Adequately funding our transportation system won’t be an easy task for our nation’s lawmakers. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

Consensus has been brokered before. Until recently, Congress understood that, as America grows, so must our investments in transportation. And for more than half a century, they voted for that principle – and increased funding – with broad, bipartisan majorities in both houses.

We believe they can, and should, do so again. http://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USDOT/bulletins/c57ef6

Congress Needs to Take Immediate Action on the Highway Trust Fund

FRANKFORT, Ky. (July 2, 2014) – U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx today joined Gov. Steve Beshear and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) Secretary Mike Hancock in urging Congress to act expeditiously on the soon-to-be insolvent federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF).

On Tuesday, Secretary Foxx issued a letter to all state departments of transportation providing them the latest on the looming crisis and detailing how the Federal Highway Administration will implement cash management procedures in the event Congress does not act. Congress has until Aug. 1 to shore up the HTF or all states will experience delayed payments from Washington.

Gov. Beshear cautioned that without Congressional action, Kentucky risks delays in new federal projects, as well as reimbursement for active projects.

“Kentuckians should be concerned about the transportation funding situation unfolding in Washington,” said Gov. Beshear. “This uncertainty means money for new projects, preservation efforts and most importantly, improved highway safety and construction jobs, is at risk. Our vast transportation network relies on assistance from the federal highway program. Setting partisan politics aside, Congress must work together to seek a long-term, viable solution to stabilize the future of this program.”

Kentucky participates in the federal reimbursement program where the cabinet “fronts” the money for construction projects to pay for contractor invoices and is reimbursed by the Federal Highway Administration.

“There is still time for Congress to act on a long-term solution,” said Secretary Foxx. “Our transportation infrastructure is too essential to suffer continued neglect, and I hope Congress will avert this crisis before it is too late.”

KYTC currently has hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of federal projects that are shovel-ready – meaning they could go to construction this summer. Already this year, KYTC has delayed approximately $185 million in federal projects that include the Interstate 65 widening projects between Elizabethtown and Bowling Green and pavement rehabilitation projects on parkways and interstates across the Commonwealth.

“With looming insolvency, we cannot be confident that much-needed projects will get off the ground,” said Secretary Hancock. “Each state should be equally concerned that Congress resolves this matter quickly. Our transportation system depends on it, and so do our families.”

Without a guarantee of federal reimbursement, the cabinet will weigh the financial risks associated with starting or delaying these projects, Secretary Hancock said.

Since 2008, Congress has made regular transfers totaling nearly $55 billion in order to keep the HTF afloat. Without a fix, the HTF will run dry by late August or early September.

The primary source of revenue into the HTF is the federal motor fuels tax, which is levied at 18.3 cents for gasoline and 24.4 cents for diesel. The federal gas tax was last raised in 1993.

The motor fuels tax, through its history, has been a classic user fee: those who drove on the roads and bridges paid for their construction and maintenance at the pump. The downward trend of vehicle miles traveled as well as more fuel-efficient vehicles on the roadways has contributed to the decline in gas tax revenue.

The Highway Trust Fund was established by the Highway Revenue Act of 1956.

Click here to view the press conference.

Hall Contracting of Kentucky selected to upgrade Breathitt-Pennyrile Parkway in 3 counties

FRANKFORT, Ky. (June 17, 2014) – Governor Steve Beshear today announced award of a contract for more of the improvements needed for bringing a portion of the Breathitt-Pennyrile Parkway up to interstate standards and eventual designation as Interstate 69.

“This is another big step toward our goal of an I-69 Corridor from the Ohio River to the Tennessee border,” Gov. Beshear said. “I-69 will be an enduring asset to western Kentucky and, indeed, to the entire Commonwealth.”

The new project will result in improvements to a 36.4-mile stretch of the Parkway in Hopkins, Webster and Henderson counties. The project includes pavement rehabilitation, new lighting, reconstructing ramps, widening overpass bridges and fixing vertical clearance issues on some overpass structures. Addressing outdated bridge barrier walls, disjointed pipes along the routes and low or damaged guardrails also fall within the scope of the contract.

Hall Contracting of Kentucky Inc. was awarded the contract on a low bid of $11.93 million. The contract has a completion date of Aug. 1, 2015.

Once complete, I-69 in Kentucky will run north to south from the Ohio River at Henderson to the Tennessee border at Fulton. Completion of the corridor requires improvements to portions of three Kentucky parkways, all of which originally were toll roads – the Breathitt-Pennyrile, Ford-Western Kentucky and Carroll-Purchase parkways.

To date, 55 miles of the corridor are complete – from roughly Nortonville to the interchange of I-24 and the Carroll-Purchase Parkway near Gilbertsville – and the route now bears the red, white and blue shields of I-69. In October 2011, Gov. Beshear and then-Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez unveiled the first I-69 shield, near Nortonville.

One of the main challenges of the entire I-69 project has been the need to rebuild interchanges that were designed to accommodate drivers who were slowing and stopping at toll plazas – as opposed to merging with or exiting from 70 mph interstate traffic. Reconstruction of the KY 416 interchange in Henderson County is underway, as is reconstruction of the Pennyrile Parkway-Western Kentucky Parkway interchange. Two remaining interchanges – at KY 56 near Sebree and at Mortons Gap – may be put up for bids later this month and in January 2015, respectively.

The remaining portion of the I-69 Corridor is scheduled to have signs in place in late 2015.

Getting Home To What Matters, That’s DriveAbility


55% of drivers today identify traffic delays due to road construction as the most frustrating part of their driving experience.* With off-peak construction, asphalt pavements leave roads open to traffic during rush hour. Surface maintenance and repair is quick, ensuring drivers have a smooth, high performance surface with minimal inconvenience. No wonder an independent survey found 87% of engineers, developers, transportation officials and other key stakeholders chose asphalt for its ease of maintenance.** Smoother, quieter, fewer delays… that’s drivability. That’s asphalt.

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