Oklahoma's work zones bloom for summer construction season
Springtime and warmer weather means more than just flowers are blooming across our state. Between now and the end of summer, nearly 270 highway construction work zones will sprout up in Oklahoma. Join Oklahoma Transportation agencies by springing into action this April as we highlight safety in work zones.
With an increased number of work zones statewide, including work zones that are the largest and most complex highway construction projects in state history such as I-235/I-44 in Oklahoma City, I-44/US-75 in Tulsa and US-69 near Durant, it is more important than ever to remind motorists of the need for work zone safety. In the past five years, 83 motorists — including two highway workers — were killed in work zone crashes while 1,398 people were injured in more than 7,725 collisions statewide.
“While we continually do our part to improve work zone safety, we ask that motorists join us in this important effort to help ensure that both workers and motorists all make it home safely at the end of each day,” said ODOT Chief Engineer Brian Taylor. “The top three causes of work zone fatalities are speeding, distracted driving and following too closely. Those are all preventable crash causes and we invite motorists to be a part of our safety team and help us save lives.”
Work zone innovations also are in bloom in several Oklahoma projects to improve work zone safety. A couple of examples include a merging etiquette known as the Zipper Merge on I-35 in a Pauls Valley bridge rehabilitation work zone. During high traffic volumes, drivers are asked to use the Zipper Merge method of driving in both lanes of traffic until the lanes narrow then take turns merging one at a time. This allows motorists to use all lanes of available pavement and improve traffic efficiency. Another example is in Tulsa where ODOT and its contractor have installed a network of signs for several miles in advance of the I-44/US-75 work zone to help warn motorists earlier of what’s ahead, which is an increase of signage used in most work zones.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority launched a new, year-round safety education effort in January. The Make Safety Stick: Everybody Click initiative focuses on a different highway safety topic each month in 2021 but with an overarching theme of increasing seat belt usage statewide. Oklahoma currently ranks No. 43 nationally for seat belt usage.
As part of this safety effort, work zone safety will be highlighted throughout April, including during National Work Zone Safety Awareness Week, which is April 26-30. Some of this month’s highlights include:
- Statewide public service announcements for radio and television, which also may be found online at www.odot.org and on Oklahoma Transportation social media accounts as of April 5;
- Daily social media content on @OKDOT and @OKTurnpike Facebook and Twitter accounts;
- Work zone safety messages each Wednesday on the overhead highway digital message signs as part of the Work Zone Wednesday messaging program;
- Wearing orange and sending your best orange selfies in support of highway workers April 9 and tagging @OKDOT on Facebook and Twitter; and
- The SkyDance Bridge over I-40 in Oklahoma City, the I-35 bridge at S.W. 34th St. in Moore, and the Expo Square entrances at 21st St. in Tulsa will light up in orange in honor of Oklahoma Transportation’s 72 fallen workers April 2. The I-35 bridge at S.W. 34th St. in Moore will also glow orange again on April 9, and the Expo Square entrances in Tulsa will glow nightly through April 9.
- Learn more at https://oklahoma.gov/odot/citizen/make-safety-stick-everybody-click.html
The emphasis on work zone safety is especially fitting for April, as warmer temperatures allow pavement projects and other weather-dependent work to get underway. Following the statewide historic freeze in February, maintenance crews continue to carefully monitor pavements for signs of damage caused by those winter storms and make more permanent repairs. These mobile work zones will be popping up as needed, and play just as crucial a role in highway operations as larger-scale construction projects.
You can be an early bird in getting information for upcoming highway projects in your area by signing up for Traffic Advisories at www.odot.org and also downloading the free Drive Oklahoma mobile app. By having this information right at your fingertips before you travel, it will help you catch any work zones on your route and make your drive a breeze.