MDOT employs new technology to improve safety, awareness of road construction

Mon, 05/13/2024 - 5:00pm

    WEST GARDINER — This is the time of year when seasonal traffic volumes increase and many road construction projects begin in Maine. Representatives from the Maine Department of Transportation, Maine Turnpike Authority, Maine State Police, Associated General Contractors of Maine, and AAA Northern New England joined together in West Gardiner on May 13 to highlight the importance of safe driving especially in work zones.

    Every year, Maine averages more than 500 crashes and two fatalities in work zones. These are incidents that occurred close to areas where crews may be working near traffic. Historically, the leading causes of work zone crashes are drivers following too closely, being distracted, and failing to yield.

    "Since construction season is here, we want to remind drivers that Maine's 'Move Over Law' requires drivers to move over for any vehicle with green or amber lights," said John Cannell, Director of Maintenance for the Maine Turnpike Authority. "Moving over for our crews is not just a courtesy: it's the law."

    This year, MaineDOT is using new technology to improve safety and awareness on road construction projects. The department has developed a specification for a Smart Work Zone System. This system involves deploying portable sensors miles ahead of interstate work zones. The sensors monitor vehicle speeds and volumes, allowing the department to collect real-time traffic information and put that information on digital message boards. This gives drivers the latest information about what's ahead.

    "Early warnings about speed reductions or stopped traffic are especially important when vehicles are traveling at interstate speeds," said Shawn Smith, senior project manager at MaineDOT. "Smart Work Zone System technology is allowing MaineDOT to do daytime construction work this year on I-295 between Topsham and Gardiner. This daytime construction improves safety while also reducing costs to Maine taxpayers."

    "As drivers, it's easy to become complacent when passing through work zones, but the speed limit reduction is there for a reason: to protect you and the men and women who are working in those zones," said Corporal Doug Cropper of the Maine State Police. "Drivers have the power to prevent crashes and save lives by driving with caution and courtesy on the road."

    "The dedicated women and men who do road construction work in Maine do their jobs just feet sometimes inches away from traffic moving at high speeds," said Kelly Flagg, Executive Director of Associated General Contractors of Maine. "These workers know that one moment of driver distraction can result in a deadly crash. There are too many close-call stories. On behalf of these road crews, we urge Maine travelers to slow down, avoid distractions, and pay attention."

    "Memorial Day road trips are expected to reach historic highs this year with AAA forecasting 38.4 million travelers by car," said Pat Moody of AAA Northern New England. "AAA recommends that motorists plan for extra road congestion and map their route to navigate around construction zones when possible."