COLUMBUS – Ohio work zones are getting smarter as new technology is introduced to an Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) project. As construction at Interstates 70/71 and State Route 315 continues to ramp up in downtown Columbus, ODOT has implemented extra safety measures to reduce the risk of congestion-related work zone crashes.
Last year, Ohio recorded nearly 4,800 work zone crashes, 35% of which occurred with workers present. These crashes resulted in 1,759 injuries and 29 deaths, making 2021 one of the deadliest years for work zones in recent history.
Keeping traffic flowing is always the goal, but it can be challenging in a heavily-traveled work zone. To address potential backups, ODOT added queue detection systems along SR 315 south and I-70 east to warn drivers of slow traffic ahead. This system includes sensors along the road to detect the speed of traffic and relay that information to digital message boards. The message boards then alert drivers to real-time speeds, allowing them to safely slow down and avoid rear-end crashes.
“We’re constantly looking for ways to make our work zones safer. This added protection is not only important for crews performing the work, but also for every Ohioan behind the wheel,” said ODOT District 6 Deputy Director Anthony Turowski. “With a project of this scale, it’s important to think outside of the box. These innovative tools allow us to effectively and quickly communicate real-time information to help drivers make better decisions while traveling through this area.”
ODOT already uses variable speed limit signs in work zones, which display a reduced speed limit along with flashing lights when workers are present. On this project, it is also utilizing flashing signs at construction exits to caution drivers when a vehicle is detected leaving the work zone. Often, trucks exiting the work zone travel at a lower rate of speed while merging with interstate traffic, so these signs can help drivers anticipate potential conflicts.
“While these devices certainly enhance safety, nothing is more effective than an attentive driver. When you see work ahead, you should slow down, keep your focus on the road, and keep your hands on the wheel,” said Mr. Turowski.