With a major construction project currently underway on I-235, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) has launched a pilot program to solve the problem of stranded cars inside a highway workzone, which can cause significant delays for thousands of drivers.
ODOT aims to prevent workzone congestion issues with two specially outfitted trucks and a new service to motorists traveling through construction projects and other targeted high-traffic areas.
GO-DOT, a new pilot program to help keep highways clear, was demonstrated at the Oklahoma Transportation Commission’s monthly meeting before being dispatched to the I-235 construction zone between I-44 and N 36th St in Oklahoma City. The program is designed to quickly move stranded vehicles out of the busy workzone to the nearest safe location, and was made possible by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) as part of the nearly US$88m federally funded I-235 construction contract.
The vehicles will initially be operated by Allen Contracting Inc., the prime contractor for the I-235 construction project, which will provide operators for the service until the current I-235 project completes by early 2019, when ODOT will take possession of the two trucks and hire its own operators.
The two 2017 Ford F-450 4×4 crew cab trucks cost more than US$400,000 to purchase and outfit. The vehicles are fully equipped with a wheel lift capable of lifting 3,500 lb; are capable of towing up to 7,800 lb vehicles such as RVs and travel trailers; and have a wheel dolly to enable the removal of four-wheel-drive vehicles without damaging drivetrain components. The vehicle cabs can seat up to four additional passengers to help quickly move motorists to a safer location.
The GO-DOT trucks will also be equipped to provide basic car maintenance, such as jumping a dead battery, fixing a flat tire or providing fuel for those that run out inside the workzone. Once safely moved out of the construction area, motorists will need to call for additional help or a towing service.
The next phase of the I-44/I-235/US-77 interchange reconstruction is estimated to be awarded later this year, with construction likely to start soon after the current phase completes by early 2019, and GO-DOT will continue to be used in this work zone area. ODOT’s future plans include offering this same service in Tulsa and other targeted areas to enhance highway safety.
“The biggest problem with stranded vehicles or crashes is the secondary accidents that often occur as motorists are distracted by what’s happening in the lane next to them or on the highway shoulder,” said ODOT’s chief engineer, Casey Shell.
“These secondary accidents often are even more dangerous than the initial cause of the slow down. By keeping the lanes and shoulders clear and limiting distractions, we hope this service will reduce crashes and congestion in the workzone.”
ODOT’s executive director, Mike Patterson, noted, “One of the most dangerous situations on an interstate is when a crash or other problem causes traffic to suddenly slow or stop. While initially launching in the Oklahoma City metro area, the goal is to build this program to help keep other targeted heavily traveled highways clear.”