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Innovations - Full Road Closure
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Construction approach cuts work zone congestion and crashes
Full road closure is an approach designed to eliminate the exposure of motorists to work zones and workers to traffic by temporarily closing a road for rehabilitation or maintenance. Traffic is detoured during full road closure, allowing construction crews full access to roadways or bridges. A full-closure strategy can be an effective way to reduce traffic congestion caused by construction, finish projects faster, improve quality, and enhance safety for motorists and highway workers.
Design-build (D–B) is a method of project delivery in which the design and construction phases of a project are combined into one contract and awarded on either a low–bid or best–value basis. D–B projects allow for greater private sector participation in the delivery of transportation projects. Agencies can focus on policy and planning, leaving the private sector to deal with cost efficiency and construction risk, which it is in the best position to manage. Medium–to–large transportation projects are best suited to D–B project delivery because the agencies involved with larger projects typically have sufficiently knowledgeable staff to prepare the comprehensive contract documents required to clearly delineate roles, responsibility, and liability.
Work zones are a necessary part of maintaining and upgrading the nation's aging highway system, but they account for nearly 24 percent of nonrecurring congestion, or 482 million vehicle hours of delay each year. From 1982 to 2002, route miles of highway increased 3 percent while vehicle miles of travel jumped 79 percent. The combination of more work zones and heavier traffic means construction congestion is having a greater impact on roadways.
Despite the growing need for work zones, construction congestion frustrates motorists. In a Federal Highway Administration survey, Americans cited work zones as second only to poor traffic flow in causing dissatisfaction with the roadway system. More than 60 percent of those surveyed were dissatisfied with the speed of repair and traffic congestion related to work zones. Safety is also an important work zone issue that affects both travelers and construction workers. In 2006, 1,010 fatalities occurred in work zones. More than 40,000 people are injured each year in work zone crashes.
Full road closure is one method highway agencies are using to balance the need for work zones with concerns about mobility and safety. The full–closure approach can be used for an extended time period, on weekends or nights, or in one direction at a time to reduce the impact of work zones and speed construction. In situations with adequate alternate travel routes, a good traffic management plan, and effective public outreach, full closure can be a viable alternative to typical construction approaches. In traditional part–width construction, at least one lane of traffic in each direction is kept open while work is underway on other lanes.
An FHWA study concluded that full road closures can be a successful tool for reducing the impact of work zones. On the six projects studied, construction time was reduced by an average of 76 percent compared with traditional part–width construction.
The study cited several benefits of full road closures:
Many highway agencies have used full road closures successfully:
For More Information
www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/wz/construction/full_rd_closures.htm has links to photos, video clips and publications with photos
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