Safety critical for work zones

Filed under: Opinion |

Infrastructure maintenance vital to city

Public safety is a core function of local government, but it encompasses much more than the services provided by our Police and Fire Departments. Repairing our city roads, bridges and drainage systems is vital for the safety of the traveling public. Without regular maintenance, bridges collapse, roads deteriorate and drainage systems clog. Catastrophic failures can result in mass injuries and serious damage, plus the negative impact to local businesses and economy.

Infrastructure maintenance sustains the transportation system our city depends upon. This interwoven link of roads, bridges and drainage ways forms the foundation that allows business to be conducted across the 186 square miles of our city. The engines of our local economy are fueled by the hundreds of businesses scattered throughout Colorado Springs. Our system allows travel to and from business destinations.

More repairs equal more work zones

Infrastructure maintenance and repairs result in work zones on city streets. Most traffic work zones are not new construction projects. Most are necessary repairs to existing infrastructure. Increased traffic has strained our current transportation system beyond its capacity. As the city struggles to keep up with growing traffic demands, work zones have become widespread occurrences across the city. This means more orange cones, closed traffic lanes and traffic flaggers for Colorado Springs’ drivers. It is not uncommon for a motorist to encounter several work zones in just one trip across town.

Work zone dangers

Increased traffic and frustrated drivers make work zones dangerous for both drivers and road crews alike. Roadway construction workers are killed at a rate nearly three times higher than other construction workers and eight times higher than general industry workers. More than 40,000 people are injured each year in the United States as a result of motor vehicle crashes in work zones. There were 1,181 work zone fatalities in the United States in 2002, including 18 in Colorado. In June, 2004, two state road crew workers fixing potholes along I-25 in Denver were struck and killed by a drunk driver.

National Work Zone Memorial

These tragedies are often overlooked and forgotten. In order to recognize the service and sacrifice of road crews, the American Traffic Safety Services Association has created a traveling exhibition of a memorial on which the names of those killed in work zones across the country are inscribed. The National Work Zone Memorial was unveiled in April 2002, and now travels to communities across the country year-round to raise public awareness of the dangers surrounding work zone traffic control.

Road maintenance is a daily activity during the summer in Colorado Springs. With over 1,000 people killed in work zones every year, we want to increase awareness and advance roadway safety in the community.

Work zone safety tips

Work zone construction is never convenient – especially when it occurs near your home or business. However, without it, our roads, bridges and drainage channels would not function as needed. We appreciate your patience and ask that you respect the men and women who risk their lives to keep our transportation system operating by doing the following:

* schedule enough time to drive safely,

* slow down in work zones,

* minimize distractions,

* pay attention,

* don’t tailgate, and

* obey signs and work zone crew.

We will all benefit in the end.

Lorne Kramer is the city manager for the City of Colorado Springs. You can contact him at 385-5455.