Thursday, February 17, 2011
Just talking about red light cameras have chapped more than a few Texans. However, here's a twist on the use of those cameras that might actually put some folks at ease.
One California town is trying out a new camera system designed to predict if a driver is about to run a red light...and make adjustments to the signal. The video above explains it all.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
It's easy to take things for granted.
For example, take our highway system. We have the best highways in the world. Hands down. In fact, Texas has the best in the nation. Just another reason to be proud to be a Texan.
I recently had the "joy" of riding some of the worst roads in the world. Myanmar (formally known as Burma) may be known for a lot of great things. Good roads does not make the list. One 200-mile stretch of road winding through the Burmese mountains took more than 13 hous to traverse. While I didn't take the above photo, it says it all. Mud, dust, ruts and H-U-G-E potholes are just the norm.
Yes, it's important TxDOT continues to do its job in maintaining the 80,000 miles of highway. Nobody likes bumpy roads and potholes. Then again, sometimes it's easy to take what we have for granted. The next time you hit a pothole make sure to let us know where it's at and we'll get right on it.
And remember that it could be worse: much worse.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Ice brings up some real problems on the roadways and bridges not only for motorists but for road crews. The Beaumont District is keeping an eye on more than 1000 bridges on the interstate, US highways, state highways and farm-to-market roads. That means all of our maintenance sections in the eight-county area are monitoring overpasses and bridges for the first sign of icing.
We often get asked lots of questions as to why we do what we do. Below are a few of those questions and answers that might clear up some confusion.
Does TxDOT's Beaumont District use salt or sand to de-ice overpasses and bridges?
Neither. Salt is very corrosive to vehicles and bridges. Sand isn't a de-icer. The department uses what's called "freeze-rock". It's just basically rock that crumbles and shatters the ice when vehicles run over it. The Beaumont District also uses magnesium chloride crystals. While more expensive, it helps melt the ice more quickly. There is a magnesium chloride liquid. However, it is also expensive and therefore used in very large bulk operations in places such as Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, and other large metropolitan cities.
Why don't you just spread the freeze rock before ice appears?
First, it's important to remember that it's not the bridge that freezes: it's the moisture or water on the bridge that turns to ice. Spreading rock or other de-icing material on an ice-free bridge does nothing. Spreading rock or magnesium chloride crystals too soon means vehicles just blow it off onto the shoulder. That means all that material and work is completely wasted. The "trick" is to put the material on the surface just prior to ice forming. Magnesium chloride does come in a liquid that can be placed a bit earlier. However, that too can be tricky. A heavy rain/sleet can wash it away...taking with it all the work and effort and leaving behind an icy overpass.
Why does it take so long for crews to get to some overpasses and bridges?
Crews first tackle those highways with the most traffic. It just makes sense. Crews then focus on secondary roadways. Of course, bridges crossing waterways are important because those structures are more prone to freezing. There are more than 1000 bridges on the system in Southeast Texas. So, prioritizing them is crucial.
Are the Rainbow and Veterans Memorial Bridges closed during ice storms?Closing those bridges is entirely up to law enforcement. They have the authority to close bridges.
What's the best way to cross an icy overpass?
The best advice is to stay home. Of course, that may not always be possible. If you have to get out, drive slowly across bridges and overpasses. Don't hit the brake! You can lose complete control with even just a brief step on the brake. Finally, stay off bridges and overpasses even if it means getting off the highway and traveling the frontage road.
A final note: Stay clear of dump trucks spreading rock on overpasses. Give them plenty of room. Ice is bad enough. A cracked windshield makes it all that much worse.
The district will continue to monitor the weather and let you know of any changes in road conditions. To find out the latest in highway closures make sure to visit: www.txdot.gov and check out road conditions.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
One day it's nearly 65 degrees. The next we are talking about icy roads. Welcome to Southeast Texas weather.
It looks as if our small section of the Lone Star State won't escape the big Arctic blast stretching across the nation. That means the possibility of icy roads and slick overpasses.
There's a good chance we could see some slippery bridges and overpasses tonight. So, be careful and watch the weather. Better yet, stay home and don't get out unless you need to.
As for TxDOT, our crews are outfitting trucks with spreaders designed to spread rock and deicing materials on overpasses and bridges. We'll hit the road at the first sign of ice.