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Michigan roadwork see increased risks, costs in the winter

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Road construction in snow

By SHAWN D. LEWISThe Detroit News

DETROIT — The pushing of Michigan’s roadwork into the colder months comes with great costs and risks for two of the area’s biggest projects.

Work laying concrete has continued on Interstate 696 in Macomb County and Interstate 75 in Wayne County despite temperatures below or at 40 degrees, which, according to the American Concrete Institute, is the temperature for which measures to prevent freezing must be addressed.

Costly precautions must be in place, including protecting fresh concrete from freezing by placing heaters along a route to ensure the concrete will take.

“Nobody wants to build roads in the winter,” said Kevin MacDonald, a principal engineer with Minnesota-based Beton Consulting Engineers.

In other words, he said, for every dollar spent on a road project conducted in July, it will cost between $1.30 and $1.50 in the winter.

MacDonald said the cost for heating and enclosing concrete pavement is approximately 30 to 50 percent of the cost of the material and labor, “depending on a number of factors.”

“Modern highway construction in cold, wet climates requires highly durable, as well as high-strength concrete,” he told The Detroit News . “This can be achieved in cold weather, so long as precautions are taken to ensure that the concrete has adequate strength.”

But MacDonald noted taxpayers usually are not footing the bill for the higher costs.

“Typically, these types of costs fall into means and methods over the contractor,” he said. “As such, the contractor will bear the cost.”

A Michigan contractor working on one of the major road projects said his employees are using necessary precautions, and they are being closely monitored by the Michigan Department of Transportation to minimize the risk.

Joe Goodall, vice president of Dan’s Excavating Inc. in Shelby Township, which is working on the I-75 project, said yes, contractors are working to prevent the ground from freezing.

Goodall said workers are “covering the concrete when temperatures look to be dropping below freezing overnight or throughout the following days. The specifications for cold weather protection are being met on the project.”

They also running heaters on the ground to keep it from freezing, he said.

“We are keeping the concrete within the specifications for cold weather paving by any means needed,” Goodall said.

The construction work is happening later in the season because the projects were delayed in September when the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association instituted a work stoppage after multiple failed attempts to bargain a new contract with the Operating Engineers Local 324. A prior, five-year deal expired in June.

The construction rift prompted the shutdown or partial halt of 89 Michigan Department of Transportation projects and 75 local projects.

“We are bound by contract with MDOT to complete the project in a time frame, with the lockout and inclement weather after the lockout, we are continuing to complete the project in a timely manner.”

MDOT spokesman Jeff Cranson said state inspectors perform quality assurance on all contractor efforts throughout a project.

“So among other things, the inspectors will ensure the heating and housing is correct,” he said. “Ultimately, the contractor is responsible for the work completed, and a job is not accepted until MDOT engineers are confident in the quality.”

And so far, Operating Engineers 324 spokesman Dan McKernan said he has not heard any complaints from contractors about corners being cut to get the jobs done.

“Certainly, there is frustration from the workers for having to work through the winter when it didn’t have to be this way,” McKernan said. “But I talked to the agent who oversees the road workers, and there haven’t been any complaints. At the end of the day, MDOT oversees everything, and they are very strict.”

The American Concrete Institute recommends specific measures in its “Guide to Cold Weather Concreting,” noting that “the necessary degree of protection increases as the ambient temperature decreases.”

Cold weather concreting “results in extra costs because of potentially lower worker productivity and additional needed products such as insulating blankets, tarping and heaters.” But it adds that these measures also most likely will allow a project to stay on schedule.

Detroit averages highs of 36.1 degrees and lows of 24.1 degrees in December, according to date from the National Weather Service in White Lake Township.

Daniel DeGraaf, executive director of the Michigan Concrete Association, said placing heaters is a major element of keeping the ground warm. A hydronic heater is used to heat frozen ground or concrete surfaces by pumping heated fluid through closed-circulation tubing and a heat exchanger.

“The ground cannot be frozen when building a road on top of it,” he said. “It can be very expensive.”

He presented an analogy.

“Imagine running a furnace with the doors and windows wide open,” he said. “Not only do they have to heat the ground, but you can’t go as far with the work as you can on a fall day because you’re limited by how far the equipment can stretch.”

Meanwhile, Cranson said state inspectors will hold contractors accountable for the quality of the concrete.

“All materials must meet specifications,” Cranson said. “Inspection to ensure specification compliance; and enforcement based on significant research and testing.”

But Cranson acknowledged risks when concrete is worked on in the winter.

He released details that noted: “The top couple inches (estimated) of the concrete below the exposed surface could potentially act as a sacrificial layer, protecting the inner concrete mass from frost-related structural damage. But, if not protected from the cold weather exposure, this top exposed surface could undergo irreversible damage as it freezes. Over time, this damaged concrete surface will erode and scale away, ultimately resulting in loss of the pavement surface.”

Additionally, the details noted, “Placing concrete pavement on a frozen base could result in significant loss in structural support as the base begins to thaw in the spring. As the base freezes, the moisture within it will expand, thus, causing the base to heave up (water expands approximately nine percent in volume as it freezes). When the base thaws, it returns to its original elevation. This will, in turn, take the pavement downward with it. “

Cranson summed up the lengths being taken to ensure quality work on roads during the winter by saying: “Contractors and the MDOT engineers overseeing their work continue to work very hard to ensure a commitment to quality while they also work as quickly as possible to make travel lanes accessible to the public.

“It is a difficult balancing act in ideal conditions, let alone in inclement weather. Please keep in mind that the people fixing and building our roads are our sisters, brothers, friends and neighbors.”

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ATA hints it may sue Virginia over proposal to toll Interstate 81

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The proposed toll legislation for Interstate 81 would charge commercial trucks at 17 cents per mile, personal vehicles at about 11 cents per mile and offering an annual pass to commuters in passenger vehicles. (Courtesy: WIKIPEDIA)

RICHMOND, Va. — The American Trucking Association hinted Thursday it may sue the State of Virginia over legislation that proposes charging tolls on Interstate 81.

The ATA did so in a letter to Connecticut Gov. Ralph Northam opposing the legislation which Northam touts as the best way to fund improvements to the 325-mile interstate between Bristol and Winchester.

The bill proposes tolling commercial trucks at 17 cents per mile, personal vehicles at about 11 cents per mile and offering an annual pass to commuters in passenger vehicles.

The letter, signed by Jennifer Hall, the ATA’s general counsel and executive vice president, legal affairs, says that if adopted in their current form would not only be poor public policy, but would raise serious legal issues and may create an “impermissible burden” on interstate commerce.

The proposed plan has four options for tolling.

The ATA letter dealt with the option that would toll all vehicles with an annual pass available exclusively to automobiles.

“The car-only annual pass proposal is unlawful under the U.S. Constitution because it represents an impermissible burden on interstate commerce,” Hall wrote. “More specifically, the U.S. Supreme Court has explained that, under the Commerce Clause, a transportation user fee is permissible only “if it (1) is based on some fair approximation of use of the facilities, (2) is not excessive in relation to the benefits conferred, and (3) does not discriminate against interstate commerce.”

Plan’s car-only annual pass option would fail this test for a variety of reasons, the ATA said, noting:

  • User fees would bear no relationship to use of the tolled roads;
  • Tolls on commercial vehicles would be excessive in relation to the benefits conferred;
  • The plan favors noncommercial vehicles over commercial vehicles, which power interstate commerce.

The ATA said by allowing automobiles the opportunity to pay a one-time fee for unlimited travel over the course of the year, but to deny that flat-rate opportunity to trucks, means that the proposal is not “based on some fair approximation of use.”

On the contrary, for a passenger car availing itself of the annual pass option, its user fees will bear no relationship whatsoever to its use of the tolled roads. Trucks, by contrast, will have no choice but to pay on a trip-by-trip basis, the federation claimed.

Hall said the proposed toll scheme discriminates against interstate commerce by favoring noncommercial vehicles over commercial vehicles—i.e., the very vehicles by which interstate commerce moves.

“The Supreme Court has expressly held that highway user fees ‘discriminate against out-of-state vehicles’ when they predictably ‘subject them to a much higher charge per mile travelled in the state,’ and ‘do not even purport to approximate fairly the cost or value of the use of [the] roads,” the letter said. “That is precisely what the proposed toll scheme does, by allowing automobiles — and only automobiles — the option of an annual flat fee that translates to a predictably lower charge per mile the more such vehicles use the road.”

If the ATA files suit against the toll plan in Virginia, it would be the second lawsuit regarding tolls in the past six months.

“We encourage you and the Assembly to think carefully about these issues before Virginia takes any further steps in the direction it appears to be heading; and to bear in mind that the auto-only annual pass option will be vulnerable to a legal challenge if it moves forward,” Hall concluded letter.

If a lawsuit filed against the director of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, ATA charges that the Rhode Island tolls violate the Commerce Clause of the Constitution by imposing “discriminatory and disproportionate burdens on out-of-state operators and on truckers who are operating in interstate commerce.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association recently filed a lawsuit against Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, the Indiana Finance Authority, the Indiana Toll Road Concession Co., and the commissioner of the Indiana Department of Transportation challenging the increased tolls on heavy vehicles on the Indiana Toll Road. They were implemented last October.  8

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Runaway ‘bobtail’ tractor crashes into Atlanta motel

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Police said this “bob-tail” tractor left the road, hit a parked car and ran into the side of a motel. (Atlanta Channel 2 Action News photo)

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported Thursday that a driver is in custody after crashing a tractor-trailer into a motel in northwest Atlanta and running from the scene, officials said.

Atlanta Fire Rescue spokesman Sgt. Cortez Stafford told AJC.com that the truck went “partially” into the side of the Airway Motel in the 700 block of Fulton Industrial Boulevard on Thursday morning. There were no reports of injuries.

The “bobtail” tractor-trailer left the road, hit a parked limousine and went into the one-story building about 9:15 a.m., Atlanta police Officer Jarius Daugherty said.

The driver ran but was captured nearby, police said. His identity and the charges against him have not been released.

A woman was inside the motel room where the truck hit, but she was able to escape by climbing out of a back window, Channel 2 Action News reported.

“I just started crying and screaming,” the woman, Lashonda Allen, told the news station. “I was just praying to God the semi-truck didn’t catch on fire.”

Crews are checking the structural integrity of the building and investigating what sparked the crash.

By noon, the truck had been removed, and a gaping hole remained in the brick building.

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The Nation

Oops! New York state did not previously enforce ELD rule, now making up for lost time

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The ELD mandate was a 2012 law passed under former President Barack Obama. The provision was championed as a way to protect the safety of truckers and others on the road. The Trucker file photo.

ALBANY, N.Y. — There’s always a straggler in the bunch. Unknown to many, New York state has not previously been enforcing the federal electronic logging device (ELD) mandate because it never adopted the ELD rule under its state laws and thus lacked the authority to enforce it.

According to the Trucking Association of New York (TANY), the New York State DOT has now issued an emergency rulemaking and begun enforcement of the ELD mandate.

TANY added in a news release that they have been told carriers not in compliance with the ELD mandate will be placed out-of-service as early as Thursday, January 17.

The ELD rule issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration went into effect in December 2017 and state governments were to have followed suit by incorporating the federal ELD rule into their state laws.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) has pursued lawsuits with certain states that have enforced the mandate while lacking a state-level law.

The ELD mandate has been unpopular among some truckers, who say it harms their schedules, take-home pay, and safety. Other truckers have said they like electronic logging once they get used to it.

When OOIDA sued New York, their complaint was dismissed — not because the New York court agreed with the state’s actions to enforce the federal law, but because New York wasn’t enforcing the law in the first place, according to Business Insider.

The snafu came to light in a State of New York Supreme Court ruling and opinion issued on December 31 by Judge Richard M. Platkin.

“Drivers are not being stopped, cited, or placed out-of-service pursuant to the ELD rule,” Platkin wrote.

Marc Berger, the chief motor-carrier investigator for New York’s Department of Transportation, said in the December 31 ruling that there are “no notices of violation or uniform traffic tickets being issued citing ELD provisions.”

The other defendants in the case — New York’s state police and the Department of Motor Vehicles — also stated that the ELD law hasn’t been enforced.

The ELD mandate electronically enforces the Hours of Service (HOS) law, which has been in effect since the federal government began regulating trucking in the 1930s. The HOS law stipulates that truckers can drive no more than 11 hours in a 14-hour period, a provision that some truckers say doesn’t reflect the nature of their work.

New York state said in the ruling that it does in fact enforce the HOS, but that the law is more challenging to enforce if ELDs are used.

The ELD mandate came into effect by means of a 2012 law passed under former President Barack Obama. The provision was championed as a way to protect the safety of truckers and others on the road. FMCSA estimated in 2014 that ELDs could prevent up to 1,714 crashes, 522 injuries, and 24 deaths each year.

But some truckers maintain ELDs are doing the opposite, while truck lobbying groups say it’s really not ELDs drivers have a problem with, it’s the unbendable nature of the HOS, which need more flexibility.

“The electronic logs are supposed to make it safer, but really it has created a hazardous race to beat the clock,” career truck driver Steve Manley, 51, told Business Insider. “Drivers are now more reckless than ever trying to make it to their destination before the clock runs out with the mandatory breaks and such.”

A TANY news release said despite New York State not enforcing the ELD mandate, it did enforce HOS and that FMCSA roadside inspections and on-site audits enforced the ELD mandate.

“Due to this, TANY continued to advise members to be in compliance with the ELD mandate regardless of the situation with New York enforcement,” the association said.

 

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