August 30th, 2011

BOUNCE BACKS

Preserve Infrastructure, by Catherine Higgins.

New guidance devices are popping up on the side of state roads.

Steel post delineators are difficult to repair and usually need to be replaced. The white delineator in the background has a post that rebounds, even after several vehicle hits.

Delineators are devices with retroreflectors that are installed along roadways to provide guidance to drivers at night and during other low visibility conditions. “On dark and stormy nights, sometimes all you can see are those delineators,” says Lynn Bernhard, Maintenance Methods Engineer for UDOT.  It’s important to keep the devices in good working condition, he explains.

Traditional post-mounted delineators, made of galvanized steel with attached retroreflectors, are ubiquitous in Utah.  The delineators are prone to frequent vehicle hits on some state roads, so up-keep can be a challenge. When a post is badly bent, workers sometimes try to use brute strength to put it upright again, but usually, the post needs to be replaced. A few types of flexible posts have been tried without good success – some tend to shatter when hit in cold weather.

In those high-hit areas, UDOT is transitioning to using a new type of post that can withstand nearly ten times as many vehicle hits as traditional steel posts. The new posts are made of durable recycled plastic with a joint at the base that allows the post to rebound after a vehicle hit.

State Route 68 north of Eureka served as one of the test areas for the new posts. The narrow stretch of road serves vehicles towing trailers heading to nearby the Little Sahara recreation area. With a total of about 300 posts, workers were replacing about 800 a year. Test results show that the new posts will save material and man hour costs over the long run, even at three-times the cost of steel posts. The new devices also improve work-place risk, since fewer service calls are required. The amount of waste requiring disposal is also reduced.

“I think they’re very worth while,” says Chad Allinson, Eureka Maintenance Station Supervisor. He is quick to thank Bernhard for helping obtain the new devices. Allinson has found that the posts usually rebound after a hit, but the ones that get pushed over are easier to fix than the steel post delineators.

Another high-hit area, Provo Canyon, will get the new posts soon. Check back next week to read about how the new delineators, along with several other safety measures will improve winter operations on the winding, high mountain road.

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