With more than 250 highway construction projects expected to be underway across the state by the start of the summer driving season, Gov. Kevin Stitt, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority are calling on drivers to exhibit the famous “Oklahoma Standard” every time they drive.
“We’ve seen Oklahomans pitch in and help their neighbors during the recent pandemic and economic downtown, so we’re calling on all drivers to come together and help our transportation workers and the industries and services that rely on our highway system by being cautious and attentive in work zones,” Secretary of Transportation Tim Gatz said.
This effort by ODOT and OTA is part of the ongoing award-winning Your Life Matters: Drive Like It campaign. Gov. Stitt signed a proclamation declaring the observation of “Work Zone Safety Awareness Week” in Oklahoma as May 15-22.
In the past five years, 95 people were killed in highway and turnpike work zones in Oklahoma, including four ODOT workers who were on the job. Additionally, the Federal Highway Administration ranks Oklahoma among the states with the highest number of commercial motor vehicle crashes in highway work zones. Law enforcement data shows that dangerous actions such as speeding, following too closely and being distracted by cell phones are the top reasons for crashes in work zones in our state. A very troubling increase in speeding has been observed in Oklahoma and nationwide since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic due to recent lower traffic volumes.
“This is a desperate plea, not just for the safety of highway workers, but for the thousands of people driving on Oklahoma highways every day,” Gatz said. “Work zone crashes are far more likely to claim the lives of drivers and passengers.”
During the next week the campaign will use numerous tools to spread the message of safe driving in works zones including these few items:
• Videos and graphics featuring highway workers’ perspective and driving tips on ODOT and OTA social media accounts;
• Daily Work Zone Wednesday messages on digital highway message boards; and
• On May 15, the new S.W. 34th bridge over I-35 in Moore and the Skydance Bridge over I-40, Scissortail Park and the Myriad Gardens in downtown Oklahoma City will glow orange at night to honor the 72 fallen highway workers from ODOT and OTA.
Due to favorable weather conditions, summer is the peak construction season for road projects. If Oklahomans must travel in the coming weeks, including Memorial Day, they should be alert to ODOT and OTA projects affecting major corridors:
• I-35 near Tonkawa and Stillwater, in Oklahoma City and between Goldsby and Davis;
• I-44 and the Broken Arrow Expressway in Tulsa;
• Turnpike work zones including:
o I-44 between Oklahoma City and Luther,
o I-44/H.E. Bailey Turnpike between Chickasha and Newcastle,
o The I-44/Will Rogers Turnpike between Claremore and Vinita and
o The Indian Nation Turnpike between Antlers and McAlester;
• I-40 in Elk City, near Foss,Oklahoma City, in Del City, near Shawnee, Okemah, Checotah, Vian and in Sallisaw;
• US-69 between Durant and McAlester; and
• US-412 between Woodward and Mooreland.
Drivers can expect reduced speed limits, lane and ramp closures, narrowed and shifted driving lanes, uneven pavement and even detours in some work zones. It is critical to plan ahead and allow extra travel time to ensure everyone’s safety in the work zone.
Motorists can get updates from ODOT about highway projects by signing up for traffic advisories at www.odot.org and also by following @OKDOT on Twitter and Facebook. The agency also has an improved free Drive Oklahoma app for Apple and Android smart phones that features maps of work zones, traffic conditions and road conditions and closures during inclement weather. The app recently has been updated to include turnpike information in its mapping tools. Information about turnpike projects can be found at www.pikepass.com and by following @OKTurnpike on Twitter and Facebook.
Learn more at https://www.ok.gov/odot/Workzone_Awareness_2020.html.