Quick Action and Teamwork Clears Flood Debris from US 89 in Page

Quick Action and Teamwork Clears Flood Debris from US 89 in Page

I-17 101 traffic interchange

Quick Action and Teamwork Clears Flood Debris from US 89 in Page

Quick Action and Teamwork Clears Flood Debris from US 89 in Page

June 8, 2015

PAGE – Something didn’t seem right to Thelma Begay.

Peering south toward the Glen Canyon Bridge from the Arizona Department of Transportation’s Equipment Services shop as a thunderstorm pummeled Page Friday afternoon, the account technician saw a line of traffic in both directions stopped on the bridge. She called over Shop Supervisor Scott Kennedy to take a look.

Kennedy, a 23-year resident of Page, knew something was wrong.

“Cars stopping on the bridge like that never happens, so I told her let’s drive down and see what’s going on,” Kennedy said. “Best case, it’s nothing. Worst case, we’ll see what we can do to help.”

That decision sent Page’s Equipment Services shop on a wet and muddy adventure that saved motorists from potential headaches and kept weekend getaway plans on schedule.

Kennedy and Begay hopped in one truck, while Equipment Repair Lead Technician Dustin Allen and Equipment Repair Technician Elias Tsinigine rode in another. When the two trucks made the three-quarter-mile jaunt down the hill on US 89 to the bridge, they encountered a river of mud and bowling ball-size rocks flowing across the highway at the entrance to the Glen Canyon Dam Visitor Center. Traffic heading in both directions was stop and go, and a Department of Public Safety officer was in the middle of the mudflow, directing vehicles.

Kennedy spoke to the officer and asked if ADOT had been notified. The officer said he had called in the incident, but ADOT’s Page Maintenance crews had not yet arrived to begin clearing the highway or take over traffic control.

“I told him we’d get the ball rolling,” Kennedy said.

He quickly learned that Page Maintenance crews were responding, but they were coming from the other side of the bridge and were stuck in the backup they’d been called on to clear. At ADOT, maintenance crews respond to traffic incidents for a variety of reasons, including when roadways need to be cleared of debris, when immediate roadway repairs are necessary and when DPS requests traffic control. Equipment Services is responsible for maintaining ADOT’s fleet of vehicles and its workers are rarely asked to report to an incident scene.

“The shops know when to look out for one another,” said Devin Darlek, equipment services administrator. “There have been many instances where the maintenance crews help out our shop personnel. To see it live, it’s like watching a great team playing on the field.”

By now, it was close to 1 p.m. and Kennedy knew something had to be done quickly.

“It’s a Friday afternoon,” he explained. “Everyone is coming to Lake Powell, people are towing boats, motorhomes are out there, lots of foreign tourists. It was going to be a mess.”

To Kennedy, the only option was for Equipment Services, which maintains and repairs ADOT vehicles, to step out of its comfort zone and clear US 89. On the foursome’s mind was the recent 25-month closure of US 89 south of Page because of a massive landslide.

“All four of us are cognizant of what it means to have the major route in or out of town cut off,” said Kennedy. “This was smaller, but we were definitely thinking about that.”

So, Kennedy directed Allen to drive a front-loader to the scene and clear large debris, while he and Tsinigine helped direct traffic to ensure Allen had enough space to operate. Begay stayed in a truck because the crew did not have enough orange safety vests for all to be working on the highway. The cleanup effort took about 20 minutes and traffic began flowing at a steady pace in both directions almost immediately.

“Dusty got the majority of the debris cleared,” Kennedy said. “It quit raining hard and that slowed the debris flow. Maintenance showed up and thanked us and they took over doing the dirty work of cleaning up all the muck.”

By 3:20 p.m., the highway had fully reopened, providing travelers easy passage to Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and points beyond.

Kennedy praised his co-workers for reacting quickly to a situation that called for action beyond their job descriptions, calling it a “whole team effort.”

“It was just common sense,” Kennedy said. “Felt to me like the right thing to do.”

Vehicles of ADOT: Profilometer

Vehicles of ADOT: Profilometer


Vehicles of ADOT: Profilometer

Vehicles of ADOT: Profilometer

January 23, 2015

ADOT’s job doesn’t end once a road is built.

Continued maintenance is necessary to keep our highways safe and operational for as long as possible. But with more than 6,000 miles of interstate and state highways in Arizona, prioritizing that work takes some effort.

One of the measurements used by ADOT to determine when a stretch of pavement needs rehabilitation is known as the International Roughness Index (IRI) – it’s a scale that measures a road’s smoothness.

You drive how many miles each year?
ADOT’s Pavement Management section gets the data necessary to calculate the IRI by driving all over the state in a vehicle equipped with a profilometer, an instrument that’s connected to an onboard computer system. The profilometer is a complex little device that utilizes laser sensors and an accelerometer to provide accurate results.

Two ADOT employees drive the vehicle roughly 15,000 miles each year to get the data needed!

Two people are necessary to operate the profiler vehicle because one drives (of course!) while the other works the onboard computer to note mileposts and other roadway “events” that would affect readings – think railroad tracks, bridge joints and road debris.

Besides being used by ADOT for project prioritization, the data collected is also sent to the Federal Highway Administration for its annual report on the health of each state’s highway system.

Additionally, ADOT’s profilometer gets called upon to drive project sites before and after a pavement rehabilitation project is completed. That helps ADOT know whether a contractor did a great job, or if some fixes are in order.

Why smoothness matters
ADOT has a limited amount of funding to build and maintain the state's highway system...and every dollar counts.

Maintaining a road is often less costly that reconstructing it altogether, but pavement designers and engineers can't just guess which projects to take on next. The profilometer gives vital data that, along with other factors, helps guide their decisions to make the most of a maintenance budget.

One more thing…
We’ve mentioned that data collected by the profilometer helps ADOT determine when to schedule projects. The projects we’re referring to can range from simple pavement preservation projects to more extensive pavement rehabilitation.

Those preservation techniques include surface treatments such as crack sealing (that’s where a sealant is used to fill cracks in the road) and slurry seal coats, which consist of sand, cement, water and emulsified asphalt. The slurry seal is spread in a thin layer over the pavement to help fill cracks and minor depressions in older asphalt concrete pavement. The more extensive rehabilitation projects require crews to mill and replace existing asphalt pavement.

For more information on how ADOT keeps its roads smooth, check out this blog post and video from 2011 that focus on a profilograph. That’s an instrument similar to a profilometer, but it is used to measure the smoothness of concrete instead of asphalt. If you want to see how ADOT measured the road’s roughness back in 1968, please revisit this recent post.

Drivers can help prevent dangerous roadway debris

Drivers can help prevent dangerous roadway debris


Drivers can help prevent dangerous roadway debris

Drivers can help prevent dangerous roadway debris

December 11, 2013

From seat belts and dust storms, to snow, work zones and tire pressure – we know that you know there are plenty of things to consider before getting on the road…

But, do you ever think much about roadway debris? It’s a potential danger all drivers should be aware of – it’s also something that everyone can help prevent.

“ADOT maintenance crews are picking up tons of debris in any given year and our crews wind up picking everything, including the kitchen sink,” says ADOT’s Doug Nintzel in the video above.

Last year, crews picked up more than 36 tons of rubber alone. There were also appliances, luggage, mattresses, ladders, furniture, buckets and your average everyday litter.

What can you do?

Drivers need to make sure their vehicle loads are tied down and covered. It’s also important not to overload your vehicle. To cut down on the chances of having a blowout (that’s what contributes to the tons and tons of rubber out on the roads), it’s essential that you maintain your vehicle’s tires and make sure they’re at the proper pressure.

“Make sure that you’re not letting things fly off your vehicle,” Nintzel says in the video. “It’s about keeping drivers and their passengers safe.”

Safety is top priority for ADOT maintenance crews

Safety is top priority for ADOT maintenance crews


Safety is top priority for ADOT maintenance crews

Safety is top priority for ADOT maintenance crews

October 8, 2013

We’re big fans of ADOT’s maintenance crews and we appreciate all they do to keep the roads safe…

We try to document much of what their jobs entail here on the blog, but these crews are responsible for so much that it’s difficult to capture it all (we have tried, though. Read our previous posts on the maintenance team).

Today’s video does a very good job of summing up what the maintenance crews do and why it should matter to the traveling public.

“Safety is priority No. 1,” says ADOT Highway Operations Supervisor Jerry Turner in the video above. “Making sure that the public has a safe road to travel on, whether we’re repairing guardrail or picking up debris on the road.”

The video also provides a reminder of how important it is to give these crews some room if you spot them working on the side of the road (remember Move Over AZ?).

“They are working to make your world safer. Give these folks a break,” says Public Information Officer Doug Nintzel. “That means merging over a lane or making sure you’re slowing down if you see a maintenance crew at work.”

For more on ADOT’s maintenance crews, revisit the blog archives and learn about the many responsibilities of this group. And, if you want to learn more about the attenuators that were mentioned in the video, we’ve got that covered, too.

ADOT's Insurance Recovery Unit helps recover taxpayer money

ADOT's Insurance Recovery Unit helps recover taxpayer money


ADOT's Insurance Recovery Unit helps recover taxpayer money

ADOT's Insurance Recovery Unit helps recover taxpayer money

April 26, 2013

ADOT's Insurance Recovery Unit has recovered more than $56,000 for damage done to the Jefferson Street overpass along I-17 in downtown Phoenix last October.

We’ve blogged before about what happens after a crash on the state highway system...

ADOT and other agencies respond and often, there’s quite a bit of work to be done before the scene is cleared. That work can range from hazardous materials cleanup to guardrail fixes and even overnight emergency pavement repairs.

But, what we haven’t delved into before is who actually pays for the damages.

If you get into a crash with another vehicle and the driver is at fault, you expect the damages to be covered by the other person or their insurance company. Because ADOT has the same expectation, $2.9 million in highway damages was recovered in 2012.

ADOT has an Insurance Recovery Unit that is made up of insurance industry professionals who are responsible for recouping the cost of damages to the state highway system. The recovered repair costs, which include labor, equipment and materials, go back into the state highway fund. This saves taxpayers from shouldering the expense of repairing accidental or negligent damages done to the highway system and puts the burden on the responsible party and their insurance carrier.

The recovery process begins when law enforcement responds to an incident where guardrail or some component of the highway system was damaged. The officer will mark the damaged item with a sticker that has the police report number on it. ADOT maintenance is then notified of the damage and makes the repair. A member of the Insurance Recovery Unit will utilize the police report to contact the individual or their insurance company to file a claim.

“Insurance recovery is a key component to being good stewards of taxpayer dollars,” said Sonya Herrera, safety and risk management director. “The person who damages state property should be accountable for the associated cost of repairs. This unit helps ensure that this happens.”

A recent example of insurance recovery was the damage done to the Jefferson Street overpass along Interstate 17 in downtown Phoenix last October. After the driver of a semi involved in the hit-and-run damage to the bridge was identified, the Insurance Recovery Unit set to work managing the claim with both the driver and his insurance company. More than $56,000 has been recovered for the damage to the overpass.

Over the past four years, ADOT has processed more than 8,500 claims.

“The work these individuals do is outstanding,” said Herrera. “They help save taxpayers millions of dollars each year.”

3 landscape maintenance tasks regularly performed by ADOT crews that you might not know about

3 landscape maintenance tasks regularly performed by ADOT crews that you might not know about


3 landscape maintenance tasks regularly performed by ADOT crews that you might not know about

3 landscape maintenance tasks regularly performed by ADOT crews that you might not know about

January 18, 2013

If you liked this list we shared last month, you’re in luck today…

That’s because we have a similar one to show you. Except instead of focusing on electrical maintenance tasks, this list examines landscape maintenance and three related responsibilities ADOT crews regularly tackle that you may not know about…

1) Landscape care and maintenance
Many people might not realize that ADOT crews handle landscape maintenance at all, so let us first define a few of the basic duties.

In the Phoenix district alone, there are 220 miles of landscaped areas that sit adjacent to the ADOT freeway system.

Crews care for the plants and irrigation systems. They also have to worry about weed control, erosion, slope repair, graffiti abatement and litter.

Then there’s the land along the state highway system that’s not landscaped. These spaces are typically in the state’s rural areas and contain natural vegetation. ADOT crews maintain the native vegetation to make sure it doesn’t interfere with the roadways. That general maintenance includes weed control, mowing and basic upkeep – there is no irrigation to be maintained in these areas.

2) Dealing with technology
“Every single plant out there (within ADOT’s landscaped areas) has an irrigation emitter and buried underground are miles and miles of pipes that bring water out to those plants,” said ADOT Roadside Maintenance Manager Mark Schalliol.

He explains that the emitters are “complicated pieces of plastic” controlled through a radio network that allows ADOT crews to water plants remotely.

The system also gives Schalliol and his crews the ability to conserve water and quickly tell if an area is being overwatered.

“We have an extensive formula for watering plants,” he said. “We’re conscious of the water.”

Newer technology is being incorporated into projects where appropriate, said Schalliol, explaining how moisture sensors are now being used on two recent landscape projects. These sensors are activated by soil moisture and allow ADOT to monitor and control irrigation in response to soil conditions, irrigation and precipitation.

“We are trying these out as another way to monitor and control irrigation,” he said.

3) Landform graphics
Crews from the ADOT Landscape Section take care of all the landform graphics, too.

“Our biggest issue with those is when errant vehicles drive off the roadway,” Schalliol said.

Besides making sure the graphics keep their shape, crews spray regularly for weed control.

“People don’t like looking at weeds,” he says.

There’s more…
This is not an exhaustive list of all the maintenance duties performed by the ADOT Landscape Section crews, but, like with our last list, we hope it gives you a better look at some of the “unseen” tasks being performed by our crews every day.

ADOT oversees quick removal of graffiti throughout the state

ADOT oversees quick removal of graffiti throughout the state


ADOT oversees quick removal of graffiti throughout the state

ADOT oversees quick removal of graffiti throughout the state

September 27, 2012

Not all graffiti can be painted within a day. Graffiti in some locations (overpasses, overhead signs, etc.) takes more time because road closures are often required.

It’s a real shame to see a road tagged with graffiti -- especially because we know all about the effort that goes into building a freeway in the first place.

Unfortunately, it does happen.

Fortunately, ADOT is vigilant when it comes to painting over the offending spray paint…

By the way, did you know there’s a way you can us help out?

If you spot graffiti on ADOT right-of-way (think freeway ramps, drainage structures, concrete barriers, sound walls, etc.) in the Phoenix-metro area, you can call ADOT’s graffiti hotline to report it.

That number is 602.712.6726.

All you’ve got to do is call and leave a message with the location and a description of the graffiti and our crews will take it from there…

How it works
ADOT has a company on contract that handles graffiti in the Phoenix area. When a call comes in, ADOT sends out a work order and, typically, the graffiti is taken care of within the same day (priority is given to vulgar or threatening graffiti).

Once on location, the crew actually mixes a paint color on-site, according to ADOT maintenance superintendent John Zandler.

“They are trying to make it look like it was never tagged and I think they do a pretty good job with that,” he said.

Making an area look as if it had never been tagged is important to deterring future taggers. A re-painted area that’s been poorly color-matched can act as a “frame” for the next tagger, Zandler said.

“If you can make it look like nothing ever happened, they’ll stay away from it,” Zandler said.

So, how do crews match the paint effectively?

“ADOT probably has six or eight standard colors,” Zandler said. “That helps, but really they start out with a base paint and mix colors on their truck to make whatever color they need.”

From there, the crews will test the paint on the wall, let it dry and, if it’s a good match, spray it on to cover the graffiti.

Funds to pay for the contracted company come from the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) and are part of the regional transportation plan.

Graffiti outside the metro area
So, what about graffiti in places outside of the Phoenix-metro area?

ADOT maintenance crews handle it in areas across the state and they’re just as vigilant.

Once the crews spot graffiti (or, it’s reported by a driver), they’ll go out and paint over it similarly to the methods outlined above.

Overnight emergency repairs follow I-10 tanker collision

Overnight emergency repairs follow I-10 tanker collision


Overnight emergency repairs follow I-10 tanker collision

Overnight emergency repairs follow I-10 tanker collision

November 18, 2011

I-10 was closed most of the day and night last Wednesday after two tanker trucks collided near Chandler Boulevard south of downtown Phoenix.

For hours, many drivers could see the resulting column of black smoke. Even more people saw footage and photos of the collision’s aftermath on the news and online.

What most didn’t see was the effort it took to reopen the freeway less than 24 hours after the fatal crash, which not only snarled traffic during the morning rush hour, but also severely damaged the road.


ADOT’s ALERT Team arrived on the scene shortly after the 8 a.m. crash. The crew worked with other agencies to close a portion of I-10, divert traffic and create a safe location for all the emergency responders.

Even once the fire was out, work to clear the wreckage couldn’t begin for several hours because of the extremely high level of fuel vapors in the air. Once the vapors dissipated (which, with very little wind, took close to four hours), two additional tankers were brought in to remove the fuel that remained in the burned tanker.

Once the Fire Department cleared the scene, the wreckage was cleared and work could begin on repairing the road’s surface.

It was determined that repaving the badly damaged area immediately was the best way to maintain a safe, drivable surface while avoiding a future closure of the heavily traveled Interstate. Late Wednesday afternoon, ADOT worked to line up the contractors and resources needed to accomplish the repair work.

“We didn’t want to leave bad pavement for tomorrow’s morning traffic to drive on,” says ALERT Commander Tom Donithan.

By about 8:00 Wednesday evening, the section of road was milled with a machine that basically pulverizes the damaged asphalt into an “almost powder,” according to Donithan in the video above.

Once the road was milled and the old asphalt was swept away, a new layer of asphalt was put down.

Not long after that, at about 2:30 a.m., striping trucks were able to re-stripe the road and westbound I-10 between Loop 202 and Chandler Boulevard reopened to traffic at approximately 4:30 a.m.

New snowplows on display for today's media event

New snowplows on display for today's media event


New snowplows on display for today's media event

New snowplows on display for today's media event

November 15, 2011

ADOT Snow Prep

Driving a snowplow is a lot harder than it looks …

Luckily, ADOT has about 395 employees trained and ready to operate the nearly 200 snowplows in Arizona’s fleet.

To give the public a better idea of what it takes to drive one of these machines, ADOT invited members of the local media over to a Phoenix equipment services yard this morning for an up-close look. 

Reporters not only learned about ADOT’s winter storm prep, but they saw several plows on display and were even able to try out ADOT’s snowplow simulators. 

A bit on the snowplows 

The snowplows on display this morning are brand new! ADOT has added 15 new snowplows to its fleet this year. This new equipment will be deployed soon to different districts around the state in time for the snowy season. The new plows are replacing older plows that have reached the end of their life cycles (the old snowplows will be sold at an auction in the spring).

Practice makes perfect 

The snowplow simulators made available to reporters this morning are a valuable training tool for ADOT snowplow operators. The simulators might look like a sophisticated arcade game, but they’re not. The equipment helps drivers learn how to operate a snowplow and gives them a good idea of some of the hazards they may face on the road. The simulators can output everything from different weather conditions to locked brakes and failed headlights. 

For more information on driving in Arizona during the snowy season, check out ADOT’s Know Snow Web page.

ADOT set for snowy season

ADOT set for snowy season


ADOT set for snowy season

ADOT set for snowy season

November 14, 2011

Arizona isn’t known for its harsh, winter weather conditions, but that doesn’t mean we don’t see some considerable snowfall during our colder months.

In fact, areas up in the state’s high country already had their first snowfall this season and more is on its way. So, what better time to make sure you’re ready for the winter season ahead?

ADOT certainly is ready ... as part of the department’s winter safety operations, we remove snow and ice during and after storms to keep highways open for motorists and businesses. Our snowplows are serviced and ready, our operators are prepared and our maintenance yards are stocked with deicer materials and equipment!

A few facts about snowplows and snow removal …

  • ADOT has 395 employees who are trained and have commercial driver licenses, which are required to operate a snowplow.
  • These employees go through a lot of training. Before they can become a certified snowplow operator, employees have to go through 4-8 hours in the classroom, 8-16 hours training in a snowplow simulator and at least 40 hours of on-the-job training.
  • Snowplow operators typically work 12-hour shifts during winter storms.
  • ADOT has 196 snowplow trucks in its fleet. Each snowplow costs about $250,000 and they are funded with state funds from the Highway User Revenue Fund (HURF).
  • This year, ADOT is adding 15 new snowplows to its fleet. They’ll replace some of our older snowplows. (We’ll tell you more about this tomorrow!)
  • ADOT is fully stocked with deicer chemicals. There are about 24,000 tons of Ice Slicer (granular product seen in video above) available statewide along with liquid magnesium chloride (a naturally occurring salt mineral).

You can see in the video above, ADOT crews are out there right in the middle of the storm, making sure the state’s roads are as safe as possible.

“Our main concern is to keep the roadways open, to keep them safe for the traveling public and to get the information out that the conditions may change as they drive,” says Flagstaff Maintenance Engineer Chuck Gillick.

While our snowplow drivers do their part to keep the roads open, motorists play a big role when it comes to safety, too …

For information on how to stay safe when driving in snowy conditions, you can visit ADOT’s “Know Snow” webpage. From maps to a look at how ADOT removes snow, the page includes some great tools you’ll want to check out.

“The main thing that drivers can do is be informed about the weather conditions and to just slow down, let the plows do their job and just have a safe ride and realize its going to take a little bit longer to get to where they’re going than under ordinary conditions,” says Gillick.