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Michigan roadwork see increased risks, costs in the winter

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Michigan roadwork see increased risks, costs in the winter

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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The Nation

Stretch of Highway 22 in Oregon closed after tanker crash, diesel spill

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tanker crash on highway 22
Highway 22 between Idanha and Santiam Junction is unlikely to reopen until Friday or Saturday as crews remove contaminated soil in a roadside ditch and rebuild a 600-foot section of roadway, the Oregon Department of Transportation said. (Courtesy: Oregon State Police)

IDANHA, Ore. — A stretch of Highway 22 will be closed for much of this week as crews clean up gasoline and diesel fuel that leaked out of a crashed tanker truck near Idanha along the North Santiam River, state transportation authorities said Monday.

The highway between Idanha and Santiam Junction is unlikely to reopen until Friday or Saturday as crews remove contaminated soil in a roadside ditch and rebuild a 600-foot section of roadway, the Oregon Department of Transportation said.

An oil sheen was visible on the North Santiam River downstream of the crash site, but officials said most of the tanker’s oil seeped into the ditch, where it was absorbed by the soil. It’s unclear how much entered the river, the Statesman Journal reported.

The city of Salem said Monday that its drinking water is safe and the oil from the spill has not reached its water treatment plant near Stayton, which is about 30 miles (48 kilometers) away from the crash. The oil will take several days to reach the plant, the city said, and teams will test the river water at multiple locations this week. Crews have set up absorbent berms to capture the oil on the water.

If any fuel is detected in the river, the city will close the water intake gates as it did in a similar situation three years ago.

The crash on Sunday closed Highway 22 near Detroit and Santiam Junction. The truck was carrying 10,600 gallons of fuel total — 6,500 gallons of gasoline in a tanker trailer and 4,100 gallons of diesel in the truck’s tanker.

About 7,800 gallons of fuel emptied into a roadside ditch and the rest was recovered, according to Oregon Department of Environmental Quality officials.

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FMCSA final rule lowers annual registration costs for motor carriers

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truck driving down road
The reduction of the current 2019 registration year fees range from approximately $3 to $2,712 per entity, depending on the number of vehicles owned or operated by the affected entities. (iStock Photo)

WASHINGTON — Motor carriers will now see a reduction in the price they must pay to register their vehicles. On February 13, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration released a final rule that realigns the fees for the Unified Carrier Registration Plan.

According to the document posted on the federal register last week, this rule establishes reductions in the annual registration fees the states collect from motor carriers, motor private carriers of property, brokers, freight forwarders and leasing companies for the UCR Plan and Agreement for the registration years beginning in 2020.

“For the 2020 registration year, the fees will be reduced by 14.45% below the 2018 registration fee level to ensure that fee revenues collected do not exceed the statutory maximum, and to account for the excess funds held in the depository,” the document reads. “The fees will remain at the same level for 2021 and subsequent years unless revised in the future.”

The reduction of the current 2019 registration year fees range from approximately $3 to $2,712 per entity, depending on the number of vehicles owned or operated by the affected entities.

The UCR Plan and the 41 States participating in the UCR Agreement establish and collect fees from motor carriers, motor private carriers of property, brokers, freight forwarders and leasing companies. The UCR Plan and Agreement are administered by a 15-member board of directors; 14 appointed from the participating states and the industry, plus the Deputy Administrator of FMCSA or another Presidential appointee from the Department, according to the final rule.

Revenues collected are allocated to the participating states and the UCR Plan. If annual revenue collections will exceed the statutory maximum allowed, then the UCR Plan must request adjustments to the fees. In addition, any excess funds held by the UCR Plan after payments are made to the states and for administrative costs are retained in the UCR depository, and fees subsequently charged must be adjusted further to return the excess revenues held in the depository.

Adjustments in the fees are requested by the UCR Plan and approved by FMCSA. These two provisions are the reasons for the two- stage adjustment adopted in this final rule.

“While each motor carrier will realize a reduced burden, fees are considered by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A–4, Regulatory Analysis as transfer payments, not costs. Transfer payments are payments from one group to another that do not affect total resources available to society. Therefore, transfers are not considered in the monetization of societal costs and benefits of rulemakings,” according to the document.

The rule states that the total state revenue target is more than $107 million.

For more information or the read the rule in its entirety, visit https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/rulemaking/2020-01761.

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The Nation

Rhode Island DOT looks to hike trucks-only tolls amid court battle; public input sought

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Rhode island dot wanting to hike rates on trucks-only toll system while court battle continues; public comment sought
A truck passes through one of Rhode Island's six operating toll gantries. (courtesy: Providence Journal)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — As the Connecticut legislature prepares to vote this week on Gov. Ned Lamont’s controversial and long-debated “trucks only” toll proposal, a similar system in Rhode Island continues to operate while legal action to overturn the tolls is underway.

The original Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) proposal to charge tolls on trucks only included 14 locations, all bridges RIDOT deemed as structurally deficient. Tolls collected at each bridge would be used to repair and upgrade the specific location.

RIDOT is accepting public comment through March 1 on a plan to increase the toll on a newly installed gantry at the Oxford Street Bridge in Providence, a bridge crossing Interstate 95. The original toll for the bridge was set at $2.25 per trip; however, RIDOT is studying the cost-benefit ratio of doubling the rate to $4.50. RIDOT representatives requesting comment on the proposed increase claim the increase is really no increase at all; it is simply an effort to maintain the revenue forecast from the 14 gantries included in the original tolling proposal.

Currently, Rhode Island has constructed toll gantries at six of the originally planned locations; however, as the program has moved forward, two locations have been temporarily or permanently delayed. Rather than adjusting anticipated total revenue based on 12 locations, Gov. Gina Raimondo has instead directed RIDOT officials to study and request rate hikes at specific bridges. The toll hikes will allow Rhode Island to collect the same $45 million forecast from the 14 original gantries. This new twist on a toll program already challenged as unconstitutional by the American Trucking Associations, and one which an appellate court has ruled Rhode Island must face in a lawsuit, is leading the trucking industry and toll opposition to question RIDOT’s language in press releases and discussions on the issue.

Chris Maxwell, president of the Rhode Island Trucking Association, said, “This should serve to reinforce concerns over the unbridled power and discretion given to RIDOT and further feeds the suspicion and skepticism of Rhode Island’s business owners about the end game of this scheme.”

Maxwell’s comments come on the heels of an already approved increased toll rate at another location in Providence. The Route 6 bridge over the Woonasquatucket River was increased from $2.00 to $5.00 last fall.

Maxwell also expressed concern about changing the still new tolls program when original approval was based on environmental impact studies. “From a legal standpoint,” he said, “these ‘on the fly’ changes would seem to undermine and violate the purpose and extent of the environmental impact assessments.”
Other opponents to the Oxford Street bridge toll increase note that the bridge does not fall into the criteria RIDOT deemed as structurally deficient, meaning revenue from the toll would be used at other locations, a provision not included in the tolling plan.

From RIDOT’s perspective, not only is the proposed toll rate increase not really an increase, it is also going to save the state money. RIDOT Director Peter Alviti said that the infrastructure costs of eliminating two planned toll locations will result in lower implementation costs.

“Our thinking is we’ll forgo building [a gantry] at the viaduct in Providence, or at least while the viaduct is being built,” Alviti said on WPRO radio. “We’ll assign the toll amount we were going to collect there to the next nearest location, which is Oxford Street.”

Chris Maxwell believes he has a full understanding of RIDOT’s intent. “[They] deliberately chose the most densely traveled tool location in the who scheme to further their insatiable appetite to soak businesses, consumers, and taxpayers,” he said in an interview with Transport Topics.

RIDOT is justifying its proposed action based on the original toll proposal’s expectation of generating $45 million in revenue. In any event, Peter Alviti says, truckers traveling I-95 through Rhode Island will still be paying $20.00 per trip.

When is an increase not an increase? It depends on what your definition of increase is. For those wanting to comment, emails can be sent to Dot.BridgeRepairTolls@dot.ri.gov or comments can be submitted in writing to Jay McGinn, P.E., Project Manager II RIDOT, 2 Capitol Hill, Providence RI 02903. Following cutoff date for comments on March 1, the new rate will be implemented on March 5.

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