Story Ideas for Media
TDOT is dedicated to implementing projects and programs that improve transportation and benefit the people of Tennessee. Below are materials provided for journalists explaining the Department's current projects, programs and initiatives. For more information, please contact the Community Relations Officer in your Region.
NEW for Winter 2015-2016! TDOT is using a truck simulator to train many of our snow plow truck drivers. There are many challenges to driving a snow plow truck, so TDOT is using a pilot training program to determine the benefit of using a truck simulator to better prepare drivers for winter weather. Approximately 260 employees statewide will be trained by December 2015.
- TDOT HAS TOW PLOWS. Tow plows do the job of two trucks with one driver. TDOT crews spray brine (salt-water mix) before the rain, sleet or snow begins. Once the snow starts, we drop the salt. TDOT's Ice and Snow fact sheets are updated/released every winter.
- WINTER WEATHER WARRIORS - When the temperature drops and the snow falls, TDOT relies on maintenance crews to clear the road for motorists. From the garage to the roadway, it's an around-the-clock job to keep everyone safe and moving.
- WHAT IS AWOS? You may think of TDOT as a department that only builds roads, but did you know we also have an aeronautics division that is responsible for licensing and inspecting 74 airports across Tennessee? At 40 of those sites are Automated Weather Observation Systems or AWOS. The systems are very helpful for pilots, the National Weather Service and even TV meteorologists! TDOT is currently in the process of upgrading all 40 AWOS systems across the state. The system upgrades should be complete by 2020 and will cost about $2.5 million.
In 2014, TDOT and the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security celebrated the opening of the Nation's First Traffic Incident Management Training Center in Nashville. The Tennessee Traffic Incident Management (TIM) Training Facility is designed to teach best practices for safe, quick clearance of major highway incidents. The facility features a section of interstate-like roadway ranging from two to six lanes, guardrail, a two-way interchange, and cable and steel barrier rail, as well as a section of two-lane highway and a full four-way intersection. The facility will be used to simulate a variety of crashes, and allow emergency responders to train on safe and efficient clearance techniques.
Light Detection and Ranging, or LiDAR, is used to scan an entire area and provide exact reference points in traffic safety studies giving a 3-D model of the road and its data. LiDAR will scan an entire area (including vertical and horizontal structures) and provide exact reference points. On any given roadway, it can provide lane widths, slope of the road, shoulder widths, guardrail offsets and heights, sign placements and heights, bridge clearances, bridge lengths and widths, clear zone distances with locations of fixed objects (such as trees), and many other vital items. It gives TDOT more data, and it's quicker and safer. This equipment also allows surveyors to do their work without affecting traffic. It was recently used on I-440 during a Road Safety Audit Review. Contact the CRO in your region to find out when you can see LiDAR in action.
Road Safety Audits
A Road Safety Audit (RSA) is an in-depth study of the roadway that looks to improve both safety and congestion through low-cost safety improvements. The study is performed by a team and includes data on traffic, crash history, visibility, geometric features, and field investigations. Suggested improvements can include signing, striping, roadway delineation, surface rehabilitation, guardrail, cable rail, shoulder widening or stabilization, rumble stripes/strips, turn lanes, roundabouts, traffic signals, etc. Typically, all approved and funded improvements are completed within one (1) year of the final report. Safety improvements to SR 386/Vietnam Veterans Boulevard in Hendersonville were the result of an RSA after a 50-car pileup in 2011. Several new and enlarged warning signs, highly visible roadway striping, brighter reflectors in the center lane, and reflective strips on the guardrail and sign posts were part of the improvements.
Rock Fall Mitigation
TDOT's Rock Fall Mitigation Program takes a positive, proactive approach to increase the safety of the traveling public. Given Tennessee's terrain and the unpredictability of weather, aging of infrastructure and other factors, the threat of rockslides is ever present. Several years ago, TDOT began implementing a Rock Fall Mitigation Program to address this issue. The program first identifies potential rock fall sites and then assigns a hazard rating to each location. The hazard rating is based on the potential for a rock fall event and the impacts to travelers and surrounding communities. TDOT then acts accordingly putting safeguards into place.
J-Turns Improve Dangerous Intersections
A J-Turn requires side road movements to be made indirectly by making a right turn, traveling about a quarter-mile (pending speed and curves) on the divided main road, and then making a U-turn to proceed in the opposite direction on the main road toward the intended destination. Clear as mud, right? Click on the video produced by our friends at MoDot to see the turn in action. In an effort to improve safety, TDOT made J-Turn improvements at four locations in Tennessee that had a history of side-swipe crashes at the previously existing intersections. The improvements received national attention.
- Maury County, State Route 6 at Canaan Road
- Maury County, State Route 6 at South Cross Bridges Road
- Monroe County, State Route 33 at the intersection of the Wal-Mart entrance
- Crockett County, State Route 20 at the intersection of Egg Hill Road
How to Drive a J-Turn - Video Courtesy MoDOT
Intelligent Compaction Technology
In 2013, TDOT received $1.4 million from the Federal Highway Administration's Highways for LIFE (HfL) pilot program, which encourages the use of innovative technologies and practices on America's roads and bridges in an effort to improve highway safety and quality while reducing congestion caused by construction. The funds went toward "Intelligent Compaction" technology on four state resurfacing projects to improve overall pavement density and reduce future highway repair costs.
Places where Intelligent Compaction was used:
- Region 1, Knox Co., SR331
- Region 2, Hamilton Co., SR58
- Region 3, Lincoln Co., US64
- Region 4, Crockett Co., US412
Making Roads Safer in the Rain
Open-Graded Friction Course (OGFC) is porous asphalt that allows rainwater to drain through the top layer and out the side of the road. It helps prevent hydroplaning and spray from big trucks. In the photographs below, the left is before OGFC has been applied, and the right is after OGFC has been applied. You can clearly see the difference. Here's where you'll find OGFC:
- I-40 Williamson, Cheatham, Wilson, Smith, Benton, Haywood Counties
- I-24 Rutherford, Davidson, Hamilton Counties
- I-65 Giles County
- I-75 Hamilton County
- I-81 Greene County
- I-26 Sullivan County
- SR 840 Rutherford County
- SR 386 Sumner County
The Infrared Pavement Recycling machine heats up asphalt so it's able to be spread smoother and lasts longer. Crews spread asphalt and smooth it over without leaving jagged, round patches of asphalt that create a bumpy ride.
There's a lot of potholes on Tennessee roadways. Have you ever wondered what it's like to actually patch a pothole on a busy interstate? It's really dangerous! TDOT explains how it's done, including one worker's roadside view!
TDOT's bridge program is one of the best in the nation. In the last two years, we've significantly reduced the number of structurally deficient bridges to 5.9 percent, bringing Tennessee far below the national average of 11 percent deficient. The number is even lower, 3.3 percent, when you consider only the bridges for which the state is responsible. In the last four years, through our Better Bridges Program, TDOT has replaced, repaired or rehabilitated 193 of the 200 state-owned structurally deficient bridges. The future, however, holds a new challenge for Tennessee and all states. Congress passed legislation that changed funding for bridges in the federal transportation program, MAP-21. Now bridge repair must compete with other transportation needs.
- 19,792 Bridges on public roads in Tennessee
- 17 inspection teams
- 3 bridges a day inspected by each team, on average
TDOT is creating a new long-term vision for transportation in Tennessee and public input is needed. This 25-Year Long-Range Transportation Plan provides the foundation for prioritizing transportation investments across the state. The updated plan will aid in accomplishing TDOT's mission to serve the public by providing the best multi-modal transportation system in the nation. Watch the video here.
In February 2012, TDOT and the Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security signed a new agreement to ensure public safety and restore Tennessee roadways to full capacity as soon as possible following highway incidents. The agreement states the goals and objectives when a serious crash occurs, clearly defines the responsibilities of those responding to the incident, and includes a number of new procedures such as classifying events and continual reassessment of the situation. One of the most important goals is clearing the roadway within 90 minutes, when possible.
When a tour bus carrying a church group blew a tire, crossed the median, and crashed into oncoming traffic killing eight people, everyone wanted to know why the cable barriers didn't stop the bus. There are no guardrails approved by the federal government designed to stop a vehicle the size of a bus, and concrete barriers are not designed for depressed grass medians like in the case of the church bus. TDOT uses Level 4 cable which is recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board. It can withstand a 17,600 pound truck impacting at 50 miles per hour. The bus in this case was reportedly about 40,000 pounds. Tennessee has 300 miles of median cable barriers across the state.