Construction Week Newsletter 25th December 2004

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By  Mike Bayman Published  December 25, 2004

Editorial Leader|~||~||~|

Road to confusion

This past year I, like many people in the region, have been living next to a building site. The noise has not been too much of a problem; the double glazed windows in my apartment take care of much of that. It is the mess that has been made of the roads that has been the main nuisance. From my apartment windows and as a driver getting to and from that apartment, I have seen and experienced many traffic problems as the roads around the apartment block were arranged, rearranged and then rearranged again (some 12 times in nine months: the first change lasted for three months). I have seen drivers reversing 50 m down main roads into traffic streams; drivers driving up single-lane diversions the wrong way; drivers driving up the wrong side of a dual carriageway; drivers going straight through red lights; drivers driving onto the building site because they have mistaken the road. That I have only seen one rear end collision in all this time is probably due to good fortune; comparatively low traffic volumes, and the fact that I spend most of my time here at Construction Week’s offices! Clearly, there is something wrong with the way that the contractor is organising and policing traffic as the roads get torn up; sewerage and other utility pipes get put in; central reservations are destroyed and then rebuilt; trenches are dug across the road, filled in and dug out again (seemingly). There is no doubt that drivers are confused by the changes in road layout. Why? First of all, the signage is poor. For months the contractor continued to use the existing traffic lights to control the junction with half of the lights removed. The cones and plastic flagged tape that is commonly used to lane roads are simply confusing. The narrowed lanes moved traffic away from the light, and made it seem irrelevant. A large sign telling motorists to ‘Slow Down’ blocked their view of the traffic light that controlled the lane. Small wonder that so many just drove through the red light. At the other end of the junction, there were not so many problems with the light, and people still just went through on red, but not as much, it seemed to me. And when contractors themselves frequently lower the tape to allow construction machinery onto the junction (right in its middle, I might add), there was no surprise to see cars drive from the junction into the site by mistake. Quite funny to see a worker chasing after the car, arms waving in the air trying to stop it before it drove into a hole, but not very safe. If the contractor is not going to obey his own demarcation rules, why should motorists? It has just been a farce. Obviously, if you are developing a green-field site in an urban area, you need to work on the infrastructure, but surely a much more logical work plan can be adopted so that, for instance, contra flows can be put in place to allow contractors full access to one carriage way at a time. The practice of using cones and flagged tape is a flawed one. Just use lots of cones close together: drivers need an edge to the road and cones give it that; they also provide a much better visual signal of where the road lies. Add flashing lights to the cones and you have a good chance drivers will notice. Try and keep the road layout for as long as possible, and make the fewest possible changes during construction. If a road is one way, use two no-entry signs: double the chance that the sign will be seen. Light the signs at night!!! Use portable traffic lights that can be sited right next to the established lane; they are more likely to be seen. I am no expert in traffic management, and the above is offered out of experience of road works in Europe and common sense. However, it does not take an expert to see that something is wrong with the way it is done at present, and it needs to be fixed.||**||

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