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Tag Archive | "MDOT"

Birds and bridges: Falcons banded at two Upper Peninsula sites


 

As an angry adult falcon swoops in, from left, DNR wildlife technicians Caleb Eckloff and Brad Johnson and DNR biologist John Depue work to remove peregrine falcon chicks from a nest box on the Portage Lake Lift Bridge on June 17. (MDOT photo)

As an angry adult falcon swoops in, from left, DNR wildlife technicians Caleb Eckloff and Brad Johnson and DNR biologist John Depue work to remove peregrine falcon chicks from a nest box on the Portage Lake Lift Bridge on June 17. (MDOT photo)

It’s been a good season for Upper Peninsula bridges and their resident raptors, with peregrine falcons at the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge successfully hatching three chicks and the Portage Lake Lift Bridge between Houghton and Hancock seeing four hatchlings this spring.

At the Portage Lake Lift Bridge, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) installed two nest boxes in 2012, one each on the north and south bridge towers. A pair of falcons discovered the nesting site the next spring and has raised a total of 10 chicks there.

MDOT took precautions to shield the lift bridge nesting boxes from construction work—an $8.4 million upgrade and preventive maintenance project started in late 2014 and just wrapped up this spring. Screens were placed to keep the falcons from seeing workers in the bridge machinery rooms and efforts were made to minimize disturbances in the nest area. During construction, a webcam, viewable at http://pasty.com/nestbox.html, was also installed in cooperation with the Copper Country Audubon Society to allow people to watch nesting activity.

As DNR wildlife technician Caleb Eckloff looks on, DNR wildlife technician Brad Johnson holds a peregrine falcon chick during the banding process at the Portage Lake Lift Bridge on June 17. (MDOT photo)

As DNR wildlife technician Caleb Eckloff looks on, DNR wildlife technician Brad Johnson holds a peregrine falcon chick during the banding process at the Portage Lake Lift Bridge on June 17. (MDOT photo)

On the eastern end of the U.P., Karl Hansen, bridge engineer for the International Bridge Administration (IBA), reported that a pair of peregrine falcons successfully nested atop the bridge between the U.S. and Canada this spring, hatching three chicks.

The hatching is the culmination of an ongoing commitment by the IBA. Nest boxes for the peregrines have been installed since 2010 on both the U.S. and Canadian arches. Peregrines have been active at the International Bridge since 1999 but, before the nest boxes were installed, the falcons laid their eggs in gravel on the exposed pier top and there were unfortunate instances of eggs and chicks being blown off.

The same pair of adults has been returning to the U.S. side nest each year but, so far, none have taken up residence in the nest box at the Canadian arch. Hansen has counted 20 chicks hatched out of the nest boxes since they were installed.

The chicks at the Lift Bridge were banded by a Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) team on June 17, while the International Bridge birds were banded by a team on June 20. According to DNR wildlife biologist Kristie Sitar, color-coded bands attached to the legs of young birds allow scientists to track the movements, reproductive behavior and population growth of the falcons. DNR biologists have yet to confirm that birds banded at either bridge have gone on to breed elsewhere, but that’s not unusual.

“There are no records of where fledged birds from (the IBA) site have gone but that doesn’t mean they aren’t breeding someplace,” Sitar said of the IBA birds. “Oftentimes, birds aren’t uniquely identified at new sites for a few years.”

In addition to their leg bands, the peregrine chicks received names. Names are typically assigned by DNR and bridge staff involved in the banding. At the IBA, names were chosen to honor the struggles of current and former colleagues battling cancer. The males were called Jim and Cameron, while the lone female was named Cheryn. At the Lift Bridge, DNR and bridge staff chose to name the females Lynn and Spunky, while the males were dubbed Edgar and Scottie. The new peregrines at both bridges should be ready to leave the nest in another few weeks.

The peregrine falcon has been removed from the federal endangered species list, but is listed as an endangered species in Michigan, protected by state and federal law. Peregrines have adapted to city habitats, nesting on tall buildings, smokestacks and bridges around the world. Studies have found the birds in this region tend not to nest in the same area where they were hatched, but spread out across the Midwest.

Every nesting site is special. In 2015, there were only 34 active nest sites in the entire state, with 29 of them on artificial structures. Only two of the five natural sites were accessible for banding birds this year, so having boxes on accessible structures like the Lift Bridge and International Bridge helps the DNR follow the raptor’s comeback.

High-speed hunters capable of flying at 200 mph, the peregrines may help keep populations of nuisance pigeons under control. While researchers have found pigeons make up a relatively small portion of the falcon diet, the dangerous predators may play a role in frightening them away from bridges. Keeping pigeons away is seen as potentially saving MDOT and the IBA maintenance money down the line, as pigeon droppings can damage paint on metal bridge surfaces.

 

Fast facts:

  • A pair of peregrine falcons has successfully nested on the Portage Lake Lift Bridge again this year after completion of a major bridge repair project.
  • Another pair of the endangered falcons successfully nested on the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge, where the birds have been returning for years.
  • The DNR banded four chicks at the Portage Lake Lift Bridge and three at the International Bridge.

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MDOT improves safety for older drivers


 

A recent study by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and Western Michigan University shows new signs and signals make roads safer for older drivers. Michigan’s aging population has resulted in an increase in the number of older drivers involved in traffic crashes. The number of drivers age 65 and older involved in crashes in Michigan increased by 2.4 percent from 2004 to 2013, even as the number of all drivers involved in crashes dropped by 23.8 percent during the same period.

In 2004, MDOT began implementing engineering countermeasures addressing the needs of older drivers.

• The use of Clearview font on guide signs, which improve legibility by minimizing blurring around the edges of the letters.

• The use of fluorescent yellow sheeting, a new, brighter color for warning signs that is more visible.

• Box span signal configuration, in which traffic signals are suspended along all four sides of an intersection, to improving safety and visibility.

• Pedestrian countdown signals, which show the number of seconds remaining to safely cross the roadway. These signals help pedestrians decide whether to start crossing an intersection or adjust their walking speed.

• Arrow-per-lane signing, which clarifies navigation paths with a directional arrow above each limited access highway lane.

Kimberly Lariviere, MDOT Strategic Highway Safety engineer, is the project manager.

“The benefit-cost ratio for all of these previously used devices was very good, and some were exceptional,” Lariviere said. “This research confirms that the improvements MDOT started making 11 years ago for older drivers were wise investments that we should continue implementing.”

The improvements were reviewed in two ways. Researchers surveyed 1,590 Michigan drivers and pedestrians in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and Lansing to learn their perceptions of the improvements. Historical crash data, before and after implementation, also was analyzed to determine the impacts of the improvements on safety.

The surveys revealed drivers preferred the improvements over the traditional alternatives. Data analysis showed all five improvements offered cost-effective ways to reduce crash rates among all drivers, specifically among older drivers.

This project confirms that all five of the improvements studied provided good safety benefits for the amount of money invested, and several produced exceptional benefit-cost ratios. Researchers recommend continuing to install them in appropriate locations.

More details are available in the MDOT research spotlight report “Evaluation of Michigan’s Engineering Improvements for Older Drivers” online. www.michigan.gov/documents/mdot/RC1636_Spotlight_506683_7.pdf

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Winter Comes to Michigan


Rediscovered film a blast from the past


Scenes of winter fun from the “Winter Comes to Michigan” film. Elaborate toboggan runs and outdoor public skating rinks were popular winter pastimes once reliable winter travel made it possible for Michiganders to get out and enjoy them. (MDOT photos)

Scenes of winter fun from the “Winter Comes to Michigan” film. Elaborate toboggan runs and outdoor public skating rinks were popular winter pastimes once reliable winter travel made it possible for Michiganders to get out and enjoy them. (MDOT photos)

toboggan run

toboggan run

from MDOT

After spending decades in a basement in the eastern Upper Peninsula, a 1930s-era newsreel from the Michigan State Highway Department has resurfaced to remind us of the challenges—and the fun—of winters past.

The film, “Winter Comes to Michigan,” created by the precursor agency to the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), gives us a black-and-white window to the era when Murray Van Wagoner, a future Michigan governor, ran the department from 1933-1940.

A scene from Suicide Hill ski jump in Ishpeming from the “Winter Comes to Michigan” film. (MDOT photos)

A scene from Suicide Hill ski jump in Ishpeming from the “Winter Comes to Michigan” film. (MDOT photos)

The film was one of several reels found by sisters Nancy and Barbara Sleeper of Newberry. They discovered them in their mother’s basement and wanted to preserve them as part of their family heritage.

“Our grandfather, Sanborn Sleeper, was the superintendent of the Luce County Road Commission from 1928 until sometime around World War II,” Nancy Sleeper said. She believes he acquired the films during that period.

Sanborn Sleeper was instrumental in bringing the Snogo, an early snow blower, to Michigan, Nancy said. Some of the reels featured film of the Snogo equipment being tested near Newberry.

“We saw the ‘Winter Comes to Michigan’ film and thought, gee, this is some great footage of those old-time busy highways,” Nancy said. “They were so interesting, we couldn’t see just holding onto them.”

So the Sleeper family donated the original reels to MDOT. They’ve now been digitized, restored and uploaded to the department’s YouTube channel at  https://youtu.be/NH20lpFu_3Q

The film’s “man against nature” theme focuses on the challenge—as real today as it was then—of keeping roads open during Michigan’s harsh winters.

“Winter maintenance is a gigantic task for heroic men and efficient machines,” says the film’s foreword. “It is a public service fraught with grave responsibilities. OUR HIGHWAYS MUST BE KEPT OPEN!”

Winter travel before modern highways was not an easy ride. The season was something to be survived, not enjoyed.

“Yes, winter is a season of unusual beauty,” intones the narrator. “Only a brief score of years ago, however, the idyll of winter brought only the sad realization of a long season of isolation.”

Modern highways and winter snow removal equipment changed all that. With the advent of reliable winter maintenance, the film suggests, the state’s growing highway system opened up winter as a playground for sports, recreation and tourism.

The film shows residents enjoying outdoor winter fun at locations such as Ishpeming’s Suicide Hill ski jump, fledgling downhill ski areas, outdoor public ice skating rinks and an elaborate toboggan run. Filmmaker and author Bill Jamerson, whose documentaries have explored winter sports and other aspects of state history for Michigan Public Television, said many of the film locations were probably in the U.P., while the toboggan run scene was probably filmed at a winter sports park in Grayling.

Most of these winter parks started in the late 1920s, Jamerson said. His “Winter Wonderland” documentary looked at the golden age of winter recreation from the 1930s through the 1960s, made possible via better automobiles and snow removal equipment.

“Winter driving was hazardous, so this film goes a long way in showing that progress had been made,” Jamerson said. “Remember, up until WWII, snow trains brought people up to the Grayling winter sports park from Detroit. So, rail was considered the safe option for most people. Trains were also bringing people from Chicago and Milwaukee up into Iron Mountain.”

Transportation, even in this period before the Mackinac Bridge, helped boost the state’s winter tourism by allowing safe and reliable winter travel. It also may have helped end this golden age. When air travel became routine, more and more Midwesterners headed to the higher slopes and newer resorts in the west.

“I think an important thing these films do is remind us who we are,” Jamerson said. “For example, there once was a day when skating rinks were overflowing with families. It could happen again!”

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MDOT looking for West Michigan road watchers


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With the return of Michigan’s winter fury, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is bringing back its “Road Watchers” program. MDOT is recruiting returning and new Road Watchers in the 13-county Grand Region to participate in periodic surveys measuring winter highway conditions during the 6-9 a.m. commuting period on some key routes in their area:

  • I-196 in Allegan, Ottawa, and Kent counties
  • I-96 in Muskegon, Ottawa, Kent, and Ionia counties
  • US-131 in Allegan, Kent, Montcalm, Mecosta, and Osceola counties
  • US-31 from Grand Haven to Muskegon
  • M-6 in Ottawa and Kent counties
  • M-37 from M-46 to M-82 in Muskegon and Newaygo counties

“Volunteers from last year provided excellent feedback for us to improve our winter maintenance efforts,” said MDOT Grand Region Associate Engineer for Operations Tim Little. “Our region grew from 8 to 13 counties and we’ve added new routes for volunteers to watch this year.”

Road watchers are polled randomly for each storm event and asked to participate in an online survey about the road conditions they encountered. Surveys should only take a few moments to complete and all results will be anonymous. MDOT compiles the survey results to track winter highway conditions with the goal of improving winter maintenance practices and response time.

To volunteer, visit www.michigan.gov/roadwatchers.

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Tips for dealing with potholes


CAR-Pothole-birthofPOTHOLE

Be vigilant—extra vigilant

From MDOT

Stating the obvious here: it’s best to avoid hitting potholes whenever possible. That’s easier to do if you’re driving cautiously, and not tailgating, so you have more time to see and react to any potholes you’re approaching.

Potholes aren’t always obvious in the daylight; they’re even harder to spot in the dark. Make sure your headlights are working and your windshield is clear.

Be extra cautious around puddles—they could be potholes filled with water. Since water is a critical component to forming potholes, that puddle may be at work creating one as you drive through it.

Keep a firm grip on your steering wheel as potholes can cause your vehicle to change direction suddenly. Don’t swerve into an occupied lane. No one wants pothole damage to escalate to a collision causing further damage or injury.

Vehicle maintenance helps

Unquestionably, hitting potholes can damage your vehicle. However, there are some things you can do to keep it to a minimum.

• Make sure your tires are properly inflated. Over- or under-inflated tires fare worse when they tangle with a pothole. Tires showing excessive wear or bulges in the sidewalls won’t hold up as well to potholes, either.

• Have your vehicle’s suspension and steering components checked out by a qualified mechanic. Steering that is in good condition and responsive can help you avoid hitting potholes. Remember that shocks, struts and springs in good shape help cushion the blow.

There’s a technique to this

There are often two schools of thought on driving through potholes: speeding up to “jump” over them and jamming the brakes hard to hit them as slowly as possible. Both might work occasionally but the best way is somewhere in between.

If you see a pothole ahead and can’t safely steer to avoid it, it’s best to slow down, then release the brakes before you hit the pothole. This helps to reduce the speed at impact as well as give your suspension the full range of travel to absorb the impact. If you can’t avoid the pothole, straighten your wheel to hit it squarely and roll through. Hitting a pothole at an angle can transfer the energy of impact in ways more likely to damage your vehicle.

You hit one. Now what? 

Tire and wheel damage are common in pothole hits. Look them over for obvious damage. Is your car now pulling one way or the other? You may need to get your steering realigned. Is your vehicle now “bottoming out” or bouncing? That could be damaged suspension. You probably should get your vehicle checked out and repaired, if necessary. A properly maintained vehicle can help you avoid all sorts of road hazards.

Help us take care of it

Whether you hit a pothole or you missed it, you can save your fellow motorists the headache and costs of repairs by reporting it. If it’s on a city street or county road, report it to your city public works department or county road commission. If it’s on state trunkline (I, M or US route), submit it to MDOT’s Report a Pothole webpage (find link at www.michigan.gov/mdot) or call it in to the Pothole Hotline at 888-296-4546.

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Cable median barriers: A cost-effective means to save lives


 

From Michigan Department of Transportation

CAR-Fatal-crashes-TZD-bannerMedian-crossover crashes are among the most hazardous events that can occur on freeways, often leading to serious injury or death. In recent years, high-tension cable median barriers have emerged as a cost-effective alternative to conventional barriers in preventing such crashes. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) began installing them on state freeways in 2008. A recently completed research project confirmed that cable median barriers are effective at reducing crossover crashes and improving freeway safety in Michigan, produced guidelines to help identify the best locations to install them, and developed content for public outreach materials explaining their benefit.

After the barriers were installed, crossover crash rates on those highway segments fell by 87 percent, and the barriers successfully contained 97 percent of the vehicles that hit them. Cable barriers have improved overall safety at the locations where they have been installed. The most serious crash types—fatal and severe injury crashes—decreased by 33 percent after cable median barriers were installed, according to rigorous statistical analysis. Since their installation, cable barriers are estimated to have saved 20 lives and prevented over 100 serious injuries in Michigan.

The research study confirms that cable median barriers are a cost-effective treatment for reducing crossover crashes, fatalities and serious injuries in Michigan. The guidelines developed will give MDOT a framework for determining where cable barriers are likely to have the greatest positive impact and return on investment based on crash data and site characteristics specific to Michigan. MDOT is reviewing these recommendations for possible incorporation into future updates to the department’s median treatment design guidelines.

To help educate drivers about the safety benefits of cable median barriers, the researchers also developed content for public outreach messaging, including an update to MDOT’s 2011 brochure on cable median barriers. For a copy f the new brochure go to http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mdot/MDOT_GuardrailSystemBrochure_300385_7.pdf

For more information on the research go to the MDOT Research Spotlight at: http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mdot/RC1612_Spotlight_479486_7.pdf

The statewide goal is to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries on all roadways from 889 and 5,706 respectively in 2011, to 750 and 4,800 in 2016. The mission is Toward Zero Deaths on Michigan Roadways. Visit www.michigan.gov/zerodeaths for more informaiton.

 

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MDOT looking for Grand road watchers during wintry commutes


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The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is seeking “Road Watchers” to report on winter highway conditions in MDOT’s Grand Region, which includes: Ionia, Kent, Montcalm, Muskegon, and Ottawa counties. MDOT is recruiting volunteers who travel on US, M and I routes in these counties to help measure how well the roadways are maintained following winter storms. Comments gathered will be used to improve winter maintenance. MDOT is looking for “Road Watchers” to monitor the following highways during morning commutes:
*N-Road watchers

  • I-96 throughout Kent and Ionia counties
  • I-96 from US-31 to the Ottawa/Kent county line (Muskegon and Ottawa counties)
  • US-131 throughout Kent County
  • I-196 throughout Kent and Ottawa counties
  • M-57 from US-131 to M-91 in Greenville (Kent and Montcalm counties)
  • M-37/M-44 (East Beltline/Broadmoor avenues) from Caledonia to West River Drive/Cannonsburg Road (Kent County)
  • US-31 from Jackson Avenue in Grand Haven to I-96 (Ottawa and Muskegon counties)

“We receive so much valuable information from motorists each winter that we wanted to make it official and encourage more,” said MDOT Grand Region Associate Engineer for Operations Tim Little. “This area is notorious for lake-effect snow and we’ll use all the data we can to improve our winter maintenance efforts. We hope many travelers will volunteer and share their commuting experiences.”

MDOT will compile the survey results to track winter highway conditions with the goal of improving winter maintenance practices and response times. Surveys should only take a few moments to complete.

Road Watchers are polled randomly for each storm event and asked to participate in an online Survey Monkey survey about the road conditions they encountered. All results will be anonymous. To volunteer, visit www.michigan.gov/roadwatchers.

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MDOT reminds motorists and bicyclists to share the road


CAR-Fast-FactsCAR-motorists-and-bicyclistsThe Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) wants to remind motorists and bicyclists alike to be courteous and share the road.

Schools are now in session, but that doesn’t mean the bicycling season is over. Many people are riding bicycles, either individually or in groups, taking in the fall colors on scenic roadways or shopping for farm fresh produce at roadside stands. Motorists are reminded that bicyclists are legal users of the roadway and groups of bicyclists are legally allowed to ride on the roadway without special event permits or accommodations, while following all applicable laws.

In early 2014, MDOT and the Michigan Department of State (MDOS) released a “share the road” video, showing the wide range of bicyclists everyone must share the road with. It features cameo appearances by State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle and Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, who remind bicyclists to follow the rules of the road, and motorists to pass bicyclists at a safe distance.

A recently released report on the economic benefits of bicycling estimated that organized bicycle events and bicycle-related vacations contribute $38 million to the Michigan economy. These organized group events are important contributors to our communities and states economy.

MDOT reminds drivers: Lives are in your hands – always pass cyclists at a safe distance.

 

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MDOT warns motorists, private plows of winter hazards


CAR-Fast-FactsA private snowplow pushes snow into a state highway, causing a public plow to crash and roll over, injuring the driver. Meanwhile, in another area a motorist disregards winter conditions, traveling too fast and crashes into the rear of a Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) plow, disabling it.

Those are just two cases of hazardous actions in winter resulting in crashes earlier this month in Michigan, and in both cases taking two winter maintenance vehicles out of commission.

“Slippery roads, reduced visibility, and excessive speeds greatly reduce the margin of error in winter driving,” said State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle. “We implore private plow operators and motorists to be extra cautious, and avoid doing anything that adds to the hazards of winter driving or roadway maintenance.”

Two main concerns are when residents and businesses pile snow at the ends of driveways along the highway shoulder, and when snow is pushed across the road, leaving snow or slush on the road surface.

The Michigan Vehicle Code prohibits depositing “snow, ice, or slush on any roadway or highway,” and “the obstruction of safety vision by removal or deposit of snow, ice, or slush.” This includes the end of driveways, where banked snow can reduce visibility for vehicles trying to enter the roadway. Leaving a trail of snow on the pavement while plowing across the road also can create an added hazard to unsuspecting motorists and to road maintenance personnel.

Motorists also should be particularly careful around winter maintenance snowplows and salt trucks. These large, powerful vehicles may be traveling at slower speeds than vehicles around them, and may be obscured by blowing snow.

“For your safety and the safety of our operators, it’s important to give snowplows a buffer to do their work,” Steudle said.

Some tips for motorists encountering snowplows:

• Snowplows have limited visibility and drivers cannot see directly behind their trucks;

• Snowplows often throw up clouds of snow behind them, reducing visibility for drivers following behind them;

• Motorists should never attempt to pass a moving snowplow on the right. With new wing plows and tow plows, the blade can clear the shoulder and the lane of travel simultaneously. Motorists attempting an illegal pass through a snow cloud on the right and/or shoulder of the road most likely won’t see the plow blade and run the risk of a serious crash; and

• MDOT snowplows throughout Michigan will be driving at 25 mph when applying salt, which helps keep more salt on the roadway driving lanes where it is most effective. Snowplows may travel at up to 45 mph when plowing only.

MDOT says: Drive like you want to make it home tonight.

 

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Extra enforcement for ticketing aggressive cars and trucks


 

December 2-13

 

Officers from six law enforcement agencies will conduct Ticketing Aggressive Cars and Trucks (TACT) program enforcement on U.S. 131 and I-196 in Kent and Ottawa counties December 2-13. They will look for violations by both passenger vehicle and truck drivers, such as improper lane use, careless and reckless driving, speeding, following too close and failure to yield the right of way.

During this time, Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) freeway message boards in West Michigan will feature a reminder to Leave More Space for Trucks.

“Michigan motorists regularly check MDOT freeway message boards for drive times, road closures and traffic updates. For the next two weeks, West Michigan drivers will also see a truck safety message,” said Michael L. Prince, director of the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP). “The public information and enforcement activities are part of our efforts to reduce truck-involved crashes and fatalities.”

Passenger vehicle drivers can reduce their risk of being involved in a crash with a large truck by:

•  Allowing one car length for every 10 miles of speed when changing lanes in front of a truck.

•  Maintaining speed when passing to avoid driving in blind spots.

•  Avoiding tailgating.

•  Allowing large trucks plenty of room when entering the highway or merging with traffic.

The TACT program combines outreach, education and evaluation with enforcement efforts to promote safe driving around trucks and reduce the number of truck-related traffic crashes, fatalities and serious injuries.  OHSP is supporting the TACT program with funds from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Michigan Truck Safety Commission dedicated for this purpose. This is the first time this type of program has been conducted in Michigan.

The participating agencies include the Michigan State Police, Kent and Ottawa county sheriff offices and Grand Rapids, Walker and Wyoming police departments. TACT program patrols are in addition to regularly scheduled shifts.

Notices about traffic updates, road closures and drive times take precedence on MDOT freeway message boards.  Leave More Space for Trucks will be displayed when there are no other priority messages.

This project is part of Michigan’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan signed by Gov. Rick Snyder in February.

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