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Tag Archive | "Michigan Department of Transportation"

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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Road construction on US-131


N-Road-construction

Residents traveling south on US-131 this week have likely been in the middle of a traffic jam due to road construction in the Grand Rapids area. According to the Michigan Department of Transportation’s website, the construction isn’t going away any time soon.

According to their website: “Lane closures for road work will remain in place through early July on southbound US-131 between West River Drive and Pearl Street.  Double-lane closures will be in effect on some weekends.

The on ramp from Turner Avenue (just north of Ann Street) to southbound  US-131 remains closed through July 7.

The off ramp from southbound US-131 to Leonard Street remains closed through July 7.”

Details on construction on southbound US-131 from Ann St. to Pearl St. are below.

What is being done?

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) will resurface and make concrete joint repairs on southbound US-131 from Ann Street to Pearl Street in Grand Rapids.

This project will include:

*Constructing a connector lane to join the interchanges of Ann Street and Leonard Street on southbound US-131.This will mirror what was constructed in 2013 on northbound US-131 connecting Leonard Street to Ann Street; and Bridge improvements on southbound US-131 over Richmond Street and Indian Mill Creek/Grand Rapids Eastern Railroad will include widening, deck replacement, and substructure work.

How will traffic be affected?

Lane closures will be used throughout the project on US-131. Some local roads will be closed and detoured.

The following ramps will be closed during different stages of the project:

  • The Turner Avenue (just north of Ann Street) ramp to southbound US-131;
  • The southbound US-131 ramp to Leonard Street;
  • The eastbound I-196 ramp to southbound US-131; and
  • The southbound US-131 ramp to Pearl Street.

Throughout the duration of the project, a double lane closure will be in place on the weekends from W. River Dr. to Pearl Street, and a single lane closure will be in place weekdays from W. River Dr. to Leonard Street.

The Turner Ave on-ramp (just north of Ann Street) will be closed until mid-July.  The southbound US-131 off-ramp to Leonard Street will be closed until mid-July.

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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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Fall back: be alert for pedestrians and bicyclists


 

Time change this weekend

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) reminds motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians that it will be getting darker one hour earlier with the end of daylight saving time at 2 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 2. It will be important for motorists to be aware of pedestrians and bicyclists on the drive home, as they will be much less visible. Pedestrians and bicyclists should wear bright, reflective clothing in order to be seen more easily.

“Driving becomes more challenging for motorists during the first week of the time change, especially in school zones” said State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle. “Drivers need to pay close attention and eliminate distractions while driving, and pedestrians and bicyclists should take every precaution to make themselves as visible as possible. We want everyone to make it home every night.”

The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) says that pedestrians are more at risk of serious injury from a motor vehicle crash in the weeks following the return to standard time. The most dangerous time is the first hour after darkness.

According to the National Highway Traffic Administration, 4,743 pedestrians died in traffic crashes in 2012, while an estimated 76,000 were injured (with 14,000 of those injured being children 15 and younger). The majority of pedestrian fatalities (70 percent) occur during dark conditions between 6 p.m. and 5:59 a.m.

Motorists are reminded that bicyclists are permitted to ride on most roadways in Michigan. Bicyclists are reminded that, as legal roadway users, they are required to obey all traffic laws, signs, and signals.

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Construction to start on US131 north of Sand Lake


Commuters traveling US131 north of Sand Lake need to be prepared—reconstruction starts Monday on a 12-mile stretch that won’t be completed until next fall.

According to the Michigan Department of Transportation, the work will be done from Cannonsville Road north to M-46. Bridges over Tamarack Creek and Kendaville Road will be improved and widened, as will the freeway access ramps there.

Northbound traffic will be down to one lane, and will use crossovers. Ramp closures with posted detours will be used at M-82 and M-46.

The work is not expected to be completed until November 3.

 

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