"This is an annual event to acknowledge, and recognize and bring awareness to work zone safety," says Emanuel Banks, AHTD Assistant Chief Engineer for Operations. "With the amount of traffic that's going through this corridor, as well as the population in this area, this was a prime location."
State officials joined Springdale Mayor Doug Sprouse in front of the Don Tyson and Interstate 49 interchange Wednesday. Sprouse says crews just poured the concrete deck one day earlier, and the project should be complete ahead of its August deadline.
"I get as impatient as anyone," Sprouse says. "With all the orange barrels we're going to see, up and down I-49 and around interchanges for the next few years, it's just important for all of us to be more patient, allow a little extra time."
There are more than twenty other projects under construction, or scheduled for the corridor over the next few years. Banks wants people to pay attention to signs, and be mindful of the construction sites.
"Stay in your lane," he says. "Focus on what's ahead of you, and just be alert."
He says drivers usually travel to at a speed they feel is comfortable, but what seems safe behind the wheel, is far different for the people working to improve roads.
"They tend to drive at higher speeds than what we have as signage," he says. "We would like for them to... understand and respect the workers out here."
Drivers also need to put down their phones, says Richard Hedgecock Executive VP for the Associated General Contractors of Arkansas. He says crews constantly see distracted drivers fly through work sites.
"Imagine you're at work at your desk, and while you're sitting at your desk you've got cars whizzing by you at 75 miles an hour while somebody's texting on the phone in one hand and eating a burrito in the other," Hedgecock says. "We just want people to be aware when we're doing these things," he says. "For the benefit of all citizens, take a moment, put down the phone, and pay attention when they're in work zones, and think about the families and the citizens that are out there... you've got individuals with little more than an orange barrel and an orange vest between them and 2 tons of steel."
The highway department says the majority of injuries and deaths in work zones are actually drivers or their passengers, not the workers on the road. Hedgecock adds that many accidents also happen before people reach work zones, when drivers rear end stopped traffic.
"It's really important for people to pay attention to those signs," he says. "We get so used to seeing those signs when we drive our regular route, and we stop paying attention to them... Their own safety is at risk as well as the people who are working there."