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Eyes on the Road: Road crews face dangers in summertime
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Summer is a busy time for the road construction and maintenance crews, and asphalt and high heat can make for a dangerous combination.

Especially lately, with the mercury registering at 100 and above. Temperatures may ease somewhat this week, but the heat and humidity are here for a while.

“Employee safety is a huge priority for us,” said Teri Pope, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Transportation.

“We urge crews to take frequent breaks and find shade when they can find it,” she said. “Water coolers are on every truck.”

During the summer, workers wear a perforated vest, “which breathes better than the ones without holes and allows (one’s) body to cool more effectively.”

Workers also can wear a wide-brimmed hat that helps block the sun from their face.

Maintenance forces spreading asphalt have to be particularly careful because asphalt is 300-350 degrees when it is spread, Pope said.

“The material is that hot so it can be pliable as it is put down,” she said. “Add to that asphalt is black and holds heat because of the color. It makes working on the asphalt crew miserable in the summer.”

DOT crews, like all outdoor workers, also must be wary of smog season.

“We’ve had several code orange days already this year,” Pope said. “The ozone makes it harder for people with respiratory problems to breathe and that is another hazard of outside summer work.”

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s Ambient Monitoring Program measures levels of air pollutants throughout the state.

As part of its work, the program issues an air quality, or smog, forecast. The forecast for today is considered “unhealthy for sensitive groups,” according to the program’s website.

Drivers to catch break from holiday road work

As part of its annual July Fourth observance, the DOT will suspend construction-related lane closures during the holiday.

The break for motorists began Saturday and will continue until 5 a.m. this Saturday.

“We hope this ... will allow motorists to get to and from their holiday destinations with less congestion and less aggravation,” said Bayne Smith, district engineer for Northeast Georgia.

Officials noted, however, that some work may continue on lesser-traveled state and local system roads and that incident or emergency maintenance-related lane closures could become necessary on any route.

DOT reviewing bids on Ga. 347 widening

Bids vary from $38.4 million to $46.8 million on the DOT’s planned widening of Ga. 347/Friendship Road from Interstate 985 to Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway.

Six companies have bid, with E.R. Snell Contractor submitting the low bid of $38.4 million.

Pope said the DOT “is reviewing the bids now and will announce a decision in July.”

The project calls for widening the road to four and six lanes along the busy South Hall corridor, which crosses Spout Springs Road in Braselton and will run in front of the Northeast Georgia Health System’s planned new 100-bed hospital, which is slated to open in the spring of 2015.

DOT road maintenance includes drain repair

Here’s a quick look at maintenance work planned this week in Hall: storm drain repair on Ga. 53/Dawsonville Highway, shoulder and slope repair on Ga. 52 and Ga. 284, vegetation management on Ga. 60 and Ga. 211, guardrail repair at Ga. 13 and I-985 and on Ga. 365.

Jeff Gill covers transportation issues for The Times. Share your thoughts, news tips and questions with him:

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