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Friday, October 6

Mail Bag: Ideas from New Mexico and our past; a history question

What retail businesses and restaurants can we expect on 281 N near TPC Parkway?
- Tania

Honestly, Tania, your guess is as good as ours. We can only bet the business corridor will continue to develop up that way the way it has over the last decade-plus.

Why doesn't TxDOT utilize the white canvas shields that block motorists views of construction projects? New Mexico employed these shields when the I-25/I-40 exchange was rebuilt. It minimized the traffic slowdown since motorist were no longer distracted by the construction since they could not see it.
- Vicky
You know, this question intrigued us. We got on the phone and actually called the good folks with the New Mexico Department of Transportation to chat a bit and are happy to share what we found.
First, the only major project NMDOT used these "gawk shields" (their term) was on the "Big I" project - construction of the major interchange of I-25 and I-40 in the heart of Albuquerque back in 2002. These were not widely used, and have not been used since.
Per the NMDOT, the shields were basically two-foot-tall planks of plywood fixed via two-by-fours to the top of concrete barriers along the work zones. While it did create a visual barrier to prevent gawking (thus the name of these shields), they don't comply with current safety regulations as a barricade. Those familiar with working on projects involving federal funding know such violations disqualify a project from receiving federal dollars.
So to answer your question directly, Vicky, we won't be employing Gawk Shields until we can find a way to get them to comply with federal safety standards - and, even then, it appears these shields would be used pretty sparingly.

When was the DeZavala exit closed to combine with the new Woodstone/DeZavala exit?
- Demetrio
Ah, geez, Demetrio. That's really digging into our memory banks!
Looking through posts back in 2014 it seems that happened June (or perhaps July) of 2014. We had a firm schedule for June 19, then had some weather issues that summer that pushed our work to mid-July.
That's the closest we can get through our searches. Hope that helps!

The amber color is difficult to read on the lighted road signs in many cases. Also, when there is a lot of information on the sign, there should be more than one sign (kind of like the old "Burma-Shave" signs) of many years ago where you can read ALL of the information - going too fast to read on one sign as they are now.
- Glenna
Holy smokes - those Burma-Shave signs are old-school! Those are still used by businesses around the country, though we've not used them on our projects for a number of years.
We actually have a standard we have to follow when using our portable changeable message boards. These standards are found in section 6F.60 in the Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices. Particular to your question, we'll look at paragraphs 11-12 and 20-21.
First, we have to keep each panel active at least two seconds (no more than eight) before changing to the next panel. We typically shoot for about four seconds, sometimes five. The lettering is supposed to be visible from about a half-mile in both day and night conditions. That's typically done by adjusting the brightness of the lights. Against the black background on these signs to provide contrast, that's our best practice.
We can use LED message boards - that's allowed, but involves some additional issues - but don't because of the increased cost. Honestly, we simply request a "portable changeable message board" and let the contractor figure out which one makes most economic sense to use.