TRAFFIC DELINEATORS AND THE VISUALLY IMPAIRED - Washington DC
FHWA Pedestrian Accommodation and Delineation Devices Demonstration
Washington DC - The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is working hard to make work zones safer for motorists, workers, and pedestrians.
Recently, the Office of Transportation Operations focused special attention on this issue by including new language in the 2003 Manual on Uniform traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) to address the unique challenges of people with disabilities in traversing a work zone. In particular, the new MUTCD Section 6F.66 Longitudinal Channelizing Barricades addresses the need for interlocking devices that can clearly delineate or channelize the flow of pedestrian traffic control around work zones. Used instead of cones, drums, or barricades, the longitudinal channelizing barricades should be interlocked with no gaps that allow pedestrians or vehicles to stray from the channelizing path. This guidance in particular will assist persons with visual impairments traverse a work zone.
In order to expand the range and quality of channelization devices designed for the visually impaired, the FHWA partnered with the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) to sponsor the first ever Pedestrian Accommodation and Delineation Devices Demonstration. This event took place at the FHWA’s Turner-Fairbanks Research Center on September 22, 2004. The demonstration took place outdoors where a variety of longitudinal channelizing barricades were displayed in a simulated work zone walkway. Persons with visual disabilities walked through the work zone and commented on the effectiveness of the devices. Manufacturers were encouraged to attend and to demonstrate existing, modified, or prototype devices to take advantage of this outdoor laboratory to test new ideas.
The FHWA requested manufacturers of longitudinal channelizing barricades that have detectable edging to allow a visually impaired person the ability to use their canes to “tap” along a temporary pedestrian walkway participate in this event. Manufacturers were encouraged to modify existing devices or develop prototype devices to meet this need.
Representatives from the U.S. Access Board were on hand to examine the devices and to determine if they meet the needs of pedestrians with visual disabilities traversing work zones. At the close of the event, there was a discussion of the findings of the event and a session to discuss improvements that could enhance existing longitudinal channelizing barricades and ideas for developing new products.
In addition to expanding the market for longitudinal channelizing barricades, the information gathered at the event is being used to assist in developing rulemaking for the Access Board’s Guidelines for Accessible Rights-of-Way and changes to the MUTCD, similar to 6F.66.
In 6F.66, the FHWA identified Longitudinal Channelizing Barricades as devices designed specifically to alleviate problems associated with gaps when using traditional channelizing devices. Longitudinal Channelizing Barricades provide for clear, positive guidance for pedestrians, including those with visual impairment. Longitudinal Channelizing Barricades should be used in work zones where some risk to workers and motorists is acknowledged but considered acceptable. They can be used in lieu of cones or drums and are instrumental in filling the void between temporary concrete barrier and drums or barricades. The FHWA has established NCHRP-350 crash test guidelines for this device.
Examples of Longitudinal Channelizing Barricade applications that prevent public liability claims:
- Longitudinal Channelizing Barricades prevent pedestrian access to work zones and clearly guides vehicles around hazardous areas. Delineators such as cones, drums, and barricades do not prevent pedestrian access and can be confusing to motorists because of the gaps between them.
- Longitudinal Channelizing Barricades prevent motorists from making illegal traffic moves such as going between the gaps when delineators are used to pass or to circumvent traffic backups. Delineators cannot guarantee fail-safe channelization and may also allow vehicles to unintentionally travel into the wrong lane facing oncoming traffic or to enter work zones.
- Longitudinal Channelizing Barricades offer workers a level of protection not found with drums or barricades. Delineators like drums and vertical panels do not prevent workers from inadvertently stepping into traffic or allowing equipment into the roadway, creating hazards for the motoring public.
- Larger water ballast Longitudinal Channelizing Barricades cannot easily be knocked down by wind, severe weather conditions, or snowplows. Delineators are frequently displaced by these occurrences.
- Longitudinal Channelizing Barricades are highly visible and clearly delineate the work zone at night and in bad weather. Drivers can become disoriented at night or in inclement weather as drums and barricades do not clearly delineate the work zone in these conditions.
- Longitudinal Channelizing Barricades can prevent confusion and provide safe and efficient movement of traffic through work zones. Motorists sometimes must adapt to sudden changes in speed, navigate through narrowed and shifting lanes, and avoid being distracted by adjacent work areas.