July 20, 2023
By Lane Kimble
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Drivers passing construction workers along Highway 172 in Brown County this summer may not recognize the men and women working behind the cones.
However, Jon Leach certainly does.
“It’s very much important to me because my son Scott works out on these highway crews and is protected by these orange barrels that you see,” Leach said.
Leach, who is Northeast Asphalt’s Green Bay Area Manager, was one of six speakers at WisDOT’s Northeast Region Work Zone Awareness Event on Thursday afternoon.
“Northeast Asphalt and the Walbec Group… our main core value for us is safety and part of that safety is accountability,” Leach said. “That accountability comes to us and our company and our equipment and our people, but it also comes with the traveling public. We need your help.”
Northeast Asphalt is the prime on a 5-mile resurfacing of the busy Highway 172 between I-41 and I-43 near Green Bay. It’s already been a treacherous year for workers in that area. WisDOT reports 80 crashes since work began in March. Nearly 70 percent of those were caused by distracted driving.
“This is unacceptable,” Brown County Sheriff Todd Delain said.
Gov. Evers issued a proclamation marking April 17-21 “Work Zone Awareness Week,” however WisDOT – in conjunction with WTBA and other industry partners, recognized the importance of holding additional events throughout the construction season.
“Work zone awareness is held every year in April, but we believe this topic is just too important a message to carry for just one week,” WisDOT Assistant Deputy Secretary Joel Nilsestuen said. “Safety is our agency’s top priority and work zone safety should be at the front of mind for every driver.”
During the event, WisDOT demonstrated three tools used in the region aiming to better protect construction crews.
A queue warning system uses real-time tracking to activate signs that warn drivers of slow or stopped traffic in work zones ahead. Crash impact attenuators act as a sort of cushion that can lessen the severity of a vehicle hitting equipment.
The Department also highlighted new “Guardian Lights” which crews are using at night as part of a pilot project. The lights can be clipped to uniforms or attached to helmets with a magnet and can flash various colors. The lights can be seen from several miles away.
Even with that technology, Leach reminded the group it’s ultimately up to all of us to protect the men and women working to improve our transportation system.
“Be accountable,” Leach said. “Be part of that safety and be accountable. Protect yourself. Protect the people around you. And protect those workers behind those orange barrels. And please: protect my son, Scott.”