Highway construction

Are there any laws (and where to find them) that dictate how many miles of a two lane road you can tear up with highway construction such that only one lane is available to traffic? We were on highway 287/385 in southeastern Colorado the other day, and they had traffic down to one lane for a ten mile stretch. Traffic at either end had to wait for an escort through the construction site. We wondered how an emergency vehicle would get through such a long stretch since there were no shoulders and no side roads. A little further down this same road, there was a 5.5 mile stretch down to one lane, this time in Oklahoma.

I don’t think I have ever seen such a long section of highway one-laned here in Texas.

I’ve never heard of such a law. Sometimes people have to be inconvenienced for a month or two to get the roads fixed. I’m not familiar with 287/385, but I do know that western Colorado is pretty mountainous, and I can see it being necessary to have only one lane available. In an emergency situation, the highway crew could be notified via radio to not allow traffic coming from the opposite direction until all the emergency vehicles have gone through.

The interstate systems (roads that start with I) actual purpose is for military defense (troop movement) and civil defense (emergency evacuations) . The public just sort of borrows it in the mean time.
If the government wanted to shut down the entire system for whatever reason they would be allowed to.

They completely shut down State Highway 9 over Hoosier Pass from 9pm till something like 5am for about a month. They would open it temporarily at I think 11pm and 3am. It REALLY sucked for some folks. This is a main access from a resort area to a bedroom community that supports it. Lots of pissed of bartenders and waitresses.

I work in the highway design industry and I am not aware of any such rule, at least in Minnesota. I would also doubt highly that any road authority would allow such a rule because it would severely restrict activities and would probably make projects cost more in an era of limited funds.

Many places are going to these one lane road closures (or in interstate freeways, two directional traffic on one side of the center divide) because of the many complaints over long, out-of-the-way detours. I think the consensus of many transportation departments is that the inconvenience of the one lane is better than the inconvenience of a detour, especially if the detour route is owned by a different road authority (county or city instead of the state) and they may insist on being paid for the added wear on the detour road.

It is a lot easier and cheaper to design and construct projects without any traffic (i.e. full detours) but in deference to the public convenience, many projects are being designed to be constructed with adjacent traffic. Yes, I admit is a pain and I do not like it when I’m caught up in it as well, but imagine the alternatives. They might be worse.

Oh, regarding making allowances for emergency vehicles, this thought is with construction crews and supervisors on all projects. The attitude is that they will do whatever is necessary if the need arises. But you can’t let that possibility paralyze you into not doing any construction.

This isn’t true in any meaningful sense.

Presumably, there are no state laws that state: thou shalt not conduct construction forcing lane closures longer than “x” miles. I would doubt that there are state laws on such things even covering state highways. I would doubt there are such laws in the US Code covering federally funded highways (remember, the feds don’t build roads, they simply fund them).

However, there might very well be regulations on the subject. I’d recommend starting with the Code of Federal Regulations, and then move on to certain states’ regulatory codes. Try a sample including California, Texas, Florida, and, since it was Colorado you were in, Colorado.

Or, you could simply ask your local state highway dept. office if they have rules on such things. For example, in California, talk to someone from Cal-Trans. In Ohio, it would be the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODoT).

There can be large differences among states. Having once worked for a DOT at an eastern state, I can say that most highway construction projects are let out as contracts to private firms. There are regulations for them as far as safety practices, quality, completion date, etc. As to how much they close on any given section is often up to them.

If you encounter what seems a ridiculous length (as I often have), it is worthwhile contacting the state DOT and complaining about this. Sometimes they are unaware of this, not inspecting every project every day.

Call or write, it can’t hurt. Of course, it might not help either