New standards call for Interstate sign replacement

first_imgBy David Dill. Now that we are about halfway through the summer construction season, many Vermonters have become aware that the Agency of Transportation is replacing all the road signs along Vermont’s interstate system. This work has prompted many questions, the most common is why?Understandably, many motorists believe that our old highway signs are just fine and that the money we are using to replace these highway signs could be better spent repairing bridges, expanding public transit and paving roads. I too would prefer to put every available dollar into these kinds of high-priority programs, but we do have to address our other responsibilities as well.The bottom line is that from an engineering and safety perspective, those old signs are not OK and the state must replace them. Here is why.Congress recently directed the Federal Highway Administration to adopt a national standard for retro-reflectivity for traffic signs and pavement markings. These new standards, which were established in 2008, apply to all roads open to public travel. Compliance with these new retro-reflectivity rules is a requirement that VTrans must meet by 2015 to continue to receive the critical federal-aid highway funds that come to Vermont.Federal-aid highway funds make up $250 million of the state’s $595 million transportation budget, and are used in all facets of the state’s highway, bridge and public transportation programs.The goal of this new reflectivity mandate is to provide signs that are legible during all times of day and weather conditions.  This is largely accomplished through the retro-reflectivity of the sign sheeting.  The expected life of this sheeting is approximately 15 years.  Many of the signs on our interstate system are at least 20 years old, and some that were recently replaced on northern portions of I-91 were the original signs from way back in the 1960s and 70s.The posts and foundations for these signs are also being replaced. All new signposts are designed to be “breakaway” if struck by a vehicle. This modern technology is a valuable safety tool that will prevent injury and save lives. On the financial front, these sign projects do not tap funds that could otherwise be used for bridge, public transit or pavement projects, so they are not in conflict with those programs. Instead, the new signs are 100 percent federally funded with money called “Section 148 Highway Safety Improvement Program” funds, which can only be spent on safety-related projects.Sign improvements are one of several allowable project categories under Section 148.  The federal government identified sign retro-reflectivity as an important safety feature, which led to the Highway Administration’s adoption of the mandate requiring states to upgrade their existing signs. As a result, VTrans, over the next few years, will replace all traffic control signs on a system-wide basis, prioritized by sign age, which is why the northern section of I-91 was completed first, followed by the current I-89 projects. The rest of the interstate system will follow so that we complete the work by the federally mandated 2015 deadline.David Dill is the Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Transportation8.4.2010last_img read more

Dominican Republic: DNCD seizes 632 kilograms of cocaine

first_img SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – Dominican counter-narcotics authorities detained two suspected smugglers and seized a major cocaine shipment allegedly trafficked by boat from South America to the Caribbean country’s southern coast. The Dominican National Directorate for Drug Control (DNCD) on Feb. 22 seized 632.9 kilograms (1,392 pounds) of cocaine that had been divided into 616 packets. Dominican nationals Samil David Arredondo Cedeño and Pedro de Peña Rodríguez were turned over to prosecutors for interrogation. DNCD spokesman Roberto Lebrón said the seizure was the result of a two-month investigation known as “Operation Volcano.” The cocaine, allegedly en route from South America to Puerto Rico through the Dominican Republic, had changed hands about 60 miles off the coast of the Dominican seaside town Boca Chica. “We are facing an organization that was receiving [narcotics shipments] from Colombia and Venezuela using go-fast boats to pick up the drugs on the high seas,” Lebrón said. Other suspects involved in the operation are still at-large, and Lebrón declined to provide additional details until the operation had concluded. The Dominican military used aircraft to track the shipment into the country. Once there, the military and police followed the cocaine to Boca Chica, a small resort town east of the capital, Santo Domingo. The alleged traffickers were found in a hotel and in an SUV parked nearby. Twenty-five plastic bags filled with bundles of cocaine had been loaded into a gold Toyota 4Runner. The drugs were sent to laboratories for testing and weighing. DNCD officials said it is likely the cocaine was bound for Puerto Rico, but the narco-traffickers could have been trying to send it to Europe. The material used to package the drugs originated from a sugar mill in Yaracuy in western Venezuela, suggesting the involvement of Venezuelans. “It’s likely that at any moment other arrests will materialize, because the DNCD and other state security agencies have identified the other members of the network that received the drugs,” Lebrón said. The seizure adds to an increasingly active interception campaign by Dominican authorities, as the DNCD has confiscated about 1,720 kilograms (3,784 pounds) of cocaine and about 27,000 pills of illicit substances so far this year. Lebrón attributed the seizures to cooperation among security forces nationwide. The Dominican Republic has long been at the center of the Caribbean smuggling trade serving as a major transshipment point for South American drugs. Recently, traffickers have used the island of Hispaniola – which the Dominican Republic shares with Haiti – to move drugs to Europe, authorities said. But intensified efforts to crack down on trafficking have resulted in successes for Dominican authorities. Last year, authorities seized 6,715 kilograms (about 14,775 pounds) of cocaine, a 48% increase from the previous year when authorities confiscated 4,527 kilograms, according to statistics from the DNCD. By Dialogo March 01, 2012last_img read more