An Online Guide to Reducing Work Zone Intrusions
Using Positive Protection

What is Positive Protection?


Positive Protection are measures “between workers and motorized traffic” 1 which “contain and/or redirect vehicles" and meet applicable crashworthiness criteria . 2

Positive Protection may include highly mobile barrier, movable and temporary steel barrier, movable concrete barrier, traditional concrete barrier, associated cushions, and other strategies to avoid traffic accidents in work zones including full road closure. 3

Mobile and other movable barriers enable field crews to quickly create work spaces that are physically separated from moving traffic and quickly removed from the roadway once the work is completed.

Examples of Positive Protection devices

.
Introductory Quote

"We have the technology and 'know how' to build our roadway system to anticipate user error. It can be designed, constructed, equipped, and operated to forgive the errant user and protect the innocent victim."


"We have the technology and 'know how' to build our roadway system to anticipate user error. It can be designed, constructed, equipped, and operated to forgive the errant user and protect the innocent victim."

.

Examples of Positive Protection Devices


Highly Mobile Barrier


Mobile Barriers MBT-1® drives down the road like a semi-truck and is typically used to help improve work zone safety, minimize distractions to passing traffic, and quickly reopen roadways and restore normal traffic flows. The barriers are particularly ideal for short-duration and short-term work zones, moving operations, and incident management. The mobility of the MBT-1® allows rapid work zone setup/removal and enables managers to reduce project duration, schedule around peak traffic hours, and minimize roadway congestion. Integrated equipment and supplies also allow project managers to reduce work zone footprints and increase work crew productivity. Common equipment options include onboard power, work lighting, deck tie downs, lockable storage, onboard crane, electronic signage, TMA, and other options. Tested and accepted under NCHRP 350 & MASH for TL-2 and TL-3 usage.

Highly Mobile Barrier


Mobile Barriers MBT-1® drives down the road like a semi-truck and is typically used to help improve work zone safety, minimize distractions to passing traffic, and quickly reopen roadways and restore normal traffic flows. The barriers are particularly ideal for short-duration and short-term work zones, moving operations, and incident management. The mobility of the MBT-1® allows rapid work zone setup/removal and enables managers to reduce project duration, schedule around peak traffic hours, and minimize roadway congestion. Integrated equipment and supplies also allow project managers to reduce work zone footprints and increase work crew productivity. Common equipment options include onboard power, work lighting, deck tie downs, lockable storage, onboard crane, electronic signage, TMA, and other options. Tested and accepted under NCHRP 350 & MASH for TL-2 and TL-3 usage.


Moveable Concrete Barrier


Lindsay Transportation Solutions QMB Zipper: The Road Zipper System is designed to cost effectively increase capacity and reduce congestion by making more efficient use of new or existing roadways. This technology is used for managed lanes and construction applications to create safe, dynamic highways that offer real-time roadway reconfiguration while maintaining positive barrier protection between lanes. The Road Zipper System can be used to move barrier from one side of a lane to the other to create work space and reopen lanes again to restore capacity.

Moveable Concrete Barrier


Lindsay Transportation Solutions QMB Zipper: The Road Zipper System is designed to cost effectively increase capacity and reduce congestion by making more efficient use of new or existing roadways. This technology is used for managed lanes and construction applications to create safe, dynamic highways that offer real-time roadway reconfiguration while maintaining positive barrier protection between lanes. The Road Zipper System can be used to move barrier from one side of a lane to the other to create work space and reopen lanes again to restore capacity.


Moveable Steel Barrier


Trinity Highway's Vulcan® moveable steel barrier is comprised of lightweight, galvanized steel segments that offers real-time roadway reconfiguration. It is tested to NCHRP Report 350 Test Level 3 and Test Level 4, and EN1317 H2 and N2 specifications. The Vulcan® Moveable Barrier is designed for easier movement with the Vulcan® Transfer Attachment (VTA) when connected to a skid steer or front end loader. The VTA is also designed to help the operator work from either side of the barrier.

Moveable Steel Barrier


Trinity Highway's Vulcan® moveable steel barrier is comprised of lightweight, galvanized steel segments that offers real-time roadway reconfiguration. It is tested to NCHRP Report 350 Test Level 3 and Test Level 4, and EN1317 H2 and N2 specifications. The Vulcan® Moveable Barrier is designed for easier movement with the Vulcan® Transfer Attachment (VTA) when connected to a skid steer or front end loader. The VTA is also designed to help the operator work from either side of the barrier.


Temporary Steel Barrier


Hill & Smith Zoneguard® temporary steel barrier, offers the road construction industry a revolutionary temporary barrier solution that provides superior protection. A cost-effective alternative to traditional concrete barrier, Zoneguard’s lightweight configuration allows 750 feet to be hauled on one truck and up to 1500 feet to be installed in one hour. Zoneguard’s low weight does not affect its performance, as it meets both NCHRP 350 (TL-3 & TL-4) and MASH (TL-3) crash test standards.

Temporary Steel Barrier


Hill & Smith Zoneguard® temporary steel barrier, offers the road construction industry a revolutionary temporary barrier solution that provides superior protection. A cost-effective alternative to traditional concrete barrier, Zoneguard’s lightweight configuration allows 750 feet to be hauled on one truck and up to 1500 feet to be installed in one hour. Zoneguard’s low weight does not affect its performance, as it meets both NCHRP 350 (TL-3 & TL-4) and MASH (TL-3) crash test standards.


Traditional Temporary Concrete Barrier (TCB)


Traditional concrete K-rail or Jersey barrier is generally considered a device for use on long term projects and requires heavy equipment to install, move, and remove. Commonly cited challenges of using traditional concrete barrier are the time necessary to install and remove, the risk of doing so in live traffic, and the associated impracticallity of using it for short term projects and/or where it is desirable to reopen lanes for rush hour traffic.

Traditional Temporary Concrete Barrier (TCB)


Traditional concrete K-rail or Jersey barrier is generally considered a device for use on long term projects and requires heavy equipment to install, move, and remove. Commonly cited challenges of using traditional concrete barrier are the time necessary to install and remove, the risk of doing so in live traffic, and the associated impracticallity of using it for short term projects and/or where it is desirable to reopen lanes for rush hour traffic.

.

What are the Benefits of Positive Protection?


Improved road-user and worker safety is a proven benefit from using positive protection. New types of positive protection barriers can be used to meet regulations and standards, physically separate moving traffic and workers, and provide practical cost-effective work zone safety.

Cost Benefits

California research found a cost benefit for highly mobile barrier of $1.9 million per year, per barrier. 14 In 2016, USDOT set the value of a single life at $9.6 million. 13 When comparing the cost of the life of a worker to positive protection's cost and 20 year expected term of use, the annual cost of using positive protection is minimal. Over 20 years of use, the barrier will most likely save one or more lives and help avoid even more injuries, accidents, and delays.

Commonly Cited Benefits

Benefits vary by product and application. Commonly cited benefits of using positive protection include:

  • Safeguarding Workers Against Intrusions
  • Increasing Worker Focus on Tasks
  • Reducing Setup
  • Increasing Productivity with Onboard Tools and Supplies
  • Increasing Efficiency/Saving Time
  • Increasing Employee Retention
  • Decreasing Liability and Damages
  • Reducing Risk and Exposure to Dangers of Live Work Zone
Diagram Illustrating Benefits and Considerations of using Positive Protection Barriers


Benefits for Workers and the Public

Illustration of how positive protection prevents longitudinal and lateral work zone crashes.
Positive protection provides separation and helps prevent longitudinal and lateral crashes into work zones.

Positive protection benefits workers & the traveling public by both improving safety and mobility in and around work zones.

Truck or Trailer Mounted Attenuators (TMA) and warning devices (rumble strips, alarms, etc.) help but also permit motorists to veer around these devices and swerve back into the work zone. At 50 mph, errant drivers may have less than 1 second to realize and correct their mistakes. In an analysis of impacts in one work zone location, 30-40% of the incidents involved direct rear impacts, and 60-70% of the incidents involved lateral incursions (with relatively tight TMA spacing). 15 Drivers make mistakes but mistakes need not be catastrophic – for drivers, workers, or others.

Positive Protection physically separates workers and motorists. Barriers are designed to prevent logitudinal and lateral crashes into work zone zones. Barriers help drivers better focus on the road ahead and help reduce the severity of mistakes and accidents. In many cases, errant drivers can regain control and continue on their way.

Extended lane closures with low work activity contribute to driver frustration. Traditional practices of taking buffer lanes are not needed and are becoming impractical with increasing traffic volumes. Positive protection helps reduce the number and duration of lane closures. Work and associated protection can be focused in one or more specific areas.

The highly mobile and movable types of barriers are designed to help reopen the roadway quickly to restore capacity. Roadways can be reopened daily to ease rush hour traffic otherwise congested behind work zones. Reducing congestion benefits both motorists & workers. Speed variance (i.e. congestion/slowdowns) is a significant contributor to accidents in and around work zones. Those accidents may cause additional crashes and/or spill over into work zones. Addressing congestion with positive protection can benefit workers, the public, and commerce by reducing accidents, injuries, fatalities, risk, delay, and interruption. These combined considerations accounted for much of the $1.9 million savings per highly mobile barrier per year found by California DOT research. 14


Case Study: California Bridge Project

3 year/$150-200 million project.

2x mobile barriers:
  • 10-20% time savings per night.
  • Lanes reopen daily.
1x movable barrier:
  • Lane shifts improve traffic flow.
Benefits:
  • Reduced project duration & cost.
  • Optimal traffic flows.

An ongoing project in California illustrates even greater potential savings on projects and benefits for the public. Highly mobile barriers are saving an estimated 1-2 hours per night on setup/removal (a 10-20% savings in time and potential project duration). In one closed lane, they are using two barriers to work at different spots along that lane. On a three-year, $150-200 million project, that amounts to substantial reduction in project duration and cost. For the public, benefits are increased even further by shifting lanes around the work zone using movable concrete barrier. Used together, the highly mobile and movable barriers better maintain traffic flows and reduce overall project duration.

.

Why Use Positive Protection?


As one state leader said...
“There is no better way to reduce work zone accidents and improve conditions for everyone than to safely complete the work as quickly as possible and reopen the roadway to normal traffic flow.” 16

There were an estimated 145,000 accidents and 61,000 people injured as a result of work zone crashes in the last year which data is available. 8 In 2019, 67% of surveyed highway contractors experienced a work zone crash and 89% think positive protection would improve safety on their projects. 4 The rising number of accidents, injuries, and fatalities highlight the need for positive protection.


Work Zone Crash Data


Contractor Reported Crashes

The Associated General Contractors of America's (AGC) 2019 nationwide study on highway workzone safety reveals that 67% of highway contractors report work zone intrusions, of which 62% involved project delays, 8% worker fatalities, 28% worker injuries, 28% public fatalities, and 70% public injuries. 4


Illustration showing 67% of contractors experienced a work zone incursion in 2019.

In 2019, 67% of Highway Contractors Reported Crashes
into their Construction Work Zones

AGC Study - Outcomes of Work Zone Crashes 4 , 5
(Mouseover data points for details.)

AGC Study - Percentage of Contractors
Reporting Work Zone Crashes Over Time 4 , 5 , 6 , 7


The 2019 study also reveals that an increasing percentage of contractors believe positive protection would improve safety on their projects.

  • 73% of contractors reported that the risk of highway work zone crashes is greater now compared to a decade ago.
  • 89% of contractors report that increased use of positive protection barriers would help reduce injuries and fatalities on their projects.


Estimated Total Crashes & Injuries 8

The number of crashes in work zones and injuries resulting from those crashes has been increasing.

  • In 2016, 145,000 work zone crashes and 61,000 work zone crash injuries were estimated to have occurred.


National Work Zone Crashes and Resulting Injuries

Fatalities 9

Since 2013, work zone crash fatalities have been on the rise nationally.

  • 35% increase in fatalities since 2013.


National Fatalities Resulting from Work Zone Crashes

.

When is Positive Protection Appropriate?


Federal Law & Standards

  • 2005 - Congress calls for Positive Protection

    Under section 1110 of SAFETEA-LU, Congress enacted 23 USC 109(e)(2) and 112(g) which call for positive protection “between workers and motorized traffic".

  • 2007 - FHWA adopts Temporary Traffic Control Devices Rule ("Subpart K")

    FHWA adopted Subpart K (23 CFR 630.1102 et seq.) pursuant to the mandate in SAFETEA-LU. 23 CFR 630.1108(a) of Subpart K lists 5 circumstances under which practitioners need to (“shall”) consider use of positive protection.

  • 2010 - ANSI establishes National Standard for Work Zone Safety

    ANSI Standard A10.47 (§4.4) provides that positive protection “shall be considered” in, at minimum, the 5 circumstances .



Federal Law

The statutes and underlying regulations, read together, call for positive protection (barrier) “between workers and motorized traffic” which “contain and/or redirect” errant vehicles and meet applicable crashworthiness criteria . 1 , 2

Circumstances under which positive protection needs to ("shall") be considered:

At a minimum, positive protection devices shall be considered in work zone situations that place workers at increased risk from motorized traffic, and where positive protection devices offer the highest potential for increased safety for workers and road users, such as:


  1. Work zones that provide workers no means of escape from motorized traffic (e.g., tunnels, bridges, etc.);
  2. Long duration work zones (e.g., two weeks or more) resulting in substantial worker exposure to motorized traffic;
  3. Projects with high anticipated operating speeds (e.g., 45 mph or greater), especially when combined with high traffic volumes;
  4. Work operations that place workers close to travel lanes open to traffic; and
  5. Roadside hazards, such as drop-offs or unfinished bridge decks, that will remain in place overnight or longer." 10

Separate Pay Items:

Federal statutes require a “separate pay item” for positive protection. 1 , 11


ANSI Standards

ANSI Standard A10.47 (§4.4) likewise provides that positive protection measures “shall be considered” when any of the following exist:

  1. Work zones that provide employees no means of escape (e.g. tunnels, bridges, etc.) from external motorized traffic intruding into the work space.
  2. Long duration work zones (e.g. two weeks or more) resulting in substantial employee exposure to motorized traffic.
  3. Projects with high anticipated operating speeds (e.g. ≥ 45 mph, 72 km/h) especially when combined with high traffic volumes (> 20,000 vehicles per day).
  4. Work operations that place employees within one lane width to travel lanes open to traffic.
  5. Roadside hazards, such as drop-offs or unfinished bridge decks, that will remain in place overnight or longer.

ANSI Standard A10.47 further notes that there might be other circumstances not listed that merit the use of positive protection.

.

Funding for Positive Protection


What Federal Funding is Available for Positive Protection?

NHPP, STBGP, and HSIP

FHWA recently clarified that States can now use federal funds to acquire Mobile Barriers MBT-1 and other construction and safety equipment. States can use NHPP, STBGP or HSIP funds (e.g. leftover or otherwise available funds from most projects). States may find it advantageous to first transfer funds from NHPP or STBGP to HSIP under 23 U.S.C. 126, and then purchase barriers under the HSIP program. Barriers purchased under the HSIP program can be used for maintenance and construction on federal and state roads. The State share under HSIP is 10% (federal funds can be used for 90% of the purchase). The FHWA also clarified that States can directly purchase barriers (i.e. they do not have to purchase them through separate projects).


How Can Contractors Obtain & Use Positive Protection?

Contractors have options on how to pay for and use positive protection. Options vary for different products. As one example, Mobile Barriers MBT-1 are available to buy, lease or rent.

Federal law and the national standards identify types of projects that need positive protection. For such projects, a “separate pay item” for positive protection is required under federal law and regulations. 1, 11 Contractors can urge States to include positive protection in their plans. States can spec in a separate pay item for positive protection, or otherwise, purchase it for their employees and contractors to use on these types of projects.

State personnel may not be aware of the recent changes in federal policy and may not realize they can directly purchase the barriers or that they can take the barriers back at the end of the contract for future use. Traditionally, that has not typically been allowed.

Under the new FHWA policy, states can directly purchase or spec-in and reclaim Mobile Barriers MBT-1 and other safety and construction equipment for use by their crews and contractors.

  • States can buy positive protection barriers directly, then allow their crews and/or winning contractors use them (i.e. buy and provide). Direct purchases are specifically allowed under the new FHWA policy.
  • States can spec in barriers, allow winning contractors to use them, and then the States can take ownership and possession at the end of the term. This allows all bidders to include them and later transfers the barriers back to the state for its own use and/or for use on the next contract.
  • States can spec in barriers, then allow winning contractors to rent or buy them at the end of the term.

.

FHWA Repeals 103-Year-Old Patented & Proprietary Products Rule


September 27, 2019... This week, the Federal Highway Administration has formally lifted a 103-year-old regulation that has banned the use of patented or proprietary materials in Federal-aid highway projects.


FHWA Final Rule and News Coverage:

FHWA Final Rule: Promoting Innovation in Use of Patented and Proprietary Products


"Executive Summary: The FHWA is revising its regulations at 23 CFR 635.411 to provide greater flexibility for States to use patented or proprietary materials in Federal-aid highway projects. Based on a century-old Federal requirement, the outdated requirements in 23 CFR 635.411(a)-(e) are being rescinded to encourage innovation in the development of highway transportation technology and methods.

As a result, State Departments of Transportation (State DOTs) will no longer be required to provide certifications, make public interest findings, or develop research or experimental work plans to use patented or proprietary products in Federal-aid projects. Federal funds participation will no longer be restricted when State DOTs specify a trade name for approval in Federal-aid contracts. In addition, Federal-aid participation will no longer be restricted when a State DOT specifies patented or proprietary materials in design-build Request-for-Proposal documents."



FHWA Repeals 103-Year-Old Regulation That Banned Patented Materials in Construction


"This much-needed update of a century-old, obsolete rule will benefit state transportation infrastructure projects and save millions of taxpayer dollars," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

FHWA Administrator Nicole Nason added "This final rule promotes innovation by empowering states to choose which state-of-the-art materials, tools, and products best meet their needs for the construction and upkeep of America’s transportation infrastructure."



FHWA Overhauls 103 Year Old Proprietary Product Rule


"As the number of deaths in our work zones steadily increases year after year, states are challenged with new ways of keeping workers safe. The repeal of the proprietary product rule will help considerably.

'One example of a safety device that protects the workers that isn't currently being used as much as it should be due to this proprietary rule is a mobile barrier,' [former U.S. Secretary of Transportation James Burnley] says . 'Instead of state DOT's having to use cones, which are basically worthless in terms of protection, these are moveable barriers that are mounted on truck wheels that can be driven up to a work zone and hooked together to extend the work zone. They create a 5-ft. stainless steel walls that is an impenetrable barrier that protects the workers and their use is being inhibited due to this rule. As a practical matter, it's basically impossible for states to use federal aid to purchase these products without going through a lot of steps and delay to get approval,' Burnley adds.

...'Repeal of the Proprietary Rule liberates state DOT’s to use their own procurement procedures to acquire innovative products that will enhance safety, reduce congestion and enhance the resilience of our highways,' Burnley says."


.

Footnotes


8 Estimated Total Crashes & Injuries Data: 2013-2015 data from NHTSA National Automotive Sampling General Estimates System (NASS/GES). NHTSA retired NASS/GES at the end of 2015. 2016 data from NHTSA's replacement Crash Report Sampling System (CRSS).
9 Fatalities Data: NHTSA Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) Encyclopedia. 2017 is the last year with available data.
14 UC Davis/AHMCT, “A Risk Assessment and Cost Benefit Analysis for [Highly Mobile Barriers],” Technical Report Number UCD-ARR-08-09-30-01, (2008). Ibid, Attachment 3.
15 Mobile Barriers LLC internal crash analysis for Washington D.C. located highly mobile barrier.
16 Former Deputy Executive Director of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).


-->