Monday, July 12, 2010

What is with those gates to the entrance of U.S. 41 from Hwy 76 (Jackson Street)

Since the Hwy 41/76 interchange opened up a couple weeks ago, I've had a few people ask me if I knew what the gates were for just before getting on the Hwy 41 approaches. I had to take a drive to see for myself what they were talking about and must confes, while I had a few suspicions about their purpose, wasn't entirely sure. I sent an email to the DOT and asked them. Following is their response...

"These are ramp gates. They are used to close an on-ramp and thus the highway quickly in case of a weather event like flooding or a blizzard or a serious crash. They are far more efficient than placing law enforcement or highway department crews to put up a barricade and monitor the ramp. They free up resources – mainly personnel – that can be used more effectively elsewhere. The gates are locked in an upright position and cranked down manually. They are being placed on major routes statewide. In NE, they are being place on US 41, WIS 441, WIS 172 and I-43. We began putting them up last year and when we have a project in the vicinity or at a particular ramp, we add this to the project. So this effort will continue for the next few years. They cost approximately $14,000 per gate. Because some urban interchanges have two lanes for the on ramp – that takes two gates for that ramp and subsequently, there would be two gates for each of the two on ramps for a total of 4 gates at an interchange.

"They are a result of our ETO or Emergency Transportation Operation efforts. State Patrol took the lead in advocating for these gates."

I thank the DOT for their response, but I'm still not sure these gates make the best sense. I don't entirely understand the reference to "monitoring" a ramp. What I've most often seen is gates/barricades or barrels being put across a lane and that's it. I don't recall seeing personnel sitting there for any length of time. And since personnel have to manually crank these gates to lower them, and I presume to raise them when the event has ended, it seems like they could just as easily put down some removable barricades at the start of an event, then remove them later. Next, since these gates are only at this one entrance to the highway in our county I don't understand how they'll keep drivers off the highway at other interchanges. Finally, as rarely as we see a highway shut down, I wonder how often these gates will actually get used and therefore, if the expense will be justified. I guess time will tell.


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