Introduction and Brief History of The Ohio Turnpike
The Ohio Turnpike is a 241-mile highway that runs East and West along the state’s northern corridor. Officially named James W. Shocknessy Ohio Turnpike, this highway provides direct linkage between Chicago in the West and Pittsburgh in the East. Many travelers use it as the fastest and most efficient way to cross the northern part of Ohio.
-Historical Photo of The Ohio Turnpike -
One of the operational concepts of the Ohio turnpike is that it is a toll road. A toll road refers to a roadway in which users pay an allotted amount of money for how many miles they drive on the road. These funds contribute to maintaining the excellent condition of the highway. The road that the Ohio turnpike was built on underwent initial development roughly 200 years ago, and the concept and use of a toll road have existed for thousands of years. You can learn more about its history here. 
“Even with 54.3 million vehicles traveling more than 3 billion vehicle miles on the Ohio Turnpike in 2018, the 241-mile toll road was free from traffic backups 99.86 percent of the time in 2018” 
Despite the ample amount of motor vehicles that use the turnpike, the highway continues to be traffic jam-free almost indefinitely. One of the reasons for this is the consistent maintenance and repair of the roadway. Our roadways’ quality affects so many things such as vehicle wear and tear, safety and accident potential, speed limit, and more. For this reason, the often overlooked and undervalued industry that is road construction is vital in keeping our roads safe and efficient.
Working on The Turnpike
The Gerken Companies are honored to fulfill the necessary task of maintenance and upkeep of The Ohio Turnpike. We have several current projects that span several portions of the turnpike, one of which located between state route four and US 250 and will cover a total of 6.5 miles. Another area of work starts at the Ohio Indiana state line and runs to mile marker 8.2. This western portion of our work will run three years and cover lanes in both east and westbound directions and includes approximately 435,000 tons of asphalt mix which will be produced by Gerken Materials at our Pioneer asphalt plant. This is not only the largest subcontract that the Gerken Companies have performed, but will be the single biggest project we will complete to date.
-Pioneer Asphalt Plant-
Because the turnpike is always open and traffic is typically constant, maintaining a safe work environment is of utmost importance. Because the freeway is relatively large in scope and maintains a very high quality of driving surface, the speed limit there is 70 mph. To offset this increased risk associated with higher driving speeds, we do a few things to keep our workers safer.
The Many Benefits of Nightwork
Safety – Our First Priority
Working at night comes with many advantages. First off, this is when traffic is lightest, which inherently increases safety for all of our employees involved in the project. Safety is always our first priority, especially in the world of road construction. It’s easy to see the risks of working in areas with fast-moving vehicles passing you by consistently. The concept is a relatively simple one: fewer cars passing our workers during their shift equates to lesser opportunities for interference and potential accidents.
Speaking of safety, one inherent risk with working at night is the decreased visibility due to darkness. There are various types of technology that we utilize to overcome this challenge. There are inflatable light balloons positioned on the back of the paver, illuminating a large portion of the moving work zone. There are also large stand lights pulled by trucks to light the ends of the work zones and the trucks coming in. But what about individual workers who move from different zones of the project? Employees in the work zone wear unique lights on their hard hats called halos. Halos are a portable way to keep our employees visible to oncoming traffic, no matter where they go. Working at night is just one method of many that we use to secure our employees’ safety.
Staying Efficient in the Heat of Summer
Another simple benefit to working at night is cooler temperatures. This may seem like a simple one but is extremely valuable when considering the heat of a summer day in Ohio. This heat is also compounded because asphalt is delivered at approximately 300° to the job site. The factor of working with high-temperature material on a hot summer’s day can undoubtedly add to the difficulty of a day’s work. Temperature is also an important factor because many of our flaggers have to wear full-body high visibility safety attire. Even though these “high-vis” suits are vented, working in cooler temperatures is still a welcomed benefit of night work.
Efficiency is held in high regard in any industry, and road construction is no different. With the decrease in traffic, the paving crew’s mobility is freed up a bit and adds to productivity. Our truck drivers who deliver the hot asphalt mix also benefit from working at night because they can more easily maneuver themselves to coordinate with the paver. It’s important to note that while paving long stretches of highway without stopping, the work zone is always moving. A part of this process includes a truck that positions the caution cones that buffer either side of the work zone. These “cone-zones” serve various purposes, such as alerting traffic to upcoming roadwork, creating an area of space between traffic and workers, and adding lanes of maneuverability for trucks that are bringing asphalt into the work zone. A decrease in traffic helps with efficiency for the zone movers and makes the process smoother and safer.
The Ohio Turnpike will continue to be THE go-to route for travelers passing through our state’s northern corridor. We here at Gerkens are excited to help keep the roadway well-maintained.
-Turnpike Night Crew-