AmberPodcast Episode #4 Safely on the road: works on the Motorway

Have you ever wondered how the technical condition of the surface is assessed? Do you want to know if there are any particular challenges associated with motorway repairs compared to other roads? In the fourth episode, during an interview with Grzegorz Kuleta, technical director and member of the board of Gdańsk Transport Company, we discussed the issue of works on the motorway. This is a particularly important topic due to the commencement of works related to the replacement of the surface of the AmberOne A1 Motorway. Listen to the next episode of AmberPodcast to learn the secrets of road works and what you can do to minimize their impact on the comfort of your own journey!

Anna Kordecka: Welcome to the next, fourth episode of AmberPodcast. In connection with the renovation of the surface of the A1 motorway planned for the coming years, in this episode we will focus on what we, as drivers, can do to ensure that the works carried out do not significantly affect the comfort and safety of our journey. The guest of this episode of AmberPodcast will be Grzegorz Kuleta, technical director and member of the board of Gdańsk Transport Company. Hello.

Grzegorz Kuleta: Good morning.

AK: This year we are entering the full phase of renovation works, which will last for the next five years. What kind of renovation works are planned on the motorway in the near future and on which sections of the motorway can drivers expect difficulties?

GK: The first sections of the motorway were put into service in 2007-2008. Hence, there is a need to perform renovation works. These works will mainly consist of replacing the wearing course, the upper layer of the surface. However, during these works, we will strengthen the pavement structure so that it can safely carry vehicle traffic. It is worth noting that the traffic of heavy goods vehicles on our motorway increased from about 5% to over 20%.

AK: Oh, this is indeed a significant leap, and as you know, trucks wear out the road much more than passenger cars.

GK: Exactly.

AK: I understand that the renovations will be carried out in different locations and they will not necessarily be sections one after the other. What is the reason for such a choice of location.

GK: We assume that the repairs will be carried out in parallel on about 8-kilometre sections. However, we will not always be able to conduct them one after the other. This is mainly due to the introduction of appropriate traffic organization. We assume that one renovation will be carried out on the roadway in the direction of Toruń, and the other on the roadway in the direction of Gdańsk. Hence, there will be sections that will be, for example, located vis-à-vis each other. Therefore, we cannot carry out work in a sequence of consecutive 8-kilometer sections. Therefore, it is necessary to take into account the issues of traffic organization, logistics, as well as the current condition of the surface, because some sections require earlier renovation, according to the assessment carried out earlier, and others can still wait.

AK: We already know that the sections will be located in different places, but what will be the layout of the renovation works? How many lanes will be available to drivers and why was such a traffic organization chosen?

GK: We assume that the renovation works will generally be carried out on a roadway excluded from traffic. Therefore, all traffic will take place on one carriageway of the motorway. Due to the width of this roadway, a 2 plus 1 lane system is possible. This means that we have two lanes available in one direction, one lane in the opposite direction. In our opinion, such a system is the safest one, because the directions of traffic are separated by a temporary barrier, and also when it comes to traffic intensity, it is an optimal system. Unfortunately, with such a width of the roadway, we cannot provide a system of two lanes in each direction.

AK: And how long will the renovation works on selected sections take?

GK: On average, we can assume that the works on the 8-kilometer section take from 30 to 50 days. Depending on the location of the section, as well as the scope of work that is necessary to be carried out on a given section. Because we have to make all the necessary repairs, strengthen the binding layer by laying an additional 4 cm layer, as well as work related to the wearing course and finishing works, such as road markings.

AK: And how could the drivers find out about the current difficulties on the route caused by renovation works?

GK: Information about current repairs can be found on our website, in our social media, such as the motorway Facebook or Platform X, and in our free AmberOne application.

AK: Road repairs must be carried out in appropriate weather conditions. What are the conditions?

GK: Bituminous works are specific in terms of the technological regime during their performance. The most appropriate period is from April to the end of October. As a rule, these works cannot be carried out at low temperatures below 5 degrees, as well as in heavy rainfall and high humidity conditions. We need a dry substrate and a good temperature so that this work can be done in the right quality.

AK: Thank you. We already know in which locations the renovations will take place and what weather conditions we need to carry them out qualitatively. And how often is it necessary to replace the surface on the motorway and does it depend on the category and purpose of the road?

GK: This question cannot be answered so unequivocally as to how often the surface should be replaced. It depends on the road, location, quality in which it was built, and also on the traffic load. The traffic of heavy goods vehicles that determines the need for renovation is different for different roads. Some roads could need to be renovated after 8-10 years, others maybe after 15. We are closer to the second date and at this time we have planned the renovation of our motorway.

AK: Some drivers are surprised by the need to carry out repairs, to their eye the surface of the motorway is in very good condition. It seems, however, that visual assessment is not everything. How is the technical condition of the surface assessed?

GK: We are very pleased with the opinion that the motorway is in good condition, because we are constantly trying to ensure that drivers can use the road of the highest standard. Unfortunately, time passes and more years pass since the motorway was put into service. Visual evaluation is not everything. The condition of the motorway surface is assessed on the basis of tests carried out, such as evenness tests, anti-skid properties tests, as well as surface load-bearing tests. The results of these tests are analysed and on their basis decisions are made about the need to carry out renovation.

AK: And are there any particular challenges related to repairs on the motorway compared to other roads?

GK: First of all, it is a very high traffic volume that we have to transfer to one roadway and this is the biggest task for us. The issue related to the safety of both employees and users of the motorway is also extremely important.

AK: And will alternative routes be made available to reduce traffic on the renovated motorway?

GK: We are trying to implement such solutions. Unfortunately, this requires arrangements with many local road administrators. We are also concerned that redirecting heavy traffic to some sections of the road may cause some difficulties.

AK: During repairs, the speed limit on the renovated sections is 80 km per hour for the safety of both users and people working on the motorway. Will any additional safety measures be introduced during the renovations to protect both drivers and people on the motorway?

GK: As a rule, we try to ensure that the works are carried out on a roadway excluded from traffic. Therefore, the traffic that takes place on the second carriageway of the motorway is twice as heavy as it results from normal conditions when we have both carriageways available to users. It is important that drivers adhere to this speed limit. Because it will allow you to exercise due caution and increased attention when driving on sections where temporary traffic organization is introduced. On those sections where works are being carried out, every 2 km or so, we have information about the progress of the renovation and how much more we have to drive on the section where temporary traffic organization is in force. We also have banners informing about safety, as well as the need to maintain the corridor of life in case we are dealing with an event on the road

AK: Let’s hope that these solutions will have the intended effect, but what can we, as drivers, do to reduce the difficulties caused by renovation works? In other words, how to minimize the impact of works on the comfort of our journey?

GK: First of all, drivers should exercise due caution. They should strictly follow the signs, keep a distance, which will both help to react early enough to an event that may occur on the road, but also allow for the creation of a corridor of life. When this distance is too small, drivers have no room to manoeuvre and block the road, thus preventing the passage of emergency vehicles.

AK: In other words, we appeal for patience and mutual respect, because this will allow us to travel safely and ensure that the renovations are carried out efficiently. One more question comes to my mind related to the acceptance of renovations. Travellers may be irritated by the fact that they are driving on a narrowed road with a limited number of lanes, and they do not see employees or moving equipment on the renovated and traffic-free line. Actually, why are the works not carried out on weekends or at night? Such an organization would certainly affect the duration of the renovations.

GK: If works are carried out on an 8-kilometre section, drivers may not notice the places where these works can be carried out. It’s not that nothing happens on a given section. Night work is a specific work that has a decisive impact on the safety of employees and the quality of this work. We try to avoid night work because, firstly, safety is the most important thing for us. Secondly, the quality of these works may not be as good as those performed during the day. When it comes to working on weekends, work is generally carried out on weekends. There may be some assortments of jobs that are skipped on particular weekends. This is because everyone has the right to a weekend off, including those employees who work on the motorway.

AK: So more understanding on the part of drivers, because just because they don’t see something doesn’t mean that it’s not happening. Are there any behaviors that are particularly dangerous in the face of renovation works? Any mistakes made by drivers that are reprehensible?

GK: First of all, this is a failure to exercise due caution. Secondly, drivers do not keep their distance, do not comply with the speed limit, and the use of mobile phones is a very reprehensible example of proper behaviour.

AK: Thank you for this answer. It is worth taking to heart, because the application of these simple rules or simply good habits has an impact on the safety and comfort of travel for all of us. Will the renovations not limit access to necessary amenities for drivers, such as gas stations or restaurants?

GK: Unfortunately, they can affect because during the renovation of motorway roadways, motorway junctions are renovated, but also roads at motorway service areas are renovated. Therefore, the availability of these places will be limited or there will be no availability in the event that the section on which the service area is located is being renovated.

AK: Fortunately, we will inform you about all this in our announcements, so the driver will be able to plan his route so as to refuel or stop in another place. What else should you keep in mind to make it easier for emergency services to get to the scene?

GK: As I said before, the most important thing is to follow the signage and keep the right distance, the right distance between vehicles. This will allow drivers to create a corridor of life.

AK: This is a very valuable remark. I think it is worth remembering it so that in the event of congestion, a corridor of life can be created before the arrival of the services. Such a position of cars with space for emergency vehicles is a very good habit that simply allows us to save lives. And my last question today, related to environmental issues. Are solutions used during motorway repairs to minimise the negative impact of repairs on the environment?

GK: Of course, we use such solutions as much as possible. As an example, we use reclaimed asphalt from the old surface to produce new bituminous mixtures. The installation for the production of mixtures – is of course equipped with appropriate filters that reduce dust emissions. The contractor generally uses the highest generation equipment when it comes to equipment for laying mixtures on the construction site, i.e. high-quality pavers, as well as road rollers, which have much lower noise emissions compared to older equipment. It is also important that the entire project has been planned in such a way that the location of the bituminous mass plant is on the motorway, maybe not in the middle, but close, close to half of the entire section. Therefore, the transport of both reclaimed asphalt and ready-to-lay mixtures is optimized, and the location of the plant very close to the railway siding significantly reduces the road transport of aggregate.

AK: Thank you for today’s meeting and a lot of information about motorway repairs, especially about how to safely move on the renovated sections. My guest was Grzegorz Kuleta, technical director and member of the board of Gdańsk Transport Company.

GK: Thank you very much.

AK: See you in the next episode of AmberPodcast, in which we will discuss the topic of safety during holiday travel.

35+43 km: The Pelplin junction is closed in the direction of Gdańsk.
Traffic runs on two lanes in the direction of Łódź and one lane in the
direction of Gdańsk. The Olsze Service Area is closed in the direction of Gdańsk.

9+17 km: The Stanisławie junction is closed in the direction of Łódź.
Traffic takes place on two lanes in the direction of Gdańsk and one lane in the direction of Łódź.

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