Road Builders Find Innovative Ways to Control the Rising Costs of Construction

Utilizing Technology and Reassigning Workforce Can Save Labor Costs

The cost of maintaining, rebuilding and expanding the United States’ infrastructure continues to rise, delaying the completion of many critical projects. Global fuel price increases are the most visible cause of this problem; however, the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration includes the downsizing of workforce, consolidation in the highway industry, and spot shortages of skilled labor in its list of factors affecting costs in road and highway construction. 

These factors put pressure on government agencies, in turn putting pressure on the contractors who bid on their projects, to find new ways to stay within budget. One consideration common to every road and bridge project as well as many building projects is traffic control during construction. 

As construction costs spiral, both for equipment and labor, portable traffic signals offer a cost saving option for traffic control being utilized by contractors and municipalities across the country. 

Portable traffic signals are automated systems that replace human flagmen or traditional temporary traffic signals that are installed in the ground. 

According to Peter Vieveen, president of North America Traffic, a portable traffic signal manufacturer based in Ontario, Canada, the cost of portable traffic signals has dropped significantly in the last few years and new technology makes them very quick and easy to set up. 

Digioia Suburban Excavating, an Ohio contractor who works on regional road construction projects, began using a portable traffic signal developed and manufactured by North America Traffic in June 2006. 

Mark Monschein, yard supervisor at Digoia, says the company switched to portable traffic signals to maintain the flow of traffic on their short term project sites because they were easy to use and easy to move. After renting the devices for several months, Digoia purchased the portable traffic signals. 

Prior to using the signals, Digioia contracted with police officers or employed flagmen to control the traffic on their project sites. 

“There is a definite cost savings over a period of time,” says Monschein. “Sometimes we were paying two guys as much as $50 an hour per person to flag.” 

Those workers who used to flag are now reassigned to work on other aspects of the project to speed construction time and combat labor shortages. 

North America Traffic’s portable traffic signals are set up in less than 10 minutes. They run on battery power charged by solar panels and provide unlimited runtime during the construction season. 

The PTL 2.4x model is trailer mounted and compact with tandem towing capability. When fully erected the upper signal head sits 17 feet above the roadway and the lower head sits off the roadway 8 feet above the ground. The system also comes with a radio remote control which allows the workers to stop and start traffic flow whenever they need to bring their trucks into the work zone. 

Digoia also sees a cost benefit during overnight traffic control situations where traffic has been reduced to one lane. 

“When we have a zone set up and have to maintain it, those machines are working all night and we don’t have to pay flagmen,” explains Monschein. 

Not only are portable traffic signals useful for combating labor costs and on overnight work, but they are significantly less expensive to install than temporary traffic signals, and they are reusable. 

“The traditional temporary signals require a subcontractor to install wood poles, run electricity to the site and string up signal heads,” Vieveen explains. “This is costly and can take several weeks, and at the end of the job the contractor has nothing to show for it. Portable signals are quick to set up and the contractor can reuse them on future projects.” 

To date North America Traffic’s portable traffic control devices have been used on over 1,500 projects throughout the United States. As more contractors become aware of the cost savings associated with portable traffic signals, they will become a mainstay in the road and bridge construction industry. 

About North America Traffic 

North America Traffic was launched as R.C. Flagman in 1993 when Peter Vieveen built the world’s first Remote Controlled Flagman™ out of his garage. At the time, Mr. Vieveen was a senior estimator in the construction industry with over 25 years of construction experience. He understood the importance of reducing costs while increasing safety. North America Traffic now operates a full production facility, and its products have been used on over 1,000 projects across North America. Today, it is the world leader in traffic control systems, with 8 different models of portable traffic signals and flagging systems to meet all traffic control needs. For more information, visit www.northamericatraffic.com.