Is Pavement Treatment Leading To Fewer I-380 S-Curve Crashes?

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Most people who drive through Cedar Rapids on I-380 know to edge off the gas pedal when approaching the S-curve. "I usually slow down because those cameras are already there so I usually hit the breaks around those times," one driver filling up a gas tank told us on Friday. The Iowa Department of Transportation is singling out a 0.3-mile stretch of Interstate 380, pointing to a pavement treatment applied in June 2012 and the crash data since then. "In 2009, we did a road safety audit on the I-380 corridor throughout Cedar Rapids," said Cathy Cutler of the Iowa DOT's Cedar Rapids office. "We knew the S-curves were a concern and we do have friction testing, which is a measure of how tires are adhering to the pavement." With the findings, road crews applied an epoxy layer with a "very sharp aggregate" in June 2012 to increase the friction between the tires and the surface, helping keep the 31,000 vehicles the DOT says travel this stretch each day. "It's a very angular rock, a very tough rock that retains that shape and those angles and it retains friction," said Cutler. The price tag is not cheap, with the DOT reporting a project cost of $494,000 for 1.8 miles of treatment -- the 0.3 miles across six lanes of traffic. Crash Statistics: May 1, 2007-April 30, 2008: 11 crashes, 5 injuries. May 1, 2008-April 30, 2009: 18 crashes, 16 injuries May 1, 2019-April 30, 2010: 11 crashes, 3 injuries May 1, 2010-April 30, 2011: 7 crashes, 3 injuries May 1, 2011-April 30, 2012: 7 crashes, 1 injury. *June 13, 2012-December 16, 2013: 10 crashes, 1 injury *Denotes time frame after application of pavement treatment. Yet there is also another element in play. The well-known Cedar Rapids traffic cameras. On Interstate 380, the cameras went live in June 2010. In the first three years the cameras were issuing citations, more than 130,000 violations were billed, resulting in $18.3 million in fines issues to speeding drivers. In 2010, former Cedar Rapids Police Chief Greg Graham said the traffic cameras would lead to more safety throughout the S-curve and that any revenue would be a bi-product. On Friday, current police chief Wayne Jerman issued this statement about the DOT's findings: "The Cedar Rapids Police Department appreciates the efforts of the Iowa Department of Transportation in helping us to improve the safety of the Interstate. Traffic enforcement cameras and the IDOT improvements are making the roadway safer and reducing crashes." Cutler agrees the traffic was pulled back from extreme speeding along that pocket of road in recent years. "People are slowing down to the speed limits for the most part," said Cutler. "The benefit the DOT sees with the cameras is that it has smoothed the traffic in the area."
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