SALT LAKE CITY — If you think sitting in traffic is a pain, try working while sitting at a desk in the middle of the freeway.
Or just working in the middle of the freeway, for that matter.
"It's loud. It's dusty. There's activity going on around all around us,” Carlos Braceras, executive director of the Utah Department of Transportation, said as motorists sped by on one side and heavy construction work took place on the other.
Braceras set up a temporary office in a construction zone on I-125 near 2100 South on Wednesday to highlight the dangers his crews face each day — distracted drivers or traffic going in excess of 70 to 80 mph when the speed limit in a construction zone is much lower.
"When you're driving through a work zone, you are driving through somebody's office,” Braceras said. “Please drive carefully through it. Don’t barrel through our office.”
"It's dangerous,” added Clint Wiscombe, a construction manager on the project. “You have to keep your head on a swivel."
This week, the Federal Highway Administration is sponsoring National Work Zone Awareness Week to encourage motorists to be more aware of their surroundings in construction zones.
Last year, there were more than 3,000 crashes in work zones across Utah, injuring more than 1,200 and killing 11. Nationally, there was a 9 percent increase in work zone crashes last year.
"Those 11 people were actually motorists driving through work zones," Braceras said.
Wiscombe described a recent close call for one worker moving signs. "A motorist came by and smashed his truck and pinned him against the barrier," he said. “He went to the hospital with a back injury, and his truck was totaled.
"This could be your husband out here working,” Wiscombe added. “This could be your kid out here working. Drive through here as if you have a relative or someone that is close to you that you would like to make it home every night."
Braceras also reminded motorists that work zones change all the time.
“The configurations change. So if you drove through yesterday, don't assume it's going to be the same when you drive through it today,” he said.
Braceras also pleaded with motorists to “be patient with us.”
“We do everything we can to make sure that you can go through and travel through our work zones as painlessly and take as little time as possible," he said.
“Obey the speed limits. Buckle up. Pay attention. Respect our workers.”