Thursday, April 26, 2018

Labor foreman remembers close call, urges drivers to pay attention in work zones

By Victoria Miller

Andre Rayford drives in Renton near the Interstate 405 and State Route 167 interchange every day. Having lived in the greater Seattle area his whole life, he knows the area well and has noticed the changes over the years.

One detail that sets him apart from other drivers on I-405 and SR 167 is that he works at night as a traffic control supervisor/labor foreman for the I-405/SR 167 Interchange Direct Connector Project in Renton. He has a keener eye for the construction and changes in the area because he helps make them happen.

Rayford has been working as a traffic control supervisor on the Direct Connector Project for about a year and in traffic control since 2007, when "Umbrella" by Rihanna first hit the airwaves and the Seattle Supersonics were still dribbling basketballs at KeyArena. Through more than a decade on construction projects around the region, he has seen his fair share of work zone incidents.
Andre Rayford has been involved in a few work zone incidents in his time working on our I-405 construction projects.

"Depending on where you're at, some of the incidents are expected," he said, giving the example of drivers having difficulty merging while crews are setting up lanes for closures. "You don't want it to happen, but you should be prepared for it."

It wasn't until Rayford started working on these projects that he truly became more aware of work zone safety, including the importance of paying attention to signs on the roadway.

The first incident he experienced happened several years ago, when he was working on the first SR 167 HOT lanes extension project. Rayford's crew was setting up closure signs on northbound SR 167, as well as using a truck-mounted attenuator. An attenuator is a safety precautionary vehicle intended to absorb the impact of a collision, minimize damage made to the vehicle and save crew workers' lives. After setting down the device, the crew and Rayford moved their trucks to the shoulder.

"I had just put the truck in park and then there was this plume of smoke and fluids everywhere," he said.

A driver, who reported after the incident that he had not noticed traffic slowing down, hit Rayford's pickup truck, which then moved forward about two and a half feet, clipping the truck that the rest of his crew had been in. Fortunately, Rayford and his crew had exited their vehicles just in time.

"If I had gotten out of the truck a couple seconds earlier, it would have been a potentially fatal incident with serious injuries," he recalled. "That was my first serious incident on the job and it was a real wake up call."

For Rayford and countless others like him who work on our construction projects, the importance of safety is personal.
Andre Rayford, who works on our Direct Connector project, likes spending time with his wife and two sons.

"I grew up in the area right up the hill, and I live less than five minutes away from the project today. I do the drive everyday and I can see the progress being made," Rayford said as he described what working on the Direct Connector project means to him. "I'm proud of it."

When he isn't working, Rayford enjoys spending time outdoors with his wife, Alissa Ouano, and two sons, Joelani, 6, and Jakobi, 12, especially during the summer, when they frequent the Henry Moses Aquatic Center in Renton.

So, the next time you're driving through a work zone, remember Andre and the other members of the construction crews, and give 'em a brake.

"Be aware of the signs. Read the signs. On any project," Rayford emphasizes to people driving through work zones.

We ask all drivers in work zones to:
  • Slow Down - Drive the posted speeds, they're there for your safety.
  • Be Kind - Our workers are helping to keep you safe and improve the roadways.
  • Pay Attention - both to workers directing you and surrounding traffic
  • Stay Calm - Expect delays, leave early or take an alternate route if possible; no meeting or appointment is worth risking someone's life.