As we move into peak road and bridge construction season, I would like to provide an update on the use of traffic flaggers and paid police details and outline new steps taken to use flaggers where appropriate in a safe and cost efficient manner.
Since MassDOT’s Road Flagger and Police Detail Regulations went into effect in October 2008, we have realized significant savings in traffic mitigation while continuing to maintain the safest roads and work zones in the nation.
The flagger regulation gives MassDOT the flexibility to control the work zone by determining the appropriate number of police details or flaggers working on a project based on roadway speeds. The regulation enables us to pay flaggers only for the hours they work rather than a guaranteed minimum, and also reduces costs by controlling the number of details and/or flaggers and avoiding the use of non-MassDOT supervisors on-site.
The result has been savings of nearly $12 million in less than two years, additional dollars that can be invested directly in road and bridge construction.
I would also like to respond to statements that may have created some confusion about the actual savings being realized by the use of flaggers. Because the flagger rate is a bid item in the construction bid and contract we note some contractors bid higher than the prevailing wage for flaggers. This happens in only a small number of cases – the majority of contractors bid far lower rates – and even that discrepancy is made up by the absence of four-hour minimum payments for flaggers.
While we are very pleased with the safe work zones and cost savings resulting from the Flagger Regulation, we are not stopping there. We believe we can achieve additional cost savings by introducing even more competition for traffic management services during our bidding process. Effective June 1, 2010, we added language in all new contracts that stated that MassDOT would reserve the right to use our own employees as flaggers if the contractors bid too high on that item. We have begun training more than 1,300 MassDOT employees, who will become certified as flaggers.
The MassDOT flagger program from the beginning has not been designed to replace police details on all public works projects. We will continue to use State Police and local police when appropriate and necessary on high speed roadways as outlined in the regulation. We view the police as our partners in highway safety and will continue to work closely with them on traffic management and a wide variety of highway safety issues across the Commonwealth.
Over the coming years, we expect to continue to save millions of dollars implementing the flagger regulation while maintaining safe roads and safe construction projects.