MassDOT has received many inquiries about the use of traffic flaggers on state road projects, and I would like to provide an update to clarify some misconceptions about our use of flaggers and paid police details. Our first priority is safety, for everyone working at construction locations and for the people who travel in those areas.
MassDOT’s Road Flagger and Police Detail Regulations which went into effect on October 3, 2008, have resulted in significant traffic mitigation savings while allowing us to continue to maintain the safest roads in the nation. The legislature passed a law in 2008 requiring regulations to provide flaggers at certain road and bridge construction sites. In nearly 18 months of using road flaggers on certain MassDOT construction sites throughout the Commonwealth, I am pleased to report that in addition to the more than $10 million that has been saved to date, there have been no safety incidents related to the presence of civilian road flaggers or the implementation of the regulations. Further, the money that has been saved has allowed us to re-invest much needed capital into additional critical road and bridge projects.
MassDOT, as the contract awarding authority, was given control over when and where to use flaggers in consultation with appropriate law enforcement. In general, the regulations call for flaggers to be used on projects located on lower speed roads and for police details on high speed roads, in high traffic intersections, and other areas of specific concern.
We have followed those regulations and implemented the law, using flaggers on certain state road and bridge projects since October 2008. Approximately 60% percent of our projects starting this spring have been identified as appropriate work sites for flagger use.
As we have safely implemented this law for the past 18 months, we have begun to see the cost savings envisioned when the law was passed, savings that can be plowed back into repairing additional roads and bridges.
We looked at the cost of police details on state road and bridge projects for the five years prior to implementation of the flagger law, and compared those costs with our traffic control costs since October 2008. We found significant savings.
In the five years prior to the flagger law, MassDOT spent more than $107 million of our road and bridge construction project dollars on police traffic control- 4.38% of the total.
Since October 2008, we have spent $39.9 million on the combination of flaggers and police details- 3.44% of the total cost of projects. The trend is clear- the percentage of our construction dollars spent on traffic management has declined 21% because of avoided costs associated with use of details on all projects. The lower percentage cost of traffic control using flaggers where safe and appropriate has saved an estimated $10.9 million in avoided costs since October 2008, based on the assumption that without the flagger law our percentage costs would have remained as they were prior to October 2008.
Why have our traffic control costs been reduced significantly?
The answer is that because MassDOT as the contract awarding authority has control over the work site, we have controlled the number of traffic control personnel needed. We are paying only for the hours worked, and not paying for additional supervisors. We are able to reassign our flagger employees immediately to other important tasks during their work day.
Some have also raised the issue of flagger wages as compared to police detail hourly rates. MassDOT is obligated to pay prevailing wage on all construction projects, wage rates set at varying levels across the state by the state Division of Occupational Safety. However, when comparing wage rates, it is important to note that the stated wage paid for flaggers includes benefits- an entire employee package, and these employees are assigned additional tasks during their regular work schedule. Police detail members are paid hourly wage rates separate from the benefit packages already provided by their employer.
Others have suggested that MassDOT change the classification of flaggers to something other than laborers to save additional costs. U.S. Department of Labor guidance makes it clear that flaggers perform physical work on the job site and are classified properly.
MassDOT pledges to continue working with our employees, law enforcement, project contractors and other concerned parties in the implementation of the flagger law and regulations in a way that puts safety first while continuing to achieve cost savings that redirect taxpayer dollars to future road and bridge projects.