RoadSafe Traffic Systems Inc.

RoadSafe Traffic Systems Inc. may be a national company with 30 offices from coast to coast, but Senior Vice President Kathi Holst explains that each office is fully trained in its local nuances. “We can be as similar in our branch operations as states are in their specifications and regulations, which they are not,” Holst says. “If every department of transportation did things the same way, then we could also. But they don’t, so we need to be flexible and virtual and pretty fluid to move where we need to move and go where we need to go.”

RoadSafe takes to the streets to provide traffic control signage and services for roadway construction projects, railroad closures and special events. All three segments are important pieces of RoadSafe’s Success, but roadway work makes up the bulk of its business.

“If you took a 300,000-foot view looking down onto our business, you would see that we provide services in work zones such as traffic control,” Holst says. “We are also in the business of manufacturing and installing signage as well as pavement marking to stripe the roads.”

Speaking for the Industry

Because highway work is an integral part of RoadSafe’s business, it has a first-person view into the nation’s infrastructure needs, which, according to Holst, are in need of some major bolstering. As one of the largest traffic control services companies in the United States, RoadSafe has become a major advocate of increased federal funding for road infrastructure – a position that not only benefits RoadSafe, but the highway construction industry as a whole.

“We do a lot of advocating for roadway safety in Washington and in state legislatures,” Holst says. “It’s nice to be able to advocate for an industry such as ours where the whole issue is about doing things that will ultimately save lives on the roadway.”

Holst says this mission has not come without its challenges. The primary source for infrastructure funding comes from the federal highway trust fund, which gains revenue from the federal gas tax that has not been increased in 20 years. Over the next six years, Holst and other advocates estimate the nation’s infrastructure needs will call for $556 billion, but if all stays the same at the federal level, funding will be about half that.

“This source of funding has not kept up with demand of infrastructure itself, and so states are doing everything they can to keep up with maintaining the roads,” Holst explains. “But because of the lack of increased federal funding, many [states] can’t even think about adding new capacity or completely rehabilitating their roadways.”

The overall lack of funding has put a strain on this industry; nevertheless, Holst says RoadSafe has managed to develop into and remain a thriving business. Each RoadSafe branch has equipment such as barricades and lights, crash attenuators, arrow boards and variable message signs to provide visible, temporary traffic control and protection during construction. The company also has personnel including project managers and installation crews who can implement an effective safety plan, and it is on call 24/7 for emergency equipment rentals.

The company is also directly involved with road construction. It provides pavement marking services as a prime contractor or subcontractor and offers a range of pavement marking types compatible with different road and weather conditions. In its 20,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, it makes sign products compliant with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices and with the client’s respective local specifications. Signs include:

  • Regulatory signs 
  • Warning signs
  • Motorist signs
  • Construction signs
  • Guide signs
  • Object markers
  • Parking and handicap signs
  • School zone signs

In Avon, Mass., RoadSafe is working on a $2.2 million guide and traffic sign replacement project along route 95 from Georgetown to Salisbury. RoadSafe is fabricating and installing all the signs, which include warning and regulatory signs on breakaway posts as well as ground-mounted signs and large overhead guide signs and structures.

“It is a good-size project for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, and it is one of the first that has both static and variable message signs – two overhead and one ground mounted,” says General Manager Paul Di Martino. “The completion date is June of 2012. We are underway and ahead of schedule.”

In addition to its in-house sign manufacturing and installation capabilities, RoadSafe also remains a leader by expanding its portfolio into other markets. For special events such as marathons and professional auto races, RoadSafe will design traffic layout plans; set up road closures and detours; manufacture, install and remove temporary signs; install temporary paint or tape for lane reconfiguration and even contract shuttle services. It also has a relationship with railroad companies in a number of states and performs closures at pedestrian railroad crossings while maintenance that could take a few hours or several days is performed.

“To help grow our business, we chose to look to additional customer bases like special events, like railroad,” Holst says. “As far as infrastructure, we have to operate at complete efficiency to maintain tight margins because at the end of the day we are in roadway construction and roadway maintenance, and those are jobs that cannot be shipped overseas.”

The Main Road

RoadSafe’s Romeoville, Ill., branch is working as a subcontractor on the state’s Interstate 90 Tollway project, which consists of 9.5 miles of resurfacing on both the east- and westbound lanes. RoadSafe’s contract includes 20 miles of traffic control work so that the prime contractor can safely perform the construction.

“Because of the size, we are working every day on some aspect, from providing service to our customer or doing maintenance to keep the job aligned,” General Manager Mark Long says. “It is a fast-paced job with the majority of work being done at night, and we have met all the time lines.”

RoadSafe’s crews set up lane restrictions at night and so far have installed 56,000 feet of glare screen on the barrier wall and set up 20 miles of drums to form temporary traffic configurations. It is also in charge of temporary and permanent pavement markings, which occur in phases throughout the project. Temporary markings are made from an epoxy pavement and final pavement markings are made from grooved-in, multipolymer liquids. At the project’s finish later this year, RoadSafe will have completed 450,000 lineal feet of permanent pavement markings.

Pavement markings are a key service in RoadSafe’s repertoire. The company’s network-wide experience in using different materials proved especially valuable last year when a shortage in some chemicals used to make certain products caused a 50 percent shortfall in the pavement marking arena. Several jobs were either delayed or cancelled throughout the industry, but because RoadSafe isn’t limited to just one product it was able to come up with alternatives for several clients. “I’ve been in the business since the 1980s, and I’ve never seen anything like that,” Holst says. “It forced agencies to look at alternative products. It even invoked some of them to take a look at materials never used in that state before. From a contractor perspective, RoadSafe is large enough that we have resources for all type of products. Many of our competitors do not.”

Many also do not have the wide knowledge base of a company like RoadSafe. Each branch is staffed with experts well versed in their local agency specifications, and while these rules and regulations vary from state to state, each branch is able to contribute to its neighboring branch and the company as a whole.

“We have the ability to pull resources from branches and share them throughout the organization,” Holst explains. “It gives us a lot of firepower, which is attractive to prime contractors. We have a lot of fleet and a lot of professionals, some with more than 25 years. We rely on that expertise across the branches.”

Relationships Matter

RoadSafe doesn’t just pull knowledge from within; it is surrounded by a network of vendors, contractors and subcontractors who all add to the company’s ability to be a nationwide performer. “Relationships are a very strong part of this business, especially when you consider all the subcontractor work we do,” Holst says. “In general contracting, low bid is low bid, but some work is based on relationships. And we look at these relationships as true partnerships creating win-win solutions in our everyday approach to good business practices.” RoadSafe’s key partners include ATSSA, Plastic Safety Systems and Mark Rite Lines Equipment Co.

RoadSafe is also a member of the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA), which provides a wealth of information in areas such as training programs and networking among industry professionals in efforts to advance roadway safety. 

“Among all the benefits of membership and the fact our suppliers are members, ATSSA is really our source for industry information and our voice on Capitol Hill in keeping roadway safety as a focus among congressional members,” Holst says.

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