- Associated Press - Monday, December 5, 2016

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Department of Transportation is planning to change its orange construction barrels to have brighter and more costly sheeting that department officials say will improve safety.

Department officials told the Detroit Free Press (https://on.freep.com/2h09aNH ) the cost will be minimal as the reflective sheeting on the barrels will be phased in.

Department officials said that between 2010 and 2014, 31 percent of all work zone crashes happened at dawn or dusk, or when it was raining. They said the sheeting will make it easier for drivers to see in such conditions.

MDOT has estimated the cost of the switch would be less than $2 million over four years.

Jeff Cranson, an MDOT spokesman, said cost for barrels has gone down since last year.

“We understand that recent prices for outright purchase vary from about $60 to $90 for the new safer barrels, and about $47 to $65 for the old ones,” he said.

However Frank Powelson, president and owner of Poco, a Canton company specializing in traffic controls, said he believes the switch will cost millions of dollars that could be better spent fixing the roads.

He also noted the issue of safety. According to Powelson, the new sheeting is less flexible than the sheeting currently used and wrinkles when barrels expand and contract in the heat and cold. When sheeting is wrinkled it gets dislodged when the barrels are stacked one on top of another for transporting, said Powelson.

He said suppliers would need to move to more rigid barrels that wouldn’t contract and expand, but those barrels would break if hit by vehicles instead of bouncing and would need to be replaced more frequently.

He recommended the department instead restore the battery powered light tops which they phased out in 2006.

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