Alafaya Trail Construction Putting You In Danger? Engineer Thinks So


    By Brian Yogodzinski


    During the light and steady rains last weekend, sheets of water covered many sections on the newly opened southbound lane of South Alafaya Trail.  Prior to opening of the new southbound lane, notifications on electronic billboards and e-mails from the County Commissioner’s Office about the new traffic patterns enticed residents of the possibility of improved conditions.  For the most part, the new lanes did improve the drive quality but for dry road conditions only.  The questions motorists most likely want to know and focus on are what effect does this have on them, what caused the sheets of water, and what can be done to improve the situation. 



    Water on a road surface can be a hazard to motorists.  Proper driving conditions require adequate friction between the vehicle’s tires and the road surface.   Water can eliminate this friction when the vehicle’s tires experience more water than the vehicle’s tires can displace.  The more water, the greater the possibility that this friction is eliminated.  When water breaks this friction, the condition is called hydroplaning.    This condition results in the loss of steering, braking, and power control. 



    With the southbound lane just being opened, residents may wonder why the drainage plan did not consider standing water on the road.  For the long term perspective proper, the plan should provide proper drainage but presently an issue exists.  Water can not properly drain from the road because there is a lip for the curbing and drain points that extends approximately 1″ above the road surface.  For the water to reach the drain, it must first pool to the 1″ level prior to being able to flow in to the drain points.  This results in standing water always being present during rainy conditions.  Resolution of the condition will come with the installation of the final layer of pavement which will bring the road surface up to the edge of the curb and drain entry points. At that time there will be no obstruction for the water to drain off of the road surface.  



    Typically the final layer of pavement is installed soon after the first layer.  The final layer of pavement is not scheduled until near the end of the project, most likely sometime in 2014.   Installation of the layer sooner would result in the layer being damaged by the trucks working on the project to complete the northbound lanes.   Having a drainage issue for this duration is not typical since it does increase the potential of hydroplaning to motorists. Typically project scheduling accounts for this issue and only a short duration between the first and final coats of pavement occurs. 



    Resolution of the issue is possible but it has associated costs.    The approach that would appear obvious would be to lower the lip at the entry point of the drain points to align with the road surface can cause integrity issues for the drain inlet’s integrity.  The design of the drain inlets complies to specific parameters.  Having the inlet match the road elevation for proper drainage for both the first and final layers of pavement can result in the need to install an inlet for the first condition and then replacing the inlet for the final condition.  



    Residents could benefit for added consideration in the the initial planning and design of projects for the possibility, where there could be a delay between the installation of the initial and final layers of pavement.  This would most likely provide innovative solutions for cost effect fixes to situations such as the sheets of water on South Alafaya Trail.  As a resource for resolution, residents with concerns about standing water during rainy conditions on the newly opened southbound lane can contact the Orange County Commissioner’s Office, District 4.



    Brian Yogodzinski is a Mechanical Engineer from North Carolina State University with 25 years of experience, primarily in the power generation business.  During that time he became a specialist in the area of Transportation Engineering for the movement of over-dimensional and over-weight components such as power plant generators, combustion turbines, and steam turbines, with typical components ranging from 110,000 pounds to 1,000,000 pounds. He has extensive experience working with state and local authorities to ensure regulation compliances and safe transit of these commodities in the public domain. He currently works for a firm that builds equipment for and constructs power plants