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Workers to inspect overhead signs above moving traffic

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – The next time you glance up at one of those highway signs – don’t be surprised if you catch a glimpse of somebody weaving between them.

INDOT plans to have more than 3,500 overhead signs inspected in the next six years.

And the company it contracted with, Collins Engineers, is using a method never seen before by Indiana drivers.

It’s a tall task for inspector Kevin Rice as he raises himself up in a bucket truck, then straps himself in to get an up close look at the overhead signs above Ameriplex Parkway near I-70.

“I do not like heights,” joked INDOT spokesperson Debbie Calder. “So I’m very thankful there are people that do.”

“I know (Rice is) good at this and it’s something that he’s experienced in,” said Brian Dilworth, engineer and project manager. “So if he’s comfortable, I’m comfortable.”

But that rush Rice now feels isn’t just because of the height involved with the job.

“It is a unique situation here with the live traffic,” said Dilworth.

Just feet below Rice’s feet, cars and semi-trucks roar by as he carefully climbs his way through the structure.

“We would not allow it if it made it unsafe for workers,” said Calder.

In fact, Calder said the new method is safer than the old one. Workers used to close down lanes and create work zones, putting them right up against speeding traffic.

It makes them very vulnerable,” Calder said. “(The new method) eliminates that and makes it safer for everyone.”

The new method will also save INDOT time and money since lane closures don’t have to happen.

“It would definitely slow down our productivity and the goal of the state of INDOT now is to get to every sign structure in the next couple years,” Dilworth said.

To keep his tools from falling, they’re latched to his body while his body is latched to the beams.

“He’s checking the welded connections, making sure that they have no cracks in the welds,” said Dilworth. “Any point where you have a connection between two members, you’ve got to check that point for any signs of fatigue.” Dilworth said the fatigue can happen through normal wear and tear from high winds and other types of weather. Rice will also inspect the signs themselves as he makes his daring trip across the front catwalk in plain view of traffic.

“You’d be surprised how many times those brackets that are holding up the catwalk get damaged because of impact,” Dilworth said. The impact comes from passing trucks.

Rice was working along the catwalk as a semi rushed past directly under him. We asked him what it felt like. “I didn’t know a truck when flying by,” Rice said with a smile, then went back to work.

Just another day on the job when you’re office is up in the air.

“We want to make sure if there’s a small issue that it doesn’t become a larger one,” said Calder. “So we have to have all these inspected to make sure that they’re safe and that they’re going to hold up and do the job that they’re designed to do.”

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