Somebody's Gotta Do It: Lighting Freeway Crew

As you drive at night on the highway have you ever thought, what if one of those lights goes out?  Who has to climb up there and change it?

There are four men on the Wichita Falls Traffic Engineering lighting team.

Photojournalist Jake VanDonge and Gwyn Bevel went out with two of them to find out what their work day is like.

Cody Stahr, a 16 year veteran and Eric Stevens, who joined the crew three months ago, make up the Wichita Falls freeway team.

Cody Stahr says, "He's a crack up, he keeps me on my toes.  He is a good guy to work with."

Eric Stevens says, "We take great pride in what we do, here for the city and really enjoy it."

Their line of work comes with job hazards, like the location here on the side of the freeway.

Stevens: "So safety is a major thing.  We always work on it and that is why we wear harnesses in the bucket and stuff like that."

Stahr: "We always check each other to make sure we are doing the right thing.  We hate to see something happen to one of us."

The speed limit along Kell Freeway is 60 miles per hour.

Stahr: "It gets scary sometimes when they drive real close to you."

Stevens: "You are riding by at 70 miles per hour and we are stopped and you know sometimes we are close to the road.  That is why we wear the bright reflective jackets and shirts and stuff."

They put out signs to let drivers know they are working up ahead.

Once they roll up to a job, cones are put out behind the truck and Cody crosses Kell to flip the switch.

Stahr: "It turns on several lights at a time and you can just go out there and see which ones need to be worked on."

A number of things knock lights out.  Sometimes it is car versus pole, other times it is mother nature.

Stahr: "If we have a real good lightning storm, there is a lot to change, lightning does wonders on fuses and lights."

Fuses it where it all starts for this crew.  Cody climbs over the side of a bridge to test them out.

Stevens: "The fuses are good and we are getting 480 volts, so now we we will go up."

Eric puts on his harness and gloves and straps himself in.

He then heads to his office 55 feet above the ground.

Stevens: "I enjoy it now, at first I didn't like it too much.  It is different you have to trust something you are not used to trusting, but now it is no big deal at all."

To find out what it is really like up there we decided to ride along in the bucket.

The higher you get cars start to look like fast moving ants.

55 feet up you have blue skies and a beautiful view.  The bucket remains pretty steady, the pole you are working on though is swaying in the Texoma wind.

Unwelcome house guests also take up in light fixtures too.

Sometimes, for these workers, it is more than a blown bulb. 

While Eric works up top his partner is always looking out for him and up at him.

Stahr: "Making sure there is nothing wrong with it because that is your life up there.  You have to make sure it is good to go."

With the installation of the a new valance, light 40 is now good to go.  It is one of just over 1,000 the freeway team maintains.

When you see crews ahead please slow down and get over, give them space to do their jobs, because somebody's gotta do it!

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