'Game of Cones' truck raises eyebrows and awareness
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'Game of Cones' truck raises eyebrows and awareness

June 10, 2024

By Danny Perez

HOUSTON — To encourage road safety while also encouraging travelers to keep roads clean, a TxDOT team here recently devised a plan to reach the masses through art at the Houston Art Car Parade.

Traffic Engineer James Keener had a vision over 10 years ago to enter a TxDOT vehicle in the Houston Art Car Parade. The parade attracts many participants and thousands of spectators each year. Entries include anything on wheels from bicycles and unicycles to lawnmowers, cars and go-carts.

Last year, the Houston team was able to enter a vehicle called the Traffic Safety Cone Monster, which received first place honors while helping to highlight work zone awareness and other traffic safety messaging.

In 2019, Keener began coordinating with a friend who works with the Houston Independent School District’s Secondary Visual Arts Implementation program. He wanted to enlist the help of high school students to decorate the vehicle. Then, the Covid-19 pandemic began, and the idea had to be scrapped.

Keener resurrected the art car idea in 2023.

“This competition rekindled the fire of perhaps seeing an Art Car created,” Keener said.

Keener assembled his team of volunteer TxDOT employees, and they decided to enter two vehicles for the 2024 parade. Over a few weeks, the art car team gathered supplies and secured two TxDOT vehicles, which were temporarily loaned for the effort.

Working a few hours at a time, TxDOT Houston District staff teamed up to build the two vehicles to promote work zone safety and the Don’t Mess with Texas campaign.

“The team made two cars this year, Game of Cones-Construction is Coming, and Found on Road-Don’t mess with Texas,” Keener said. “The Game of Cones was decorated with barrels, cones, safety vests, signs, barricades, signals, reflective sheeting, and other materials.”

The goal of the Game of Cones vehicle was to bring attention to the importance of work zone safety and how important it is to slow down, stay off the phone and use caution while traveling through work zones.

The Don’t mess with Texas vehicle was adorned with anti-litter messaging but also featured various pieces of debris found on state roadways including a car bumper and furniture pieces. The vehicle helped to encourage the public to not litter on state roadways while also highlighting the kinds of debris that wind up on state roads.

The parade of vehicles made its way through downtown on a Saturday in April.

“Many folks from around the country came out and got up close to the creations – including our vehicles,” Keener said.

An estimated 350,000 people attended the parade and associated festivities. The TxDOT art car team also spent time working several booths set up along the parade route and in Sam Houston Park HEB Kids Zone.

“Our team at the booth passed on our messages of safety and keeping roads clean to many thousands of individuals while both vehicles rolled through the parade route to many cheers,” Keener said. “At the end of the day the team was tired, hot, but so happy that the day was such a success.”