August 16th, 2011

PRACTICAL GUIDANCE

Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

A new guide will help UDOT project teams make prudent decisions that maximize system-wide benefits.

UDOT's Practical Design Guide helps team members work together to meet project objectives.

The Practical Design Guide effectively supports UDOT’s Final Four Strategic Goals to Take Care of What We Have, Make the System Work Better, Improve Safety and Increase Capacity.

The core purpose of the guide is to “optimize the money we’re spending,” according to Jesse Sweeten who managed development of the guide. “It’s not just a money saving method…it’s a concept to optimize the system.” Spending carefully means that UDOT can save funding and build more projects, resulting in system-wide benefits to traffic mobility, safety and connectivity.

People who are familiar with how UDOT works will recognize the concepts. “We’ve been doing this for a long time,” says Sweeten. The guide is an overview of best practices that breaks down the roles and responsibilities of project teams and managers from design through construction.

“Any investment above the point of diminishing returns is an inefficient use of resources that would yield higher returns if invested elsewhere” – UDOT Practical Design Guide

Allocating limited project resources is challenging but doable. Starting with a comprehensive, well defined objective statement is the first step. To be useful, the objective statement should be developed by the project sponsor and be concise using commonly understood terms and an accurately and carefully worded description of the intended outcome. The project team can then evaluate improvements against how they line up with the objective. Project improvements should be limited to those that meet the objectives without going over.

Success depends on cooperation among the Utah Transportation Commission, the project sponsor, multi-disciplinary project teams and the UDOT Operations group (responsible for long term maintenance). The guide lists the responsibilities of each group and stresses keeping lines of communication open, collaborating, using good engineering judgment and maintaining flexibility.

Keeping engineering standards high

Achieving project objectives can sometimes involve obtaining approval for exceptions, deviations or waivers when appropriate – UDOT grants exceptions only when safety and mobility are not harmed. Some common examples of exceptions include reduced shoulder paving, deck replacement instead of bridge replacement, pavement rehabilitation instead of full replacement, reduced pavement thickness and narrower lane width.

The new Design Guide promotes tried and true methods that can help UDOT teams meet project objectives, eliminate over-design costs and save project funding for other projects or additional improvements.

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