Monthly Archives: November 2011


A class of sixth graders from Morning Side Elementary is making wise travel choices.

Students took center stage at a kick-off event with a songs presentation aimed at motivating others to care about the air we all breathe.

In an effort to cut back on emissions and save energy, the students have been trip chaining, carpooling, walking to school and using UDOT’s TravelWise Tracker to chart how many trips are saved as a result of those wise choices.

The four week effort was in preparation for the “Care to Clear the Air” campaign, which invites Wasatch Front residents to choose strategies that reduce emissions during the winter inversion season. Students took center stage at a kick-off event with a songs presentation aimed at motivating others to care about the air we all breathe.

Utah’s Division of Air Quality monitors pollutants along the Wasatch Front throughout the year and issues green, yellow and red alerts. Inversions happen when cold air is trapped below warm air between the Wasatch and Oquirrh mountain ranges. Pollution from cars or other sources, such as wood burning stoves, can sit on the valley floor until the weather patterns shift– that change could take several days.

DAQ encourages drivers to take actions to curb pollution during red alert days. UDOT’s TravelWise website lists strategies that can help drivers curb trips, reduce traffic congestion and save energy during inversion season or any time of year.

Each of us has a chance to make small choices that eventually add up to big results.

The TravelWise Tracker is an online tool that lets users calculate the amount of energy and emissions saved by using alternatives to driving alone. Even small changes can save emissions, time and energy.

“You guys are the next generation of leaders,” said Charlie Lansche, who spoke at the event on behalf of Fidelity Investments. Fidelity is representative of hundreds of businesses that have participated in the annual summer Clear the Air Challenge. By using TravelWise strategies, Fidelity employees saved 11 thousand trips that added up to 320 thousand pounds of emissions.

Lansche and others at the event encouraged area residents to pay heed to the kids. “I can’t think of better spokespersons,” said Lansche of the enthusiastic group of students.

Check back to see an upcoming blog post about the trips and emissions saved by the students and their families.

For more:

  • Sign up to use the TravelWise Tracker
  • Road users who adopt TravelWise strategies can see many benefits including enjoying a less stress-free commute or a more economical use of time when running errands
  • Get air quality alerts on your smart phone by texting “cleartheair” to 69302
  • Check current air quality conditions
  • Read a past post about how UDOT conforms to air quality standards


Motorists involved in a crash with no injuries should move to the side of the interstate, drive along the emergency lane, stop at the nearest ramp and call 911.

So far this year, 20 troopers have been involved in crashes that have occurred on Utah freeways. "We're working for Zero," says UHP Superintendent Danny Fuhr.

Staying on the freeway after a minor crash is dangerous for the people involved, the traveling public and for Utah Highway Patrol Troopers who respond to help. Last weekend, a trooper’s car was hit and he was nearly killed while responding to a crash.

UDOT Director of Traffic and Safety Robert Hull explains how a minor crash can put others at risk. Hull is working to reduce Utah fatalities to Zero.

With higher traffic volumes on interstates, UHP has seen an increase in secondary crashes caused by traffic congestion following fender benders. Clearing crashed vehicles off the interstates helps prevent a minor crash from turning into a tragedy.

So far this year, 20 troopers have been involved in crashes that have occurred on Utah freeways. “We’re working for Zero,” says UHP Superintendent Danny Fuhr.

UDOT is helping spread the message by placing signs that read “Fender Bender, move vehicles to next exit, call 911.”

Utah Law allows drivers involved in minor crashes to move off of the freeway to the next exit before calling law enforcement.  Moving the vehicle will not affect the determination of fault in the accident.

For more:

Utah Department of Public Safety

ZERO Fatalities



Men and women who work to keep state roads clear of snow and ice during winter months meet to yearly to share ideas and hear about new technologies.

Ralph Hilsman, Jeff Walker, Lloyd Muhlestein and Travis Jeppsen work at Station 1423. “They care,” says Muhlestein about Snow School presenters. He appreciates the chance to learn from other employees and also share what he has learned during his extensive 23 years of experience at UDOT.

UDOT Central Maintenance conducts yearly training meetings for snow removal crews. While some informally call it “Snow School,” the meeting is an information exchange rather than just instruction from the top down.

Equipment Safety Training Manager and former “shed guy” Curtis Sanchez coordinates the one-day training in all UDOT regions. About 700 employees attend to get reminders, updates and new information about winter operations.

UDOT crews need to be proficient at using weather information and a variety of snow removal equipment and road anti-icing agents specific to a location within Utah. When a new winter operations approach is added to the mix, the weather team and Central Maintenance counts on getting good feedback from the crews who use the new approach on the snow removal front lines.

The day-long event is “shop to shop communications,” says Maintenance Supervisor Lloyd Muhlestein. “It’s all about equipment, the weather and what worked last year.”

Talking weather

“We’re here to support you,” says UDOT Weather Information Systems Manager Leigh Sturges, who works with a team of seven meteorologists on duty 24-7 to gather, report and forecast weather conditions. UDOT uses the Road Weather Information System to collect weather data on state roads, air temperature, road temperature, solar radiation and humidity. Some RWIS stations detect anti-icing agents on the road and some have remote controlled cameras to view the surrounding areas.

Sturges uses regular email updates and the RWIS website to monitor conditions and the progression of storms. If a conditions change unexpectedly, supervisors get a phone call from a meteorologist – even if conditions change late at night or early in the morning.

The weather team is working on expanding and improving weather gathering equipment, and works directly with maintenance station personnel to identify places for new or mobile RWIS stations or other devices that detect road conditions.


UDOT has over 500 trucks that are used to plow roads during winter. Trucks are expected to have a useful life of least 14 years. UDOT Central Maintenance puts a lot of emphasis on taking care of equipment.

New tankers mix water and salt into a slurry that's less likely to bounce or blow off of the road.

New tow plows and “first responder” tanks have been added to UDOT’s snow arsenal. Tow plows attach to the side of a truckand double the road area that can be plowed. The tanks combine salt and water before depositing the slurry-like mix on the road in front of a storm. Wetting the salt is a much more effective approach for keeping roads clear since dry salt can bounce or blow off the road.

This year, the Provo Canyon crew will use a triple blade plow equipped with an ice breaker, a squeegee and a standard blade. Each blade can be adjusted independently from the truck cab, and the blades can be used alone or in any combination. Along with new anti-icing agents, crews in Provo Canyon should be able to improve snow removal operations where some areas “never see the sun in winter,” says Sanchez.

Keeping it real

Sanchez and staff from UDOT Central Maintenance keep the topics current and relevant in order to provide the most help and support possible to UDOT road maintenance crews.

“They care,” says Muhlestein about Snow School presenters. “There are a lot of things we forget about during the summer.” He appreciates the chance to learn from other employees and also share what he has learned during his extensive 23 years of experience at UDOT.



The “Walk More in Four” competition gives students a great incentive to walk and bike to school – prizes and improved safety around schools.

Cherissa Wood presents a Taylor Canyon Elementary Student with a helmet and scooter in the Walk More in Four competition

Nearly 4,000 Utah students from 76 schools kept track of the days they walked or biked to school for a chance to win donated prizes for the UDOT Student Neighborhood Access Program’s (SNAP)™ annual “Walk More in Four” statewide competition. To be eligible, students were required to walk or bike to school at least three days each week in September leading up to International Walk to School Day on Wednesday, October 5. Thirty children from around the state won donated bikes, helmets and scooters.

Nationwide, the number of students walking and biking to school has decreased in recent decades. Approximately 50 percent of children in 1969 walked or biked to school. Today, that number has dropped below 15 percent.

UDOT’s SNAP team is dedicated to encouraging kids to “build the habit of walking and biking to school,” says Cherissa Wood, UDOT SNAP Coordinator. Walking or biking reduces traffic around schools and improves safety. Health benefits are also a good reason to go self-propelled.

The competition is a fun way to encourage kids to walk or bike to school. The excitement over the annual event is catching on – over four times as many students participated this year over last year.

Parents can help their children practice safe walking and biking habits by discussing the following safety tips:

• Follow the safest route to school using the school’s SNAP Map (contact the school for a copy).

• Walk with a buddy or group.

• Walk on sidewalks where possible.

• Look left, then right, then left again when crossing a street.

• Cross only at crosswalks. Obey directions from school crossing guards, and walk bikes and scooters across crosswalks.

• Always wear a helmet when riding a bike or scooter. Make sure the helmet has a safety certification and fits properly.

• Wear bright clothing, especially when riding a bicycle or scooter, to make it easier for traffic to see you — or tie a bright handkerchief around your backpack.

• Never walk or ride with headphones. They are distracting and keep you from hearing traffic.

More tips and resources are available to parents and school administrators on the SNAP website.

About SNAP

The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) Student Neighborhood Access Program (SNAP)™ is a fun and comprehensive program for walking and biking safely to school that engages and educates students, parents, school administrators, crossing guards and communities. As part of the federal Safe Routes to School program administered by UDOT, SNAP focuses on student safety as its first priority. SNAP provides free resources, including mapping software, a 35-minute musical assembly and DVD, student activity booklets and teacher lesson plans, to assist in getting more students walking and biking safely to school. More information about SNAP is available at or by contacting Utah’s Safe Routes to School Coordinator, Cherissa Wood, at 801-965-4486 or


Utah storms are on the weather horizon and road users need to be prepared for driving on icy, snowy roads.  

An Incident Management Truck worker warns motorists of a crash in Provo Canyon

UDOT keeps state roads as safe as possible during storms. Do your part by driving the appropriate speed, monitoring traffic conditions, driving with care around snow plows and adjusting trip plans whenever possible.

Drive for Zero Fatalities

In any weather, drowsy, distracted, aggressive or impaired driving is unsafe. Icy or snow packed roads are especially unforgiving, so a heightened level of attention is required. Sometimes drivers don’t adjust speed to conditions. According to the Utah Department of Public Safety, Highway Safety office crash data report “speed is the leading unsafe driving behavior that contributes to deaths.”

High speeds extend the distance necessary to stop, reduce a drivers’ ability to steer safely around curves or objects in the road and reduce vehicle stability. Mix high speed with ice and snow and tragedy can quickly result.


UDOT’s CommuterLink website is a great resource for road users. It’s a good idea to bookmark the site and check road conditions before you leave on your commute or errand. The site integrates camera views and information about accidents and traffic delay on an interactive map. Users can take a virtual look at the ride through the storm to anticipate conditions like ice or snow on the road or crashes that slow traffic.  Better yet – avoid delay altogether by taking an alternate route or adjusting travel time.

Stay safe around snow plows

  • Motorists should always slow down and travel about a football field’s length behind snowplows to increase highway safety for all drivers.
  • Following a snowplow too closely often results in broken windshields or damaged paint caused by salt or abrasives being distributed on highways.
  • Drivers should use extreme caution when passing a snowplow and never pass on the right side or use the shoulder to pass. Drivers should watch for snowplows equipped with wing plows, which can extend several feet off either side.

Other things to remember:

  • Bridges freeze first. Ambient air temperature cools the bridge from both sides. On the road itself, “the ground holds the heat,” says Rich Clarke, UDOT Maintenance Operations Engineer. So, pavement on a bridge can be icy while road pavement on either side can be wet.
  • Ice can be very difficult to detect.  A thin layer of water on pavement “can change from wet to ice in a moment,” says Clarke. Visually distinguishing unfrozen water from black ice while driving is extremely difficult if not impossible.
  • If you can, stay home during the first part of a storm. Plow operators clear the road as quickly as possible. “The first hour of a storm can be the most treacherous,” since a vigorous storm can cover roads quickly, explains Lynn Burnhard, UDOT Maintenance Methods Engineer. Delaying your departure gives UDOT a chance to clear the roads.
  • Don’t make weather assumptions.  “Be careful not to generalize,” when it comes to storms cautions meteorologist Joel Dreessen who works with UDOT. Since the storms vary greatly in temperature and duration in Utah, it’s very difficult to know what kind of winter conditions to expect. Utah can get hit with a heavy snow storm followed by sun. While the roads may look clear after such a weather event, a quick drop in temperature can turn melted snow to ice.  A very cold storm can cause road water and snow to glaze quickly.  So, even a storm that appears to be light can in reality can create very hazardous conditions.

Be careful out there!


AASHTO praises UDOT for encouraging kids to walk and bike safely to and from school.

The AASHTO President’s Transportation Award for Highway Traffic Safety has been given to UDOT’s Student Neighborhood Access Program team.

UDOT’s  SNAP  team has been helping elementary and junior high schools identify safe routes to schools for four years. The program provides free web-based software that produces area specific printable maps that identify safe routes. Encouraging kids to safely walk or bike to school helps reduce automobile traffic around schools and improves safety. Walking and biking also provides great health benefits for kids. Seventy four percent of schools in Utah use SNAP software.

Not all schools are surrounded by sidewalks. When funding is available, the SNAP team helps schools identify and obtain funding to build sidewalks in critical areas.

The SNAP team sponsors a fun assembly with catchy music and dancing. The program has been so popular that the team made a video of the assembly so the safe walking and biking message could get to more students in Utah.

SNAP also sponsors an annual event called “Walk More in Four” that encourages kids to bike or walk to school at least 60 percent of the time in a four week period. Schools and students are awarded prizes for participation.



UDOT grade school assemblies encourage safety around heavy equipment and construction zones.

Kids learn about hazards associated with road work in a mock construction zone

Mammoth earth movers, diggers or pavers are intriguing to kids but not safe as jungle gyms. The construction zones where road work takes place can be full of hazards too. UDOT has developed a fun way to communicate with children about how important it is to stay away from construction equipment and work zones. School assemblies that mix activities with a serious message are teaching kids to “Think Safety.”

“We coordinated with the Think Safety campaign, which is part of the Zero Fatalities effort, to do an assembly at several schools for the Bangerter 2.0 project,” says Justin Smart who works with UDOT.  Four large elementary schools are near the project.

Lora Hudson helped develop the assembly. She and others have presented about 20 assemblies associated with Bangerter 2.0 and other construction projects near schools. Hudson takes a kid-friendly approach that prompts interest and awe. For example, a giant banner with a true-to-size truck tire and measuring tape shows how big construction equipment can really be. Sometimes Hudson invites a tiny kindergartner or a very tall student to step up to the measuring tape. The students and teachers are surprised to see how miniature a young child looks, and that an older child “is not so tall compared to a truck.”

Tag team with construction workers

Hudson makes sure children learn about specific dangers. A project worker attends the assembly too, and describes real, hazards like trenches, steel bars, nails and debris. Hudson says kids often react with surprise when hearing the real reasons zones are dangerous.

To bring the message home, a few kids get to navigate a mock construction zone relay race dressed in safety gear while classmates cheer on. All draw on newly acquired “Think Safety” knowledge. “They love it,” says Hudson. At the end of the assembly, students get a coloring page to take home as a reminder.

Columbia Elementary Principal Kathe Riding thought the assembly was very informative for students. “Our students enjoyed the competitions and activities as they learned to watch out for dangers and how to be safe near construction.” Riding is grateful to UDOT for being proactive in keeping kids safe.


People who work for and with UDOT will enjoy the variety of topics offered at an annual conference.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Once a year, UDOT sponsors a three-day conference with general and breakout sessions and a display area filled with vendors. The UDOT conference is information rich and a great chance to network with people who design, build and take care of Utah’s transportation infrastructure.

Every year, the conference offers new information to keep people up to speed on current issues, studies and events. Here are four examples:

UDOT Research Poster Session

For the first time, UDOT research will host a poster session that focuses on individual research projects on. The session will give attendees a chance to talk with university professors and students about present transportation challenges and solutions in an informal setting.

Ride Aware Tour Review

A team of elite cyclists traveled through Utah last summer to raise awareness about how motorists and cyclists need to share the road. Cyclists also attended community events along the tour route. The effort prompted a lot of great media coverage. UDOT and the Department of Public Safety, Highway Safety Office co-sponsored the tour. The communication effort for the tour focused on traditional and social media to get the word out about safe driving and cycling.

UDOT Standard Drawings

Presenters will show an overview of major changes to the standard drawings that have been approved for new 2012 Standard Drawing Book.

Reducing Wildlife Vehicle Collisions

Reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions improves safety for people and animals. Researcher Patricia Cramer has worked with UDOT and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and will have information about evolving solutions to reduce wildlife collisions in Utah and in the nation.