Monthly Archives: May 2013

UDOT Leads at GIS Conference for Innovation and Progress

UPLANThe Utah Department of Transportation was recently recognized by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation (AASHTO) at a national conference held in Boise, Idaho May 6-8. UDOT has been acknowledged for the way we utilize Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in transportation.

UDOT stands out as a leader among the nation’s DOTs for our advancements with the highway mapping system known as UPlan. UDOT also received an honorable mention in the Transportation Publication division map competition for the Utah State Highway Map.

UDOT GIS Manager Frank Pisani attended the conference and said he was approached by nearly a dozen states who expressed interest in emulating UDOT’s implementation of UPlan.

So what exactly is UPlan and UGate?  “UPlan is an interactive mapping platform that supports UDOT by helping visualize our data, track our assets and strengthen our transportation planning with better analysis and collaborative information,” Pisani explained.

“UGate is the database and UPlan is the front end,” Pisani said. “UGate is behind the scenes as the engine that powers UPlan.”

The UPlan website is used as an information system where data can be tracked and recorded for both internal and public audiences. Due to it success, the federal government is also encouraging state to implement a similar system..

The Federal Highway Administration also highlighted UDOT as a model for other states for our Highway Performance Monitoring Systems and the approach we use with Linear Reference Systems.

Frank Pisani explains Linear Reference Systems:  “This is how UDOT coordinates with other state organizations like 911, highway patrols and local governments to collectively maintain 1 road network.”

Pisani said he was approached by a fellow conference attendee who claimed he had been coming to the conference for more than 20 years., “Three years ago UDOT wasn’t even here,” the man said. “And now you guys have taken over.”

UDOT has surpassed other state DOTs in the way we have been able to accomplish more with limited resources.

“UDOT has direction, support and good technology that is helping us capstone a lot of our efforts,” Pisani said. “We are trying to use technology to the best of our ability to inform the department and also the public that we are using this as an information tool and we are making the best out of the technology and data that is out there. UDOT is innovative in all aspects of the department and our technology focus is just one of them.”

Employee Educational Assistance

A benefit that UDOT offers employees is educational assistance. Employees are such a valuable asset to the department that we’ve had a policy in place since 1968 to help individuals better themselves through education. This in turn benefits the department since we are improving our workforce.

Employees can get 100 percent reimbursement on courses that are directly related to their job and courses that aren’t directly related may be eligible for 75 percent if they’re a benefit to UDOT. Funding for these reimbursements comes from an grant through FHWA.

We do have a few requirements to make sure this assistance is used appropriately.

  • It is only available to permanent employees and some interns with benefits.
  • Courses must be taught at an accredited institution for college credit; certification only programs with no college credit are not eligible.
  • Employees must complete the course with at least a “C”.
  • The reimbursement is only for tuition and mandatory fees not parking, books, etc.
  • There’s some upfront paperwork that has to be completed which includes a contract and disclosure of any other funding assistance that is being received.
  • Once a course is finished employees need to submit their receipt and report card within 30 days.
  • Courses and homework have to be completed on an employee’s own time.
  • And, if the employee leaves UDOT within 12 months of receiving assistance they will have to pay us back.

Employees should also keep in mind that if they’re interested they need to work with their supervisor and the educational assistance administrator before starting any course or program.

UDOT Comptroller Becky Bradshaw used the assistance program and was able to advance to the position she holds today thanks to the education she received. She explained that employees often think of their salary as the only benefit of working but that UDOT also tries to provide other advantages to our employees and this is a perfect example.

This may seem like a strange time to be talking about school since fall is usually when we’re thinking about it. But, this is graduation season and for most of us there’s no greater motivation than the prize at the end. Recent graduate Donna McNew understands this and sent thanks along to her supervisors and senior leaders for the educational assistance program. In her thank you she said, “This is a wonderful benefit for UDOT employees, not many individuals can say they graduated with a master’s degree and no debt.”

How many employees do you think are like Becky and Donna and jump at the chance to use this benefit? Not very many. For our current fiscal year there are around 25 employees using the assistance and we have over 1,600 employees total. Going back to school is daunting and we hope that by spreading the word about this great opportunity we can lessen some of the burden for those that feel it is right for them.

If you’re not employed by UDOT does your employer offer any great benefits like this one? Do they offer any benefits that seem to good to be true? For UDOT employees, did you know about this benefit or know anyone who has taken advantage it? Let us know in the comments!

Mileposts on Concurrent Highways

A few weeks ago we shared on Twitter and Facebook something that around here goes for common knowledge. To our surprise  a discussion followed and character limits made explaining things difficult.

It all started with a simple tweet, “Did you know milepost numbering begins in the south and west? So, MP 10 on I-15 is in the St. George area and I-80 Exit 115 is 115 miles from NV.” This has been such a handy thing to know, even away from our work environment, that we wanted to share it.

U.S. 6 and U.S. 50 are concurrent highways

Near the Nevada border U.S. 6 and U.S. 50 are concurrent highways.

This information on its own is pretty simple however there are a few places around the state that complicate things. In several locations we have highways that run concurrently like U.S. 89 and U.S. 91 between Brigham City and Logan. U.S. 6 is another good example. It runs concurrently with other routes in several places. There’s U.S. 50 near the Nevada border, I-15 in southern Utah County, U.S. 191 between Helper and Price, and I-70 from Green River to Colorado.

The surprising part to us was that our followers wanted to know what we do on these concurrent highways, what mileposts are used. To be honest, it’s kind of tricky.

The way it works is when a route joins another route the first route’s mileposts are used. Wait, what? That IS tricky. Let’s try it with an example. U.S. 91 begins at I-15 southwest of Brigham City and continues to the Utah-Idaho state line near Franklin, Idaho. U.S. 89 joins this route at 1100 South in Brigham City and then leaves the route at 400 North in Logan. For this distance U.S. 91’s mileposts are used but, U.S. 89 mileposts aren’t forgotten, we don’t pick up in Logan where we left off in Brigham City. Instead the mileposts include the 25 miles where U.S. 89 ran concurrent with U.S. 91, so, the milepost on U.S. 89 in Brigham City where it joins U.S. 91 is 433 and the milepost on U.S. 89 in Logan where it leaves U.S. 91 is 458.

There you have it, more than you ever wanted to know about mileposts. If you’re ever curious, we have highway reference reports for every interstate, U.S. Highway, and state Route on our website.

Southern Parkway Project Uncovers Ancient Ruins

Note from the administrator: This post was written by guest writer Stephanie Fulton and UDOT Intern Sarah Stephenson. 

Pit House

Excavation units from early archaic or possible Paleoindian site.

The Southern Utah Parkway is a 33-mile project that will eventually become an eastern belt route for Washington County. Eight miles are complete from I-15 to the new St. George Airport. The third segment of the parkway is currently under construction at Washington Dam Road, where more than 15 archaeological sites have been found.

Stairs

Archaeologists working on uncovering ancient Anasazi pit houses.

Crews have discovered prehistoric Native American ruins, one of which has been named one of the oldest sites investigated in Southwestern Utah. After significant research, scientists have discovered that the area has had continuous human habitation for up to 10,000 years.

UDOT has worked closely with local Native American tribes throughout the project. The Shivwits tribe, a native Utah tribe, was invited to the archaeological sites to search the ruins. They were also highly involved in the decision-making process regarding the preservation of the many ruins found.

Obsidian

Obsidian Lake Mojave and Bajada projectile points recovered from construction site.

Arrowheads, pottery, pit-houses and even prehistoric ruins including dinosaur fossils have been discovered throughout the project site and have been dated as far back as 400 B.C. During construction, 200-million-year-old fossils were also found, including the teeth from nine species, three of which could be new species. These were archived for future data and research.

Furthermore, UDOT has worked to protect threatened and endangered species throughout the project’s construction.

Overall the construction has gone fairly smoothly and the experiences during the archaeological findings have been incredibly valuable to UDOT as a whole. Dana Meier, project manager for UDOT, said, “We are an organization that learns,” which is what UDOT will continue to do throughout this project.

The project has received considerable public support because it allows for the future growth and expansion of St. George and its surrounding areas. Construction continues this spring and summer to extend the new highway another eight miles.

Photos were taken by Bighorn Archaeological Consultants, and Eric Hansen. 

West Davis Corridor Draft EIS

The West Davis Corridor Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is now available for review and public comment on the study website. The Draft EIS includes our locally preferred alternative. To help explain the process and the our recommendation the study team created the follow videos.

The Draft EIS will be available for public comment for the next 90 days, closing on August 23. Formal comments should be submitted to the study team on the website, by e-mail at westdavis@utah.gov or mailed to:

West Davis Corridor Team
466 North 900 West
Kaysville, UT 84037

There will also be three public hearings and open houses where comments can be submitted.

So, this is your chance to part of the process and to have your voice heard. Please get out there and check out the Draft EIS and submit your comments.West Davis Corridor Logo

A Season of Safety

This guest post was written by Region 2 Deputy Director Tim Rose to remind UDOT employees of important safety practices.

Spring is finally here. The tulips in my yard are blooming, the trees are budding and orange barrels are starting to sprout and multiply.  It’s that time of year again: construction and maintenance season.

As we begin our construction projects and start working on maintaining our road system after a long winter, I would like to take this opportunity to discuss some work zone safety tips and other general safety thoughts. All UDOT employees have a responsibility to make safety a priority—for the sake of our teams, our contractors, our families and our traveling public. Here are some important things to remember as we ramp up our construction and maintenance activities:

1) Traffic Control

  • Ensure all signs and traffic control devices are clean, undamaged and being used correctly for the job at hand.
  • Never stand, talk with a coworker or walk with your back to oncoming traffic. Keep your eyes on oncoming traffic at all times. Whenever possible, use a spotter or second set of eyes to watch your back.
  • Make sure that your traffic control is set up correctly.

2) Working in Trenches

  • Make sure trench boxes are used when needed and that the contractor or your team provides a proper means of ingress and egress.

3) Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

  • UDOT Team in PPEMake sure you, your coworkers and contractors wear the proper PPE for the job or task at hand.
  • While working with hand or power tools, make sure the tools are in proper working order and that all guards/safety features are attached and functioning.
  • Make sure you are using the tools in the manner intended and that you wear the required face shields, eye protection, hearing protection, etc.

4) Entering and Exiting Vehicles

  • When getting in and out of your vehicle within a work zone, or on the open road, make sure your vehicle is parked in a safe location, out of the way of contractor equipment and active areas of work.
  • Check your mirrors and make sure that you are clear of oncoming traffic before you open the door to exit the vehicle.
  • Make sure you have good footing before you step out of the vehicle. Look for slick surfaces and loose ground.

5) Equipment and Vehicle Inspection

  • Inspect all equipment before use to make sure it is in good condition and working order prior to use. Repair the equipment before use if necessary.
  • Make sure you conduct your pre-trip inspections each time you start your shift. This applies to everyone and all vehicles, from motor pool cars and assigned pickup trucks to one-tons and ten-wheelers.
  • Report vehicle maintenance issues or warning lights to your regional equipment shop or maintenance area supervisor so that small issues don’t become major problems.

6) Think

  • Take a few minutes at the beginning of each day and think about the things that could go wrong or dangerous situations that may occur during your shift. Also consider how to mitigate those risks.
  • During your shift, always think about what you can do to improve safe work practices for yourself and your team.
  • At the end of each day, ask yourself what you are going to do tomorrow that will enhance a safe work environment for all of us.

If you ever have a question about how to handle any safety-related situation, please call your region safety manager immediately. They are always available and happy to assist you with any questions or concerns. And as always, wear your seat belts, your orange and your protective gear. Work safely and have a great summer.

Traffic Signal Amendments and Runaway Vehicle Ramp Requirements

Two bills passed by the state legislature this March will affect transportation in Utah, SB 123, Runaway Vehicle Ramp Requirements and HB 272, Traffic Signal Amendments. Both of these bills help to relieve traffic and make roads safer in Utah.

I-70 Runaway Truck Ramp

Runaway truck ramp on eastbound I-70 in Emery County.

SB 123, prohibits a person from using a runaway vehicle ramp unless the person is in an emergency situation requiring use of the ramp to stop the person’s vehicle; and prohibits a person from stopping, standing, or parking on a runaway vehicle ramp or in the pathway of a runaway vehicle ramp.

These ramps save lives by stopping vehicles, particularly semi-trucks, that have lost their brakes or are unable to slow down. When the ramps are blocked by vehicles-not using it for its intended purpose- runaway vehicles are left with very few safe options in stopping their vehicles. Not only is the driver in danger but the runaway vehicle puts many other motorists in danger. This bill will help to ensure that runaway trucks have a safe place to stop if their truck is unable to slow down.

HB 272, provides that under certain circumstances an operator of a vehicle facing a steady red arrow signal may cautiously enter the intersection to turn left from a one-way street into a one-way street.

Under this bill, motorists may only make this left turn on a solid red light when a sign at the intersection indicates that it is legal. Drivers are still required to stop at the red light and yield to oncoming traffic before cautiously entering the intersection, similar to any turn made on a red light. This bill, although not specifically designed for diverging diamond interchanges (DDI), will make these intersections more efficient and will allow traffic to move more quickly and safely.

Telling a Story

UDOT is using state-of-the-art mapping tools help communicate important information to road users.

Amanda Holm views the Top Ten Story Map.

Amanda Holm views the Top Ten Story Map.

Every spring, UDOT gives road users heads-up on road work by announcing the top road construction projects that may cause travel delay throughout the summer. Communicating the location and duration of those projects was made easier this year because of Geographic Information Tool that uses maps to communicate project details.

UDOT’s Geographic Information System team used the UPlan Map Center  to build a road construction story map that integrates several maps on an interactive web page. The result is a one-stop information site for ten of UDOT’s most high-impact road construction projects.

New GIS technology lets UDOT put map creation tools in the hands of many users where only analysts had access previously.  The UPlan Map Center site allows users to build a custom map, or several maps, quickly and easily. Those maps can then be combined to create a story map that can be viewed in a browser, shared on a blog or embedded in a website.

Better partnering

Maps are a good way to visually define project scope, see trends in space and time, and communicate with work groups or stakeholders. Grouping several maps together can help communicate a more complete story – such as where and when to anticipate road construction.

But road construction project details are not the only information that can be represented on maps. Basically, any feature that can be seen through a windshield while driving on a state route can be represented on a map. Signs, pavement, signals, culverts, all components of the state transportation system, can be mapped.

Other spatial data sets available on the UPlan site include crash data, which lists the number of crashes for each road segment, and crash severity and type, and Average Annual Daily Traffic, which lists level of traffic on state routes.

Cycling MapUDOT’s website currently features a Road Respect Story Map that shows a cycling map series. Together, the maps provide a great resource for cyclist to find popular cycling routes, information on cycling infrastructure, and even rules cyclists and motorists need to know to safely share the road.

GIS team members hope that the use of custom-built maps and Story Maps becomes wide spread at UDOT. GIS Manager Frank Pisani believes that using customized maps can lead to better partnering since maps allow people from different disciplines to reference information for a common interest, “GIS is the science of putting features on a map and solving problems,” says Pisani.

For more information about using customized maps and Story Maps, contact UDOT’s GIS team:

Frank Pisani, GIS Manager
Engineering Technology Services
Cell: (801) 633-6258
E-mail: fpisani@utah.gov

Becky Hjelm, GIS Specialist
Cell: (801) 386-4162
Office: (801) 965-4074
E-mail: bhjelm@utah.gov

This post was written by Catherine Higgins of the Project Development division.