June 16th, 2014

Optimizing Mobility

Optimize Mobility, by Adan Carrillo.

As we continually look for ways to improve our processes with the ultimate goal of keeping drivers moving on Utah’s roads, UDOT has deployed a number of technological tools that align with our strategic direction to preserve infrastructure, optimize mobility, reach our goal of zero fatalities, and strengthen the economy. I wanted to particularly emphasize what we are currently doing as a department in regards to our goal of optimizing mobility, which, in our day and age, no longer only applies to people’s ability to keep moving but also to their ability to do things as they are moving (but not driving), via phone apps.

These UDOT phone apps are allowing citizens to perform a variety of tasks, like reporting road conditions directly to operators at the Traffic Operations Center (TOC), or finding out what kind of delays to expect due to construction projects, and receiving severe weather event warnings. In addition to this ever evolving field of mobile technology, we continue to rely on innovative projects based on traffic models and engineering to not only improve mobility, but also safety, which in turn helps us achieve our goal of Zero Fatalities. Last year, Region Two completed several projects that illustrate exactly how we continue to optimize mobility through road and signal technologies.

MOBILE TECHNOLOGY

UDOT Traffic

Screen shot of UDOT Traffic app
UDOT Traffic is the department’s portal for statewide traffic information and can be accessed through the UDOT Traffic website or via mobile application for iOS or Android devices. Citizens can use the site to view real-time traffic conditions, construction and emergency alerts, road weather forecasts, and current lane and ramp closures. New to the UDOT Traffic app is a map layer that displays designated bike routes across the state, and state roads with shoulders wider than four feet. The map also displays routes that are restricted to bicycles such as I-15 in the Salt Lake Valley.

UDOT continually upgrades the UDOT Traffic portal to make it even more useful for drivers and the public. This year, the Lane Closure tool will be used for all projects on interstates as well as major highways including Bangerter Highway, Legacy Parkway, S.R. 201, and U.S. 40.

Future updates will improve integration between construction projects and the Lane Closure tool, and will allow contractors and department employees to make changes to UDOT Traffic information using mobile devices.

Citizen Reporter

Screen shots of the citizen reporting app
UDOT Citizen Reporter is a mobile application that enlists volunteers to report on current weather conditions for specific roads across Utah. This app is designed to provide both TOC operators and travelers with more accurate and timely road, weather and travel impact information and forecasts.

To participate as citizen reporters, members of the public are required to take a short course (either online or in person), complete a quiz, and then submit a sign-up form. Once those steps are completed, the volunteer receives a login and password, and can then download the app and begin submitting reports.

Citizen reporters are able to confirm weather data received through other sources (Road Weather Information Systems, meteorological forecasts, etc.) and can provide data for roadways where RWIS systems or other information sources may not be available.

ROAD & SIGNAL TECHNOLOGY

Variable Speed Limit

Photo of Variable Speed Limit sign with a semi passing by on I-80 in Parley's Canyon

Variable Speed Limit sign on I-80 in Parley’s Canyon

In January 2014, 15 new variable speed limit (VSL) signs were activated along I-80 in Parleys Canyon. The new signs are controlled by the TOC to help maintain consistent traffic flows and assist drivers in adjusting speeds when necessary due to weather conditions.

The TOC monitors speed limits in the canyon. In the event of poor weather or low visibility, a traffic engineer reviews information, such as current road conditions, weather forecasts, snowfall rates, observed speeds, and reports from maintenance personnel. Based on this information, the engineer can make the decision to reduce the speed limit as needed. Speed limits typically range from 35 to 65 miles per hour depending on conditions.

The new VSL signs are the first of their kind in Utah. UDOT is also considering installing variable speed limit signs in other locations around the state, such as Provo Canyon and Sardine Canyon, based on the results of this project.

Bike Detection

Photo of open signal cabinet
Last year, Region Two and the TOC worked together to develop and install reliable bicycle detection at nine signalized intersections in Salt Lake City, along with new pavement markings to show bicyclists where to stop. Often, bicyclists stop at red lights, look to see if they feel it is safe to cross, and then proceed through the intersection without waiting for a green signal; these upgraded intersections help encourage cyclists to obey traffic signals.

Additionally, upgrading bicycle detection systems encourages cycling as a viable means of transportation. This helps improve air quality by reducing automobile emissions, and is an asset for local economic development since many companies have reported that Utah’s alternative transportation options (such as bicycling and mass transit) were a significant factor in their decision to come to the state.

Moving forward, the department is working with the bicycling community to identify additional high-priority intersections where this detection technology can be installed.

HAWK Crossings

Photo of HAWK signal with traffic flowing underneath

HAWK

HAWK (High Intensity Activated CrosswalK) crossings have been installed in a number of locations in Region Two where arterial streets intersect with minor streets. These crossings include pavement markings, signs, and red and yellow lights on an arm over the roadway.

When a pedestrian pushes the button to activate the signal, the lights over the roadway begin flashing yellow, alerting drivers to slow down. A solid red light then activates, along with a “walk” sign for the pedestrian. Once the “walk” phase is complete, the light flashes red, indicating to drivers to treat the intersection as a stop sign – they may proceed if the crosswalk is clear. When the lights are off, drivers are not required to stop at the crosswalk.

These signals are in use at several locations throughout the Region where large numbers of pedestrians cross major roadways. UDOT continues to evaluate other locations for these signals and will install them as needed.

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