Author: Carlos Braceras

WASHTO Quality Award Winners

I am pleased to announce that the WASHTO Quality Award winners for 2013 are the Ogden Canyon Fiber Project and Traffic Signal Operations teams. It became evident as our selection committee reviewed the nominations that these two groups distinguished themselves as leaders who have made significant contributions to the Department while simultaneously improving the quality of life in our communities.

Photo of Carlos Braceras and the Ogden Canyon Fiber Project Team

UDOT Executive Director and the Ogden Canyon Fiber Project Team

The Ogden Canyon Fiber Project Team members were Jesse Glidden, Lynne Yocom, Blaine Leonard, Brent DeYoung, Rex Harris, Matthew Smith, and Dave Moss.

As many of you know, Ogden Canyon (S.R. 39) is a narrow, winding 5-mile canyon road connecting the Ogden Valley with the metropolitan area. It is a critical transportation link but a difficult location for constructing projects due to its mountainous terrain.

Our Region 1 folks initially had asked our Traffic Management Division to install a VMS sign in the canyon that would warn motorists of frequent winter canyon closures. Lynn, Blaine and Matt were more than happy to do that but while they were visiting the site they noticed construction already happening in the Canyon.

Ogden City had recently started the installation of a waterline. The team knew that underground construction of this magnitude in the canyon rarely occurred. They successfully seized upon this opportunity to partner with the city and get a fiber communications line installed along the entire canyon corridor.

This vital link to Ogden Valley now provides fiber optic communications for traffic monitoring and public communications. In addition, Ogden City enjoys a fiber connection to their water treatment plant and residents have improved cell and broadband service.

Because our team members took the time to think beyond the limited scope of their own individual duties, they were able to see the bigger picture. This synergistic approach to finding a solution will benefit thousands of people for decades to come.

I commend them for their great work.

Photo of Carlos Braceras and the Automatic Signal Performance Measures Team

UDOT Executive Director and the Automatic Signal Performance Measures Team

The first place winning team is our Traffic Signal Operations group, consisting of Mark Taylor, Jamie Mackey, Matt Luker, Shane Johnson, Derek Lowe, Peter Jager, Eric Rasband, Adam Lough and Carrie Jacobson.

Tasked with providing “World-Class” signals operations and maintenance, our folks have risen to the occasion. Adopting best practices from our partners at Indiana DOT, they have developed eight different performance measures currently available for 750 intersections. The measures provide both real-time and historical data, with all of the information housed on the UDOT Traffic website.

The program works via FTP connections located throughout the network that provide information to our traffic signal controllers. Every 15 minutes TOC servers retrieve and store “packets” of time-stamped data. This process is overseen by software engineers Shane Johnson and Derek Lowe. Anyone can access this data, which is an approach that fosters transparency and information sharing. Because of their efforts, UDOT is now the national leader in real-time traffic signal performance measures.

It’s not hard to see why in June of this year UDOT received the AASHTO Technology Implementation Group (TIG) award for their efforts in this area. But this team isn’t stopping there. By the end of the year they plan to have additional performance measures to track elements such as historical travel times for arterials and overall operations system improvements.

Both teams’ efforts have served to further our Department’s Strategic Direction.

Our Ogden Canyon Fiber Team has strengthened the economy by providing fiber optic service to Ogden City’s water treatment plant and improved cell and broadband service to residents. They have optimized mobility via a vital communications link that will facilitate traffic management and public information. They have improved safety with the capability to more effectively manage traffic, thus keeping drivers safer and getting us one step closer to our goal of Zero Fatalities.

Our Traffic Signal Operations team has strengthened the economy by improving the efficiency of the signal system. This has made a huge impact on alleviating traffic congestion and consequently the movement of goods and services throughout the state. In addition, they have implemented signal timing plans to accommodate large events such as college football games and community parades.

The signals team has optimized mobility by closely monitoring and adjusting red and green time to allow for better progression along corridors. They have improved safety by partnering with our radar vendor to track approaching vehicle speeds at intersections. To preserve our infrastructure, they have devised a way to quickly find and replace deficient vehicle detectors.

These efforts do not go unnoticed. Congratulations to both teams for their exemplary work and dedication. Please join me in thanking them for their great work as they are well-deserving of the 2013 WASHTO Quality Awards.

Information about all of the WASHTO Quality Awards nominees is available in a previous post.

WASHTO Award Nominees

Every year the Western Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (WASHTO) awards individuals or groups in their member states that have shown exemplary work in improving the quality of their respective organizations.

We received a record number of nominations from UDOT teams this year and the submittals were truly impressive. Their talents and ingenuity are a testament to the high caliber of employees we have here at UDOT. I wanted to take the time to highlight this year’s nominees and briefly outline their submissions.

Our maintenance folks do a remarkable job. For example, our maintenance team in Parley’s Canyon has worked to upgrade lights to LEDs and efficiently used the fill dirt from an area construction project in parts of the Canyon that need it most. When this summer’s flooding had the potential to cause road damage, our Huntington Canyon maintenance crews went above and beyond to create a rebar/riprap fix that prevented additional damage from occurring.

When a better data collection process was needed for the Maintenance Management Quality Assurance Program, our Region Two folks helped to support it. When we had to think creatively about how to best maintain our assets, Region Four’s asset management group adopted the motto, “Take Care of What we Have” and implemented a three year plan for Level II road maintenance that focuses on crack sealing and lane leveling.

I am constantly amazed at how dedicated our maintenance folks are at ensuring our transportation system investments are well cared for and our shop employees are no different.

The Region Three Mechanic shop employees collectively have over 200 years of experience between them. This has given them the skills and expertise needed to repair state-owned equipment using best practices and the latest technology. Their experience has helped the region to successfully meet the Department’s goals.

In Region One, the equipment shop team retrofitted five older snow plows with saddle tanks to give them the same pre-wetting capabilities that newer vehicles have. This ingenuity is essential to maintaining UDOT’s reputation as a national leader.

Our Signals Operations folks have made significant strides in innovation and national leadership. They have been tasked with creating a World-Class Signals system and are well on their way to making it happen. We now have over 750 intersections bringing real-time data to the Traffic Operations Center.

Managing data can be a significant undertaking- something our GIS group knows very well. Working closely with other divisions, they have helped to create an inventory system with real-time information regarding outdoor advertising along state routes. In addition, they have been an asset in producing interactive maps for Transportation Commission meetings, mapping bike routes, and creating a UPLAN Safety Index.

Another group that understands management is our Project Management team. Now with just a few clicks of the mouse a project can be set up, tracked, updated and the status communicated. ePM has been improved in the way it handles financial information for our project managers, and our Program Finance folks have developed a way to release excess funds earlier in the project process to allow for timely reprogramming on new projects.

Communicating information is key, not only in project management, but also when it impacts the public.

We now have a Little Cottonwood Canyon Communications Tool (LCCCT) for communicating information to the traveling public and our Travelwise program has improved our air quality messaging on overhead VMS boards to encourage motorists to drive less or carpool.

Our employees coordinated a partnership with Ogden City to install fiber in Ogden Canyon. They took the time to go beyond their normal responsibilities, finding a synergistic solution to an otherwise seemingly insurmountable task. They showed that proactive planning really makes a difference.

Our structures planning team has adopted “Plan for Every Structure” as their goal. The Treatment Matrix and overhaul of The Critical Bridge List are two examples of how they’ve done exactly that. Not only are we at the forefront of thoughtful structures planning but also of innovative bridge construction.

Representatives from around the country descended on Echo Junction this past summer as our project team pioneered the combination of Geosynthetic Reinforced Soil (GRS) and Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC).

At UDOT, quality work happens not only on the roads but off them as well.

For example, the Seeley Burn Scar left quite a mark. Our folks worked collaboratively with the Utah Geological Survey to install a Road Weather Information System in the scar’s watershed that helped anticipate flooding before it happened.

Our avalanche team successfully installed a release system near avalanche slide paths. This system can be operated remotely to set off snow slides in a controlled environment that reduces the likelihood of larger, more destructive avalanches.

The central materials group proactively reached out to precast suppliers and revised the current specifications to allow limited amounts of specific items to be saved ahead of time. As a result, we now have high-demand items when an unexpected need arises.

Our research team initiated a new transportation innovation breakout group this year that generated new ideas about special types of concrete pavements for urban areas and laser striping for more accurate lane delineation.

UDOT University has made literally hundreds of courses available to UDOT employees, trained approximately 850 individual participants, and provided approximately 1500 hours of training to department personnel.

As you can see, the selection pool for this year’s WASHTO Quality Award was very competitive. All of these groups’ accomplishments are impressive in their own right and collectively represent the quality work we do here at the Department. I want to express my appreciation to all of the nominees for their hard work and dedication.

First Meeting of UDOT Employee Advisory Council

In August, I announced a number of changes the leadership team would be implementing to better recognize our employees and their concerns. Based on feedback from surveys and focus groups earlier this year, we understood that our employees felt we could improve on providing dialogue between employees and leadership.

As a result of what we heard, we have created an Employee Advisory Council (EAC), which includes representatives from every group and region who will meet with Shane Marshall and me each quarter. The EAC will provide a direct avenue for employees to share concerns, ideas and feedback with the leadership team.

The EAC met for the first time on Oct. 3, and based on the number of topics we discussed, we decided to increase the length of our meetings from one and a half hours to two. I am excited to hear so many ideas and topics from our employees that can help make our organization even better.

During our discussion, the EAC decided to make all our meeting minutes available here on the blog, so all employees can be aware of the issues and questions we address. Also available is the full roster of EAC members, so if you have a question or concern you can pass it along for discussion at our next meeting.

Some of the topics we discussed were:

  • Employee Morale – Increase recognition for the good work being done by our employees.
  • Performance Plans – Consider changing plans so supervisors can adequately rate those who exceed expectations.
  • Performance Recognition – Promote and expand recognition program, which employees feel is not consistent or as robust as it could be.
  • Outsourcing – Address the concern that the amount of work given to consultants threatens job security for UDOT employees. Employees will not lose jobs because of outsourcing.
  • Policy Explanations – Provide information about the reason(s) for policy changes instead of just announcing that change has occurred.
  • Market Comparability Adjustments (MCAs) – Give more background and context with the annual MCA report from Human Resources so it is easier to understand.
  • Employee Communication – Improve communication by offering more one-on-one access to the leadership team, for example by conducting regular visits to maintenance.

These are just highlights, but more detailed notes are available in the minutes. I encourage you to download and read the more detailed version for this meeting and those that follow. The next meeting has been scheduled for January, and all employees will receive an email from me as soon as those minutes are available.

We hope that all employees will engage the EAC and take part in our continual effort to improve as an organization. I look forward to hearing from you!

Employee Advisory Council Roster

October 2013 EAC Minutes

Employee Recognition

Over the past several months, our leadership team has been looking into ways to better recognize our great employees here at UDOT and listen to your ideas and concerns.  Many of you have provided feedback through an online survey and in-person discussion groups.  Thank you for your participation.  Because of your input, we will be implementing several new programs in the coming months.  Here are some of the areas we will be focusing on:

Management Training – We have some excellent managers and supervisors here at UDOT.  I want to make sure they receive proper training on how to provide feedback and positive recognition to all employees.  We will be implementing a new training program for all managers that will emphasize good communication and positive verbal recognition.

Award/Incentive Program – I would like to give direct supervisors a way to reward their employees for a job well done.  It is a tricky balance between rewarding our employees and being fair with taxpayer dollars.  However, I believe we have come up with a program that will accomplish both.  Every year, each region/group will be given a number of vouchers to distribute to employees as a “pat on the back.”  The vouchers can be traded in for a UDOT logoed shirt.  It became apparent through the feedback we received that you are proud of the work you do at UDOT and many of you would like to have a way to display it.

Employee Advisory Council – This committee will give employees a chance to provide new ideas and voice concerns.  Too often, I don’t have the chance to hear your ideas or the issues you are dealing with.  Through the responses we received, some of you suggested bringing back a committee that could provide feedback to the Executive Director and Deputy Director.  My hope is that the new EAC will be a direct and productive channel of communication for both sides.  It will be made up of two employees from each region/group who will serve on a rotating basis.

Employee of the Year/Leader of the Year – I would like to continue to award the Employee of the Year and Leader of the Year.  It’s a chance for us as a department to recognize the outstanding individuals among us.  We will try to make the nomination process as simple as possible so all employees have an equal chance to be recognized.  There will also be help available to each region/group in writing the application in order to make the awards process fair.  One additional change, we will present the EOY and LOY awards, along with the Career Service award, at the Annual Conference banquet in November.

New Employee Orientation – We will be reintroducing a new employee orientation meeting with several changes.  The goal of this session will be to give new employees a good overview of all the different areas in UDOT and an opportunity to meet and interact with the leadership team.  Each group leader will be asked to present at the orientation, which will be held on a quarterly basis.

Performance Awards/ASIs – Many of you will be happy to learn that we are beginning to give Performance Awards and ASIs again on a limited basis.  Where funding is available, each group and region may give performance awards to up to 6% of their employees for exceptional performance.  While I recognize it is a small number, it’s a step in the right direction.

We are still working out the details on all of the new programs so please stay tuned for more information.  In addition to the changes I’ve listed above, we will also continue our successful recognition programs such as the Silver Barrel awards and the annual region/complex picnics.  Shane and I, along with the leadership team, will also try to be more available to all employees through formal and informal visits to each region and group.

I would like to personally thank each of you for a job well done.  My hope is that we can do a better job of recognizing you for the important work you are doing for this department and the state with these new programs.

A Vision for UDOT’s Future

In the last two decades, UDOT has emerged as a national leader in transportation innovation.  In the coming years, UDOT intends to carry on that legacy, while continuing to adapt, adjust and improve. UDOT will continue to strive toward its Final Four Strategic Goals while embracing four new Guiding Principles to ensure the right work is being done in the right way.

Final Four Strategic Goals
Where we are going

Over the years, UDOT has laid out and refined the Strategic Goals that will continue to drive every UDOT project and serve as a standard by which to measure success. They are:

Preserve Infrastructure
UDOT is preserving Utah’s existing transportation infrastructure. The state’s multibillion dollar investment in roads, bridges and other assets must be maintained for future generations.

Optimize Mobility
UDOT works to optimize traffic mobility through a number of measures, including adding capacity, innovative design, managed lanes, TravelWise and signal coordination.

Zero Fatalities
UDOT remains committed to safety, and the goal to consistently improve safety on Utah’s roads can be summed up in two words: zero fatalities.

Strengthen the Economy
This goal recognizes UDOT’s role in creating and managing a transportation system that enables economic growth and empowers prosperity.

Guiding Principles
How we will get there

Just as important as where we are going is how we get there. UDOT must do the right work in the right way, and we will reevaluate how projects and programs are managed to reflect the following principles:

Integrated Transportation
UDOT will actively consider how to best meet the needs of trucks, bikes, pedestrians and mass transit when studying transportation solutions and ensure those solutions are applied to the most appropriate facilities. We will strive to provide Utahns with balanced transportation options while planning for future travel demand.

Local Collaboration
UDOT will team with local and regional entities to create transportation solutions that help them achieve success and meet local needs.

Education
UDOT will support STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) courses in Utah colleges and high schools. We will promote the safety of Utah students through the Zero Fatalities and School Neighborhood Access Plans (SNAP) programs.

Transparency
UDOT will strive to be the most transparent DOT in the country. Utahns will be able to track where their tax dollars go, understand how they are used and see the outcomes.  We will be honest and forthcoming in how and why decisions are made.

Results
The final destination

As we accomplish our Strategic Goals supported by Guiding Principles, UDOT is helping to enhance communities, improve the environment and cultivate a stronger economy.

For example, optimizing mobility through increased transportation options, like bike lanes, improves air quality, supports commerce through reduced traffic congestion and results in improved quality of life. All of the Goals and Principles work hand-in-hand to continue to make Utah one of the best places to live and work.