Author: Tania Mashburn

A Vision for the Future

Carlos Braceras, UDOT Executive Director

Carlos Braceras, UDOT Executive Director

Carlos is a man with a vision. A vision to make a difference.

It may sound simple, but it’s true. Over the past several weeks, he and his leadership team crafted a shared Vision Statement for the Department’s future that will help us enhance communities, improve the environment, and cultivate a stronger economy.

But this vision has actually been in the making for months…starting with ideas rolling around in Carlos’ head and jotted down as quick notes on his phone as new thoughts came to him. Let’s back up even further. This really all started when John Njord retired.

Choosing a new Executive Director for UDOT was a very high priority for Governor Herbert. It required Carlos to evaluate why he wanted the position and what he would do if he was successful. He said it took several months of thinking about the department and where we could make improvements.

“This was pretty tough because of the excellent work already going on in our organization,” Carlos said. But he wanted to find ways to better align with the Governor’s goals and broaden the areas in which we focus.

So this is where Carlos’ vision was born. He says he felt UDOT’s four strategic goals were taking us in the right direction, but there were other areas we could give priority to…leading him to determine our new “emphasis areas.” These emphasis areas are a combination of how we do our jobs and how we can improve our organization. They are:

  • Integrated Transportation
  • Collaboration
  • Education
  • Transparency
  • Quality
  • Operational Excellence

Carlos also says he took a lot of time to think about what UDOT’s core values are, values that we as employees all live by, but have never officially been put in writing.

“A lot of times in our business, decisions are easy to make,” Carlos said. “We can look in a manual or go online and get a direct answer. But most of the time the questions are much more difficult and there is no easy answer. That is where I expect our great employees to look to our core values to provide guidance. Think about these as the traits you would like the public to think about when they think about UDOT.”

For five months, every time Carlos heard a characteristic he thought represented UDOT, he wrote it down. In the end he had quite a long list, but he narrowed it down to only the most important values he would like our department to exemplify; innovation, trustworthiness, dedication, passion, public responsiveness, and fiscal responsibility. Carlos says, “These are the traits that I hope will guide us when we’re making difficult decisions.”

So back to the job interview. More than 60 people applied for the position of UDOT’s Executive Director. A screening and interview process narrowed the field to Carlos and two others. In an interview with Governor Herbert, Lt. Governor Bell, and the Governor’s staff, Carlos was asked two key questions.

When he was asked “what is your vision for the department?” he was prepared and happy he had thought about this very thing for several months. When he was asked “why do you want the job?” he was also quick to respond saying, “Because the work we do at UDOT makes a difference to all Utahns. We save lives, we improve the economy, and we make everyone’s lives better. I love Utah and I want to make a difference.”

Carlos says he is extremely grateful he now has the opportunity to work towards making a difference in his new role as Executive Director. When I asked him where he saw the department in ten years, he admitted his vision might change.

“Today I am confident we’re heading in the right direction, but tomorrow we have to be prepared to ask the question ‘is there more we can be doing in order to keep Utah’s transportation system the envy of the country?’”

Carlos says he knows with the dedication of our incredible employees, we will be able to make his vision a reality. He says, “I continue to be amazed by the passion all of you bring to your jobs. You don’t think of it as your job, but your mission to improve the quality of life in this great state.”

Carlos looks forward to having one-on-one discussion with employees about his new vision over the next several months. In the meantime, you can see what all the buzz is about. A downloadable PDF of the complete Vision plan is available below.

Carlos Vision

Giving Props to a Public Employee

“You can sleep when you die.”Valentino "Bobo" Martinez

That’s the motto Valentino Martinez lives by… but most of us know him as “Bobo.” He’s the shed supervisor at maintenance station 1427 in Centerville. This week, Bobo was notified that he was chosen to receive the Utah Public Employee Salute. The honor is reserved for any city, county, or state government employee who goes above and beyond to help the public.

What’s really impressive is that this is the second time Bobo has received this award. As you can see from his picture, he’s kind of a big deal.

“He is really motivated to go and make sure things are done and things are done well,” says Vic Saunders, Region 1 Communications Manager. “He’s willing to be of service in a time when so many people are concerned about themselves. To see someone who is really service oriented is such a great thing.”

Bobo and his crew have a tremendous amount of responsibility to keep I-15 in Davis County and Legacy Parkway in good condition. When we’re all home in our beds asleep, Bobo and his crew are out there working. Bobo says they do 90% of their work (which includes sweeping, plowing, and road repairs) at night so they don’t impact drivers.

So when do they sleep? That’s where his motto comes in.

When I asked Bobo how he felt about being chosen for the award, he said simply “I feel good. I feel the job I’m doing is making everybody in the public happy.”

Bobo admits he couldn’t be the supervisor he is without his fantastic crew. Whether it’s clearing the roads after a major snow storm, or jumping right in to clean up after a major wind storm, his crew is always up for the challenge. In fact, he says any one of them could have been chosen for the award.

“He knows the area like the back of his hand and he takes care of it like it’s his own,” said Region 1 Director Kris Peterson. “He’s got a large, diverse crew and they work hard together towards reaching the department’s goals.”

As part of his winnings, Bobo will become famous. On Wednesday, August 14, KSL’s Doug Wright will announce him as this week’s honoree. Here’s how it will go:

Now it’s time for the Public Employee Salute sponsored by Mountain America Credit Union and the Utah Public Employee’s Association. This week’s honoree is Valentino “Bobo” Martinez.

Bobo is a supervisor for the Utah Department of Transportation Region 1. Bobo and his crew are responsible for keeping I-15 and Legacy Parkway open for commuters to and from Salt Lake City in all kinds of traffic and weather conditions. This means Bobo and his crew conduct projects in the middle of the night so not to interfere with the 170,000 vehicles a day that travel those stretches of road. Bobo is called out at all hours of the night to assist the Utah Highway Patrol in traffic incident management and clean-up.

Thank you, Bobo, for your service to the citizens of Utah. Bobo will receive two Hale Centre Theatre tickets and will be honored at the semi-annual Public Employee Salute Luncheon.

Bobo says he hopes he can take his wife to a show at the Hale Centre Theatre to celebrate…but he’ll likely be out hunting.

Next time you see Bobo, tell him congratulations on his big award (and give him a hard time about his picture).

If you would like to nominate a public employee who has gone above and beyond, you can nominate them for the Public Employee Salute by going to upea.net.

Drowsy Driving Experiment

Drowsy Driving Deomonstration

Four volunteers attempted to perform basic driving maneuvers after more than 30 hours without sleep.

It’s 4 a.m. While most Utahns are still fast asleep, four people, each with very different lives, all have one thing in common…they’re struggling to stay awake. Nate Davis is a businessman and father of four. Kylie Lalumia is a brand new mom. Lindsey Tait is 17 years old and has a busy social life. Ben Winslow is a reporter for Fox13 News. In each of their cases, it wouldn’t be unheard of to go with very little sleep.

Fast forward ten hours. This group has now been up for 30 hours or more…and they’re going to get behind the wheel. Sound dangerous? It is. That’s the point.

On Wednesday, August 7, UDOT and the Department of Public Safety held a media event to demonstrate the effects of drowsy driving. Nate, Kylie, Lindsey and Ben were invited to test their skills on DPS’s driving range. Each had to navigate through a field of cones as they tried to back up, change lanes, make sharp turns, and parallel park. How well did each driver do? Let’s just say it’s a good thing the obstacles were cones and not kids.

“Oh my gosh,” said Kylie as she ran over another cone.

“It’s a lot tougher to concentrate,” Nate said as he spun the steering wheel. “Interpreting what’s coming next is what’s getting me.”

Ben, who has a high-paced job where he jumps from story to story and is constantly tweeting, admitted the lack of sleep definitely slowed him down. He said, “It was difficult to just think. My cognitive skills were delayed…everything was just delayed because I was so tired.”

“I didn’t realize how many cones I had knocked down until you go back and look,” said a surprised Lindsey. “If I was on the road, I don’t know how many cars I would have hit. People are out there. It’s crazy to think about.”

What’s really crazy to think about is that driving drowsy can be just as dangerous as driving drunk. In fact, being awake for 20 hours is equal to a blood alcohol concentration of .08%, which is legally drunk and leaves you at a much higher risk for a crash. A drowsy driver often displays the same symptoms as a drunk driver; blurred vision, slow reaction time, and weaving in and out of lanes.

So far this year, at least 8 fatalities in Utah have been attributed to drowsy driving…and there may be more. The problem is these types of crashes are difficult to identify because the driver is often alone and there are no blood tests that show fatigue. While UDOT and UHP work hard to make our roads as safe as possible through engineering and enforcement, the driver is ultimately responsible for their own safety and those around them.

“Driving is difficult,” Sgt. Matt Smith with UHP says. “It takes a lot of focus and mental ability, and unfortunately when people are so tired, it goes right along the lines of impaired drivers.”

Nearly everyone is guilty of driving drowsy, but most people don’t realize how dangerous they actually are. Here’s something to think about. You are at risk of getting in a crash if:

  • You are driving longer than 2 hours without a break
  • You are driving alone
  • You are driving at night
  • You got 6 hours of sleep or less the night before
  • You’re working or going to school more than 60 hours a week
  • You’ve been drinking or taking medication

The best thing you can do to make sure you’re not putting yourself and others at risk is planning ahead and getting enough sleep, especially if you’ll be doing a lot of driving the following day.

If you do find yourself nodding off, having difficulty focusing, blinking excessively, yawning repeatedly, and especially drifting out of your lane, tailgating or hitting rumble strips…it’s your responsibility to get off the road. Turning up the radio or rolling down your window is not going to cut it. Those things don’t work. You need to pull over and switch drivers, take a short nap, get out of the car and stretch or walk around or even find a safe place to sleep for the night.

Nate, Kylie, Lindsey and Ben all said their drowsy driving experiment was eye opening for them…and we’re hoping it will open the eyes of other drivers and maybe save lives.

For more information about the dangers of driving drowsy, go to sleepsmartdrivesmart.com or zerofatalities.com and check out Ben’s story below.

 


 

Elizabeth Giraud — Architectural Historian

Hotel on 24th Street in Ogden

Hotel on 24th Street in Ogden

Elizabeth Giraud has a very interesting job. She likes old things. Especially old buildings and bridges. She is UDOT’s only architectural historian. Elizabeth’s job is to look at every bridge and every building 45 years or older that may be impacted by our projects.

In the course of her day, Elizabeth often comes across some pretty cool stuff. Like the old hotel on 24th Street in Ogden that was in the Chevy Chase movie “Fletch.” Then there’s that old warehouse off the side of I-15 in American Fork. You might never even give it a second glance, but it likely determined the path of the freeway.

Elizabeth’s job is so cool, in fact, that she was featured in a Salt Lake Tribune story by Tom Wharton. Take a look. You might get a little history lesson.

You can also learn more about the Pre-war Bridge Survey mentioned in the article in a previous blog post.

John Cahoon House

The Cottonwood Environmental Assessment completed in 2012 looked at ways to improve connectivity between 4500 South and Vine Street west of State Street. The John Cahoon House in the photo was built in 1900 and was part of the study area

Copper Wire Theft

Wire Theft Photo 1

Thieves used a golf club shaft to locate the copper wiring. They dug it up, cut it, and tried to pull it out by attaching it to a vehicle.

Driving in the dark lately? You may have noticed the lights are out along some sections of major interstates, like I-15, I-80, and I-215. But don’t blame the power company or burned out light bulbs…the real culprits are thieves who are in the business of stealing copper wire.

When you and I drive past the big light posts on the freeway, we might not think twice about the copper wiring that powers high mast and interchange lighting. But to some, the junction boxes next to the posts are a gold mine waiting to be found. To uncover the copper wiring and pull it out, thieves have used everything from shovels and trucks…to golf clubs and horses.

To combat their creativity, we’ve got to get a little creative ourselves. Led by Richard Hibbard, UDOT’s State Lighting Maintenance Crew (Mike Bishop, Todd Wright, John Garcia, Walter “Woody” Wood, and Brandon Clark) focuses on the hardest hit areas and the biggest targets.

Wire Theft Photo 2

The lighting crew has tried relocating and burying boxes as a method of theft deterrent, but in this case, the thieves managed to locate the box and dig it up.

The crew is now moving junction boxes away from the light posts and burying them randomly, making the boxes more difficult for thieves to find. (Don’t worry, we’ve got a locator ball inside so our own guys know where they are.) The crew is also welding handhole covers onto poles, filling some boxes with concrete, and adding rebar to others to make it harder to chip the concrete away.

Despite our best efforts, thieves are still getting to some of those areas and they’re hitting new locations seemingly every week. Hibbard says some of the hot spots are I-80 near Stansbury Park, I-215 at 700 North and 2100 North, I-15 at 600 North, and I-215 at I-80. He says, “I- 215 at I-80 is just a mess. If anyone wants to know why those lights are out it’s because half the wiring is gone.”

In fact, the amount of copper wire that UDOT has had to replace in just the past two years is staggering. Since February 2011, crews have replaced 110,000 feet of copper wire in Region 2 alone.

Wire Theft Photo 3

Sign structures are fair game with wire thieves. Here they have cut wire in a structure-mounted disconnect box and pulled it out through the ground-level junction box.

They suspect there’s another 75,000 feet missing they haven’t gotten to yet. And the situation does not appear to be improving. In January 2013, thieves made off with 15 hundred feet of copper wire from just one location.

Metal recyclers pay about $2.75-$3.00 per pound for unstripped wire, so a thousand feet of stolen wire would net someone anywhere from $300 to $700. Unfortunately, it costs a lot to replace that wire, and taxpayers are footing the bill. In the past two years, nearly $450,000 of materials and man hours has gone into replacing stolen copper wire. That’s enough money to pay for 26,000 feet of new cable median barrier.

Something needs to change, but what can we do? The answer is keep your eyes open. Hibbard says, “If you see anyone that appears to be working on lighting, someone should be asking questions.” And he means anyone. If you see a guy on a bike digging near a light post, a car pulled off the side of the freeway, or even someone in an orange vest poking around a junction box…be suspicious.

Hibbard suspects many of the thieves are electricians or others who know what they’re doing and look professional. He thinks some thefts may be happening during the day, but most happen at night. “The most suspicious thing is just any time you see a car parked on the side of the road, especially at night. I always find myself wondering what’s going on there.”

If you suspect copper wire theft is underway, but you’re not quite sure, you can always call the TOC and they’ll be able to find out if there’s legitimate work going on in that location.

Wire Theft Photo 4

The lighting crew welded a metal plate over a handhole, but in this case the thieves were able to bend it enough to get to the wire.

If you’re positive there’s a theft underway, just call the police. Let’s put the thieves behind bars, because after all, it’s our taxpayer money they’re stealing.

Wire Theft Photo 8

Thieves will attempt to chip out concrete caps within a box, but rebar will prevent the concrete from “chunking,” making removal far more difficult.

Wire Theft Photo 5

This is an example of a theft-deterring junction box lid. The polymer concrete has a steel plate backing and is attached to the box with security bolts. However, this hasn’t stopped someone from attempting to chip out a bolt as is evident on the lid surface.