Category Archives: Employee Focus

UDOT Signal Engineering Team receives Governor’s Award for Excellence

Photo of team members standing with Governor Herbert.

Team members with Governor Herbert. From left to right: Shane Marshall, Mark Taylor, Carrie Jacobson, Shane Johnson, Governor Herbert, Rob Clayton, Derek Lowe, Jamie Mackey, Peter Jager and Matt Luker.

For the last three years UDOT’s traffic signal management team has been focused on bringing innovative solutions to Utahns. The team was recently recognized by receiving the Governor’s Award for Excellence from Governor Gary Herbert.

The signal management team has been working on in-house solutions to better track and time traffic signals across the state. UDOT worked with the Indiana Department of Transportation and Purdue University to create software that provides real time traffic information to UDOT. The program was then developed by UDOT and the Department of Technology Services (DTS) and is a web based Automated Traffic Signal Performance Measurement System (SPMs).

SPMs are a series of visual aids that display high-resolution traffic data from vehicle sensors and traffic signal controllers (intersection computers changing the traffic signals) that help agencies effectively manage traffic signals in ways that improve mobility, increase safety, reduce vehicle emissions, preserve pavement infrastructure and use resources more effectively. In most cases on UDOT state roadways, SPMs are accomplished utilizing the same vehicle sensors already deployed at signalized intersections for normal day-to-day operations without the necessity of having to install expensive new equipment or sensors.

The sensors allow analysis of data collected 24-hours a day, 7-days a week (not just during business hours), and provide a clear framework for performance analysis and decision-making. The transportation community uses SPMs to directly measure what they previously could only estimate and model.

The use of the real time and accurate information helps traffic signal engineers make better decisions on signal timing and traffic patterns. Bangerter Highway is a good example of how accurate information helps move traffic. The SPMs were able to increase the amount of cars that reached the intersections at a green light by 19%. The information has also helped with moving large amounts of traffic during one time or recurring special events.

All of this information helps commuters stay on the move, saving them time and money. The cost for this program and the cost of a traffic signal change is very low compared to the amount of travel savings day by day.

In an effort to help traffic around the state UDOT has shared this technology with counties and cities so that they can better understand and monitor their traffic signals. UDOT hopes that the SPM’s will help them to get a more comprehensive idea of their traffic patterns and signal accordingly.

Mark Taylor a Traffic Signal Operations Engineer said “Innovations, creativity, risk and increased transparency are necessary to meet UDOT’s needs.  Automated performance traffic measures allows us to optimize mobility, increase safety and use resources more efficiently.”

UDOT’s goal is to continually refine the use of technology in traffic signals and timing in the future. They are always looking for ways to improve their efficiency and their ultimate goal of keeping Utah moving.

This guest post was written by Adam McMillan, Traffic Operations Center Intern.

Silver Barrel Awards for Quick Work on S.R. 95

Executive Director Carlos Braceras recently awarded Silver Barrels to several Region Four employees for their efforts in clearing S.R. 95.

Area Engineer

  • Jim Chandler

Blanding Maintenance Station

  • Vance Adams
  • Montana Carr
  • Forrest Crofts
  • Cletis Hatch
  • Paul Marian

Moab Maintenance Station

  • Justin Woodard

Monticello Maintenance Station

  • Ruel Todd Randall

Thompson Maintenance Station

  • Von Bowerman
  • Devan Meadows

Details of their efforts are included below and were taken directly from the nomination.

“This summer employees of the Region Four East District Blasting Crew and the Blanding Maintenance Station came together under the direction of Area Engineer Jim Chandler to clear a massive rock slide on S.R. 95 at Comb Ridge west of Blanding. The crews worked in concert to mobilize equipment, control traffic, purchase explosives and remove material in order to reopen the road in record time.”

“Crew members traveled from Thompson Springs, Moab and Monticello to join forces with the Blanding crew. Twenty-five bore holes were drilled and blasted to facilitate the safe and quick removal of the slide material with rubber tire loaders and backhoes. Thank you to all who took part to safely complete this emergency project, it was a job well done!”

Photos of crews removing rockslide from S.R. 95

SHRP2 Implementation Projects Update

UDOT has received or will be receiving implementation funding on five SHRP2 projects. They are:

SHRP2 Logo

We are undergoing operations assessment to improve travel-time reliability. The goal is to improve safety, increase efficiency, and reduce the cost of congestion to drivers, freight operators, and other users. The work is ongoing.

UDOT has been awarded $200K.
Rob Clayton is the UDOT contact for this project.

This is a web-based collection of information and guidance developed from over 40 technologies that are used for new roadways or widening embankments constructed over unstable soils.

Jon Bischoff is the UDOT contact for this project. Liz Cramer is the division FHWA contact.
UDOT has been awarded $30K.

This is a report and program to help design long-life pavements that are cost effective and that minimize the impact on roadway users. We were awarded the User Incentive Assistance which is approximately $20K. We look to begin Spring 2015.

Jason Richins is the contact with technical assistance provided by Steve Anderson, both from UDOT.

T-PICS is a web tool that planners can use to see the impacts that occur as a result of different types of projects in different settings.
This product was just launched.

Jeff Harris is the UDOT contact and Steve Call is the division contact for FHWA. UDOT anticipates up to $25K for this project.

New spreadsheets were developed that estimate the economic impact for a proposed highway project.
This product was just launched.

Jeff Harris is the UDOT contact and Steve Call is the division contact for FHWA. UDOT anticipates up to $125K for this project.

This is two petabytes of video and data from 3,150 drivers aged 16-80 with nearly 50 million miles under actual driving conditions. Dr. R.J. Porter and his team from the U of U will be studying driver behavior at entrances and exit ramps on interstates. This research will begin in January 2015.

Phase I has a budget of up to $100K and the option of a phase II and III. The combined value of phase II and III could be close to $1M.

Scott Jones is the UDOT contact for this project.

Five additional SHRP2 implementation products will be released in Round 5 which will begin January 16, 2015.

This guest post was written by Jason Richins, S.E., UDOT Research Project Manager and was originally published in the Research Newsletter.

Employee Advisory Council November 2014 Meeting

The Employee Advisory Council met November 3, 2014. Items that were included in the discussion included:

  • Overtime
  • Communicating Meeting Informaiton to Groups
  • Team Building and Morale Issues
  • Training and Conferences
  • Learning from Other States
  • Department Safety Initiative

Notes from the meeting are available below.

EAC November 2014 Summary

Information from previous meetings has also been posted on the blog.

Employee Advisory Council

UDOT leader named top young transportation innovator

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Utah Department of Transportation is known for exciting innovations such as accelerated bridge construction and advanced intersection designs. But innovation doesn’t have to be flashy to be valuable.

GIS Manager Becky Hjelm speaks after winning the 2014 Vanguard Award at the AASHTO Annual Conference in Charlotte.

GIS Manager Becky Hjelm speaks after winning the 2014 Vanguard Award at the AASHTO Annual Conference in Charlotte.

Becky Hjelm, GIS Manager at the Utah Department of Transportation, has been integral to some of UDOT’s recent innovations through data-driven projects aimed to Keep Utah Moving.

For her efforts, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) is honoring Hjelm as its 2014 Transportation Vanguard Award winner.

The national award is given by AASHTO to recognize an individual aged 40 or younger who is leading the way in doing extraordinary things in the field of transportation by “exemplifying a commitment to excellence and implementation of innovative technologies and processes.” It was created in honor of Jim McMinimee, a UDOT leader who passed away in 2012.

Hjelm, who has been at UDOT for just under three years, has proven herself to be a visionary, with the ability to build effective teams and work strategically to accomplish more than thought possible. She does it by using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) along with her attention to detail, outreach and collaboration talents.

“Through her leadership, UDOT has embraced GIS,” said Randy Park, UDOT’s Director of Development. “The way we do business is changing rapidly, and the increased reliance on data is making us more efficient.”

Hjelm has been part of a big culture change at UDOT, through her contagious excitement about the technology. During her short time at the department, she’s identified and implemented many projects and opportunities, including geo-referencing CAD files, creating an Outdoor Advertising Control Map, implementing ProjectWise layers statewide, and establishing a new Emergency Management Tool.

Becky Hjelm (center) poses with her UDOT GIS team.

Becky Hjelm (center, in vest) poses with her UDOT GIS team.

Some of her most valuable work has been her work on an asset management data project. UDOT had already asked Mandli Communications to perform LIDAR scanning, which allows engineers and scientists to examine natural and built environments across a wide range of scales with greater accuracy, precision and flexibility. The state has scans of every state route, which includes pavement and other asset data.  Using that large amount of data would prove to be difficult without using GIS. So Hjelm organized a cross-departmental team to accomplish the task of building the tool in a timely manner, saving countless hours and hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars.

Park said UDOT expects the culture change and innovation to continue to benefit the State of Utah for years to come.

“There isn’t just one innovative idea that Becky has implemented. She’s put in place an entire program that continues to grow,” he said.


A Typical Day – Ridealong with UDOT’s Incident Management Team (IMT)

For the last 20 years, UDOT’s Incident Management Team (IMT) has been assisting Utah motorists. UDOT held a 20-year celebration on September 22 to commemorate their service. As part of the ceremony the, IMT offered ride-alongs to media outlets to help them understand what goes on behind the scenes.

I had the chance to ride along for afternoon with Ben to see how he helps Utah drivers on a day to day basis.

After Ben explained the safety features on the truck and how he is dispatched, we headed west on S.R. 201 to patrol his territory. During the off peak hours, the IMT trucks have a roving patrol, looking for people to assist, pick up debris and mark abandoned cars.

“We are always busy, looking for people that need help, a big part is removing debris that could damage cars or cause accidents,” Ben said.

No more than 5 minutes into to our patrol, we spot a large piece of tire retread in the road. Ben stops off the side of the road, turns on his lights and runs out to get the tire. Then, a call comes in on his radio asking for assistance in helping divert traffic due to a tractor trailer crash on the 3300 S off-ramp from I-15. When we arrived on the scene, another IMT vehicle was already helping to route traffic, so we set up the message board on the top of the IMT vehicle to inform drivers.

Photo of IMT Truck with message board displayed "Left Lane Closed"

“We are just lucky no one got injured or killed by this, it could have been a lot worse,” Ben said.

Photo of grader and dump trailer blocking traffic

After about 15 minutes on the scene, the crash is cleared… but there is a new problem to handle. The truck carrying the trailer had broken the hydraulic brake lines and was leaking fluid into traffic. “Hydraulic fluid is very slick for tires. This could cause a rear end collision or a motorcycle crash in a heartbeat,” said Ben. For clean-up, the IMT drivers use a compound that absorbs the fluid and can be swept up. Overall approximately 20 gallons of hydraulic fluid was spilled. Therefore, the Salt Lake Valley Environmental Health Department was called to the scene to ensure that it was properly cleaned up. The owners of the truck and trailer help in the clean-up and after about an hour and a half the road is ready to be opened again.

“There are things to do no matter where we go, this is good example of how things can go wrong pretty quick on the road,” Ben said.

Photo of crews spreading absorbing compount on hydraulic oil

As soon as we are available again, the Utah Highway Patrol asks for an assist on I-15 to help with a traffic stop. A woman who is pulled over is threatening to harm herself. We drive to scene and set up the cones and use the IMT message board to inform motorists that the HOV lane is closed ahead.

Photo of IMT truck and UHP car using closed HOV lane to assist a motorists

“Our main job is to keep people safe, and that includes making sure that highway patrol can do their job effectively,” said Ben.

After the scene was cleared we headed up I-80 towards Parley’s Canyon. Ben tells me that there is usually an overheated car or semi that they can push out of traffic or make sure they are okay. We don’t even make it past the first exit before we spot a driver on the shoulder. We turn around to find a woman attempting to change her tire but without success. Her tire won’t come off the car. After a few quick hits with with Ben’s rubber mallet, the tire comes off and the spare is installed.

“Sometimes it can take us five minutes to do what it could take people over thirty, we have the right tools to get people back on the road,” said Ben.

Photo of IMT Professional changing a tire

As the afternoon commute gets closer, the IMT vehicles stage themselves closer to major freeways to be in better position to help. Once again after only three miles there is a truck and camper on the side of the road. The CV joint has broken and they have been working on pulling it off for the last hour. They don’t have a big enough wrench to get the bolt off. Ben pulls out the impact drill and they are able to get the needed piece off in a matter of minutes.

Melinda from Magna was grateful for the help. “We would have had to go buy another wrench come back and then it would be rush hour,” she says. Melinda, like a lot of Utah drivers wasn’t aware that there was a team dedicated to help those stuck on the side of the road. “I had no idea, but I am sure glad that you guys came to help us, just having those flashing lights makes me feel safer,” she said.

Photo of IMT Professional assisting with roadside repairs

After the repair was made, we lead them back onto the freeway and sent them on their way.

My time with Ben had come to an end. The IMT was bracing for the afternoon commute where they would help with crashes and more stranded motorists. As we drove back to the UDOT building, Ben pointed out three abandoned cars that he would go back to check out.

“We can’t help everyone all the time because we get called to accidents, but as you can see there is a lot of help needed on the roads,” Ben says as we finish our time together.

After just a few short hours I saw that the Incident Management Team has a huge impact on traffic and keeping people safe. There is a lot of thought, time and effort to ensure that Utah roads are safe as they can be. So if you see an IMT truck on the side of the road, be sure to slow down and give them as much space as possible.

This guest post was written by Adam McMillan, Traffic Operations Center Intern.

A Day in the Life of UDOT Region Three

Region Three recently held a photo contest and the results included several fantastic images that show a variety of tasks that have taken place throughout Daggett, Duchesne, Juab, Uintah, Utah, and Wasatch counties.

Region Three Director, Teri Newell, provided the following thank you to all photo contest participants in the Region Three Fall 2014 Newsletter:

“Pictures of our everyday work help tell the story of what we do. Construction projects are visible to the public when it impacts traffic, but there is so much more that we do behind the scenes! From installing and maintaining culverts to clearing tumbleweeds from roadsides, it is our day-to-day work that makes Utah’s transportation system function. We have the privilege of working in some pretty amazing places with great people!”

Contest winners were:

  • Bandon Warenski for his photo of  burning weeds on S.R. 68.
  • Chad Allinson for his video clip of the tumbleweeds on S.R. 68.
  • Brian Allen for his photo series of Provo Canyon.

Honorable mentions include:

  • Leslie Beck for photos of tumbleweed clean-up along S.R. 73.
  • Mote Siufanua for photos of compaction testing on Hole Road.
  • Chad Cowan for photos of culvert installation near Nephi.
  • Ervan Rhoades for photos of chip sealing on S.R. 87 in Duchesne County.

A slide show of the images is available below or can be seen directly on Flickr.

Created with flickr slideshow.

Fostering Knowledge Management

About three years ago, Lori Dabling, then-State Project Manager at UDOT and now retired, submitted a unique and timely proposal for the AASHTO Domestic Scan Program. The proposal indicated a need, based on an expected increase in the number of retirees and a decrease in workforce size over the next decade, to speed up how state DOTs transfer knowledge to a technology-savvy workforce. The result was Scan 12-04, “Advances in Transportation Agency Knowledge Management,” funded under NCHRP Project 20-68A. Lori Dabling participated with other Knowledge Management (KM) experts on the scan team.

The scan report is now available online. As stated in the report, the purpose of the scan was to “identify and document successful KM practices…and identify additional needs to advance KM in transportation agencies.” The report has several great examples of KM practices and implementation strategies. It also notes that KM programs can involve both tacit knowledge that is difficult to document and explicit knowledge that has been codified.

With the recent completion of the scan, UDOT and other state DOTs are continuing to benefit from the results of the scan. This past August three members of the KM scan team visited UDOT and presented key results and strategies to interested UDOT leaders and staff.

Photo of conference room with attendees and presentation projected on the wall

Scan team presentation to UDOT leaders

The visiting scan team members included John Halikowski (Arizona DOT Director), Anne Ellis (Arizona DOT Assistant Deputy Director), and Frances Harrison (Spy Pond Partners). Approximately 40 UDOT leaders and staff attended between the two presentations given by the scan team. The presentation to leaders included discussion of the KM value proposition. Mr. Halikowski emphasized that KM processes can enable a state DOT to “act as intelligently as possible as an organization” and recommended prioritizing KM efforts to align with a state DOT’s top organizational needs. Ms. Harrison provided highlights to leaders and staff about public and private-sector organizations which are having great success with KM practices, including Kraft Foods and some state DOTs such as Virginia DOT.

Table with top ten organization needs paired with knowedge managment facet.

Pairing of the Top Ten Organizational Needs with the Ten Facets of Knowledge Management (from Mr. Halikowski’s presentation).

We look forward to hearing and sharing more success stories about KM techniques being implemented within UDOT. The scan report and strategies described in it will certainly become valuable resources for us all in this process.

This guest post was written by David Stevens, P.E., UDOT Research Program Manager, as was originally published in the Research Newsletter.

S.R. 28 Flood Clean-up Silver Barrels

Photo of mud and rock over the road and a coal hauling truck trapped in the debris.On July 29, 2014, a rainstorm hit S.R. 28 between Nephi and Gunnison. Several locations between milepost 16 and 29 were flooded, leaving up to six feet of debris on the road in places and trapping a coal hauling truck. This section of S.R. 28 is maintained by the Nephi shed in Region Three and they were dispatched to clear the road, but their available resources were limited.

The Gunnison and Salina sheds were called on to assist with the efforts. They supplied equipment and labor to assist in opening the road. These five individuals received a silver barrel for their efforts assisting Region Three.

Gunnison Station #4462

  • Kevin Conover
  • Marcus Lambert
  • Brian Sorensen
  • Zeb Wignal

Salina Station #4463

  • Brian Quarnberg

Photo of several loaders working to remove debris from S.R. 28This guest post was taken from the Silver Barrel Award nomination submitted by Daryl Friant, Region Four East District Engineer.


Employee Advisory Council August 2014 Meeting

The Employee Advisory Council met August 6, 2014. Items that were included in the discussion included:

  • Performance Awards
  • Recognizing Retiring Employees
  • Employee Communication
  • Losing FTEs – Doing More with Less

Notes from the meeting are available below.

EAC August 2014 Summary

Information from previous meetings has also been posted on the blog.

Employee Advisory Council