Category Archives: Employee Focus

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

Charles Hall Wedge Silver Barrel Awards

Photo of two loaders and a barge moving the "wedge" to a new position. The "wedge" is the ramp vechicles use to load on the ferry.

Photo provided by Christopher Thompson with the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

On July 15, 2014 ARAMARK, UDOT, and National Park Service employees met to assemble the “wedge” for the Charles Hall Ferry on the Bullfrog side of state Route 276 which crosses Lake Powell.

After a safety briefing, clarification of the operational mission for the day, and finalizing all the last minute details, the group proceeded with their assigned tasks. The work was well coordinated and very efficient amongst all those involved.

Special thanks goes to the UDOT crew for showing up with all the proper tools, equipment and personnel, ready to get the job accomplished safely. Without their support, none of this could have been accomplished. They also utilized two loaders to relocate the necessary gravel and to groom the access road.

UDOT employees included:

Hanksville Station #4467

  • Stan Roberts
  • Fred Weihing
  • Brandon Whipple

Loa Station #4466

  • Wesley Erickson
  • Shawn Davis

ARAMARK employees did an excellent job manning the barge and positioning the “wedge” as the wind increased in strength. After the main construction of the road the NPS came in with a grader, and multiple loads of water to achieve a usable surface and compaction.

This guest post was taken from the Silver Barrel nomination written by Christopher Thompson, Maintenance Mechanic Supervisor for Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT

Two engineers are promoting a cyclical process that will help any function at UDOT chart a path to continuous improvement.

Headshot of Rovert Stewart

Robert Stewart

Statewide Quality Manager Robert Stewart and Quality Management Engineer Curt McCuistion are looking for opportunities to share information about the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle. “We are an organization that does very well in quality,” Says Robert Stewart, UDOT Statewide Quality Manager. The road construction that’s carried out under UDOT’s oversight is very carefully executed with quality control and quality assurance processes in place to make sure work is carried out properly, and that the final product meets established standards. The Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle, which incorporates the data from these QCQA processes, is a management approach that will be shared with all of UDOT, not just construction.

The Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle follows these steps:

Plan – the first step is to plan how to meet the needs of our customers, both internal and external, by meeting or exceeding expectations. The plan should establish ways to measure success and establish a baseline for future comparison.

Headshot of Curt McCuiston

Curt McCuiston

Do – The next step is to carry out project activities while collecting data on customer expectations, and to observe problems that arise along with possible causes.

Check – This phase involves checking the data to observe how the plan is working by using the original baseline as a comparison.

Act – If the Check phase shows success, the work continues along the same path. If the work falls short of meeting the baseline established in the Plan phase, changes need to be made before continuing on with the project.

These methods have a proven success record throughout the public and private sectors. “The cycle that we follow is the same for all continuous improvement,” says Stewart.

No arms twisted

Stewart and McCuistion are using a soft-sell approach. UDOT is already doing good things at every level, explains Stewart. “Our goal is to simply get better, and get people in the mindset that they can control this, they can change this, and they can improve this.”

Stewart and McCuistion are starting with UDOT Project Development first. “Curt and I are starting in the UDOT Project Development realm because design and construction are our biggest hits. That’s the where the majority of the budget is spent – that’s why we’re focusing on those areas. Eventually we should be doing this in all of our functions within the DOT.”

Using the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle across the department should help UDOT be more nimble and capable of meeting the changing needs of all customers.

Employee of the Year, Leader of the Year and Career Achievement Awards

Photo of region directors and award recipient at the luncheon

Region 3 Director Teri Newell, Region 2 Director Nathan Lee, and Region 2 Career Achieve Award Recipient Dan Betts

Over the past two weeks, Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) leadership recognized the 2014 statewide nominees for Employee of the Year, Leader of the Year and Career Achievement awards. UDOT leadership ate lunch with the statewide nominees from each region and group and expressed their appreciation for each of the individuals being honored.

Each leader spent several minutes sharing stories exemplifying the individual winners and their contributions to our organization. After hearing remarks from leaders, nominees, and the nominees’ guests, Executive Director Carlos Braceras stated, “We spend more waking time with our coworkers than we do with our families, in many cases, so I

Photo of Corey Preece and his wife at the luncheon

Region 1 Career Achievement Award Recipient Corey Preece and his wife.

enjoy hearing from spouses, friends and children about the people we consider our own. We really are a family here at UDOT.”

Each year, regions and groups select award winners who help accomplish UDOT’s efforts to keep customers moving and make UDOT the preeminent transportation organization in the country. Winners are chosen who demonstrate achievements and qualities that enable us to achieve our Final Four strategic goals, support the Emphasis Areas and embody UDOT’s Core Values. These winners move on as nominees at the statewide level, and senior leaders will then choose winners from that group for the entire state. Statewide winners will be announced on Wednesday, Oct. 29 at the UDOT Annual Conference banquet.

Congratulations and thank you to all of our statewide nominees!

Photo of Richard Manser and his wife at the luncheon

Project Development Career Achievement Award Recipient Richard Manser and his wife

Career Achievement
Corey Preece (Region 1)
Dan Betts (Region 2)
Mike Sabey (Region 3)
Kerry Savage (Region 4)
Richard Manser (Project Development)
John Leonard (Operations)
Gary Nelson (Administrative)

Leader of the Year
Kelly Barrett (Region 1)
Dave Schwartz (Region 2)
Bill Townsend (Region 3)
Brandon McKinlay (Region 4)
George Lukes (Project Development)
Chad Sheppick (Operations)
Stan Burns (Program Development)
Kelly Garner (Administrative)

Employee of the Year
Janice Tremaine (Region 1)
Julie Sheppick (Region 2)
Tyson Larson (Region 3)
Sue Moorhead (Region 4)
Margaret Gish (Project Development)
Kelly Burns (Operations)
Kelli Bacon (Program Development)
Nicole Jaramillo (Administrative)

See UDOT in 3D

UDOT is moving to an all-3D environment which includes greater use of available design capabilities and an eventual move to a full 3D project workflow.

photo of the Virgin River Arch Bridge.

A photo-realistic image: UDOT built a new bridge over the Virgin River on S.R. 9 near Hurricane to accommodate increased traffic volume. This rendered image shows the new bridge superimposed over the existing bridge, which remains in use.

Embracing a 3D workflow environment will produce some important advantages, including the use of models that can be viewed from all angles in order to assess constructability, utility clash detection models that show a full representation of underground utilities, and animations that can show the built project along with expected traffic flow.

3D models, animations and illustrations can help bridge the communication gaps that sometimes occur among specialties at UDOT, or between the agency and stakeholder groups, since complex engineering data is more easily understood when presented in 3D.

For UDOT designers, the move to 3D represents “a fine tuning of the way we design,” says Bob Peterson, UDOT Methods Engineer. “We’ll be taking our 3D design to a full completion instead of just doing a paper copy as the final output.”

A full 3D workflow

Moving to a full 3D workflow means that projects will be modeled and provided to contractors as a 3D engineered model at advertising, and contractors will return an as-built 3D model that accurately represents project outcome.

Designers at UDOT have been working in 3D for about 20 years. Currently, when projects are advertised, 2D plan sets are made available to all bidding contractors. During the advertising time frame, contractors take those 2D sets and may create their own 3D model. Once the project is awarded, the winning contractor will typically finish a 3D model or hand-enter information for Automated Machine Guidance.

Getting as-built 3D models will represent a big efficiency boost to UDOT. “Once we get to the point where we know exactly what the existing condition is, then the designers don’t have to start from scratch anymore,” explains George Lukes, Standards Design Engineer.

Challenges and strengths

Lukes is overseeing the effort to move to a full 3D workflow. He sees challenges ahead, but recognizes that UDOT has some advantages as an agency, including working with a willing and capable consulting and contracting community.

“The big deal is advertising the project with the model as the legal document,” says Lukes. “Right now the legal documents are our plan sheets, the paper copies – legally that’s what the contractor has to follow. It’s a huge challenge to give the model to the contractor and say ‘this now is the legal document,’ but I think our contractors and consultants are very willing to sit down and figure a way to make that work.”

UDOT Region Four will take on the initial challenge of delivering a 3D model as an advertising package for three projects. All three projects will use CMGC, an innovative contracting method that allows close collaboration between UDOT and a contractor in the preconstruction phase.

Collaboration with the contractor during design will help UDOT minimize risks encountered when building the project “because they know the construction risks better than we do,” says Lukes. “It’s going to give us information that we need, the contractor will be on board with us while we do it, and hopefully we’ll get a lot of good lessons learned from that too.”

Fully embracing 3D capabilities will produce comprehensive planning, construction and design solutions that will benefit UDOT and all contract partners and road users. UDOT will learn how to better minimize risk. Bidding contractors will realize a big efficiency by not having to create baseline models from scratch. The winning contractor will also have UDOT’s model to modify for construction and 3D as-builts will make subsequent design processes more efficient. The outcome will be better roads and a more efficient use of transportation funding.

For more:

See FAQs with a timeline for implementing 3D, presentations, and more at udot.utah.gov/go/3-d

Bentley software training for UDOT employees is offered regularly. For more information, contact Bob Peterson at 801-965-4041 or bobpeterson@utah.gov

Also check out this flyer.