Category Archives: Optimize Mobility

Telling a Story

UDOT is using state-of-the-art mapping tools help communicate important information to road users.

Amanda Holm views the Top Ten Story Map.

Amanda Holm views the Top Ten Story Map.

Every spring, UDOT gives road users heads-up on road work by announcing the top road construction projects that may cause travel delay throughout the summer. Communicating the location and duration of those projects was made easier this year because of Geographic Information Tool that uses maps to communicate project details.

UDOT’s Geographic Information System team used the UPlan Map Center  to build a road construction story map that integrates several maps on an interactive web page. The result is a one-stop information site for ten of UDOT’s most high-impact road construction projects.

New GIS technology lets UDOT put map creation tools in the hands of many users where only analysts had access previously.  The UPlan Map Center site allows users to build a custom map, or several maps, quickly and easily. Those maps can then be combined to create a story map that can be viewed in a browser, shared on a blog or embedded in a website.

Better partnering

Maps are a good way to visually define project scope, see trends in space and time, and communicate with work groups or stakeholders. Grouping several maps together can help communicate a more complete story – such as where and when to anticipate road construction.

But road construction project details are not the only information that can be represented on maps. Basically, any feature that can be seen through a windshield while driving on a state route can be represented on a map. Signs, pavement, signals, culverts, all components of the state transportation system, can be mapped.

Other spatial data sets available on the UPlan site include crash data, which lists the number of crashes for each road segment, and crash severity and type, and Average Annual Daily Traffic, which lists level of traffic on state routes.

Cycling MapUDOT’s website currently features a Road Respect Story Map that shows a cycling map series. Together, the maps provide a great resource for cyclist to find popular cycling routes, information on cycling infrastructure, and even rules cyclists and motorists need to know to safely share the road.

GIS team members hope that the use of custom-built maps and Story Maps becomes wide spread at UDOT. GIS Manager Frank Pisani believes that using customized maps can lead to better partnering since maps allow people from different disciplines to reference information for a common interest, “GIS is the science of putting features on a map and solving problems,” says Pisani.

For more information about using customized maps and Story Maps, contact UDOT’s GIS team:

Frank Pisani, GIS Manager
Engineering Technology Services
Cell: (801) 633-6258
E-mail: fpisani@utah.gov

Becky Hjelm, GIS Specialist
Cell: (801) 386-4162
Office: (801) 965-4074
E-mail: bhjelm@utah.gov

This post was written by Catherine Higgins of the Project Development division.

2013 Top 10 Construction Projects

UDOT Logo udot.utah.govWith summer fast approaching, we would like to share our top 10 road construction projects for 2013.

While there will not be as many large road projects in 2013, there will still be more than 150 construction projects statewide that will require drivers to plan ahead. This season, we will continue to perform maintenance on our roads and bridges to ensure they remain in good condition and last as long as possible.

We will also use innovative technology to improve traffic flow with the installation of the fifth and sixth diverging diamond interchanges (DDI) as well as the 11th continuous flow intersection (CFI) in the state.

The following is a list of the top 10 projects statewide in 2013:

 

  1. I-80 Drainage Pipe Replacement, Salt Lake County. Crews will install new drainage pipe in Parleys Canyon to replace the existing system. Drivers should expect lane closures throughout the summer. Project completion is estimated for December 2013.
  2. I-15, South Payson Interchange to Spanish Fork River. This summer, crews will work to widen seven miles of pavement and bridges on I-15 from the South Payson Interchange to the Spanish Fork River. Most of the work will take place in the freeway median, and construction is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
  3. Southern Parkway, St. George. The Southern Parkway is a 33-mile project that will eventually become an eastern belt route for Washington County. Currently, eight miles are complete from I-15 to the new St. George Airport. Construction continues this spring and summer to extend the new highway another eight miles.
  4. S.R. 193, Davis County. Crews are extending state Road 193, the Bernard Fisher Highway, from 2000 West (S.R. 108) on 200 South in West Point to 700 South and State Street (S.R. 126) in Clearfield. Work scheduled this spring and summer includes earthwork, utility relocations, drainage and sound wall construction. Temporary road closures or blockages may happen from time to time on local streets and trails.
  5. I-15, St. George Boulevard DDI Interchange Reconfiguration. Reconstruction work will take place on the existing diamond interchange to install southern Utah’s first diverging diamond interchange. Work is expected to begin this summer and finish by the end of the year.
  6. U.S. 89/91 Repaving, Sardine Summit to S.R. 23, Cache County. The second phase of work continues from last season’s repaving of U.S. Highway 89/91. Maintenance work will take place from Sardine Summit to Wellsville to maintain a smooth road surface and prolong the life of the roadway. Daytime lane closures will be taking place throughout the summer.
  7. I-15, 1100 South (U.S. 91) DDI Interchange, Brigham City. Work to build the first diverging diamond interchange in northern Utah will begin this summer on the I-15 and 1100 South interchange in Brigham City. Traffic may be redirected around the project throughout its duration, but crews will work to minimize delays. This project is expected to be complete next summer.
  8. U.S. 89 Improvements, Orem to Pleasant Grove. Crews will make several improvements to State Street between Orem and Pleasant Grove this summer. The road will be widened to seven lanes, repaved with new asphalt, and upgraded with curb, gutter and new sidewalks in various locations. The project will improve traffic flow and reduce congestion in the area. Drivers should expect minor traffic delays due to lane restrictions.
  9. Bangerter Highway, 13400 South CFI Installation, Salt Lake County. Construction of a new continuous flow intersection (CFI) on Bangerter Highway at 13400 South will improve the flow of traffic in this fast-growing section of the Salt Lake Valley. Lane restrictions will occur throughout the project but will take place during non-commute and nighttime hours. Construction will be completed this year.
  10. I-215 Maintenance, S.R. 201 to North Temple, Salt Lake City. A heavily traveled section of I-215 will undergo concrete repair this summer for approximately two months with occasional lane and ramp closures. Work will take place during overnight and non-commute hours to minimize delays.

We are committed to continually looking for new opportunities to proactively communicate with the public about our projects. The following are available tools to plan ahead and stay informed about our projects:

  • “UDOT Traffic” App — The UDOT Traffic app delivers critical traffic information directly to drivers by incorporating the best and most up-to-date information from the UDOT Traffic Operations Center, including real-time traffic conditions, construction alerts, crash information and road weather conditions. The app now features TravelWise alerts, which provide us with a direct way to communicate with drivers at critical times. The alerts proactively communicate major traffic incidents, event traffic warnings, weather-related road conditions, construction and air quality information so drivers can plan ahead, reduce delays and arrive safely at their destinations. UDOT Traffic is free and available for download in the Apple App Store and Android Market for tablets and phones.
  • Interactive UDOT Traffic Website — The website features an interactive map identifying the locations of UDOT projects statewide. Additional information is provided for each project, including the construction schedule, expected travel delays and the project benefits. The website can be accessed from www.udot.utah.gov.
  • UDOT’s Twitter Account — Follow UDOT’s Twitter feed at twitter.com/UtahDOT to receive regular updates on road construction and traffic conditions.
  • 2013 Road Construction Guide – The guide is available for download and includes a list of the 10 most significant projects.

UDOT Unveils Emergency Alert System In Advance of Salt Lake Marathon

Starting today a new emergency alert system is in place to notify drivers of major traffic delays and road closures.

UDOT will issue the first TravelWise alert this morning in advance of the Salt Lake City Marathon. TravelWise alerts push critical traffic information directly to the public via the UDOT Traffic app, freeway message boards and social media.

With these new alerts, UDOT can directly communicate with drivers at critical times, including major traffic incidents, event traffic warnings, weather-related road conditions, construction and air quality information. Now drivers will be better able to plan ahead, reduce delays and arrive safely at their destinations.

Generated by the UDOT Traffic Operations Center, TravelWise alerts will only be issued for incidents deemed “critical,” such as crashes causing multiple lane closures, severe delays due to heavy event traffic or construction, low air quality days and significant storms.

The alerts will give drivers information to avoid delays, such as alternate routes in the event of a traffic incident or suggested times to leave home or work to avoid a major storm in the middle of the commute.

“UDOT is committed to continually using innovative ways to keep traffic moving,” Acting UDOT Executive Director Carlos Braceras said. “This new tool will help the department quickly provide critical traffic information directly to drivers and will help UDOT work in providing information as effectively as possible.”

For Saturday’s marathon, UDOT is warning drivers to plan for delays from local road closures and heavy congestion from 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. Areas to avoid include 500 East, Van Winkle Expressway, Holladay Boulevard and Sugar House Park. For complete information, including road closure times and to review the route map, visit http://bit.ly/13l3Unw.

The best way to receive these new alerts is by downloading or updating the UDOT Traffic app for your smartphone or tablet. Alerts will also be distributed on freeway message boards, Twitter (@UtahDOT), and the UDOT Traffic website, udottraffic.utah.gov.

Speed Limit Amendments

Northbound I-15 near Paragonah 80 mph speet limit sign

Existing 80 mph zone on northbound I-15 near Paragonah. Photo taken by Ming Jiang of the Traffic and Safety Division.

A number of bills passed by the legislature this past session affect Utah roads and highways. One of these bills was HB 83: Speed Limit Amendments. This bill expands portions of I-15, I-80, and I-84 where the Utah Department of Transportation may establish a posted speed limit that exceeds 75 miles per hour. These sections of freeway include, portions of I-15 from Santaquin to St. George and from Brigham City to the Utah-Idaho border. Portions of I-80 potentially affected will be from Grantsville to the Utah-Nevada border and I-84 from Tremonton to the Utah-Idaho border.

If the Department of Transportation chooses to increase the speed limit in these sections the department will evaluate the results and impacts of increasing the speed limit and will report the findings of the evaluation to the Transportation Interim Committee no later than one year after the speed limit is posted.

This bill continues a process which began a number of years ago to evaluate some of Utah’s interstates to determine if there are areas that could appropriately accommodate speed limits above what is currently posted.

Opponents of this bill feared that with an 80 mile per hour speed limit there would be an increase in accidents and that drivers would increase their speed beyond 90 miles an hour. Through the studies conducted over the past few years the department has found that this is not the case.

Beginning in 2008, studies were conducted on portions of I-15, where the speed limit was increased from 75 to 80 mph. The studies concluded that most drivers preferred to drive between 82 and 83 mph regardless of the posted speed limit. Accident rates on these stretches of freeway were also studied and concluded that the increased speed did not affect the number of accidents or fatalities.

UDOT’s Trip Reduction Implementation Plan (TRIP)

This is a guest post written by the TravelWise team.

Utah’s air quality has been a topic of much conversation during this past winter inversion season. While the winter inversions are over, Utah continues to face air quality challenges. In an effort to meet those challenges, on Feb. 12, Governor Gary Herbert sent a memo to state agencies directing them to establish a “meaningful and measurable” Trip Reduction Implementation Plan (TRIP) through UDOT’s TravelWise program.

UDOT set the example by establishing its own TRIP, identifying ways its employees will reduce their weekly trips. UDOT set its trip reduction goal at 15 percent, which will be accomplished through a combination of telecommuting, teleworking, vanpooling/carpooling, taking public transit, using flexible work schedules and walking or bicycling to work. Each of the four Regions, as well as the Traffic Operations Center and the Complex has identified areas of improvement and has committed to helping UDOT meet the TravelWise TRIP goal.

UDOT’s TravelWise team is now working with other State agencies, using UDOT’s TRIP as a model. To learn more about UDOT’s TravelWise program or to view UDOT’s TRIP, visit travelwise.utah.gov.

2013 Strategic Direction — Part 2

This is the second part of a 4 part series about the 2013 Strategic Direction. Please also check out Part 1: Preserve Infrastructure, Part 3: Zero Fatalities and Part 4: Strengthen the Economy.

Optimize Mobility

The goal of optimizing mobility continues to include the need to build new highways, expand existing highways, build more bicycle and pedestrian paths and expand the transit network. UDOT accomplishes this by adding capacity, managing lanes, developing innovative cross roads, coordinating signals, and providing traffic information.

Since 2006, more than 575 lane miles have been added to the state system from various programs that fund more than 100 projects. Currently, capacity projects are primarily funded through the Transportation Investment Fund (TIF). Some of these projects include the I-15 CORE, Mountain View Corridor, US-40 passing lane improvements, SR-18 intersection upgrades at St. George Blvd. and US-6 passing lane improvements. These capacity projects dramatically improve delay on Utah roadways.

Wasatch_Front_Delay

Without capacity improvements, delay along the Wasatch Front would have experienced a three-to-five fold increase.

UDOT currently has 124 miles of Express Lanes (62 miles both northbound and southbound) with 54 continuous miles between Spanish Fork and North Salt Lake City making Utah’s Express Lanes the longest continuous Express Lanes in the country. More than 13,000 Express Pass transponders have been purchased, speeds average 9 mph faster than the general lanes and travelers experience a higher level of safety.

Developing and constructing innovative cross roads is a fundamental in optimizing mobility on Utah roadways. Flex Lanes, Commuter Lanes, ThrU-Turn Intersections (TTI), Diverging Diamond Interchanges (DDI) and Continuous Flow Intersections (CFIs) decrease delay at intersections, reduce travel time, improve safety, and reduce the length and cost of construction.

The Traffic Operations Center (TOC) continues to be the key to providing a cost-effective and and efficient solution to help relieve congestion on Utah’s roads and highways. Using advanced technologies such as cameras and traffic/weather sensors, operators in the TOC can monitor traffic, detect problems and take actions necessary to return traffic flow to normal.

UDOT uses a variety of methods to provide actual travel times and accurate traffic and weather information to help drivers make choices that reduce delay, prevent crashes and improve air quality. By implementing an extensive Intelligent Transportation System (ITS), UDOT is able to know what is happening on Utah roads, and provide travelers the information they need to plan their routes. UDOT communicates travel information online at udot.utah.gov and through variable messages signs (VMS), traffic cameras, twitter, facebook, and YouTube, and the UDOT Traffic App.

TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT DIVISION AND REGION 2 ASSIST WITH GOVERNOR’S INAUGURATION

An inauguration of an elected official is an exciting event, and UDOT was on hand during the January 7, 2013 inauguration of Governor Herbert to ensure that traffic moved smoothly. UDOT was contacted by Capitol staff ahead of the inauguration hoping to mitigate traffic problems that were observed during previous inauguration events. The UDOT Traffic Management Division (TMD) and UDOT Region 2 were tasked with using the knowledge and tools available to ensure that traffic delays were at a minimum during this important event.IMT Truck & Utah State Capitol

“The staff at the UDOT TMD and Region 2 went above and beyond to help get attendees of Governor Herbert’s inauguration where they needed to go safely and with little confusion or traffic delay,” said Eric Rasband, UDOT Engineer-in-charge for the event.

UDOT’s duties were to coordinate signal timing plans, attend pre- and post-event meetings, coordinate with Capitol employees and local police as well as handle traffic control and snow/ice removal. UDOT also utilized its social media outlets for parking alerts and related information.

The total attendance for the event was between 1000 and 1500. Overall, traffic moved very well and there were no major delays.

TWO MASSIVE ROAD PROJECTS OPEN

UDOT marked two significant milestones as it celebrated the completion of the largest road construction projects in Utah history on Saturday, December 15 with the opening of the Utah County I-15 Corridor Expansion (I-15 CORE) and 15 miles of the Mountain View Corridor (MVC) in Salt Lake County.

“We have delivered the World Series and the Super Bowl all in one day,” said UDOT Executive Director John Njord.

Local leaders, including Governor Gary Herbert, House Speaker Becky Lockhart and Senator John Valentine, joined UDOT in cutting the banner on the record-breaking I-15 CORE project Saturday afternoon. More than 100 people braved the chilly December weather to join the festivities. Refreshments including hot chocolate, hot dogs and special I-15 CORE sugar cookies were available to say thank you to the public for their patience throughout construction.

I-15 CORE Ribbon Cutting

I-15 CORE Ribbon Cuttin

“Hear the noise. That’s the sound of progress,” Herbert said, as cars and trucks passed underneath the Sam White Bridge on I-15. “That’s the sound of commerce, that’s the sound of a state that’s really going in the right direction.”

Construction on I-15 CORE was finished in an unprecedented 35 months, making it the fastest billion-dollar public highway project ever built in the United States. The project came in $260 million under budget.

Saturday’s celebration was held on the Sam White Bridge in American Fork, the site of one of the project’s greatest achievements. In March 2011, UDOT moved the bridge — the longest two-span bridge to be moved by self-propelled modular transporters
(SPMTs) in the Western Hemisphere — into place over I-15 in one night.

“The technology to move the Sam White Bridge into place in hours instead of months is indicative of all the work that took place on this project” to complete it quickly and keep traffic moving, Njord said.

I-15 CORE reconstructed 24 miles of freeway from Lehi to Spanish Fork, with two additional freeway lanes in each direction.

Earlier that day, snow flurries didn’t deter over 200 runners who bundled up in their winter gear to attend the MVC opening celebration, which featured a 5K Polar Bear Fun Run to give members of the community an opportunity to enjoy the road before it opened to motorists.

“It looks like Christmas to me,” said Governor Herbert as he spoke to the chilly, but upbeat crowd.

MVC Opening 5K Polar Bear Fun Run

MVC Opening 5K Polar Bear Fun Run

Runners were entertained by music courtesy of the Copper Hills High School Marching Band, stayed warm with the help of hand warmers and MVC beanies and enjoyed holiday treats, hot cider and hot chocolate provided by the project’s contractors.

Representative Wayne Harper and West Jordan Mayor Melissa Johnson also addressed the audience and thanked UDOT for their continued innovation and partnership in developing this vital roadway.

The current phase of MVC is 15 miles long and features two lanes built in each direction from Redwood Road (at approximately 16000 South) to 5400 South, with signalized intersections where future interchanges will be located.

To meet projected transportation demands in the year 2030, future construction will build out the remainder of the corridor by adding interchanges and inside lanes to achieve a fully functional freeway that will connect with I-80 in Salt Lake County and I-15
in Lehi.

Construction funds have been identified to extend MVC from 5400 South to 4100 South in the next few years.

The roadway also features 15 miles of trails adjacent to the corridor, 9 miles of paved bike lanes and UDOT’s first radar activated bike turn signal.

“The vision for the Mountain View Corridor came from the communities in Western Salt Lake County,” said Project Director Teri Newell. “UDOT is proud to make this vision a reality and provide these communities with a new transportation solution.”

MVC provides increased mobility, but will require motorists to adjust their driving patterns and learn how to navigate a new one-way roadway, as this initial phase is similar to a divided highway with one-way northbound and southbound roadways. Signs
are posted along the corridor and at each intersection to help motorists adjust to the new traffic patterns. UDOT has also produced a navigational video to teach motorists how to drive on the new roadway.

Governor Herbert touted the success of both the I-15 CORE and MVC projects, highlighting their importance state. “This is about economic development. If you want a state to thrive economically, you’ve got to have a transportation system that works,” said Herbert.

You can find out more on the I-15 CORE Infographic and the project website, www.udot.utah.gov/i15core. Additional details about the MVC project are available on the MVC Infographic or by logging on to www.udot.utah.gov/mountainview.

This is a guest post by Mary Rice of the Mountain View Corridor Project Team.

SCORING STORMS

UDOT is developing a way to rate storm severity in order to make better use of resources.

A Utah-specific weather severity index will help UDOT improve the efficiency of snow fighting tactics. Here, a tow-plow clears I-15 in Salt Lake City.

Managing resources during winter months in a state that experiences extreme to mild weather conditions can be challenging. Researchers working with UDOT are investigating a method to define the severity of storms and seasons by using a winter severity index to assign numerical value that represents storm characteristics like intensity and duration. Rating storms will help the UDOT Maintenance Division evaluate the allocation of resources like staffing, de-icing chemicals and equipment.

CLICK TO ENLARGE: This map shows precipitation patterns

A number of Midwestern states and provinces in Canada have developed weather severity indexes. While examining how those indexes were developed is useful, those models consider region-specific terrain and weather patterns. For example, some states have indexes that take freezing rain into account; freezing rain is common in other parts of the country but rare in Utah.

Terrain plays a significant role in Utah’s climate, according to Jeff Williams, UDOT Weather Programs Manager. The mountain range that extends from Logan to St. George is a “spine” that divides Utah and acts as a climate barrier. Precipitation patterns differ widely from the east to the west side of the mountain range.

During winter, storms move in from the west. “When storms arrive from the west and meet the mountains, rising air leads to increased precipitation,” says Williams. Those storms cover the mountains with snow. Sinking air dries the area east of the mountains making winter the most arid time of year.

During summer, Monsoons that originate from the Gulf of Mexico bring warm moist air to Utah. Storms and sometimes floods occur east of the mountains while the mountains usually stay dry.

A Utah-specific weather severity index will help normalize the difference between locations and weather events. By comparing resource use from location to location, operations and maintenance managers will be able to improve the efficiency of snow fighting efforts.

TERRIFIC TWEETS

Innovation touched every aspect of the I-15 CORE project from construction to communication. While massive structures were built nearby then moved into place, communication experts were devising new ways to inform the public about how to avoid construction related delay.

This post is the second of two posts that detail how combining social media and traffic management tools helped keep traffic moving. The posts are based on a presentation given by Geoff Dupaix, Public Involvement Manager on the project. Missed the first post? Read it here.

“Our project communications team did an outstanding job in finding creative, innovative approaches to keep the public up to speed on the latest construction news related to the project,” says Nile Easton, Communications Director for UDOT. Social media, traffic reports and paid advertisements were used to inform the public about travel through the I-15 CORE construction zone. Two examples illustrate the success of the communication efforts in reducing delay during critical points in time.

No post-game problems!

BYU football games typically draw more than 60 thousand attendees to the campus. That influx of traffic creates delay on I-15 and surrounding streets and requires close collaboration among BYU, police and traffic signal engineers from Orem and Provo.

This graph illustrates how letting the public know about anticipated delay due to construction can affect driving behavior. The PI team asked fans to stay in the Provo area after the game to avoid a heavy influx of traffic. The red line represents an even flow of traffic entering the freeway.

PI and MOT teams anticipated heavy attendance at the BYU vs. Wyoming game that coincided with a ramp closure that eliminated one option for drivers leaving the game. Under normal circumstances, traffic peaks two hours following a game. With the additional ramp closure, PI and MOT team members worried that even more delay could occur. A goal of reducing traffic by 10 percent was set in order to keep traffic moving onto I-15 following the game.

The PI team devised specific messages to the public aimed at preventing traffic entering the freeway all at once after the game. The messages, delivered by Tweets and KSL traffic reports, asked fans to stay in the Provo area after the game to eat, watch a movie or shop. Traffic volume was reduced as a result of the communication effort.

After the game, BYU officials became “true believers” in the ability of the PI-MOT team to provide information and options to the public, according to Geoff Dupaix, a PI Coordinator on the project. “That’s a credit to this team.”

Practice makes perfect

After 60 closures, the PI-MOT team was accomplished in helping the public avoid delay. However, the last full closure posed an additional challenge. A full overnight closure of I-15 was needed to set a bridge girder. The only identified alternate route was a 7 mile detour. The PI-MOT team needed road users to avoid that area of I-15 or face delays.

Messages about the closure and alternate route were conveyed to the public, and PI-MOT team members monitored traffic flow and volumes. Within minutes before the closure, “volume disappeared,” says Eric Rasband, I-15 CORE MOT Manager. The public “became a true partner in our closure.”

Lessons learned

The level of cooperation and successful outcomes resulted in strategies that can be tailored for use on a project of any size:

  • Leadership should set PI and MOT goals, and PI and MOT requirements should be set in tandem.
  • Where possible, set up a mini TOC to monitor traffic moving through the project.
  • Establish a planning and approval process that involves all relevant parties, including project UDOT, the contractor and stakeholders.
  • Set realistic goals for reducing traffic volume and define expectations.  It may not be possible to eliminate all the inconvenience of road construction, but good PI strategies can make traveling through the construction zone much easier.
  • Ask four critical questions before each closure or traffic event: First, what are the current planned traffic conditions and challenges? Second, how do we want driving behaviors to change to meet those challenges? Third, what messages will most effectively affect that change? And fourth, what tactics can be used to communicate those messages, and who should be the target of those messages?

Stakeholder feedback indicates the PI-MOT communication strategies worked: