About 25 thousand times each year, oversize loads travel on Utah highways and arterials. Routing big loads properly protects the traveling public and UDOT’s roads and bridges.
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 devised new ways to inform the public about how to avoid construction related delay.
Today and tomorrow, two posts will 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.
Combining two important functions, maintenance of traffic and communication, helped keep traffic moving during I-15 CORE freeway re-construction.
MOT plans detail how traffic is managed during construction projects. Keeping traffic moving through and around road construction is critical; drivers need clear signs and safe, easy to understand traffic control devices that delineate full closures, alternate routes and lane reductions.
Public Information experts communicate with road users about MOT, and suggest ways to avoid construction related delay. Close collaboration between the PI and MOT teams on the I-15 CORE project was an effective way to inform road users about construction and also keep traffic moving though the corridor.
Communicators on the I-15 CORE project have set new standards for keeping the public informed by using social media, especially Twitter, extensively.
I-15 is Utah County’s only continuous north-south corridor and serves over 120 thousand trips per day. Keeping lanes open and minimizing delay through the corridor was no small task. The project faced challenges including major planned events overlapped with full ramp closures.
Big public events, like concerts or football games, increase traffic volume that can cause delay, making PI efforts critical to maintaining traffic mobility. On a major construction project, good communication with the public can help prevent gridlock.
MOT and PI teams collaborated very closely throughout the project. The teams met often and well in advance of planed closures or big events to discuss and problem-solve. The two teams even moved into adjoining offices to make collaboration more convenient.
Using the proper tools
The I-15 CORE team accessed Traffic Operations Center tools to set up a mini TOC. Camera views specific to the project and traffic volume data gave PI and MOT teams the ability to observe traffic in real time. When crashes or other incidents occurred, help could be dispatched immediately. The PI and MOT team could also observe and direct traffic to less-busy corridors.
The PI and MOT teams used traffic volume data to set goals for reducing traffic volume during upcoming events or MOT changes. The PI team planned messages that informed the traveling public about anticipated delay and gave options to help road users make good travel decisions. For example, messages would suggest leaving early, taking an alternate route or using an alternate exit. Social media, especially Twitter, was used extensively.
Tweeting traffic information turned out to especially useful for road users. “We got it down to a science,” Dave Smith, Public Information Manager for the project. The PI team was able to affect behavior in a very short time and actually observe traffic divert to under-served corridors based on tweets.
“It was not the number of our followers,” that made the effort successful, according to Smith; traffic reporters who followed the I-15 CORE Tweets passed along that information to their followers as well.
How did the close collaborative effort work? Check back to see tomorrows post detailing two examples and feedback from stakeholders.
UDOT Motor Carriers Division has the responsibility of making sure oversize loads are routed properly.
Thousands of times times each year, oversize loads travel on Utah highways and arterials. Routing big loads properly protects the traveling public and UDOT’s roads and bridges.
Some of the loads are so big that passing over or under bridges puts those structures at risk. UDOT’s Motor Carriers Division defines the routes for super-sized loads in order to protect those important assets. “Our mission is to protect and preserve the highway infrastructure, while enhancing safety for the motoring public” says Adam Anderson Supervisor for the Superload Coordination Team. Structures and highways cost millions of dollars to build, “we want to have them last a long, long time.”
The Motor Carrier Division utilizes an online permitting system that helps simple the application process for carriers and many permits are issued within minutes. These permits are issued by the Motor Carrier themselves or issued by Ports of Entry Agents throughout the states.
Permits are issued by category according to the size of the load. Extremely large loads, which exceed 14’ high or 14’6” wide or 105’ in length or 125,000 lbs, need to be adjudicated Motor Carrier Specialist, Loads exceeding 15’6” high, 17’ wide or 300,000 lbs needs to be processed by the MCD Super Load Team – Anderson heads the group that includes three other MCD Agents from across the state.
Carriers may also be required to hire pilot cars or police escorts. Oversize loads are also subject to hours of operation limitations to avoid peak traffic.
Routing super loads can be challenging. When construction closes a route to oversize loads, sometimes the defined route can be circuitous or hundreds of miles longer than usual. And, some routes have permanent restrictions due to narrow lanes or other features. New structures that can’t accommodate very tall loads can cut off access through a formerly used route. UDOT routes super loads on state roads first and county and city roads only if necessary.
UDOT Regions, responsible for carrying out road construction and permitting utility projects, also work with the Super Load Team to make sure loads are routed properly around projects. Contractors doing the work do their best to accommodate big loads by moving traffic control or opening lanes.
While simple permits take only minutes, a super big load permit may take up to 48 hours. Since the safety of the public and protection of structures is at stake, MCD Agents are very careful when routing the super loads, says Anderson. “We want to take our time to make sure things are done right the first time.”
Many carriers are familiar with the best routes and applicants can define the best way to get from point A to point B. For example, massive truck beds used in mining operations are detached from trucks and moved through the Salt Lake Valley many times each year to be repaired.
Often, carriers are very familiar with the cities and towns and are sensitive to the needs of the residents. Anderson tells about how a super load move was planned to avoid Raspberry Days in the Bear Lake area. The load was so massive, signals had to be removed and replaced as the big load moved along the route.
The move took place during early morning hours “before everybody lined up to get the raspberry pancakes,” says Anderson. “We had it taken care of pretty quick.”
Shield symbols direct road users to the right lanes near interchanges.
Pavement messages that use numbers or letters to give road users information about school zones or other directional help for decades. UDOT is using a fairly new technology to apply thermoplastic markings in the shape of shields to direct drivers to the correct lane at interchanges.
Shields are easily identifiable symbols that drivers know to represent interstates. The giant stickers are easy to see during the day and retroreflective for good visibility at night. Studies show that the shields are helpful and evaluations indicated the markings are also durable.
Pavement markings provide another visual clue to drivers besides signs. Drivers who have difficulty interpreting signs may make sudden lane changes and those movements are known to cause crashes. The thermoplastic shields are meant to give drivers a recognizable symbol as further advanced notice about which lane leads to the desired route.
Research conducted by the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A and M University shows that road users prefer the shield or other symbol markings over plain numbers. Participants of the study, representing a broad cross section of road users, viewed photos of roadways with symbols or numbers representing freeway types and routes.
Ninety three percent of the participants preferred the symbol type of pavement marking, including shields, as opposed to number only markings. When asked, participants stated that the symbols were colorful, more easily identified and helped identify highway type.
UDOT installed the first shield pavement markings in September of 2008 under the direction of Dan Betts, Region Two Pavement Marking Supervisor. The markings were evaluated fourteen months later. Only minor chipping was found on the edges of the markings on the initial evaluation. Since northern Utah experiences several snow storms a year, pavement markings are subject to being scraped by plow blades. The first shields are still holding up well after several snow seasons.
The shield pavement markings will continue to be used where needed.
Transportation Technicians at UDOT guard the public trust.
The Code of Federal Regulations and UDOT’s Standard Specifications require close oversight of all materials used in road construction and maintenance. “By law, we have to be testing and measuring what goes onto the road,” according to Mike Miles, UDOT Region Four Materials Manager. Trans-techs have the responsibility of being at the right place at the right time to observe construction processes and to take samples of materials, like asphalt or concrete, back to a lab for testing.
By filling an important responsibility, Trans-Techs are “guardians of the public trust” because they help assure materials used in construction meet contract requirements, explains Miles. The job has important consequences when it comes to quality and longevity of the transportation system.
Trans-Techs become qualified for the job through training, including classes that focus on maintenance, construction and materials. Training increases a Trans-Tech’s skills and abilities required for working at UDOT. On the job site, Trans-Techs need to be prepared to answer questions and make decisions – sometimes tough decisions. Miles compares the role Trans-Techs play to an umpire.
Like a good umpire, Trans-Techs need to know the rules, be at the right place at the right time and control situations by being calm, polite and objective. And, both Trans-Techs and umpires need to be willing to change a wrong decision when necessary.
Miles offers this advice to Trans-Techs: “don’t let the situation get the best of you.” A fast-pitch softball umpire, Miles knows about making quick, accurate decisions. His experience being an umpire was brought into sharp focus when the legendary Peter Meredith launched a few softballs his way.“I learned real quick what was a ball or a strike,” says Miles.
Meredith has an impressive list of achievements including pitching 23 consecutive International Softball Congress World Tournaments, 57 scoreless innings, 60 lifetime wins, many strike-out records and he was a 7-time player on the All World team. Meredith’s pitches are challenging to call, says Miles.
The best fast-pitch softball pitchers throw around 80 mph. Because the pitching mound is only 46 feet from the batter’s box, pitches are tough to hit and call. When up against Meredith, Miles instantly called a few pitches balls. Seeing things differently, the catcher suggested Miles was wrong. Miles took stock of the situation and realized he should change the way he was calling balls and strikes.
Whether it’s fast-pitch softball or road construction, good decisions take thought, expertise and a high level of professionalism. Knowing the rules and making the right calls as a Trans-Tech assures that taxpayers get the best value for each dollar of transportation funding.
UDOT Executive Director John Njord has received an award for his leadership of the I-15 CORE Project.
Njord was honored with the George S. Bartlett Award because of his “outstanding leadership” of the I-15 CORE, a twenty-four mile freeway widening project in Utah County.
The award is given to leaders who make significant contribution to highway construction progress. Njord’s leadership demonstrates his “exceptional contribution to highway development and innovation” according to a Transportation Research Board press release.
Some past recipients include former US Secretaries of Transportation Mary Peters and Norm Mineta; former US Congressman and Chairman of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure James Oberstar; former AASHTO Executive Director Francis B. Francois; Former FHWA Director Ray A. Barnhart and former FHWA Administrator Thomsas D. Larson.
Njord’s project oversight of the I-15 CORE has set the stage for innovations that have propelled I-15 CORE into the record books for transportation infrastructure construction
At $1.75 billion, I-15 CORE is UDOT’s biggest ever highway reconstruction and the fastest-built project of its size and budget in the United States. The nearly completed project will be finished ahead of schedule and $230 million under budget this December.
The contracting approach, called Fixed-Price, Best-Design, added a best value element to the traditional Design-Build contracting process and allowed UDOT to deliver the best project possible for available funding. UDOT’s request for proposal asked for reconstruction of fourteen miles of freeway; the winning contractor, Provo River Constructors, proposed building twenty eight miles.
Requirements to keep lanes open during construction pressed the contractor to use innovative means, like bridge moves and split-lane configurations, to keep traffic moving and save time for road users. The Sam White Bridge move was one of the most remarkable time-saving fetes of the project.
Because the Sam White Bridge was built off-site and moved into place in a single weekend, the move resulted in much shorter delays and much less construction impact for the traveling public than the traditional built on-site method. And at 354 feet, structure was the largest bridge ever moved into place the western hemisphere.
The George S. Bartlett award is presented yearly by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, and the Transportation Research Board. Established in 1931, by friends of Bartlett, founders intended the award to commemorate his “spirit of friendship and helpfulness.”
The Utah Collaborative Active Transportation Study will find ways to improve bicycle and pedestrian connections to transit and lay the groundwork for bicycle and pedestrian plans.
UDOT and the Utah Transit Authority, in cooperation with Wasatch Front Regional Council, Mountainland Association of Governments and Salt Lake County are co-managing UCATS. The goals of the study are to strengthen economic development through improved walking and biking facilities in our communities, to enhance quality of life through active transportation projects that improve the environment and public health, to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety by creating dedicated on and off street facilities, and to increase transit ridership through better active transportation connections to transit stations.
One outcome of the study will be a plan for an urban network of bicycle routes along the Wasatch Front in UDOT Regions One, Two and Three. UDOT Region Four already has a pedestrian and bicycle plan, and the work to develop plans in the other regions will be patterned after the Region Four process – which is not to imply that all plans will have all the same types of features.
“Every region will have a different take on what the bike plan needs,” said Andrea Moser, a planner on the UCATS team. The plan for each region is intended to close gaps between facilities between city, county and state roads and to plan for maintainable facilities that can be used well into the future. Moser listed some of the activities the UCATS team will perform in order to develop pedestrian and bicycle plans.
Consolidation of local plans – team members will take a look at data and bicycle plans that have been developed by local municipalities and take a close look at previous transportation studies.
Field verification of routes – Sometimes maps produced by municipalities or cycling groups have conflicting information on facilities. UCATS team members are in the process of conducting site visits to confirm bicycle facilities.
A safety review – UCATS team members will conduct a safety review of crashes involving cyclists.
UCATS will have a big impact on the future of bicycling and walking along the Wasatch Front, says Evelyn Tuddenham, Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator for UDOT. “We want to improve mobility for all kinds of users by giving them active transportation options and closing the gaps linking to transit.”
The UCATS team will focus on system integration, safety and connectivity to transit. At the end of the day, the study will produce a prioritized list of projects that will be built as funding becomes available.
The UCATS study team is using an interactive website to involve the public. The website Discussions that take place through the UCATS website will help the project team shape recommendations “that look at the nuts and bolts of the infrastructure recommendations coming out of the study,” according to Tuddenham. The study team is working to identify gaps and opportunities in order to create a “backbone” of connecting facilities throughout the Wasatch Front.
Each Friday, a photo that emphasizes one or more of the Final Four Strategic goals will be featured on the UDOT Blog.
The Final Four helps UDOT focus on improving the transportation system and include:
- Preserve Infrastructure — The most effective way to preserve the transportation system is to maintain a regular schedule of up-keep to prevent deterioration.
- Optimize Mobility — Making improvements that reduce delay on freeways, at intersections and along major corridors and judiciously expanding system capacity keeps traffic moving, The former goals, Increasing Capacity and Make the System Work will be combined into a new goal, Optimize Mobility, which will incorporate .
- ZERO Fatalities — Even one death on Utah roads is too many. UDOT strives to reach ZERO Fatalities, a goal we can all live with.
- Strengthen the Economy — An efficient, well maintained transportation system is fundamental to a strong economy.
Some of the photos will be part of a set of images that can be viewed on UDOT’s Flickr photostream in a set with captions that gives information about transportation activities. This Friday Photo shows an image from a media event aimed at telling the public what actions to take after a minor crash. View other photos from this event on Flickr.
UDOT employees, private sector partners or members of the the general public are encouraged to send in photos to be considered for Friday Photo. Send photos along with a caption to Catherine Higgins.
Moving away from traffic lanes after a fender-bender is safer than staying put.
Drivers who stay with their car are creating a risky environment for themselves, for state troopers who respond to the scene and for other motorists. A crash scene creates a distraction that prompts other drivers slow to take a look or change lanes abruptly. That unpredictable driver behavior cause a traffic flow environment where secondary crashes can occur more easily.
“When people get into a minor crash, they need to call 911 and go to the nearest exit,” says UDOT spokesperson Tania Mashburn. “But moving after a crash is not something drivers may be used to doing.”
UDOT, in partnership with the Utah Department of Public Safety, will met with media to help spread the word that moving is safer than waiting for troopers on the side of the freeway. And, UDOT will be on hand to help motorists as well.
Incident Management Trucks have been employed for years to help clear crashes quickly. Now, some of those trucks will have special equipment to move cars.
The new equipment is installed under the truck so there’s no trailer to make maneuvering through traffic complicated. The equipment deploys quickly and easily so IMT workers can get disabled cars to the nearest ramp or the safest place to wait for help.
UDOT is committed to safety first in the case of a crash. The new equipment on Incident Management Trucks will help motorists involved in fender-benders move off the freeway and preserve the safety of troopers and the traveling public.
The Federal Highways Association has launched new initiatives aimed at making every construction day count.
Utah’s FHWA Administrator James Christian gave an overview of EDC2, an effort to assist states with adopting proven ways to improve the safety, operation and longevity of transportation systems, at the recent UDOT Conference.
EDC2 will promote 13 innovations to transportation agencies and construction and design industries for the next two years. Specialists from FHWA will be deployed to explain and implement the benefits each of the innovations has to stakeholders across the country. UDOT has already participated in some of the innovations, and is a leader in some as well.
One innovation, Intelligent Compaction, was demonstrated in Utah recently. IC systems are similar to regular asphalt pavement compactors but equipped with GPS. As the compactor makes passes over the newly installed asphalt, stiffness measurements are integrated with the GPS information on a display that gives the operator a comprehensive near real-time picture of the compaction process.
The system creates an animated, color-coded online map so the compaction process can be monitored. Although the process measures pavement stiffness, the intent of the project is to correlate stiffness with pavement density using traditional coring testing methods. Density is critical when it comes to longevity of the pavement.
FHWA is reaching out to UDOT and other states to promote another EDC2 innovation, High Friction Surfaces. HFS, usually consisting of an epoxy binder and a non-polishing aggregate, improves roadway skid-resistance in places where motorists need help to brake more effectively. UDOT has applied HFS in two locations in Utah, one in Payson and one in Logan Canyon.
Several states have used HFS and realized an immediate reduction in crashes. Before and after studies that look at crash data, skid resistance, and other factors, will provide the basis for an objective assessment in Utah. UDOT will also monitor how the HFS tolerates weather extremes, traffic and snow plows.
UDOT is an internationally known leader in Accelerated Bridge Technology, one of the EDC2 innovations. Design Build and Construction Manager/General Contractor, contracting methods included in the EDC2 list have been used by UDOT to build high quality projects more quicly and efficiently.
To see a list of all 13 innovations and read more about each, visit the EDC2 website.