Category Archives: Optimize Mobility

CLOSING GAPS

Wasatch Front transportation agencies are studying how people connect to transit.

The Utah Collaborative Active Transportation Study – is a comprehensive project that will look at ways to enhance pedestrian and bicycle connections to major transit lines and lay the groundwork for an urban network of bicycle routes along the Wasatch Front – and anyone can participate.

The first step to using public transit is getting to an access point such as a Trax station or a bus stop. Many transit users count on active transportation – walking or cycling – to reach that connection.

UDOT and the Utah Transit Authority, in cooperation with Wasatch Front Regional Council, Mountainland Association of Governments and Salt Lake County have just launched an effort to identify difficulties walkers and cyclists face when getting to transit hubs. UCATS – the Utah Collaborative Active Transportation Study – is a comprehensive project that will look at ways to enhance pedestrian and bicycle connections to major transit lines and lay the groundwork for an urban network of bicycle routes along the Wasatch Front – and anyone can participate.

The study team is using an effective and dynamic web-based in-put mechanism.  An online forum allows users to create a profile and dialog with other users about connectivity issues.

The UCATS website allows easy direct public input, according to Evelyn Tuddenham UDOT Bicycle & Pedestrian Coordinator, because participants don’t need to attend a public meeting or wait to be called to contribute. And the process facilitates dialog – UCATS participants can even collaborate online to solve problems.

The study team is encouraging a wide range of participants including “people who like to ride bikes but don’t,” says Tuddenham. “We need to hear from them… not just from the people who are comfortable riding on the road.”

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.” For UDOT, one outcome will be bicycle plans for UDOT Regions One, Two and Three.

UCATS will have a big impact on the future of bicycling and walking along the Wasatch Front, says Tuddenham. “We want to improve mobility for all kinds of users by giving them active transportation options and closing the gaps linking to transit.”

SEEING BICYCLES

 UDOT’s first radar activated signal for cyclists is providing safer access to Mountain View Corridor.

A newly completed seven mile portion of the Mountain View Corridor also includes bike lanes and multi-use trails from Porter Rockwell Blvd at 16000 South to Old Bingham Highway. Cyclists were invited to celebrate the opening by participating in a race on October 13.

A newly completed seven mile portion of the Mountain View Corridor also includes bike lanes and multi-use trails from Porter Rockwell Blvd at 16000 South to Old Bingham Highway. “I would think Mountain View Corridor will be busy bike route with the beautiful scenery and trails,” says UDOT Traffic Signal Operations Engineer Mark Taylor, who is also a cyclist.

The new road segment includes a bike lane and trail access point at Porter Rockwell Blvd. Anticipated high traffic volume and speed in the area prompted traffic engineers to find a safer way for cyclists to reach that access point from busy Redwood Road.

UDOT has installed radar detection and a signal specific to cyclists turning left from Redwood Road onto Porter Rockwell Blvd. The signal improves safety for motorists and cyclists.

This video gives a good overview of the signal:

Cyclists sometimes use the left turn lane along with automobile traffic. However, due the T intersection configuration where Porter Rockwell meets Redwood road, “there is not a concurrent vehicle movement cyclists can use,” explains Taylor. The signal stops traffic so cyclists can turn left on Redwood Road, then travel west on Porter Rockwell Boulevard to the Mountain View Corridor bike lanes and multi-use trails.

To activate the signal, cyclists need to stop in the designated area on the right north-bound shoulder of Redwood Road.  Radar detection picks up the presence of cyclists, stops traffic with a red light, gives cyclists a green light, and provides enough time to cross Redwood Road.

UDOT chose radar detection over other alternatives including inductive loops and video detection. Modern bicycles don’t have enough metal to disrupt the electromagnetic field created by inductive loops. And, video detection does not work well at night or during storms.

UDOT uses radar detection often, however, is the first use of the technology for a signal specific to cyclists.

TOWING THE LINE

Operators of UDOT tow plows recently got a chance to practice driving skills.

Three tow plows practice driving skills on a course that simulates intersections, car lined streets and on-ramps. When deployed, the tow plow swings sideways to clear twenty five feet.

“They’re different,” than regular plows, explains Chris Scribner who drives a tow plow for UDOT during the snow season. A tow plow can startle drivers because “it looks like it’s jackknifing,” he says. When deployed, the tow plow swings sideways to clear more of the roadway – a total of twenty five feet, to be exact. A truck with a tow plow takes the place of two trucks. Scribner is one of about thirty plow operators who attended a training to practice driving the unusual plow that helps UDOT improve the efficiency of snow and ice removal.

Curtis Sanchez, Equipment Safety Trainer at UDOT, organized the training “to make sure the operators are as comfortable as possible,” he explains. The training includes classroom time focusing on safety and the pre-ride check and then driving on a course set up to simulate intersections, car-lined streets and on-ramps.

Dirk Richards, a trainer from UDOT Region One, help set up the course. He says it’s important that drivers learn to be aware of their surroundings, and how the equipment will deploy. “So when they are working, there are no surprises on the road.”

Driving the plow is not for rookies. “We’re choosing the best operators in each shed” to be tow plow drivers, says Sanchez.

Driver Mark Prows says tow plow operators need to be acutely aware of the roadway environment and the movement of the plow that’s operated by a complex hydraulic system — all while driving. He compares it to playing the piano. “You have to keep your fingers moving and your eyes on the sheet music… if you’re a little bit off of your game, things can go bad fast.”

UDOT acquired the first tow plows after Heavy Equipment Manager Steve McCarthy saw them at a conference. “I thought it was an idea we needed to explore,” he says. UDOT is one of only a few states that use tow plows. Eventually each shed along the I-15 corridor will have at least one. UDOT currently operates eight tow plows.

SHRP 2

The Strategic Highway Research Program 2 is nearing the end of a long effort to conduct and prioritize research projects.

Some SHRP 2 products address rapid design and construction methods that minimize road user inconvenience and produce long-lived facilities.

Planning for SHRP2 began in 1999, and in 2009, funding for the effort was authorized by Congress. SHRP 2 is intended to address critical needs related to the nation’s highways. Some of the products of that research are nearing completion.

Neil Pedersen, Deputy Director of Implementation for SHRP 2, visited UDOT this week as part of an effort to ask state departments of transportation to “help TRB with the transition from research to implementation.”

SHRP 2 products are process related and address problems facing the nation’s highways in four critical areas:

  • Safety – focuses on ways to prevent or reduce the severity of crashes by understanding the behavior of drivers.
  • Renewal – focuses on rapid design and construction methods that minimize road user inconvenience and produce long-lived facilities.
  • Reliability – focuses on ways to effectively reduce traffic congestion by managing traffic flow and reducing and clearing crashes or other incidents.
  • Capacity – focuses on ways to plan new facilities that improve mobility while meeting the economic and environmental needs of the community.

Sixty five products representing “targeted, short-term, results-oriented research” have been forwarded through a prioritization process. Those products will be taken through the implementation phase by state DOTs after a competitive selection process.

Pedersen described the implementation effort as a “lead state concept” whereby states DOTs take on the process of implementation by demonstrating and evaluating the value, ease of use and usefulness of the products. Once products have been demonstrated successfully, “others will follow,” said Pedersen. The implementation process will take approximately three years for each product.

Pedersen explained that states that have experience in specific areas may have an inside track when it comes to being selected to take the lead. However, rather than taking on a project that has already been implemented, states make a needs-based assessment since states that are chosen will receive funding and technical assistance.

UDOT Deputy Director Carlos Braceras says he and Director John Njord have asked UDOT senior leaders to evaluate projects and determine which ones are the most suitable opportunities for UDOT.

SHRP 2 is managed by the Transportation Research Board on behalf of the National Research Council. FHWA and AASHTO will provide funding and technical support during the implementation process. UDOT Research staff facilitated Pedersen’s visit.

PORTS PROMOTE SAFETY

Ports of Entry have a critical safety role to play in Utah, where the percent of truck traffic on state highways is the highest in the nation.

Utah Port of Entry inspectors conduct over 37 thousand vehicle safety inspections on commercial motor vehicles per year at eight ports throughout the state.

Utah is strategically critical to North America’s commercial trucking industry. By way of I-80, Utah is a freight crossroads for big rigs that move goods through North America. Two of I-80’s most important feeder routes – I-84 from the Pacific Northwest, and I-15 from Las Vegas and southern California, junction with I-80 in Northern Utah.

Consequently, UDOT’s highways handle a disproportionately high amount of freight for the entire country. Large trucks make up 23 percent of total traffic on Utah highways; the national average is 12 percent.

Heavy truck traffic and Utah’s crossroads standing make for a challenging environment for UDOT Ports of Entry workers who are charged with maintaining safety and facilitating commerce.

Port workers partner with Utah Highway Patrol Troopers to ensure that commercial trucks operating in the state don’t pose a threat to safety. One way that mission is accomplished is through regular vehicle inspections conducted at ports of entry.

Inspectors conduct over 37 thousand vehicle safety inspections on commercial motor vehicles per year at eight ports throughout the state. Over 10 thousand of those trucks pass through the Perry Port of Entry on I-15 north of Brigham City.

When it comes to conducting inspections, ports focus on carriers and shippers that pose a risk to highway safety.  An automated transponder system called Prepass helps expedite that effort.

“It’s really a great sorting tool, allowing qualifying carriers to proceed down the highway.  Then we can spend our time on those that need a closer look,” says Leona Dalley, Perry Port of Entry Supervisor. Prepass allows cleared vehicles to pass by ports at highway speed.

Eliminating a stop means greater efficiency for shippers and helps UDOT  strengthen the economy.  Safety for all highway users is also improved because port workers can focus inspection efforts where the greatest need exists. Added benefits include reduced fuel consumption and emissions. In Utah, those benefits have been significant.


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Utah Ports of Entry are part of the UDOT Motor Carriers Division.

PRECAST PANELS

This post is second in a series about how research supports innovation at UDOT. Many in the transportation community and the general public are familiar with UDOT’s method of building bridges off-site and then moving them into place. Other important innovations garner less attention. See the first post here.

UDOT’s innovative pre-cast pavement panels speed up concrete road repair.


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Precast concrete elements are often used for bridge girders, decks or MSE walls. But using pre-cast panel systems to repair or build pavement is not yet common. UDOT Research Division has partnered with FHWA Highways for Life to develop and demonstrate a design for a precast pavement panels, and so far, “they seem to be working very well,” says UDOT Research Project Manager Daniel Hsiao who oversaw panel testing and design.

The innovation is in the speed of construction, and the non-proprietary design. Using a cast-in-place method involves closing lanes and waiting for concrete to cure before traffic can travel on the pavement.  With pre-cast pavement panels the cure time takes place off site, so traffic lanes can be reopened soon after installation.

The unique design specifies leveling bolts that are commonly used in bridge deck construction. After placement, the bolts are turned against steel panels on the sub-base to achieve correct elevation. Four bolts are placed in each panel during the casting process. Six grout ports are also included in each panel. Using the bolts also means that traffic lanes can be open before the grout is fully cured.

The panels are also designed to be a standard size, 12 by 12 feet square and 9 inches thick.  A standard panel size helps minimize construction costs and simplify installation. The panels are reinforced with steel rebar to support lifting the 17,000 pound panels.

Because the design is non-proprietary, “anybody can use it,” says Hsiao. The non-proprietary aspect helps support a competitive bidding environment, which conserves limited funding.

SIGNAL HISTORY

The traffic signal systems of today are the result of a stream of innovative technologies starting with a simple light box on a pole.

Salt Lake City Police Officer Lester Wire designed and built a pole mounted box that housed green and red lights.

Utah has approximately 1700 traffic signals owned by city, county and state governments. Sophisticated and efficient, modern signal systems are coordinated and monitored by traffic engineers and centrally controlled by computers. Devices that detect cars can adjust signal timing along traffic corridors to allow for directional traffic flow throughout the day. When needed, traffic engineers can make changes to keep traffic flowing.

Effective signal coordination improves safety, saves fuel, reduces emissions, enhances traffic flow, and decreases travel delay and traffic congestion.

The story of how modern signal systems were developed starts in Utah; the first traffic signal for automobiles was put into service in 1912 in Salt Lake City at the intersection of Main Street and Second South.

Salt Lake City Police Officer Lester Wire saw the need to help move traffic through intersections safely and efficiently.  He designed and built a pole mounted box that housed green and red lights. Wires connected to the trolley system overhead carried electricity. The lights were changed manually by an officer who stood nearby and used his discretion to make the switch.

UDOT has created an exhibit that shows how technology has progressed since the early days of traffic management. A collection of signals and equipment, including a model of Lester Wire’s first traffic light, will be on permanent display at the UDOT Traffic Operations Center. The collection is open to the public.

Signal innovations

Shortly after Wire’s traffic light was put into use, other inventions pushed signal technology forward quickly. Signal development followed electronic and computing trends, and some key transformational changes include:

1927    The invention of the fixed control timer, which made it possible for the first traffic operations center to manage 31 signals in Los Angeles.

1928    The first semi-actuated signal, installed in Detroit, which used a microphone to detect the sound of a car horn and assign right-of-way.

1952    The first actuated signal system which adjusted timing based on traffic demand. Installed in Denver, the system was made possible by analog technology.

1972    The first Advanced Traffic Control system which used microprocessors, fiber optic cable and inductive loops to connect and control timing at 113 intersections in Washington DC.

UDOT Today

UDOT is currently using radar detection to improve safety and optimize traffic signal performance.

Radar is being used to detect cars in the ‘dilemma zone’ – a space prior to entering an intersection where drivers decide to stop or keep going. Software used with the radar equipment is programmed to extend the signal phase to allow cars in the dilemma zone more time to get through the intersection.

UDOT also uses an online tool to improve the way traffic engineers monitor and optimize signal performance. Signal Performance Metrics, originally developed by Indiana Department of Transportation and Purdue University, uses dilemma zone radar detection along with software developed by UDOT in cooperation with Wavetronics and Econolite.

The system locates and counts cars, places a time stamp on every car and then pulls that data into online graphs that can be observed in real time. By observing traffic movement as it occurs, engineers can make immediate changes to optimize traffic flow.

Director John Njord has charged UDOT traffic engineers with creating a world-class traffic signal system. UDOT has taken full advantage of modern innovations and established itself as a leader in modern traffic management.

 


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

More about signals

  • Pulse, a trade magazine published by Wavetronics, published a great article on the history of traffic signals.
  • A page on the FHWA website explains the benefits of signal coordination.

SILVER BARREL

Congratulations to UDOT Region One Signal Engineer Carrie Jacobson who received a Silver Barrel Award for heading a team of engineers who kept traffic moving during a major event – the annual Hill Air Force Base Air Show.

The Silver Barrel Award is way to call attention to employees who excel.

The team worked with the Utah Highway Patrol and city officials to plan and carry out ways to help road users get to and depart from HAFB.

Building on experience UDOT signal engineers have gained from managing other events, the Region One Signal Team first offered to help, then met with base officials to identify problems that have occurred in the past. Jacobsen’s team then developed some signal timing plans that gave more green light time where needed. The team paid special attention to places where traffic congestion has occurred in the past.

Approximately 225 thousand people attend the two-day event. Engineers manned stations at the Traffic Operations Center to observe traffic. Signal engineers were posted at critical locations along the route to observe traffic and make adjustments at signal cabinets when traffic backed up.

HAFB officials and the Utah Highway Patrol were grateful for the help and gave Jacobson’s team an award called a Challenge Coin, usually reserved for those in the military, for helping with traffic flow during the event.

WETLAND BANKING

A wetland bank can be a successful and accepted way to mitigate for the loss of wetland habitat areas due to transportation projects.


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

The EPA s defines a wetland mitigation bank as a “a wetland, stream, or other aquatic resource area that has been restored, established, enhanced, or (in certain circumstances) preserved for the purpose of providing compensation for unavoidable impacts to aquatic resources…” The Water Resources Development Act of 2007 calls mitigation banking “the preferred mechanism for offsetting unavoidable wetland impacts associated with Corps Civil Works projects.” Wetland banks are regulated by the The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency.

EPA rules call for a “no net loss” policy in compensating for wetlands that are impacted by transportation or other projects. An ecological assessment assures that the bank area is functioning as intended. A credit system, representing the value of the compensation, assures that lost wetlands are adequately compensated for. Banks must be monitored and managed on an ongoing basis to make sure performance standards are met.

UDOT has established a wetland a mitigation area, called the Northern Utah County Mitigation Bank, which compensates for  of transportation project impacts in Utah County, including I-15 CORE and Pioneer Crossing. The NUCMB totals 120 acres and is located in Lindon, Utah. This wetland bank will eventually provide 76 mitigation credits — enough capacity to provide mitigation for any UDOT FHWA transportation project throughout the majority of Utah County .

Advantages of UDOT’s mitigation bank

The NUCMB provided a cost-effective way to mitigate wetland impacts in northern Utah County. Having a mitigation bank also accelerated the permitting process, saving taxpayers millions of dollars and years of time. UDOT, along with private sector partners, worked together throughout the process to design, permit and monitor the NUCMB.

FASTEST PROJECT

Images and information provided by Andrew Johnson and 24 Salt Lake Traffic.

Construction on the I-15 corridor expansion through Utah County, called I-15 CORE, is still in full-swing, but officials say all lanes could be open as early as Thanksgiving.

The new interchange at University Parkway and I-15. When complete in December, I-15 CORE will be the fastest billion-dollar public highway project ever built in the U.S.

Between January 2010 and May 2012, about 6 million hours have been logged in the I-15 CORE project, which is almost as many hours as it took to construct the Empire State Building in New York.

About 6 million hours have been logged in the I-15 CORE project — almost as many hours as it took to construct the Empire State Building.

“A workforce of nearly 2,000 people has put in those 6 million hours designing, building, and managing the I-15 CORE project,” says UDOT I-15 CORE spokesperson Leigh Dethman in a recent interview. “From surveying, to traffic management, to construction, to quality assurance and oversight, the project has helped spur economic development and job creation during construction.”

When complete in December, I-15 CORE will be the fastest billion-dollar public highway project ever built in the U.S.

Facts about the I-15 CORE construction project

The I-15 CORE project is the largest highway project in Utah history, and crews with Provo River Constructors are reconstructing 24 miles of I-15 through Utah County.

Two additional lanes are being added each direction from Spanish Fork to Lehi. In addition, 10 freeway interchanges and 63 bridges are being replaced or rebuilt, and the Express Lane is being extended from University Parkway in Orem to Spanish Fork.

Here is a look at some project facts as of May 31, 2012:

  • Crews have installed 49 miles of drainage pipeline, which is twice the length of Utah Lake.
  • 269 lane-miles of concrete have been poured, which is enough to build a two-lane highway from Provo to Logan.
  • 7.1 million tons of fill dirt have been excavated and placed, which is enough to fill 13 BYU Marriott Centers.
  • 1.9 million square yards of concrete pavement have been used, which is more than 5 times the amount of pavement used to pour construct the runways at the Salt Lake City International Airport.
  • Nearly 1,600 employees have been working on the management, engineering and construction teams.
  • Nearly 6 million hours of labor have been logged. It took 7 million hours to construct the Empire State Building!

“We’re delivering a complete reconstruction of the freeway that will meet traffic demand through the year 2030, while at the same time we’re using innovation to minimize delays for the traveling public,” says Todd Jensen, UDOT I-15 CORE project director. “Completing I-15 CORE in an unprecedented 35 months represents Utah’s worldwide leadership in innovative road construction.”

Stay up to date with the project by visiting the I-15 CORE website.