Category Archives: Optimize Mobility

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.


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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.

 


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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.


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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.

WELCOME VISITORS

The Utah Office of Tourism and UDOT partner to help support the state’s economy.


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Over 13 million visitors per year arrive in Utah by car, and for many of those travelers, a Utah Welcome Center is the first stopping place. Welcome centers are a safe spot to take a rest break and learn about what Utah has to offer.

UDOT and the Office of Tourism operate six welcome centers at gateway locations close to freeways or highways and near state borders. The Utah Office of Tourism headquarters at Council Hall in Salt Lake City also serves as a welcome center. All centers are staffed with friendly travel consultants that provide free information, maps, brochures, and travel guides. Restrooms, vending, and parking areas are located on-site, and most offer free Wi-Fi.

Having a place that provides information and assistance to visitors is an important service that supports the local economy. “Our front doors are our airport and our roads,” said Chad Davis, the State Welcome Center Coordinator. Davis gave a presentation about the facilities at the 2012 National Safety Rest Area Conference hosted by UDOT. Tourism brings in over $8 hundred million to the state, and that number is going up, said Davis. That revenue offsets over one thousand dollars per tax payer per year.

Economic research indicates that positive outcomes can occur when visitors stop at a welcome center. A Rhode Island study found that tourists spend more money and an Iowa study found that tourist spent more time. And tourism generates jobs as well. Partnering with the Utah Office of Tourism helps UDOT accomplish one of four core goals, to strengthen the economy.

Good design sells

The Utah Office of Tourism and UDOT also partnered to produce and place beautiful new Welcome to Utah signs in 2010. The signs serve as ‘high art’ and feature images of attractions with the Utah Office of Tourism’s Life Elevated slogan.

The beautiful designs were created by landscape illustrator David Meikle who grew up in Utah. He was excited to create images that reflect what he loves about the state. UDOT estimates that over 31 million vehicles could pass the welcome signs each year.

The NSRA is part of AASHTO’s Maintenance Sub Committee, and responsibility for organizing the conference is accomplished by state transportation agencies. This year, UDOT takes the lead with support from the Kentucky Department of Transportation.

READY FOR WINTER

The extensive and careful work done in the Body Shop and Heavy Equipment Shop prolongs the life UDOT’s fleet and conserves funding.


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Mechanics and auto-body workers at UDOT are getting heavy equipment ready for winter. Even though last winter was relatively mild, workers in the shop have plenty to do. With around forty two hundred pieces of heavy equipment in the fleet, work is non-stop.

“Right now, we are doing the things we can’t do in the winter,” says Steve McCarthy, UDOT’s Fleet Manager. By mid September, “mountain areas can get snow any time.” His crew is working with maintenance station supervisors to make sure each crew has the equipment needed to remove snow and ice.

UDOT’s fleet is valued at about $200 million, a significant investment of taxpayer money. Besides repairing fleet vehicles, strategies are being employed to conserve funding and work as efficiently as possible by:

  • Keeping fleet vehicles longer; most are kept between sixteen and eighteen years and some up to twenty.
  • Purchasing trucks with larger motors and tag axles that can handle tow plows and adding wing plows to the 10-wheeler fleet. Tow plows and wing plows remove a wider swath of snow from the roadway and boost efficiency.
  • Using larger sanders to spread de‐icing materials and applying brine, high performing salts and other liquid anti‐icing solutions to remove snow and ice more efficiently.
  • Leasing or renting some heavy equipment which can save repair costs while employing new more efficient technology.

By employing smart fleet strategies, UDOT has been able to maintain high performance standards and eliminate the need to purchase 25 percent more equipment.

JOB CORPS WORKS AT UDOT

Newly trained mechanics are getting work experience at UDOT.

Raymond Bentor, Job Corps Intern at UDOT, rebuilds the a rear suspension in the heavy-duty shop.

Job Corps students that have reached the end of their training program need real-world work experience before they begin their careers. Two young mechanics are getting that opportunity at UDOT’s Central Heavy Duty Shop where they serve as interns. For those interns and the UDOT mechanics that provide supervision, the experience has been very positive.

The success of the UDOT-Job Corps association is due to the excellent training program at Job Corps and the variety and complexity of the work load at Central Maintenance. “Their training is really top notch,” says Rod Andrews, UDOT Heavy Duty Shop Supervisor.  The trainees come to the site ready to do more than busy-work and can be assigned to a variety of big or small tasks. “You find that they fill a little niche that you need,” says Andrews.

Johnnie Brandt removed the transmission from this road grader. “I don’t like just standing around,” says Brandt.

Intern Johnnie Brandt says he is ready and willing to do anything he can get his hands on. “I don’t like just standing around,” says Brandt.  He works with all the mechanics at UDOT to quickly move repair jobs through to completion. Brandt has done jobs ranging from changing oil to removing a transmission from a road grader.

UDOT’s shop is great for providing diverse work experiences.  “Just look at the variety of stuff we have in this shop,” says John Service, UDOT Journeyman Mechanic, as he points to the assortment of heavy equipment undergoing repair. Service has worked closely with Brandt and appreciates his great attitude and willingness to learn.

Intern Raymond Benter has been at other work sites besides UDOT’s shop. He says moving from site to site helps build his skill sets, learn to adapt and “really know what it’s like to work.”

Benter is willing to “get right in there and do his job,” says Truck Shop Supervisor Jeff McCleery. “He’s willing to learn, listen and he has a good skill level and good attitude.”

Interns will spend about six weeks at UDOT before moving to another work site.

FLEETS MOVE FORWARD

A new national performance metric will help fleet managers make decisions about retaining core equipment.

Departments of transportation are facing many of the same issues, including limited budgets, new emissions and mileage regulations and the need to manage life-cycle costs. At the same time, equipment costs are increasing, making it challenging for departments of transportation to replace aging vehicles.

AASHTO’s Equipment Management Technical Services Program recently sponsored the First National Equipment Fleet Management Conference. The event brought experts together to share the best practices from the nation’s departments of transportation. An important outcome of the conference is the development of a national metric that will provide “a high-level snapshot” of how departments of transportation are managing equipment life cycles, according to a problem statement issued by the EMTSP.

Departments of transportation are facing many of the same issues, including limited budgets, new emissions and mileage regulations and the need to manage life-cycle costs. At the same time, equipment costs are increasing, making it challenging for departments of transportation to replace aging vehicles.

UDOT’s Fleet Manager Steve McCarthy is the Vice Chair of the EMTSP. He attended the conference, participated in development of the metric, and is optimistic about what the metric data will provide over time — “more data about whether or when to replace equipment.”

The metric identifies and tracks fleet utilization standards, preventative maintenance compliance, and fleet availability. Departments of transportation from across the nation have different standards and practices. Using one metric to collect data across the nation will help departments of transportation compare agency against agency and identify the most effective strategies for managing fleet life cycles.

The EMTSP is already a resource for best practices and a clearing house for comprehensive, up‐to‐date information about fleet management. With data from the new metric, departments of transportation should be able to further fine tune fleet performance to effectively review life cycle costs, develop funding requests based on real-world needs and readily identify best-practice methods.

FEATURING FLICKR

UDOT’s Communication Office uses Flickr to share photos of the state transportation system. 


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Flickr is an easy to use photo platform that provides a way to share visual essays of how UDOT improves the state transportation system.  UDOT’s Flickr photostream contains images of media events, conferences, construction and maintenance projects and equipment.

One great feature of Flickr is that photos can be arranged in ordered sets with captions. Those sets can explain a process or show progress on a construction project. For example, this set contains images of the Telegraph Street Bridge replacement in St. George.

Flickr also integrates well with other forms of social media. Slide shows on the UDOT Blog are Flickr sets. Links to photos or photo sets are easy to share by email.

The UDOT Communications Office would like to expand the use of Flickr to include a wider range of photos from across the state so a variety of UDOT activities can be shared among employees, private sector partners, media and the general public.

Send in your photos

Here are some general guidelines for sending in photos:

  • Make sure the images are high quality JPEG images that are 1200 x 800 pixels.
  • For subject ideas, choose subject matter that shows UDOT’s four areas of focus: Improve Safety, Optimize Mobility, Preserve Infrastructure and Strengthen the Economy.
  • Show candid shots of events or work processes. Real life scenes are the most interesting.
  • Take photos from different perspectives to get a good overall view of an event or construction or maintenance project.
  • Send in photos taken recently.
  • Send in a series of photos or a single photo.
  • Anyone can send in photos as long as the subject relates to UDOT.
  • Photos will be used on Flickr at the discretion of the UDOT Communications Office.

Photos can be sent by email or delivered on a disk or other storage device to the Communications Office at the Calvin Rampton Complex. Please include photo descriptions and your contact information.