Category Archives: Optimize Mobility

IC DEMO

UDOT recently hosted an FHWA demonstration of Intelligent Compaction.

Intelligent Compaction uses GPS to determine the location and number of passes and sensors to determine the temperature and stiffness of asphalt pavement. The technology may eventually take the guess-work out of compacting pavement.

US 89 and SR 180 in UDOT Region Three is the first of nine projects locations from across the country to employ and evaluate Intelligent Compaction. The data collected and experience gained by studying IC will eventually determine if the sophisticated construction method effectively takes the guess-work out of compacting asphalt pavement.

IC systems are similar to regular asphalt pavement compactors but equipped with GPS to determine the location and number of passes and sensors to determine the temperature and stiffness of the pavement. 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. The animation can also be played back for review.

Although the process measures pavement stiffness, the intent of the project is to correlate stiffness with pavement density, which is critical when it comes to longevity of the pavement, explains Lee Gallivan, Asphalt Pavement Engineer with FHWA. “Compaction is really the central part of the performance of the pavement.”

“You can have a real great mix design that meets all the Superpave requirements,” explains Gallivan, but with poor compaction, the pavement will not achieve appropriate density and meet the test of time. Conversely, a poor or mediocre mix design can be compacted well, and that pavement may last a long time.  Extending the life of pavement “is where the public gets its money’s worth.”

Over the next two years, FHWA will sponsor IC demonstration projects in diverse parts of the country. The IC measurements will be correlated to nuclear gauge or coring density tests. The data collected from the geographically disparate projects will provide information about different mix designs, environments, substrates and traffic levels. Eventually, IC could become an accepted method for quality-control and quality-assurance for contractors and departments of transportation.

GROUND PENETRATING RADAR

The Federal Highways Administration is sponsoring demonstrations of a new technology that uses radar to analyze pavement.

GPR technology uses radar to create a cross sectional analysis of the pavement.

The new technology can help determine the remaining service life of pavement without using invasive means. Testing is necessary to find out what conditions are causing pavement deterioration, and then to determine the right course of action to take to preserve or replace the pavement.

Typically, engineers determine the remaining service life pavement by drilling core samples. Coring pavement takes time and resources to extract , transport and then test the pavement. Coring is also an inconvenience for the traveling public since lane closures are required for the work to take place.

Ground Penetrating Radar can provide a close and detailed look at pavement without the time, expense lane closures required by coring.

GPR technology uses radar to create a cross sectional analysis of the pavement under the surface. The equipment is mounted on a regular vehicle that can move with traffic, so no lane closures are required. While coring gives snap-shot looks at pavement condition.

In one sweep, GPR can collect enough information to have a comprehensive view of the pavement, including density, material variation, degradation due to stripping or other factors, and thickness. The data collection method works on concrete or asphalt and is “a better way to diagnose the problem,” according to Tom Yu, Senior Pavement Design Engineer with FHWA.

Although GPR is a great diagnosis tool for pavements that need rehabilitation, Yu sees other opportunities as well. “For me, the most promising area is construction [quality and assurance] testing.” Yu visited UDOT Region Three recently with a GPR equipped van and spoke at an Intelligent Compaction Demonstration. He will take the van on the road to collect data so he can demonstrate the usefulness of the new technology. “It needs to show its own value” before the pavement data collection method is widely adopted.

GOING GREEN

A new tool will improve the way UDOT monitors and optimizes traffic signal performance.

UDOT is using a new online tool for automated traffic signal performance measures.

To keep traffic moving, traffic engineers aim to create signal timing plans that allow most cars to reach an intersection on a green light, according to UDOT Traffic Signal Operations Engineer Mark Taylor.

When cars reach the intersection on green, concerns such as waiting and frustration, traffic delay, pollution from idling and wear and tear on vehicles and pavement are all reduced. And the dilemma zone, the point at which drivers decide to stop or proceed through the signal, is also reduced, which improves the safety at intersections.

But establishing and maintaining efficient signal plans typically costs thousands of dollars to develop. Engineers use resources, including equipment or people to monitor signal operations, collect traffic volume counts and then model and create a signal plan, explains Taylor. Since collection and modeling methods are time and resource intensive, updating the signal plan is usually only done every few years.

Plus, typical modeling and collection methods only providing a limited, snap-shot view that degrades over time as traffic patterns change. To really improve signal operation, “we need to know in real time where the problems are so we can make corrections to operations to improve traffic flow,” says Taylor.

UDOT is using a new online tool, called Signal Performance Metrics, originally developed by Indiana Department of Transportation and Purdue University. The system uses Dilemma Zone radar detection already in place along with reconfigured software provided at no charge to UDOT by developers at 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. “We’ve got over 500 sites where we already have Dilemma Zone detectors installed at intersections,” says Taylor.

Signal Performance Metrics has a potential benefit for signal operation everywhere but especially on weekends when signals operate with plans designed for week day off-peak hours. Taylor says the system “will help us be much more proactive with traffic signal timing seven days, twenty four hours a day.”

UDOT Director John Njord has charged traffic engineers with creating a world-class traffic signal system and employing Signal Performance Metrics is a step in that direction. Taylor is pleased about the ability to see in real time whether existing signal plans are good or bad so signal timing can be changed as needed, without using limited funding to monitor corridors or intersections. He thinks the traveling public will eventually see better traffic progression and less delay. “This is big for us.”

RESEARCH PROJECTS SELECTED

Projects have been selected for funding from the 2012 UDOT Research Workshop held on May 10.

The Maintenance Group discusses development of a weather severity index during the 2012 Research Workshop.

Fifty-two projects were submitted this year to the UDOT Research Workshop. Of these, nine projects will be funded through the Research Division, one of which was combined from two submitted problem statements. Several other projects of those submitted will be funded directly by other divisions. Several other projects of those submitted may also be funded directly by other divisions.

The workshop serves as one step in the research project selection process which involves UDOT, FHWA, universities, private sector firms and other transportation agencies. UDOT Research Division solicited problem statements for six focus areas: Structures and Geo-technical, Environmental and Hydraulics, Construction and Materials, Maintenance, Traffic Management and Safety and Pre-construction.

At the workshop, transportation professionals met to prioritize problem statements in order to select the ones most suitable to become research projects. Three voting criteria were used: importance of research, relevance to UDOT, and likelihood of implementation. All UDOT staff voted during the prioritization process. After the workshop, UDOT Research Division staff reviewed prioritization and funding for each recommended problem statement with division and group leaders.

The selected projects include:

  • Development of a Utah Winter Severity Index
  • Additional research into sampling and testing protocols for cold in-place recycling of asphalt pavements
  • Development of mobile applications for use by UDOT Maintenance
  • Additional funding toward a multi-state pooled fund project to investigate lateral pile resistance near MSE walls
  • Additional funding toward a multi-state pooled fund to research passive force-displacement for skewed bridge abutments
  • Research into environmentally friendly and sustainable stream stability treatments in the vicinity of bridges
  • Evaluation of effective construction risk management through CMGC contracting

Projects presented at the Research Workshop to be funded by other divisions include:

  • The Aurora Project working to advance road weather information systems technology
  • Improving wet night visibility of pavement markings
  • Development of a culvert management plan
  • Implementing safety analysis tools in planning, programming, design and operations

Other projects are being considered and may yet be added.

A significant factor for success was the broad project support from various UDOT Divisions and university representatives. We were excited that a number of pro-jects may receive funding from other sources. Many UDOT divisions including Maintenance, Planning, Traffic and Safety and the TOC are considering contributing funding along with University Transportation Centers.

By: Kevin Nichol, P.E.
UDOT Research Division
Catherine Higgins
UDOT Communication Department

NEW METERS

Ramp meters just put into service have helped I-15 traffic n Salt Lake County move more efficiently. 

Ramp meters help mainline I-15 move more efficiently.

UDOT has recently put some ramp meters into service on northbound I-15 between 12300 South and 9000 South. The average speed during the p.m. commute is faster now that new ramp meters have been deployed.

“What we’re seeing so far at 8600 South is that the average speed went up 10 miles-per-hour,” says John Haigwood, Traffic Engineer at the Traffic Operations Center. Before the meters were turned on, motorists experienced backups on the ramps and sluggish traffic on mainline I-15. “Traffic is now free-flowing or freer flowing,” says Haigwood.

Ramp meters work to even out traffic on the freeway by breaking up bottlenecks and smoothing out speed surges. Meters also improve safety; stop-and-go driving behavior is reduced resulting in fewer rear-end collisions and platoons are broken up, resulting in fewer side-swipe collisions.

Research shows that the most significant benefit of using ramp meters is reliability which is the measure of the expected range of travel times allowing for crashes or excessive congestion. A  Minnesota study showed a 91 percent decline in reliability when meters were turned off.

UDOT engineers continually evaluate ramp metering to make sure that commuters see a benefit.

RWIS UPDATE

New RWIS system upgrades and stations will help plow crews work more efficiently this winter.

The sensors that detect salinity are a little larger than hockey pucks and are embedded in the pavement.

Weather forecasters at UDOT rely on information from Road Weather Information Systems placed strategically around the state to make area specific, accurate and timely weather reports to help maintenance crews and motorists. Summer is spent updating RWIS Stations in preparation for the snow season.

RWIS stations are Intelligent Transportation System devices coordinated at the Traffic Operations Center. The devices record air temperature, road temperature, solar radiation, humidity and some detect salinity on the road.

The salinity information “is really helpful to maintenance shed people and how they do their jobs in the winter,” says Leigh Sturges, UDOT Weather Information and RWIS Manager. “There’s a big push this year and next to put all our RWIS up to a higher quality standard,” she says.  By fall 2012, more RWIS stations will have sensors that detect salinity and eventually, all stations will have the helpful devices.

The sensors that detect salinity are a little larger than hockey pucks and are embedded in the pavement along with cables that are connected to the RWIS station. Sensors send readings back to the TOC. Maintenance station employees can easily access the readings online.

Roger Frantz, Parley’s Canyon Maintenance Station Supervisor for UDOT has been using the temperature and salinity data gathered by RWIS stations for about eight years – ever since the stations were first installed. The information helps make plowing operations more efficient by helping plow operators know how much salt to use. “Our goal is to just put down enough salt to keep the road from freezing.”

Using salt breaks the bond between the ice and the pavement and allows plow operators to remove snow and ice efficiently. A too-heavy salt application is expensive and can be counterproductive. Because of the endothermic reaction that occurs, salt actually takes heat from the road. Heavy salt application is especially a problem during storms that last through several days.

“By depressing the road temperature too much, you can exhaust your energy source, which is heat,” says Frantz. Plow operators need to use enough salt to keep the road from freezing until the next pass when more salt is used. By using the RWIS sensor readings, his station now uses one-third the amount of salt as was used previously.

In addition to new sensors, six new RWIS stations will be deployed – two located along the Mountain View Corridor, two installed on the I-15 CORE project and two installed on I-80 near Coalville.

The installation crew will also put in an icy bridge system on Fish Creek Bridge on I-70. The system uses a non- invasive sensor pointed at the road surface to detect friction and send a signal to activate a sign that warns motorists of icy conditions on the bridge.

MVC AWARDS

Congratulations to the Mountain View Corridor team for winning several awards!

Aerial view of the Mountain View Corridor

FHWA Excellence in Right-of-Way Stewardship Award (2012)- In February 2012, FHWA announced that MVC project leaders had been selected to receive the 2012 Excellence in Right-of-Way Stewardship Award for their role in property acquisition for the MVC. They were recognized for creating acquisition teams focused on landowner needs, implementing a system to work with lending institutions to protect owners’ financial status, and adopting web-based tracking systems to streamline the acquisition process. Under the guidance of these leaders, the MVC right-of-way team proactively sought to partner with landowners to achieve the best solutions for both the individuals and the state.

At the outset of the project, the right-of-way team was faced with an unparalleled task of acquiring right-of-way for the MVC across 421 separate owners’ property, with 803 different parcels. Through solution-oriented collaboration, the right-of-way team has resolved all but six of these acquisitions to date, resulting in less than a two percent condemnation ratio for this project.

ARTBA PRIDE Award (2012) – In May 2012, Copper Hills Constructors (CHC) was awarded the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) PRIDE Award for their work on the Mountain View Corridor project. This award annually recognizes extraordinary efforts of individuals, companies, public agencies and industry-related associations that serve to enhance the image of the U.S. transportation design and construction industry.

Utah Best of State Award (2012) – In May 2012, UDOT’s Mountain View Corridor (MVC) project was awarded Best of State in the Public Works category. The Best of State Awards were created to recognize outstanding individuals, organizations and businesses in Utah. By recognizing excellence in our community and sharing examples of success and triumph in so many worthy endeavors, we hope all will be inspired to reach a little higher, to try a little harder, and to work a little smarter for our dreams and goals.

Communicator Awards (2012) – In May 2012, UDOT’s Mountain View Corridor (MVC) project was awarded two Communicator Awards for the project’s Interactive Map and Website. The Silver Awards of Distinction were presented to the project team by the International Academy of Visual Arts. The Communicator Awards is the leading international awards program honoring creative excellence for Communications Professionals. Founded by communication professionals over a decade ago, The Communicator Awards receives over 9,000 entries from companies and agencies of all sizes, making it one of the largest awards of its kind in the world.

ARTBA TransOvation Award – In June 2012, Copper Hills Constructors (CHC) and the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) was awarded the 2012 TransOvation award for the entry “Modified CMGC Contracting.” The TransOvation award program was established in order to recognize and honor innovative transportation infrastructure-related products, services, technologies and techniques that quantitatively improve transportation safety, save transportation users and taxpayer’s time and money and/or make our transportation infrastructure more environmentally sustainable.

24TH STREET EA

An environmental study is looking at ways to improve mobility in downtown Ogden. 

 Environmental Assessment currently underway identifies environmental impacts that may result from potential improvements to I-15 at 24th Street.

UDOT is asking stakeholders to get involved by learning about the project and commenting on an Environmental Assessment that identifies the environmental impacts that may result from potential improvements to I-15 at 24th Street. The EA study area is bounded by the West Ogden Community to the east, 31st Street to the south, 1900 West to the west, and 21st Street to the north.

UDOT is studying impacts to the freeway and to nearby arterial streets that could result from improvements to the Midland Drive / 2550 South intersection, the 24th Street Interchange and the area within the Ogden City Industrial Park. UDOT Project Manager Bret Slater believes that the potential improvements will have a positive impact on freeway flow, safety and mobility on arterial streets.

The study team has carefully evaluated potential improvements. “Every possible alternative has been scrutinized, analyzed and looked at,” says Slater. He wants the public get informed about the alternatives and to provide comments.

Stakeholders who comment “help us through the environmental process,” says Slater. “ We need folks to tell us what they think” about potential impacts. Engineers can conduct traffic studies and design roads and structures, but local residents may have a knowledge and understanding of the local area that the project team lacks, he explains.

The study team is working with area property and business owners, government leaders and federal and state agencies to identify all potential areas of concern before a final decision is made. Elisa Albury, UDOT Environmental Lead on the project has recently helped plan and conduct an open house to inform stakeholders about the EA. Albury says the open house event provided “a status report” to inform stakeholders.

To comment on the EA, visit the study website.

MAP-21 RESOURCES

AASHTO has created a website to consolidate information about MAP-21, Moving Ahead for Progress in the Twenty First Century, the federal transportation bill passed into law on July 6.

MAP-21 is intended to reduce project delivery time and save costs, improve safety and reduce traffic congestion.

UDOT and other transportation agencies will now start implementing provisions of MAP-21. To support the implementation effort, AASHTO has established work groups and introduced a website about the new law.

New features of the law are designed to reduce project delivery time and save costs by implementing early coordination between agencies to avoid delay in review processes. Core programs have been consolidated to include:

  • National Highway Performance Program, a new core program that consolidates Interstate Maintenance, National Highway System, and Highway Bridge programs. Provisions are intended to eliminate barriers that limit flexibility to using tax dollars efficiently when improving the national highway system.
  • Transportation Mobility Program, a new program that replaces the Surface Transportation Program. Provisions broaden the eligibility of surface transportation projects.
  • National Freight Network Program, a new core program aimed at reducing congestion in order to improve the movement of goods
  • Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program is a program that was retained. CMAQ provides funds to reduce congestion and improve air quality.
  • Highway Safety Improvement Program is a retained program that increases the amount of funding to develop and implement safety programs.
  • Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Program provides direct loans, loan guarantees, and lines of credit to surface transportation projects at favorable terms.

AASHTO President Kirk Steudle has established work groups to study the implementation process, including Project Delivery, Performance Measures, Planning, Asset Management, and Performance-Based Planning and Programming, Finance, Safety, Freight, Highways and Transit.

John Horsley, Executive Director of AASHTO is looking forward to implementing the changes. “We are also pleased that the legislation includes needed reforms to stretch taxpayer dollars with expanded innovative finance, improved efficiency with program consolidation, streamlined project delivery, and improved accountability with performance measures.”

For more information about MAP-21, visit the AASHTO MAP-21 website.

SIGNALS AND DELAY

How do properly functioning signal systems help traffic flow?  

Besides reducing congestion, effective coordination of traffic signals, saves fuel, reduces vehicle emissions, and increases safety.

UDOT has recently put more resources into developing an aggressive preventative maintenance program for signal systems. “We want to go from a reactive to a proactive program,” says Mark Taylor, UDOT Traffic Signal Operations Engineer. Ultimately, the driving public will see better traffic flow.

Saturation

Sluggish traffic can be the result of saturation, or too many cars accessing the roadway. Building new roads or making existing roads wider is not always prudent or affordable.  “We just cannot build our way out of congestion,” says Taylor.

Utah’s high rate of population growth means mobility will be an ongoing challenge. Fortunately, improving signal function can help reduce delay.

Good coordination

An article on FHWA’s website reviews results from cities that have put time and resources into maintaining signal systems. A study in Virginia estimated that traffic signal improvements on a 1.5-mile of US- 17 save road users $65,000 a year in reduced delay. And a new signal system and improved signal timing in Texas produced a 13-percent reduction in travel time.

“Field studies conducted after 41 California cities re-timed 1,535 signals at a cost of $2 million in 1983 showed that vehicle stops and delays were cut by more than 14 percent, travel time was reduced by 6.5 percent, and fuel use declined by approximately 6.4 million gallons (24 million liters).”

In 2011, UDOT worked with its partners to time 164 signals and 22 corridors and realized the following benefits:

Improved Signal Timing
Travel Time Reduced – 5.5 percent
Stops Reduced – 11.4 percent
Intersection Delay Reduced – 14.7 percent
Estimated Savings to the Public in Reduced Delay – $6.2 million

Besides reducing congestion, effective coordination of traffic signals saves fuel, reduces vehicle emissions and increases safety. Because of the many benefits of well timed and well maintained signal systems, UDOT Director John Njord has charged the Traffic Operations Division with creating a world-class traffic signal system.

UDOT is committed to making even more improvements in 2012.