Category Archives: Optimize Mobility

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.

SIGNAL REORGANIZATION

A reorganized Signal Team is helping UDOT engineers share best practices and improve traffic flow.

keeping signals working requires an investment of funding and staff to execute preventative maintenance strategies that keep signals working and traffic flowing.

UDOT is putting more resources into keeping signals working well by adding more resources and reorganizing the statewide signals team. The change is part of an aggressive preventative maintenance program that ultimately will help UDOT be more proactive and less reactive.

Well managed signal systems can have a cost benefit ratio as high as 40 to 1 – a much higher benefit than new construction. But keeping signals working requires an investment of funding and staff to execute preventative maintenance strategies.

“We want to be preventing the fires from occurring in the first place,” says Mark Taylor, UDOT Traffic Systems Operational Engineer. With the new organization changes, he says the public “will see reduced delay and smoother flow of traffic.”

Taylor works in the Traffic Management Division, which is responsible for traffic signal timing on all state roads at the Traffic Operations Center.  The UDOT TOC is the nerve center for managing traffic flow and the facility plays a key role in helping UDOT manage signal systems and reduce delay.

According to a recently completed UDOT Quality Improvement Team report and FHWA, departments of transportation need sufficient staff to manage and maintain the signal systems effectively and efficiently.  National best practice standards call for one traffic engineer to keep every 75 to 100 signals maintained and operational and one signal technician for every 40 to 50 signals.

Changes at UDOT reflect best practices

Now each of the four UDOT regions has a Region Traffic Engineer, with regions three and four sharing one position. Region Traffic Engineers report to the central Signal Operations Management Engineer at the Traffic Operations Division. Signal crews at the region level report to the Region Traffic Signal Engineer and to Traffic Operations Division.

The organizational change reflects a Matrix management structure that integrates the Traffic Management Division and operations engineers at the four UDOT Regions. The change is intended to aid organizational cohesion and uniformity, improve operations and maintenance practices, and facilitate increased knowledge transfer of best practices from one region to another.

With improved preventative maintenance, signal detection systems, for example, should fail less often. “We have a goal to keep signal detection operational – ninety-five percent is the goal,” says Taylor.

SEND IN YOUR GREAT PHOTOS!

A photo contest is providing an opportunity to showcase the people who use and improve our state transportation system – but hurry, time is short!

Workers ready a Self-Propelled Modular Transporter for the Sam White Bridge Move

Face it, the UDOT family, including state employees and private sector partners, is full of dedicated people who enhance the quality of life in our state by improving mobility, maintaining infrastructure and building for the future. Do you have photos that showcase those people doing their important work? If so, the AASHTO Faces of Transportation photo contest may be a great way to share those images.

“Faces of Transportation” is a yearly contest that has a monetary prize attached. UDOT is heading a coordinated effort to submit photos for the contest, but the deadline is approaching quickly.

For the first time, contest organizers are asking for photos that fit into three themes:

  • Building the Future – showing people planning, designing and maintaining the transportation network.
  • On the Road – showing long distance travel opportunities afforded by the transportation network.
  • Taking a Ride—showing people using transportation networks to commute, run errands or to discover new places.

Please send digital photos to chiggins@utah.gov by Wednesday, July 25. Digital files must be a minimum of 600 dpi quality or better. All entries must be accompanied by a completed entry form. A text file with the information and caption should also be included. For assistance, contact Catherine Higgins at 801-803-9413 or by email.

Photos selected for the contest will be highlighted on the UDOT Blog and Flickr.

WAY TO GO

Congratulations to the The Mountain View Corridor Right-of-way team for earning the Stewardship Award.

The Mountain View Corridor Right-of-Way Team

FHWA’s 2012 Excellence in Right of Way Awards recognize “outstanding work associated with acquiring real property” for transportation projects. One award is presented from each of the nine categories yearly at the FHWA/AASHTO Right-of-Way and Utilities Subcommittee meeting. “Our goal with the awards program is to spotlight and share great ideas from around the country that will benefit the right-of-way community and the public,” according to the award website.

The ROW team on the MVC project team includes members from UDOT, HDR and Parsons Brinckerhoff. FHWA has recognized the team for “outstanding innovations that enhance the right-of-way professional’s ability to meet the challenges” associated with acquiring property for the corridor while ensuring that the rights of property owners and tenants are protected.

UDOT’s Mountain View Corridor is a planned freeway in western Salt Lake County and northwestern Utah County, servicing 13 municipalities. Initial construction of MVC in Salt Lake County builds two lanes in each direction from 5400 South to Redwood Road and preserves the land in the middle for future expansion. Initial construction in Salt Lake County began in summer 2010 and will be complete by the end of 2012.

MEETING FLEET CHALLENGES

The First Annual National Fleet Management Conference brought fleet managers together to share expertise.

Steve McCarthy, Fleet Manager at UDOT

Fleet managers at the nations departments of transportation are facing many of the same issues, including limited budgets, new emissions and mileage regulations and how to manage costs during the life-cycle of equipment. Those common concerns brought fleet managers and staff members from across the nation together to share best practices and “cross pollinate ideas,” says Larry Galehouse, Director of the National Center for Pavement Maintenance.

The effort to organize the conference was born out of AASHTO’s Sub Committee on Maintenance and sponsoring agencies included, AASHTO, TRB, American Association of State Transportation Highway Transportation Officials Research Board, AASHTO Equipment Management, Technical Services Program, Southeastern States Equipment Managers Conference, Inc.

UDOT Deputy Director Carlos Braceras gave one of the keynote addresses at the conference. As the chair of the AASHTO Subcommittee on Maintenance, it was “extremely important to have Carlos give them the vision of AASHTO,” according to Galehouse.

Feedback on the conference has been largely positive, says Galehouse. The next conference will be held in 2014.

Here is an excerpt from Braceras’ address:

At the Utah Department of Transportation, we are driven in all we do by a set of strategic goals known as the “Final Four.”  These strategic goals provide guidance in our department’s efforts to improve the quality of life and economic vitality of our state.  These goals help remind us of our responsibilities.  They are: preserve infrastructure, optimize mobility, improve safety, and strengthen the economy.

Our fleet helps us meet every one of those goals. By maintaining our roads and highways, not only is our equipment fleet preserving our infrastructure, it’s allowing us to provide a quality transportation system that helps bring industry to our state…therefore strengthening the economy.  By plowing our roads during frequent and often treacherous winter storms, keeping our roads free of debris, and making repairs that keep our roads functioning smoothly…our fleet allows us to optimize mobility and improve safety.

UDOT’s fleet is valued at about $200 million dollars.  Whether your DOTs have a larger fleet or a smaller fleet…it is a significant investment of taxpayer money and it is our responsibility to utilize it to the best of our ability and make it work as efficiently as possible.  That’s why we’re here today.  To learn from each other, to discuss what works and what doesn’t work, to find solutions to the challenges every one of our DOTs is facing in this changing economic time.

Download the entire speech here: Carlos Fleet Speech