Category Archives: Optimize Mobility

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

 

REBUILDING 14

The SR-14 rebuilding project is progressing well despite slope movement that has required additional work.

This aerial photo was taken shortly after the landslide occurred.

Last October a massive landslide destroyed a half-mile section of SR-14. UDOT’s construction contractor, Kiewit Western Co., successfully opened the road by Memorial Day, ahead of schedule. But slope instability in the west end of the project area required UDOT and Kiewit to expand the scope and duration of the work.

The culprit: weak soils

“We’ve basically got weak layers that are hidden and very difficult to isolate,” says UDOT Senior Geologist David Fadling. An investigation of the slide area was completed during the design phase of the project. Hundreds of feet of six inch diameter borings were drilled, but the weak layers were still difficult to detect. “Unfortunately we were not able to find out where this weak layer was until we started to excavate for it.”

The steep terrain is causing other difficulty. Workers are excavating over 300 thousand cubic yards of dirt from the top of the slide area and placing it at the toe in order to stabilize the slope. “The terrain is extremely difficult to access,” says Fadling.

Exceptional work

UDOT project team members are pleased with Kiewit’s work. “The thing that stands out for me is their willingness to perform very difficult work,” says Fadling. “When asked to excavate back to the cliffs to remove more of the slide at milepost 7.5, they accepted the challenge.”

UDOT Resident Engineer Leif Condie is on the construction site often as work is occurring and likes Kiewit’s attention to safety. The company is very proactive at protecting workers and the traveling public. Kiewit workers continuously review “why and how to prevent incidents,” says Condie. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Collaboration between UDOT and Kiewit has allowed work to move forward quickly and efficiently. UDOT initiated a Construction Manager/General Contractor contract for the project. The innovative method allows the contractor to give input during the design phase. “It becomes a very efficient design by the time it reaches construction,” according to Michelle Page, UDOT Project Controls and Innovative Contracts Manager.

Besides efficient progression, collaboration has resulted in cost savings. For example, the initial cost estimate for Phase Three of the project which included repairing some minor slide areas was $3 million. “They did it for $1.7 million,” says Reuel Alder, CMGC Engineer. “It’s that interaction from looking at the problem from multiple perspectives” during design.

UDOT Project Manager Daryl Friant believes that collaboration with the contractor has “really helped us get a handle on constructability and cost.” Kiewit has submitted fewer change orders as compared to typical projects. Excessive change orders can push projects over the budgetary limit. “It really has been a true partnering effort.”
Safety dictates the maintenance of traffic

Workers are excavating earth from the slide area on very steep terrain. Because of the potential danger of rocks rolling down the slope, traffic is only allowed through at night from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. while work proceeds during the day.
“It comes down to safety and efficiency,” says Kevin Kitchen, Public Involvement Manager at UDOT Region Four.

“Amidst changing conditions, we’ve provided a consistent travel window for critical economic functions in the area while at the same time creating safe public passage and a safer work environment. The daytime closures significantly improve work flow, reduce project duration, and save taxpayers money, making it less likely that other infrastructure projects will be jeopardized or postponed.”

Good news

The road will be open from Tuesday, July 3 at 4 p.m. through Monday, July 9 at 7 a.m. “twenty four hours a day to facilitate the traffic on the national holiday – probably the busiest weekend we have,” reports Condie. “We’re trying to meet the public needs not just the contractor’s.”

NOW PLAYING

In a world where road users get I-15 CORE information on the big screen…

This summer, theater patrons in Utah and Salt Lake Counties will see a trailer with roads that appear, bridges that move and messages that inform viewers about Utah’s biggest-ever road construction project. It’s not a trailer for an actual movie, but a research-based video that delivers an important message – the end is near.

I-15 CORE Communications Director Dave Smith says the trailer pairs an entertaining presentation with a carefully crafted message. His team conducted market research to discover road-users’ perceptions before making the video.

Doing market research up front is important because of the nature of UDOT’s work. Road construction impacts people daily as they travel to work, to the store or to entertainment venues. “Not every company affects every day life – UDOT is one of those,” said Smith.

“We found out that people don’t have a good understanding of when the project ends,” continued Smith. He set out to find an amusing way to let road users know that the end is approaching with a prompt to encourage people to visit the I-15 CORE website to get more information. To accomplish that task, his communication team used a creative approach based on an ancient idea.

Archeological discoveries have identified Mayan calendars with the last date occurring in December 2012 – the same month and year I-15 CORE ends. Some believe the Mayans expected an apocalyptic end. Since the Mayan calendar has been in the news, “the end is near” message resonates with viewers.

The final product is a fast-paced video with the look and feel of a movie trailer– including a deep-voiced narrator who provides a stereotypical sound as well. People tend to like clever humor and Smith thinks the witty but informational message delivery will change public perceptions.

The video is running in the theaters, on UDOT’s Youtube Channel and links to the video have been tweeted.

SHOW ME THE MONEY

A new UDOT website lets the public see how tax money is spent to build and improve state roads.

Nearly all UDOT projects designed and built during the last 5 years along with future STIP projects are included in UDOT Projects, a new website.

Three years in the making, the new UDOT Projects website provides easy access to information about projects, including location, purpose, status, total budget and funding source. UDOT Deputy Director Carlos Braceras had the original vision to create a site where the public could see project funding and costs in as close to real time as possible – not a small order explains UDOT Projects Project Manager Stan Burns.

Building UDOT Projects meant that databases containing project information needed to be automatically fed into the website. The Utah Department of Technology Services found a way to seamlessly link internal databases,which include hundreds of projects, to UDOT Projects. As project information is added to databases, those additions are automatically uploaded to UDOT Projects.

The website presents information  for everyone – from the general public to policy makers.

Tabs representing UDOT’s four strategic goals, including Preserve Infrastructure, Optimize Mobility, Improve Safety and Strengthen the Economy, categorize projects by main purpose. Projects in the design, construction or substantially complete phase are placed on a map so citizens can find projects close to home or along a commuter route. Clicking on a project produces pop ups with links to information about budget, costs and status.

Another tab labeled Information Warehouse lists nearly all UDOT projects designed and built during the last 5 years along with future STIP projects. UDOT projects are primarily funded by the Utah Legislature and gas tax revenues which are directed into four funds, and the Information Warehouse Tab gives the status of each fund. On the Project Map tab, an Interactive Project Report tool for queries and analysis lets users sort, view, print and export data.

Altogether, the map, query tool, budget and funding information provide a lot of utility for the public and those who work with UDOT.  End users can easily find and display what ever information is desired. “If you want to know how much we’ve spent on pavement preservation, you can see that,” says Burns.

UTAH’S UNIFIED PLAN

Utah’s all-inclusive transportation plan for state and local roads and transit is one of a kind in the United States.

Bangerter Highway at 7800 South

The Unified Transportation Plan: 2011 to 2040 is a comprehensive project list that includes urban and rural transportation improvement projects from UDOT and Utah’s four Metropolitan Planning Organizations – Wasatch Front Regional Council, Mountainland Association of Governments, Dixie MPO and Cache MPO.

Engineers, elected officials, planners and citizens collaborate for years to produce the list that also includes “planning time horizons, funding and growth assumptions, and modeling approaches,” according to Andrew Gruber, Executive Director of WFRC.

The Unified Transportation Plan “allows us to speak with a unified voice to our legislature about our transportation priorities and needs” says UDOT Transportation Planner Walt Steinvorth. Having one plan means that transportation projects are prioritized and funded in a coordinated manor.

Transportation has a critical role to play in economic growth and mobility. “The significant investments that the Legislature, local governments, and voters have approved have not only created thousands of private-sector engineering and construction jobs, but they have also allowed us to keep pace with the rapid growth Utah has experienced,” according to Gruber.

“One of the reasons that Utah’s economy has been strong and has outperformed most other states is the solid investment we have made in transportation infrastructure – both roads and transit, and increasingly, bike and pedestrian infrastructure.”

And the fact that Utah is the only state with a Unified Transportation Plan has earned national attention and praise. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood visited Utah recently and called the plan a model for the nation. Janet Kavinoky, Director of Transportation Infrastructure for the United States Chamber of Commerce has called attention to the plan in an article for the Eno Center for Transportation.

BACKPACK ADVENTURE

UDOT will use an innovative hybrid bridge system that combines the durability of concrete with the strength of Fiber Reinforced Polymer.

The system, called Bridge in a Backpack, uses stiffened FRP tubes that are shaped into aarches and filled with concrete. While design of the brides varies, the arches are typically attached to a concrete footing and covered with corrugated decking then covered with compacted soil. The new bridge, which is being designed, will be built in Ogden Canyon on SR 39 near Huntsville.

Hundreds of the tubular structures have built in the United States, although the building method is fairly new. The arches were developed by the University of Main. FHWA has developed an implementation strategy and is funding part of the construction costs of the new bridge.

Advantages of the Bridge in a Backpack system include:

  • Fast construction which benefits the driving public.
  • Light weight components that can be transported easily.
  • Potentially lower maintenance costs over the life of the bridge – FRP is not susceptible to road de-icing chemicals as is steel.

UDOT has used FRP in other structures. UDOT’s Beaver Creek Bridge on US-6 near Soldier Summit has a deck that is reinforced with FRP bars. The bridge is instrumented with sensors that measure strain. Researchers are collecting data that will show how the deck holds up under traffic.

UDOT will also build a bridge with hybrid-composite beams near Beaver. The design uses an FRP box to with a concrete arch inside that gives the beam compressive strength. More than just a covering, the box “provides shear strength and encapsulates the tension and compression elements,” according to the HCB Company website. The arch structure inside the beam is surrounded with low density foam core. A prestressing strand provides additional strength and steel shear connectors provide stiffness. Along with being very strong and durable, the beams are also light and easy to lift and place.