Category Archives: Optimize Mobility

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.

HIGH-VALUE RESEARCH

The 2012 Research Workshop held on May 10 brought transportation experts together to present, discuss, and then prioritize potential research opportunities.

The UDOT Maintenance group prioritizes problem statements at the Research Workshop

At the workshop, transportation professionals meet to prioritize problem statements in order to select the ones most suitable to become research projects. The workshop serves as one step in the research project selection process and involves UDOT, FHWA, universities, private sector firms and other transportation agencies.

Good communication with all parties is essential before, during and after the workshop. “Success depends on a continuous dialog with UDOT’s technical experts and industry researchers to help determine transportation challenges to solve,” says UDOT Research Director Cameron Kergaye. Recent changes in the project selection process have been aimed at improving that ongoing internal conversation in order to produce:

High-value research – UDOT Senior and group leaders help select technical areas where the benefit-cost ratio is highest.

Timely preparation of statements – sending problem statements to  participants ahead of the workshop helps participants to be prepared for discussions.

Problem statements that address UDOT’s priorities – UDOT staff vote during the prioritization process, and UDOT division leaders also prioritize the problem statements based on organizational needs and available funding.

More research projects – After the workshop, the UDOT Research Division Staff works with division leaders to identify additional funding.

Before the workshop, UDOT Research Division solicits problem statements. This year, six focus areas were identified: Structures and Geotechnical, Environmental and Hydraulics, Construction and Materials, Maintenance, Traffic Management and Safety and Pre-construction. This year, the workshop enjoyed good support from the research community; fifty-two projects were submitted – 7 more projects than last year.

During the Workshop, participants divide into groups to prioritize problem statements. This year, three voting criteria were used:  importance of research, relevance to UDOT, and likelihood of implementation.  All attendees participated in the statement discussions and UDOT staff voted during the prioritization process.

After the workshop, UDOT Research Division staff reviews prioritization and funding for each problem statement with division and group leaders. The outcome of the 2012 workshop is that 17 projects will receive funding; ten projects will be funded through the Research Division, six will be funded by other UDOT divisions and UDOT Research will fund one pooled-fund project solicited  by another state.

Research Project Manager Kevin Nichol who coordinated the workshop explains that the projects enjoyed broad support. “We were excited that a number of projects received funding from other sources.” Many UDOT divisions including Maintenance, Planning, Traffic and Safety and the TOC contributed funding along with University Transportation Centers.

The additional funding support shows that UDOT divisions see the value in the process, according to Kergaye. He believes the strong show of support is a result of problem statements that are more carefully constructed and more closely aligned to UDOT’s priorities.

“We’ve got some good projects,” says Nichol. “Some are extending the scope of existing research and some new projects that are just coming about.”

To see details on the list of final projects, visit the UDOT Research Division website.

EQUIPPED FOR EFFICIENCY

New lanes and interchanges are not the only improvements coming to I-15 in Utah County.

April 2012, Lehi Main Street

The I-15 CORE Project between Lehi and Spanish Fork wraps up this December. But the wider freeway and 63 rebuilt or improved bridges are not the only features that will help ease traffic flow. Equipment — cameras, signs, fiber-optic cable and ramp meters — will put five systems into operation and help UDOT traffic engineers keep traffic moving efficiently. Here’s an overview:

The project will add a network of cameras, 37 in all, between the Point of the Mountain to Spanish Fork. UDOT uses the cameras to monitor congestion and to identify crashes and other incidents. If needed, the Utah Highway Patrol can dispatch an Incident Management Team to help clear the crash to keep traffic moving and prevent secondary crashes.

Forty-nine Traffic Monitoring Stations will be installed. TMS systems use radar to detect volume and speed. The data collected by TMS units feeds to the UDOT Traffic website. Road users can then view maps with routes marked in green, yellow and red representing real time traffic volume. The TMS data lets UDOT engineers see where backing is occurring on a similar password protected map. Some of the TMS units also have cameras.

Four overhead Variable Message Signs will be installed along the project corridor.The TMS data gathered also feeds to the VMS, giving road users travel times and notification of incidents ahead that are causing delay.

New Express Lanes in Utah County will help UDOT manage traffic flow throughout the freeway corridor.

The I-15 CORE project will also add Express Lanes to help UDOT manage traffic flow throughout the freeway corridor. Free for carpools, motorcycles and C-plate vehicles, solo drivers can use the lanes with an Express Pass. UDOT adjusts the price of using the lanes according to traffic conditions — so when traffic is heavy drivers will pay little more. The system allows maximum use of all lanes with the Express Lanes maintaining a speed of 55 mph during peak travel times.

Express Lanes in Salt Lake and Davis County have been popular with road users.  Over 10,000 people have purchased an Express Pass. Until the I-15 CORE project is complete in December, the Express Lanes will function as a carpool lane throughout the project. To learn more about Express Lanes, visit the website.

A total of 22 ramp meters will be installed at all interchanges help UDOT regulate traffic getting on and off of the freeway. Ramp meters help traffic flow by minimizing speed differential on the freeway – when all traffic is moving at a similar speed, traffic flow is more efficient and fewer crashes occur.

In all, 26 miles of fiber optic cable buried along the corridor will provide a data-moving artery that supports cameras, TMS, VMS ramp meters and the Express Lanes and lets UDOT communicate in real time. UDOT leaders have charged managers at the Traffic Operations Center with creating a world class Advanced Traffic Management System. Expanding the fiber optic system is an important part of reaching that goal.

SHOW OF SUPPORT

Big events can cause big traffic delay — not so this year at Hill AFB’s popular Utah Air Show.

UDOT worked closely with the Utah Highway Patrol, Layton City and base officials to iron manage traffic flow on and off of the base for the Utah Air Show.

Thousands of people pour into the base each hour to watch the show and take a close look at military air craft parked on runways during the two-day event. Traffic to and from the event has been sluggish in the past. Traffic flow was much better this year; UDOT worked closely with the Utah Highway Patrol, Layton City and base officials to iron out some difficulties that have occurred in the past.

UDOT signal engineers have successfully managed other special events such as the Stadium of Fire and BYU and University of Utah Football games. So this year, the UDOT Region One Signal Team offered their capabilities and resources to help with the air show and law enforcement and Air Force officials accepted.

UDOT Region One Signal Engineer Carrie Jacobson headed a team of signal engineers to plan ways to keep traffic moving. To prepare, the team met with base officials to identify routes to and from the event and the location of parking areas. The team paid special attention to places where traffic congestion has occurred in the past. Jacobsen’s team then developed some signal timing plans that would provide more green light time where needed.

During the event, the signal timing plans were put to work. Approximately 225 thousand people during both days. Engineers at the Traffic Operations Center observed traffic and on-site traffic engineers stood by at signal cabinets where they could fine-tune signal timing when traffic backed up.

The team’s effort earned high praise from the event organizers and law enforcement. Air Force officials were very pleased and awarded Jacobson’s team a ‘challenge coin’ for supporting the event.

UGATE

UDOT is developing a GIS backbone for sharing and viewing information about the state’s transportation system.

This screen shot shows the straight line diagram component of the Explorer Application. Designed to have broad utility, the application helps us display linear relationships which can be hard to view in a typical map.

UGate is a robust data repository that is automatically populated by many data base systems already in place. Once uploaded to UGate, data can be integrated with other information and accessed by end-users via web application portals like UPlan.

The big picture

The effort is allowing UDOT’s information to be less fragmented and “more consistent and concerted,” says Frank Pisani who heads the Enterprise GIS Team. Stand-alone databases exist in many forms all departments ac cross UDOT. Now, layers of information, such as future and past projects, bridge inspections, pavement quality, can be viewed together to give a more complete picture of the state’s transportation system.

As an illustration, Electric Program Management is a database used to track project funding, scheduling and staffing. Currently, ePM automatically uploads to UGate and along with other information, is part of Transparency In Government Spending, an application portal that lets end users see the ePM information integrated with an interactive map (like the example below) and query tools.

Department of Technology Services programmer Ruben Schoenefeld is on the UGate development team. He points out that having a data set on display via a web-based application instead of a spreadsheet or other stand-alone form has  advantages. Quality control can be managed more easily. “Even though it may be scary for the data owners to put their data ‘out there’ for others to see, they profit from it by getting feedback.”


View Larger Map

Successful data integration

Data collection needs to be web-based in order to auto-feed into UGate. Culvert inspection data, for example, will soon be collected via smart-phone. The GIS capability of smart phones will make data upload seamless, not to mention easy and accurate.

Besides TIGS, “there are now multiple applications that use that structure,” says Schoenefeld, naming Highway Reference Online as another example. Once a feature of the UGate system is put in place, multiple applications can take advantage of that feature. The interactive map is one example.

Schoenefeld has enjoyed being part of the effort to improve the way data can be used. “It’s fun to see it all come together,” he says.

Learning the system that creates features like the interactive map has been challenging for programmers. But the promise of integrated data in a system that will have years of utility for UDOT is worth the effort. Pisani believes UGate is a “web tier delivery architecture that we feel can accommodate future changes in technology.”
Getting the word out

Steve Quinn, UDOT Director of ePM and ETS and Pisani are planning to take the message on the road – visits to the UDOT Regions are being planned for this summer. Both are anxious to show what GIS can do to help improve the way UDOT builds and maintains the state’s transportation infrastructure.

THE DDI ADVANTAGE

Presentations give insight on the design of Diverging Diamond Interchanges.

A group of engineers gathered for a lessons-learned discussion and tour of UDOT Diverging Diamond Interchanges. Participants listened to presentations given by Richard Miller, with Parsons Transportation Group lead designer of the Pioneer Crossing DDI, HG Kunzler with Lochner Engineering who designed the retrofit DDI at SR 201 and Bangerter Highway and  Michael Lasko with CH2M Hill who designed the SR 92 DDI. View each of the presentations here.

The event was held to coincide with a visit by Gilbert Chlewicki, a nationally known expert and proponent of the DDI. Though it’s “not a silver bullet” that will solve any traffic problem, Chlewicki believes the design is best used in an urban or suburban environment. In fact, Chlewicki predicts that the design should be considered first in an urban or suburban environment and will “make the SPUI extinct.”

UDOT has four DDIs, each built to meet mobility needs in their respective locations. According to UDOT’s Mark Taylor, Signal Systems Engineer, DDI’s have the following advantages:

DDI’s are more efficient because of fewer phases.  “Cars on the red have to wait for one phase instead of three.  Why, because left turns are eliminated.  Eliminating left turns mean that the green time that you would normally give to the left turn can be given to other movements.  Eliminating and shortening left turn green time is usually always more efficient for the overall intersection.”

DDI’s are safer.  “There are fewer conflict points for vehicles.  A conflict point is where conflicting movements would collide if every direction had a green.  A diamond interchange contains 30 conflict points.  A Single Point Urban Interchange (SPUI) has 24.  A DDI has only 18.  Fewer conflict points are safer.”

Glen Blackwelder with UDOT Region Three gave this presentation on DDI Operations: