Category Archives: Optimize Mobility

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:

OPEN FOR BUSINESS

A newly completed capacity project will provide better north-south mobility for road users in Utah County.

“When you only have three north-south corridors in the county, it’s a central piece,” said UDOT Region Three Director Shane Marshall at a celebration of the project’s completion.

Geneva Road is one of three major north-south corridors in the area, which made the road widening project a priority for UDOT and Utah County officials. “When you only have three north-south corridors in the county, it’s a central piece,” said UDOT Region Three Director Shane Marshall at a celebration of the project’s completion sponsored by Kiewit Western Co. Utah County provided some funding for the project, which along with other funding, allowed UDOT to build sooner than expected.

Utah State Representative Brad Daw praised UDOT and the contractor for building the road quickly while maintaining a high quality project. “UDOT knows how to get the most road for the dollar,” he said. The project was bid as a Design-build contract, which allows construction and design processes to take place simultaneously. The advantages of this method are speed of completion and low cost. Finding the balance point with Design Build requires an open relationship with the contractor to achieve a best value project.

The new pedestrian-friendly five lane facility between University Parkway and 1600 North in Orem can now provide a needed alternate route for the duration of the I-15 CORE project, scheduled for completion in December 2012; three nearby interchanges will require closures between now and the end of the project. Located just west of I-15, Geneva Road has good connectivity to the freeway to allow road users to get around the interchange closures.

Another benefit of the project is the new bridge that carries Geneva Road over Union Pacific and Frontrunner rail lines at 400 South. Before the bridge was built, traffic could be backed up several minutes many times a day waiting for a train to pass.Commissioner Larry Ellertson from Utah County pointed out the advantage at the celebration. “Doesn’t it look great to see those cars continue to move across that rail road?”

Building and designing the project took expertise and careful partnering. “For an urban facility, it was challenging,” said Lead Designer Russell Clark with Parsons Corporation. The bridge at 400 South required a high skew. Maintenance of traffic was also tricky – the design accounted for all traffic movements that were in existence before the bridge was built.

The location is a “utility corridor,” according to Clark and had a high number of conflicts for a project of its size. Over 8 hundred utility conflicts were identified and moved or protected in place.

The soils in the area presented a geo-technical challenge as well. Over two-thousand telephone poles were hammered into the ground to provide soil stability and support for the bridge, and geo-membrane was used extensively.

After the I-15 CORE project concludes, the road will continue to support future mobility and economic vitality. Major growth in the area includes an extension of the UVU campus and an 18-hundred acre commercial and residential development. Daw said that the project is an example of how new roads help business and residential developments flourish. “It just helps everyone in the community.”

Click to see a slide show of the road in the Provo Daily Herald.

UTAH TRAVEL STUDY UPDATE

For the last three months, transportation planners have been asking Utahans how, when and where they travel.

The Utah Travel Study will help planners prioritize highway and transit projects for the 30-year long range transportation plan.

Sponsored by six agencies, including Metropolitan Planning Organizations and UDOT, the Utah Travel Study has contacted more than five thousand households across Utah so far. Over eight thousand college students have also participated. And this summer, a special bicycle and pedestrian survey will collect information to help planners “understand more about bike and walk travel behavior and needed improvements in Utah,” says Elizabeth Greene, with Resource Systems Group, Inc. Research firms RSG and Westat, are administering the survey on behalf of the sponsoring agencies.

The survey asks participants to provide basic demographic and vehicle information, including the number and characteristics of adults and children and number and type of vehicles available in the household. Participants are also asked to report information about trips made in one 24-hour weekday period and answer questions about transportation priorities.

Once compiled, the database will help planners prioritize highway and transit projects for the 30-year long range transportation plan. UDOT and other transportation agencies spend billions of dollars on highway and transit projects, and the data gathered by the survey will help planners ensure that money is well spent.

All six sponsoring agencies will have access to the database for planning and research. The data base will not include personal information – such as names or contact information – of the respondents. Some of the results will be published as a brief report so sponsoring agencies can share what they’ve learned with the public.

“Travel demand modelers, transportation planners, and policy-makers across the state of Utah will all analyze the data as part of their jobs,” explains Greene. “The first and foremost goal is to understand travel patterns and travel needs in order to best plan for future transportation improvements and investments.”

UDOT and other transportation agencies “really values the participation of Utahan’s from across the state.”  It’s important to hear from everyone who is contacted. Only by hearing from everyone can the state of Utah best understand the overall travel patterns and travel needs in the state and thereby best plan improvements and investments in the future,” explains Greene.

“To prepare for the Olypmic Games ten years ago, Utah invested heavily in transportation projects. Since then, development of our transportation system has continued, benefiting our economy, safety, and quality of life,” says UDOT Director John Njord. ” The Utah Travel Study will help UDOT in making decisions about future investments as we continue to develop our transportation system while preserving our existing assets and infrastructure.”

Data collection will continue throughout the summer.

IMPROVED MOBILITY

Three projects in Riverton City will improve traffic mobility for residents and businesses.

Crews place asphalt base for new concrete pavement on 13400 South in Riverton, Utah.

 

A new section of the Mountain View Corridor will open soon between 12600 South to Rosecrest Drive at 14400 South. That road, along with other improvements made by UDOT and Riverton City, will help ease traffic flow in the busy, growing community. Nearby projects include a wider road on 13400 South between the Mountain View Corridor and Bangerter Highway and a Continuous Flow Intersection at Bangerter Highway and 13400 South.

The projects will improve mobility and support economic vitality. Riverton City officials believe that “unique proximity to existing or planned major transportation infrastructure, including the Bangerter Highway, Mountain View Corridor, and transit” position the city for future economic growth, according to the city’s website.

A recent KSL News article about the MVC opening quoted resident Matt Thompson who lives nearby as being hopeful that the new road will reduce traffic noise and improve safety in his neighborhood.  “I think a lot of people are looking forward to having the extra access to be able to get around at a little higher speed instead of having to cut through neighborhoods.”

Riverton City is widening 13400 South to include three travel lanes in each direction, a long-lasting concrete on asphalt driving surface, better drainage, a reconfigured intersection at 4150 West, better street lighting and traffic signals and sidewalks. Reconstruction started in mid-February and is expected to continue through late summer.

CFIs along Bangerter highway have helped enhance east-west travel from West Valley to Riverton. The innovative design was first introduced on 3500 South in 2007. CFI’s provide more green-light time by and can increase the number of cars moving through an intersection by up to 70 percent.

UTAH COUNTY’S CFI

Utah County’s first CFI is on the fast track.

UDOT has been busy converting a regular intersection to a Continuous Flow Intersection on University Parkway and Sandhill Road as part of the I-15 CORE Project. The intersection is used by nearly 70 thousand cars per day. Converting it to a CFI will improve the flow of traffic by 20 percent and improve safety for drivers turning left from University Parkway onto Sandhill Road.

The opening of the new intersection is another significant milestone as I-15 CORE progresses toward completion in December.The project is being built on an accelerated schedule and will be completed on Tuesday, May 22 after one month 0f construction.

“With a three-day closure scheduled to begin Friday night, construction on University Parkway will get worse before it gets better,” said UDOT spokesperson Mindy Nelson. “It will all be worth it when the new continuous flow intersection opens on Tuesday, and east/west drivers will see more green lights.”

UDOT encourages drivers to learn how to drive the intersection before it opens on Tuesday by viewing a new tutorial.

UDOT is working hard to reduce traffic delay by making the current system work more efficiently and by increasing capacity where appropriate. Individual drivers can also make choices that can help save time, use less energy and reduce traffic congestion. Visit the TravelWise website to investigate some effective strategies like trip-chaining and alternative work schedules.

INNOVATION

Gilbert Chlewicki , known as the Father of the DDI, gave the keynote address at the UDOT Research Workshop.

Gilbert Chlewicki spoke about innovation at the UDOT Research Workshop. "Innovation does not have to be provocative or really out there, it can be very simple."

Chlewicki focused his remarks on innovation and some of the key ways creativity is fostered in engineering organizations. UDOT employees are familiar with many of his talking points – leaders at UDOT purposely create an environment where innovation is encouraged.

According to Chlewicki, barriers to innovation can include organizational disconnect between engineering specialties and a general disinclination on the part of members of the engineering profession to try new things combined with fear of failure.

Most departments of transportation are structured in ‘pillars’ with very little overlap between areas of specialty, such as design or traffic operations. For innovation to occur, engineers in transportation agencies need to understand how different specialties co-relate.

For example, “it’s good to understand how geo-metrics and traffic operation work together,” said Chlewicki. He also pointed out that engineering is a conservative profession and in a department of transportation – or any organization – fear of failure can subvert innovation.

Are the cards stacked against innovation? Chlewicki seemed optimistic that innovation can be fostered and encouraged and offered some suggestions for employees and organizations:

  • Don’t get bogged down by a standard, code or a process. Finding a solution may be outside of the commonplace approach.
  • Look for uncomplicated solutions. “Innovation does not have to be provocative or really out-there, it can be very simple.” Chlewicki pointed to the Diverging Diamond Interchange as an example of a simple solution. Named by by Popular Science magazine as one of the best innovations in 2009, the DDI switches traffic to the opposite side of the roadway in order to avoid left-turn conflicts.
  • “Hang out with other innovators.” Creativity can rub off!
  • Organizations should reward innovation if possible and try to provide an environment where failure is not punished.

It’s good to make room for an ‘ah ha!’ moment. While looking to innovation as a way to solve transportation challenges is necessary in the modern world, once in a while, innovation just happens. “It’s not always need based,” said Chlewicki. “…sometimes it comes out of nowhere.”