Category Archives: Optimize Mobility

UDOT LEADER OF THE YEAR

Lee Theobald, Business Analyst Supervisor in Systems Planning and Programming is UDOT’s 2011 Leader of the Year.

UDOT Leader of the Year Lee Theobald spoke to employees gathered to honor the nominees. He gave his co-workers all of the credit --"They make me look good," he said.

Eight UDOT leaders and their guests gathered for lunch, great conversation and to be honored for their service by UDOT Director John Njord and UDOT Deputy Director Carlos Braceras. “We do have some very talented people that work here here at the department of transportation — men and women that are leading this organization into new realms,” said Njord.

Kudos to all who were nominated for UDOT Leader of the Year:

Troy Esterholdt – Region One
Lee Nitchman – Region Two
Kurtis Park – Region Three
Ray Bentley – Region Four
Ron Butler – Operations
Stacy Frandsen – Project Development
Tim Rodriguez – Administration / Risk Management
Lee Theobold – Systems Planning and Programming

UDOT Leader of the Year, Lee Theobald: A highly respected leader and mentor, Theobald is famous at UDOT for his expertise, infectious and upbeat personality and his let’s-get-it-done attitude. Theobald’s leadership has helped transform his team into a model of efficiency and accuracy that has earned praise from UDOT leaders, team members and the Federal Highway Administration.

“Over the last thirty three years, Lee as worked his way up through the Planning ranks by being a leader who is dedicated to his work, staff, UDOT and is an inspiration to all those who know him,” according to nominator Stan Burns, UDOT Engineer for Asset Management who nominated Theobald. “Lee knows how to lead, manage and mentor multiple successful teams simultaneously.”

After a recent reorganization, Theobald took on new duties and staff and became responsible for collecting traffic statistics and road data, the Linear Referencing System and the uber important Highways Performance Monitoring System which is tied to more than half of UDOT’s Federal Funding. Theobald faced the challenge by inspiring employees and leading with vision. Within a few months, the disparate groups were transformed into a cohesive, collaborative team.

And, FHWA noticed, according to Burns. “Folks at the federal government said that HPMS report was some of the best they had seen from any state.”

Perhaps the best indicators of Theobald’s leadership ability are the statements made by those he leads. Here are a few statements made team members:

“Lee Theobald is one of those people who make it easy to come to work. Because of his even and pragmatic approach towards the execution of his responsibilities, Lee makes the challenges of work less burdensome, the problems less dramatic, and the successes more rewarding. Lee’s appreciation for his co-workers breeds cooperation, respect, and pride among his teams. Lee is one of those wonderful people that make a difference.” — Toni Butterfield

“Lee has given me the opportunity to use my skills and talent to do the job. He also provides me with plenty of assistance when the need arises. Also he is a very good boss and is there to help you keep focus on the job at hand.” — Doug Malone

“I have worked with Lee for seventeen years now. He is a leader that leads by example. He has always been the easiest going guy. He is always the one to go to for the answer to most questions. He is always willing to help and finds the best way to make the job less stressful. When I need advice he is the one I go to. He is one of those people that everyone has only good things to say about him. Lee will listen to your wants and needs and if he can help or make it happen he usually does. He is a leader that leads by example. Everyone that knows Lee knows that they can trust him and be confident in the answers and advise he gives.” — Pete Bigelow

UDOT U

UDOT University is a collective effort to bring all training offered at the department under one organizational umbrella.

A trainer tests pre-ride skills at the Trans Tech Academy, part of the Transportation Education Program. Courses offered through the TEP can be found through the UDOT U website.

Although UDOT U is still in the development stage, over 400 courses are offered.

The public face of UDOT U is a website, but the organization represents all of UDOT, with over forty people working together to create an inventory of existing training and also expand opportunities. Richard Murdock, UDOT University Administrative Vice President, says organizers are not looking to take over training functions from agency divisions, just create a clearinghouse of opportunity so employees can look across disciplines to find what they need. UDOT U Provost Richard Manser says the effort will make training at UDOT more systematic, organized and easier to find.

UDOT U is organized and operated similar to a regular university with five colleges, 32 schools, a course catalog, registration and a calendar. Although UDOT U is still in the development stage, with over 400 potential courses, enough is offered there to take a good look. Topic wise, “we cover just about anything the dept does,” says Murdock. UDOT is one of only 5 departments of transportation in the United States organizing training in a similar way.

A good example

Training has long been a main focus at UDOT; many divisions have developed comprehensive training programs, much offered on-the-job, to meet specific needs. For example, UDOT’s Transportation Education Program is an excellent and nationally known program and Murdock hopes the TEP can be used as a template for other UDOT U training opportunities.

The TEP prepares Transportation Technicians to perform maintenance and construction tasks – many move back and forth between maintenance and construction by driving a snow plow in the winter and working in a construction spring through fall.  Skills needed for the job include operating front loaders and road sweepers, repairing safety features like guardrail and road delineation markers and gathering and testing construction materials.

The TEP makes use of a wide variety of community based and in-house training opportunities. For example, the Salt Lake Community College teaches Math and in house experts teach how to collect materials for inspection and testing.  The TEP has prepared hundreds of workers to perform the core duties, allowing UDOT to use people-power effectively and efficiently throughout the year.

UDOT U’s future

More courses will be added to UDOT U soon; by July 1 2012, each of the colleges will add 32 new courses. Eight presentations from the last UDOT Annual Conference are also online now, and next year, more sessions will be offered.

Another goal according to Manser is to “have a ladder or a flow chart for every position title at UDOT.” Defining a training “pathway” for each position will promote the development of competency and help employees maintain expertise.

Online access to records is in the works. Murdock and others are working with the Utah Department of Human Resources Management to piggyback on their record keeping system. That way, students can check records online to produce proof of required training or supervisors can see what training employees have taken.

Murdock is looking forward to improving UDOT U by expanding training opportunities and website functionality. He wants all employees and others who work with UDOT to be aware of UDOT U, visit the site and see what is offered there. Manser says with improvements, the system will be easier to use, and more people will access it. “The system is going to grow and get better.”

REAL WORLD ESTIMATES

UDOT’s Estimate Support Team scrutinizes all associated project costs for better pre-bid estimates. 

The team also lends expertise to project teams to appropriately price change orders. The process, called cost-based estimating, is a departure from using average historical costs. Project costs, such as materials, can be subject to fluctuation due to market forces and project location, so an average of historical costs may not provide a good representation of specific project costs. Estimates that are close as possible to market costs allow UDOT to:

  • Allocate funds more wisely – high estimates leave money on the table when bids come in lower than expected. Better estimates mean funds can be shifted to other projects an average four months sooner.
  • Minimize re-advertizing – pre-bid cost estimates that are too low result in bids that may not be subject to approval. Re-advertizing is costly and delays improvements to the transportation system.
  • Be wise stewards of public funds during construction – pricing change orders correctly keeps the construction budget under control and allows UDOT to get the most out of every project dollar.

Chris Wilson, Abdi Fatemi, Jason Henrie and George Lukes are the Estimate Support Team. The team's cost based approach is producing estimates closer to the expected bid amounts.

Since June 2011, the UDOT Estimate Support team members George Lukes of UDOT and Jason Henrie, Abdi Fatemi and Chris Wilson of Stanley Consultants have been integrating with project teams. The team’s cost based approach is producing estimates closer to the expected bid amounts — the percentage of estimate funds awarded at bid opening jumped from 77 percent in 2010 to 91 percent in 2011.

Working together

Estimating project costs is more than just taking a look at market values. Estimators need to be experienced in the contracting world – “It takes a long, long time to be a good estimator,” says Fatemi. He has over three decades of experience working as a contractor and pricing projects.

Randall Taylor, UDOT Region Four Constructability and Environmental Engineer, has been working with the team since September 2011. He appreciates Fatemi’s extensive background and thinks cost based estimates give project teams “greater confidence that the budget is sufficient” and that the bids will come in near the expected range.

Fatemi knows the contracting world and Taylor knows the characteristics of region projects and local material sources. “We make a good team,” says Taylor. The two have come up with ways to save costs. For example, a Region Four project will re-use milled off tailings where possible instead of purchasing new material  – “energy savings and savings to the project” will result explains Taylor.

Taylor believes the present approach is an advantage. “We’re getting better estimates. We know better where our costs are going to be and we’re in a stronger position to negotiate change orders.”

GOOD TIP

Planners at the Wasatch Front Regional Council are finalizing the 2012-2017 Transportation Improvement Program or TIP, a six-year program of highway and transit projects for Salt Lake, Ogden and Layton.

Projects included in the program will help meet the transportation needs of the area. Updated yearly, the systematic process of putting together the TIP is designed to be continual, comprehensive and cooperative. WFRC works closely with UDOT, the Utah Transit Authority elected officials and the public to finalize the TIP.

The program lists priority projects for the Wasatch Front region that are developed and approved by the WFRC Board and local elected officials, and presented for public review and comment.

The process starts in the fall of each year when WFRC invites project sponsors to submit letters of intent. WFRC planners evaluate each project and determine conformity to the air quality standards. The Technical Advisory Committee, Councils of Governments and the Transportation Coordinating Committee and WFRC planners approve and rank projects.

The projects are incorporated into UDOT’s Statewide Transportation Improvement Program  after approval by the UDOT director as the governor’s designee. The STIP is also submitted to Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration for approval and adoption.

The projects listed in the TIP are incorporated into UDOT’s Statewide Transportation Improvement Program

TO LIFE

Highways for Life is a Federal Highways Administration funded program to promote the use of new technologies to improve the transportation system.

Geo synthetic Reinforced Soil, layers of "fabric" and soil, allows settlement to occur more quickly and speeds up construction time.

Nationwide, our transportation system is facing increased ADT which can cause greater than anticipated wear on roads and bridges. Transportation research has lead to safer practices and new features that can save lives. With increased traffic, construction that shuts down highways becomes very inconvenient for the traveling public.

New tested technologies that can extend the life of highway infrastructure or improve safety are ready for widespread use – that is, if transportation agencies know about the technologies and have access to funding needed for deployment.

HfL provides up to twenty percent of the total project budget and expertise needed so transportation agencies can adopt market-ready technologies. Projects must serve at least one or all of three main goals: improve safety during and after construction, reduce congestion caused by construction, and improve the quality of the highway infrastructure. The performance goals are meant to serve road users and represent “the best of what we can do,” according to the HfL website.

This year, HfL will support 17 projects being built in the next several months, including an pre-cast bridge in Idaho, an ACS signal system in New Jersey and a DDI in Wyoming. Many of the projects will involve showcase events that will allow people from other transportation agencies to see the new technologies being employed.

UDOT received support for a HfL project using Geosynthetic Reinforced Soil – Integrated Bridge System on I-84 over the Echo Frontage Road. UDOT is a leader in using accelerated bridge construction to reduce inconvenience and delay caused by construction. However, this project is different than other ABC projects UDOT has employed, according to Bridge Design Engineer Rebecca Nix. “The design removes the traditional concrete abutments and the superstructure bears directly on GRS. Using GRSwill allow the bridge to settle uniformly with the adjacent roadway providing a smooth transition onto the structure.”

Construction of the project will be phased to allow traffic to use the roadway during construction. The superstructure will be built in the median, and traffic will be routed over the structure to allow for the construction of the modular block wall foundations. Once the foundations are completed, the superstructure will be slid into place.

RESEARCH BASED SOLUTIONS

Research helps UDOT improve safety and reduce travel delay for road users.

Click to enlarge this graphic: Through research, cable barrier has been shown to improve safety and save lives.

Transportation research is the basis for good decision making, and helps make departments of transportation across the nation good stewards of the transportation system. According to an article in the AASHTO Leading in Lean Times Newsletter, research helps DOTs solve problems and make good decisions. UDOT Executive Director John Njord explains: “Most DOTs today are facing significant funding constraints. We have to focus on making the most of what we have, and research plays an important role in finding effective and efficient solutions.”

Some research-based solutions UDOT has implemented have resulted in a safer, more efficient transportation system.

Safety: Through research, cable barrier has been shown to improve safety and save lives.  Since 2003, UDOT has installed 189 miles of median cable barrier constructed out of steel strong enough to prevent even large trucks from crossing the median.

Reduced construction related delay: UDOT leads the nation in developing Accelerated Bridge Construction techniques that reduce the duration of construction on the road and limit the amount of construction related inconvenience.  By building off-site, then moving those structures into place, bridges can be replaced in hours as opposed to months.

As part of the I-15 CORE project, UDOT built and moved the Sam White Lane Bridge into place. “At 354 feet the Sam White Lane Bridge was the largest ever moved in the western hemisphere using accelerated bridge construction techniques,” said Njord. “We have now moved almost 40 bridges into place using ABC. Why? Because research showed us that the technique was feasible and would result in much shorter delays for the travelling public. We value people’s time and our goal is to minimize the impacts on the public.”

Thousands of Utahns are saving travel time by using the Express Lanes. During peak traffic, users travel about 14 miles per hour faster than the general lanes.

Improved efficiency: Express Lanes on I-15 in Utah average 10-15 percent faster than regular lanes and help UDOT predict travel times. Thousands of Utahns are saving travel time by using the Express Lanes. During peak traffic, users travel about 14 miles per hour faster than the general lanes. The smart new system allows vehicles to take up available space in the Express Lanes so travel time on I-15 is better for everyone. UDOT manages Express Lane use by adjusting the price 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.

Improved, state-of-the-art traffic signal timing, developed through research, has reduced travel delay on high-volume roadways.  In 2011, 10 detailed signal coordination projects took place involving 164 signals on 22 corridors, including the busy Salt Lake City business district.  Overall, the improved timing resulted in a 5.5 reduction in travel time, an 11.4 percent reduction in stops, a 14. 7 percent reduction in intersection delay and an estimated $6.2 million in savings to the public in reduced delay.

Utah is growing at an unprecedented rate. By 2015, travel will increase by 85 to 90 percent, population by 70 to 80 percent and new capacity by only seven percent. Facing increased demand on Utah’s transportation system will take careful, strategic planning. Transportation research provides a solid foundation for making informed, intelligent transportation improvements.

LISTEN

Audio files for Utah Transportation Commission meetings are now available online.

Many people  need to be informed about commission decisions, including UDOT employees, elected officials and representatives from the Utah Transit Authority. Audio files of transportation meetings, which are held monthly, are now posted on UDOT’s website. Posting audio files is new addition to the website meant to help keep the transportation community and general public informed. Posted audio files are a great time saver for people who have busy schedules and can’t attend or travel to the meeting locations.

As defined by Utah Code 72-1-303, the seven members of the Utah Transportation Commission:

  • Determine priorities and funding levels of projects in the state transportation system considering a prioritization of needs provided by the Department
  • Determine additions and deletions to the state highway system
  • Take public comment about transportation matters at scheduled Commission meetings
  • Make policies and rules under the Rulemaking Act, §63-46a, necessary to perform the Commission’s duties
  • Approve establishment of tollways for new state highways or new capacity lanes under §72-6-118
  • Advise the Department on state transportation systems policy
  • Review administrative rules made, amended or repealed by the Department
  • Annually review public transit plans. In addition, one commissioner serves s as a non-voting member of the Board of Trustees for the Utah Transit Authority

Many people need to be informed about commission decisions, including UDOT employees, elected officials and representatives from the Utah Transit Authority.

UTAH TRAVEL STUDY

The Utah Travel study will collect information that will aid in planning highway and transit projects.

The Utah Travel Study is an effort to collect information about regional travel patterns. 

Planning appropriate highway improvements and public transportation programs that meet community needs starts with an accurate and current knowledge of travel patterns. This spring, transportation planners at the Wasatch Front Regional Council will survey area residents in Salt Lake, Weber and Davis Counties about how, when and where family members travel.

The information collected by the survey will help UDOT and other agencies plan and prioritize highway and transit projects.

The survey will collect 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 will also be invited to report information about trips made in one 24-hour period. Survey respondents will also be asked about long distance travel and bicycle use.

Once gathered, the information will be put to good use. An understanding of daily travel patterns in the region “is vital to the officials responsible for planning future transportation projects. These plans set the priority for the 30-year long range transportation plan for the spending of billions of dollars on various highway and transit projects,” according to a press release sent by WFRC.

According to Andrew Jackson, Executive Director MAG, the survey will help make sure public monies are spent wisely and support economic development. “The Utah Household Travel Survey will allow our city planners, engineers and elected officials to make better decisions on multi-million dollar transportation projects.  It will provide insight on the transportation facilities needed in Utah Valley and when they will need to be constructed.  This will allow our economy to expand and continue to attract world class jobs from companies like Micron, Adobe, Intel, and the National Security Agency.”

To find out more:

Visit the website

Email: Utah@rsgsurvey.com

Phone number: 1-888-202-8995

ROTATIONAL PROGRAM

UDOT’s Rotational Engineer Program gives new graduates a career kick-start.

Candidates seeking a Professional Engineer license need to graduate from a qualified university engineering program, take a competency test, and complete four years of supervised work as an Engineer in Training before taking the PE and other exams.  The EIT experience at UDOT is designed to benefit both parties –the agency benefits from gaining well educated, hard working employees, and UDOT provides a varied and challenging work environment that helps engineers to gain valuable experience.

UDOT’s Rotational Program gives engineers a chance to “understand the overall role of the department,” says Rotational Program Manager Richard Murdock, who has managed the program for 7 years. The program has been around for over 20 years in a similar form with changes and updates being made as needed. UDOT also offers four summer internships that include full state benefits.

Daniele Dearinger worked full-time as a Design Tech at UDOT Region Two before being hired as a rotational engineer in UDOT Structures.

Engineers apply to the Rotational Engineer Program right out of college, and since UDOT has a reputation for providing a good EIT experience, more apply that the program can accommodate. Fifty-three engineers applied for a recent posting in Richfield. Murdock believes UDOT is getting “ the best of the best,” in the rotational and internship programs.

Murdock meets with engineers in training quarterly to discuss goals, then coordinates with supervisors to design a program that meshes agency and individual career goals. Job placements change about every six months. All engineers in training need to complete a mandatory placement in construction and design.

Daniele Dearinger, who recently graduated from the University of Utah, was hired as a Rotational Engineer in UDOT Structures two months ago.  Her first rotation was at the UDOT Traffic Operations Center. Dearinger worked full-time as a Design Tech at UDOT Region Two for over five years while attending school; doing both “was a lot of work,” she says.

Dearinger is enjoying meeting more people at UDOT and gaining more experience in different areas. When it comes to career goals, she has an open mind about where she’d like to end up, but is really enjoying work in structures – especially when it comes to doing calculations. “I just feel like I’m in heaven,” while doing calculations she says.

As a rotational engineer at the TOC, Deb Henry worked on an innovative variable speed project.

Deb Henry is on the other end of the rotational experience having just been hired as a permanent Design Engineer at Region Two. She enjoyed her time as a rotational engineer and says moving from placement to placement fills in knowledge gaps and builds professional competency.

For example, experience in the design and construction fields works together.  “it’s not a good design unless it can be built well and maintained easily, and you don’t know that unless you’ve been to construction.”

Henry also spent time in Governor Huntsman’s office in a fellowship program offered to a lucky few.  Government often operates in organizational silos “so it’s good to see what other parts of government do,” says Henry. A fellowship like the one she participated in help bridge the knowledge gap between offices and agencies.

Henry saw improvements put into action very quickly during her time at the UDOT Traffic Operation Center. She sees the TOC’s success as a function of being very technology-forward. “They’re doing a great job” at making the transportation system work more efficiently. Henry worked on an innovative project to possibly place variable speed signs at locations that experience a wide range of weather conditions.

UDOT currently has nineteen rotational engineers and “will welcome more soon,” says Murdock.  The promise of a great experience “draws people here and helps us retain our engineers as they move into permanent positions here at UDOT.”

HIGH PERFORMANCE

A yearly publication outlines accomplishments and shows how UDOT plans to move forward.

bridges under construction in being built in the interchange infield near Provo Center Street.

UDOT publishes the Strategic Direction and Performance Measures yearly to set the state’s transportation stage, communicate how construction, maintenance and safety projects improve the system, and to chart the road ahead. Utah is facing unprecedented growth in population and Vehicle Miles Traveled. The combination of factors poses a challenge, but efforts to expand capacity and make the system more efficient are helping Utahns avoid transportation gridlock.

“We have stemmed the tide,” when it comes to travel delay, explained UDOT Director John Njord today at the Utah Transportation Commission Meeting. Njord reviewed pages from the Strategic Direction, which has recently been added to the UDOT website, and highlighted some key points for commission members.

Delay has been defeated by tactically executed capacity projects. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

A graph that tracks travel delay with and without recent and planned capacity projects illustrates Njord’s point. Delay has been defeated by tactically executed capacity projects without witch road users would experience three to five times the amount of delay. Njord hopes to continue to make system wide improvements and believes that planned projects, if funded, will leave a “legacy for the citizens that come after us.”

Other important themes in the new Strategic Direction include:

  • Increasing capacity—a look at major capacity projects, including the I-15 CORE project and the Mountain View Corridor. Both projects will be completed by the end of 2012
  • Employing Innovation – UDOT has long taken pride in the innovative techniques. Last year, UDOT used Accelerated Bridge Technology to build and move the Sam White Bridge into place on I-15 – the pioneering process holds the record in the Western Hemisphere for the longest structure to be moved into place.
  • Express Lanes success – Thousands of Utahns saving travel time by using the Express Lanes. During peak traffic, users travel about 14 miles per hour faster than the general lanes.
  • New technology – the best and most up-to-date information from UDOT’s Traffic Operation Center is available in a new smart phone app. Nearly 30,000 people downloaded the app in the first four weeks since its release.

The Strategic Direction, which has recently been added to UDOT’s website, can be viewed online or in PDF.