Category Archives: Optimize Mobility

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  • Review administrative rules made, amended or repealed by the Department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.

TALKING TRANSPORTATION

Transportation projects are planned, designed and carried out by teams of engineers, construction workers and, wait for it…communicators.

Public open house

While their role varies depending on the type or stage of the project, communicators who talk to and interact with project teams encourage public participation, which is critical to the engineers, construction crews and stakeholders that plan, build and drive on transportation facilities. The International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) is a professional organization that focuses on ways to encourage effective interaction with the public.

IAP2 promotes decision-oriented, values-based, goal-driven Public Participation. Skilled practitioners understand that interacting with the public honestly and fairly is an ethical responsibility. And, that getting good participation ultimately makes for a better project.

The Utah Chapter of  IAP2 is hosting training for communicators who work in public participation March 12-16, 2012 at the UDOT Traffic Operations Center. The classes will help students establish a knowledge base to help them work effectively with the public on a range of activities from influencing the direction of a project to informing the public about construction progress. It’s a fast-track route for Public Participation novices.

QUALITY CHOICE

An urban reconstruction project in Ogden, Utah received high honors from the American Concrete Pavement Association.

Concrete

The Riverdale Road reconstruction project is a Gold winner in the National Excellence in Concrete Pavement Awards. Every year, an independent panel of judges selects quality concrete projects from the United States and Canada to receive special recognition. Engineers, project owners and contractors on each project team share the award.

Riverdale Road intersects a vital business district and connects four Utah cities with Interstates 15 and 84. Over 47 thousand vehicles travel the corridor daily. The project expanded the major arterial from five lane roadway to a seven lane concrete corridor between 55o West to Washington Boulevard.

The success of the project hinged on the construction team maintaining a demanding construction schedule while also maintaining access for nearly 100 businesses located along the corridor. High utility conflicts The PI team was stellar at keeping business owners informed and responding to questions and concerns.  To accommodate busy winter road use, construction took a break between mid December and January 1.

Work resumed in early 2010 and even with the interruption, the project was completed 24 days ahead of schedule. The project also finished within budget with zero recordable incidents or lost time accidents.

The prime contractor was Granite Construction. Geneva Rock Products placed the concrete pavement on the roadway. The design and engineering was performed by Michael Baker and Parson’s Brinkerhoff. Public Involvement was provided by Frontline Public Involvement Inc. and Penna, Powers, Brian Haynes Public Relations.

In addition to awards programs, the ACPA offers a wide range of education, training seminars, workshops, symposia, and other events to support the concrete paving industry.

RECYCLED BRIDGE

One road’s lost pedestrian bridge will be another road’s gain.

UDOT is building a new grade separated intersection on 7800 South and Bangerter Highway in Salt Lake County. The overall project also includes CFI intersections at 6200 South and 7000 South  — both similar in operation to the intersection of Bangerter Highway and 3500 South.  The improvements will benefit traffic flow in the area.

The configuration of the 7800 South intersection made it necessary to remove and rebuild a pedestrian crossing in another location. The old bridge, which still has some functional life, could not be used on the new, wider and reconfigured roadway. But UDOT will put the used bridge to good use on U-111.

8200 South on U-111 has been identified as needing a safer pedestrian crossing. The old bridge will help pedestrians cross safely over U-111. If all goes well, the new crossing could be put into place by Fall 2012.

A pedestrian bridge that was removed for an intersection improvement project will be reused on U-111 at 8200 South.

MANAGING NICELY

UDOT’s Incident Management Teams help keep traffic flowing along the Wasatch Front.

The IMT program is a key element in the TOC’s ability to maintain safety and movement on urban freeways. UDOT engineers estimate that for every one minute saved by clearing an incident quickly, five minutes of traffic delay can be prevented.

Stalled cars, crashes or other incidents on the freeways can cause minor slowing to severe delay for motorists. Traffic delay is not just inconvenient; the risk of secondary crashes is increased when motorists slow or switch lanes suddenly. Emergency responders at the scene of a crash are also at risk. The IMT program was started in 1994 to improve safety and assist disabled motorists.

UDOT IMTs provide a critical safety function in clearing crashes quickly, helping to manage the scene and providing a highly visible presence to warn motorists to drive carefully.

IMT vehicles are easy to spot. The high-profile one-ton trucks are white with reflective markings. Vehicles have sirens, overhead lights, flashing headlights and large yellow lights in the rear. The lights and sirens are only used as necessary to help trucks gain access to a crash scene.

All IMT Technicians need the know-how to get a stranded motorist back on the road.

IMT Technicians need a variety of skills and special training to be qualified for the job. All technicians need the know-how to get a stranded motorist back on the road. Formal training includes medical first responder, emergency traffic control set-up and driving with lights and sirens. All IMT technicians need to know the law enforcement 10-code, possess a Commercial Driver License and have good computer and radio skills.

Good feedback

IMTs patrol assigned areas and are also dispatched to a crash or stranded motorist. The teams work closely with the UDOT Traffic Operations Center and the Utah Highway Patrol. “We help [troopers] out quite a bit – they seem to like us,” says David Stallworth, IMT Supervisor in the Salt Lake County area. With a highly visible IMT truck on scene, UHP Troopers have “extra protection so they can go about the investigation of the accident,” or provide assistance to motorists.

Trooper Mike Freeman says he always appreciates the improved safety of a “Tango Unit” on the scene of a stop or crash. “People just don’t see these red and blues,” referring to the official UHP car.

Although the goal of the IMT program is to provide assistance as quickly as possible, technicians stay on scene as long as troopers, motorists, emergency responders and tow truck operators need protection. “We don’t leave them” until safe conditions are restored, says Stallworth. Motorists who are helped by the IMT Technicians are often “surprised and grateful” for the assistance, says Stallworth.

The IMT program is a key element in the TOC’s ability to maintain safety and movement on urban freeways. UDOT engineers estimate that for every one minute saved by clearing an incident quickly, five minutes of traffic delay can be prevented. Those few minutes saved means that fewer secondary crashes occur and normal traffic flow is quickly restored.

CORE OPTIMIZED

The I-15 Corridor Expansion Project is keeping traffic moving during construction.

I-15 CORE crews place concrete pavement near the University Parkway interchange.

As the project owner and the contractor for the I-15 CORE project, UDOT and Provo River Constructors have teamed up to make sure road users are not unnecessarily delayed by construction.

While some delay is inevitable, excessively slow travel is inconvenient for everyone and often expensive for workers and businesses that deliver goods and services. Keeping traffic moving involves a comprehensive planning and coordination effort. Here are some ways the project team reduces construction related delay:

  • Advanced Transportation Management Systems, including ramp meters, traffic cameras, automated signals and traffic monitoring stations, are in place along the construction corridor and on parallel routes. A Traffic Operations Center at the I-15 CORE office allows traffic engineers to observe traffic. When capacity is reduced on I-15, engineers can make adjustments that increase the capacity of key parallel routes.
  • The I-15 CORE project team takes a regional approach use major arterial and state roads as needed to relieve traffic demand on the freeway. Signal timing plans have been created for detours, crashes, and commuter travel. Plans can be adjusted as needed to provide enough green light time for traffic.
  • The UDOT, Orem, and Provo signal systems have been unified to allow coordination across municipal boundaries.
  • Construction has been phased to minimize ramp and lane closures. While lane closures are always necessary during reconstruction projects, minimizing lane closures maintains optimal capacity.
  • Public Involvement Coordinators encourage road users to adopt TravelWise strategies, including alternate work schedules, trip-chaining and use of public transportation, to reduce demand for the freeway. Facebook and Twitter are used to communicate information regarding planned closures as well as traffic incidents so drivers can plan extra travel time or use alternate routes as needed.

Increasing capacity in and around the I-15 CORE project allows UDOT to optimize the level of service available for road users. Minimizing congestion on I-15 and on the parallel streets also reduces the likelihood of crashes.

GET THE MESSAGE?

New air quality messages on overhead freeway signs will prompt road users to make smart travel choices.

The UDOT Traffic Operations Center uses variable message signs on freeways to provide helpful information for road users. Messages about travel times, crashes or other unexpected events and air quality all take turns on the limited but highly visible real estate above the freeway. Limited space means TOC Operators, who have primary control of the signs, need to provide messages that have good utility to road users.

New signs will prompt action on the part of motorists. When DAQ makes the call to notify the public about an upcoming red alert day, UDOT will post messages that are designed to give motorists the chance to adjust travel plans the following day.

 

UDOT has used the VMS to alert the public to air quality conditions since Salt Lake City hosted the Winter Olympics. The alerts are based on data posted on the website Department of Environmental Quality, Division of Air Quality. Utah’s air is monitored by the DAQ – air monitoring stations around the state measure pollutants and that data is compiled to rate the quality of air as yellow or red.

When DAQ makes the call to notify the public about an upcoming red alert day, UDOT will post messages that are designed to give motorists the chance to adjust travel plans the following day. UDOT has evaluated the phrases used on freeway VMS with an eye to providing a useful message that targets commuters and encourages road users to make a decision about how they travel.  The new messages will read in part “For Better Air” followed by an action phrase such as “Avoid Rush Hour Tomorrow.”

Drivers have an array of choices when it comes to travel. UDOT’s TravelWise website is a good source of information for people who want to select appropriate alternatives. TravelWise strategies such as carpooling, tele-commuting, taking public transportation or flexible work schedules can help reduce traffic volume on red air days, as well as help motorists avoid traffic delay and get around more efficiently.