Category Archives: Optimize Mobility

Optimizing Mobility

As we continually look for ways to improve our processes with the ultimate goal of keeping drivers moving on Utah’s roads, UDOT has deployed a number of technological tools that align with our strategic direction to preserve infrastructure, optimize mobility, reach our goal of zero fatalities, and strengthen the economy. I wanted to particularly emphasize what we are currently doing as a department in regards to our goal of optimizing mobility, which, in our day and age, no longer only applies to people’s ability to keep moving but also to their ability to do things as they are moving (but not driving), via phone apps.

These UDOT phone apps are allowing citizens to perform a variety of tasks, like reporting road conditions directly to operators at the Traffic Operations Center (TOC), or finding out what kind of delays to expect due to construction projects, and receiving severe weather event warnings. In addition to this ever evolving field of mobile technology, we continue to rely on innovative projects based on traffic models and engineering to not only improve mobility, but also safety, which in turn helps us achieve our goal of Zero Fatalities. Last year, Region Two completed several projects that illustrate exactly how we continue to optimize mobility through road and signal technologies.

MOBILE TECHNOLOGY

UDOT Traffic

Screen shot of UDOT Traffic app
UDOT Traffic is the department’s portal for statewide traffic information and can be accessed through the UDOT Traffic website or via mobile application for iOS or Android devices. Citizens can use the site to view real-time traffic conditions, construction and emergency alerts, road weather forecasts, and current lane and ramp closures. New to the UDOT Traffic app is a map layer that displays designated bike routes across the state, and state roads with shoulders wider than four feet. The map also displays routes that are restricted to bicycles such as I-15 in the Salt Lake Valley.

UDOT continually upgrades the UDOT Traffic portal to make it even more useful for drivers and the public. This year, the Lane Closure tool will be used for all projects on interstates as well as major highways including Bangerter Highway, Legacy Parkway, S.R. 201, and U.S. 40.

Future updates will improve integration between construction projects and the Lane Closure tool, and will allow contractors and department employees to make changes to UDOT Traffic information using mobile devices.

Citizen Reporter

Screen shots of the citizen reporting app
UDOT Citizen Reporter is a mobile application that enlists volunteers to report on current weather conditions for specific roads across Utah. This app is designed to provide both TOC operators and travelers with more accurate and timely road, weather and travel impact information and forecasts.

To participate as citizen reporters, members of the public are required to take a short course (either online or in person), complete a quiz, and then submit a sign-up form. Once those steps are completed, the volunteer receives a login and password, and can then download the app and begin submitting reports.

Citizen reporters are able to confirm weather data received through other sources (Road Weather Information Systems, meteorological forecasts, etc.) and can provide data for roadways where RWIS systems or other information sources may not be available.

ROAD & SIGNAL TECHNOLOGY

Variable Speed Limit

Photo of Variable Speed Limit sign with a semi passing by on I-80 in Parley's Canyon

Variable Speed Limit sign on I-80 in Parley’s Canyon

In January 2014, 15 new variable speed limit (VSL) signs were activated along I-80 in Parleys Canyon. The new signs are controlled by the TOC to help maintain consistent traffic flows and assist drivers in adjusting speeds when necessary due to weather conditions.

The TOC monitors speed limits in the canyon. In the event of poor weather or low visibility, a traffic engineer reviews information, such as current road conditions, weather forecasts, snowfall rates, observed speeds, and reports from maintenance personnel. Based on this information, the engineer can make the decision to reduce the speed limit as needed. Speed limits typically range from 35 to 65 miles per hour depending on conditions.

The new VSL signs are the first of their kind in Utah. UDOT is also considering installing variable speed limit signs in other locations around the state, such as Provo Canyon and Sardine Canyon, based on the results of this project.

Bike Detection

Photo of open signal cabinet
Last year, Region Two and the TOC worked together to develop and install reliable bicycle detection at nine signalized intersections in Salt Lake City, along with new pavement markings to show bicyclists where to stop. Often, bicyclists stop at red lights, look to see if they feel it is safe to cross, and then proceed through the intersection without waiting for a green signal; these upgraded intersections help encourage cyclists to obey traffic signals.

Additionally, upgrading bicycle detection systems encourages cycling as a viable means of transportation. This helps improve air quality by reducing automobile emissions, and is an asset for local economic development since many companies have reported that Utah’s alternative transportation options (such as bicycling and mass transit) were a significant factor in their decision to come to the state.

Moving forward, the department is working with the bicycling community to identify additional high-priority intersections where this detection technology can be installed.

HAWK Crossings

Photo of HAWK signal with traffic flowing underneath

HAWK

HAWK (High Intensity Activated CrosswalK) crossings have been installed in a number of locations in Region Two where arterial streets intersect with minor streets. These crossings include pavement markings, signs, and red and yellow lights on an arm over the roadway.

When a pedestrian pushes the button to activate the signal, the lights over the roadway begin flashing yellow, alerting drivers to slow down. A solid red light then activates, along with a “walk” sign for the pedestrian. Once the “walk” phase is complete, the light flashes red, indicating to drivers to treat the intersection as a stop sign – they may proceed if the crosswalk is clear. When the lights are off, drivers are not required to stop at the crosswalk.

These signals are in use at several locations throughout the Region where large numbers of pedestrians cross major roadways. UDOT continues to evaluate other locations for these signals and will install them as needed.

Bangerter Highway & Redwood Road Project Underway

Google map view of the Redwood Road and Bangerter IntersectionAs part of a proactive effort to address the immediate and long-term traffic needs on Bangerter Highway, UDOT is constructing a grade-separated interchange at the Redwood Road intersection from spring 2014 to spring 2015. This project will significantly enhance the public’s overall driving experience at the intersection, allowing for increased mobility, improved safety and a smoother ride. The interchange will be similar to the one constructed in 2012 over 7800 South and Bangerter Highway.

UDOT Region Two completed an environmental study on the intersection last winter in order to determine the best concept to fit the area’s traffic needs. UDOT has also been actively working with Bluffdale and Riverton city leaders, residents, businesses and property owners, to explain the value of the project and prepare the community for the upcoming project. The project is expected to support development and economic growth in the area as one of UDOT’s top goals to strengthen the economy.

UDOT recently selected Wadsworth Brothers Constructors as the contractor on the project. Wadsworth Brothers offers an aggressive construction schedule and places high value on minimizing traffic impacts as much as possible. Whenever we embark on a new project, one of our main priorities is to get in and get out with as little inconvenience to the public as possible. At the same time, we also want to deliver a quality product to the community in order to make it worth their time and effort. I’m confident that Wadsworth Brothers will fulfill both of these goals.

Commuters can expect light construction activity in the spring with the main construction effort building momentum in mid-July. Crews will narrow lanes, implement traffic shifts and build a temporary lane to maintain traffic capacity while construction efforts are underway. Crews will also implement paving operations, utility relocations, and landscape and aesthetic improvements.

During construction, our public involvement team encourages the public to visit the project website for updates and information regarding anticipated impacts. The project has a dedicated website, email and hotline already active for questions, and has been regularly meeting with stakeholders to keep them informed. UDOT and Wadsworth Brothers will also be hosting a “Meet the Contractor” night to give community members an opportunity to learn more about the project and construction schedule.

This is a guest post written by UDOT Region 2 District Engineer Troy Peterson.

Accepting Public Comments on the FTA DBE Goal

The UDOT public transit team is currently developing their federal fiscal year 2015-2017 Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) goal for its Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Program. Part of this process includes public input.

The proposed DBE goal and methodology can be found on the UDOT website at www.udot.utah.gov/publictransit under the Hot Topics and Quick Links section. It is titled “UDOT FTA DBE FY2015-2017 Proposed Goal and Methodology.” A hard copy is also available for review at the UDOT Calvin Rampton Complex in the Program Development division at 4501 South 2700 West on the third floor in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Comments may be provided to the UDOT via email at publictransit@utah.gov or via mail addressed to:

UDOT Program Development
Attn: Public Transit Plans and Programs Director
4501 S 2700 W
P.O. Box 143600
Salt Lake City, UT 84114-3600.

Please include the page number, section number, and a detailed comment with your submission.

The document will be available for review from June 5, 2014 through, and including, July 4, 2014 and comments will be accepted through July 19, 2014. Only comments related specifically to the DBE goal and the development of the goal will be accepted. All other UDOT or DBE-program related comments should be directed to the appropriate contact provided on the main UDOT website.

UDOT Traffic Operations Center celebrates its 15 year anniversary

Map image showing the Salt Lake Valley with colors indicating how CommuterLink would expand through 2002

The original expansion plan for the UDOT CommuterLink system (now known as “UDOT Traffic”)

April 27, 2014 marked the 15 year anniversary of the UDOT Traffic Operations Center (TOC) opening its doors. The UDOT TOC was built to manage congestion and traffic during the 2002 Olympics. While managing traffic for this important special event was a catalyst for building the TOC, UDOT fully understood that there would be significant benefits to operating the TOC long term.

As Utah continues to grow, so does the challenge of mobility. To address Utah’s transportation challenges, the Utah Senate passed a Senate Bill in 1995 and established a Traffic Management Committee which consisted of representatives from Salt Lake City, Wasatch Front Regional Council, Mountainland Association of Governments, Salt Lake County, the Department of Public Safety and the Utah Department of Environmental Quality. This committee recognized the benefits of a Traffic Operations Center to manage traffic and improve roadway efficiency.  The Utah Transit Authority and Federal Highway Administration also partnered with the committee. The committee determined that a TOC was necessary and shortly after, planning started on where the TOC would be built, what components it would have and how the information would be distributed to the public.  A common ITS architecture was established, which now allows all Utah jurisdictions with ITS devices to share resources.

Screen shot of a map of Utah from the UDOT Traffic website. The map has several images on it indicating the location of traffic cameras and variable message signs.

The UDOT Traffic network today. Each blue icon is one traffic camera and every yellow or black rectangle is a VMS. There are also congestion, construction and weather layers available on the UDOT Traffic app and website.

When the doors opened in 1999, the TOC was staffed Monday – Friday 5:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m. and covered a limited number of routes on the Wasatch Front. Utah’s ITS system was given the name “CommuterLink” because it was largely commuter-centric traveler information and congestion management for Salt Lake City. Today, the TOC is staffed 24/7/365 and manages traffic statewide. To reflect the statewide approach, the system is now known as “UDOT Traffic”.

Over the years, the TOC has grown its traffic management capabilities and has added extra equipment to keep up with Utah’s transportation demands. In 1999, UDOT had deployed 150 traffic cameras and 57 Variable Message Signs (VMS). Today, UDOT has a sophisticated statewide network that includes over 900 traffic cameras and over 150 VMS! These valuable tools can be viewed on the UDOT Traffic smartphone app and website. Traffic camera images are also shared with the media and can help commuters make travel decisions while watching the morning news. UDOT’s fiber optic network is also robust – with over 1800 miles of fiber optic cable deployed, UDOT has one of the most complete and useful fiber optic networks in the nation. This network helps to establish lightning-fast communications with traffic signals, VMS, traffic detectors and other equipment throughout the state. From the TOC, UDOT can manually operate over 85% of the traffic signals throughout the state… as far away as St. George, Moab, Vernal and Logan!

Table showing the number of Traffic Cameras in 1999 as 150 and today as over 900, number of variable message signs in 1999 as 57 and today as over 150, number of traffic signals in 1999 as 550 and today as over 1400, number of fiber optic communcations in 1999 as 298 and today as over 1800 and the area of focus in 1999 as the Wasatch Front and for today it is statewide.

The UDOT Traffic Operations Center has deployed a statewide traffic management network.

From its first years of operation, the TOC has proven its effectiveness. The system has helped to increase peak-hour freeway speeds, reduce freeway delays and improve traffic signal efficiency. Traffic management is an important component of a healthy transportation network. UDOT’s TOC supports other UDOT divisions to successfully build, maintain and operate Utah’s highways. UDOT’s TOC also helps to support UDOT’s Strategic Goals: Preserve Infrastructure, Zero Fatalities, Strengthen the Economy and Optimize Mobility.

For a tour of the TOC or for more information, visit www.udottraffic.utah.gov.

Photo of the grand opening celebration with dignitaries preparing to cut a cake.

UDOT TOC Grand Opening – April 27, 1999

 

Photo of the TOC building under construction with scaffolding surrounding a brick structure.

The UDOT TOC building under construction

 

UDOT and UHP host a Traffic Incident Management Workshop

Graphic outlining Traffic Incident Management BenefitsThree injury crashes occur every minute in the United States, putting nearly 39,000 incident responders potentially in harm’s way every day. Congestion from these incidents often generates secondary crashes, further increasing traveler delay and frustration. The longer incident responders remain at the scene, the greater the risk they, and the traveling public, face.

Photo of TIM Training group with Colonel Daniel Fuhr in front addressing the group.

UHP Colonel Daniel Fuhr giving welcoming class participants.

To minimize delay and improve responder safety, UDOT and UHP hosted a Traffic Incident Management (TIM) workshop on April 9 – 10 in Salt Lake City. Participants from UHP, Unified Fire, Unified Police, UDOT, trucking companies, the St. George Police Department and other agencies were in attendance. UHP Colonel Daniel Fuhr and UDOT Traffic Management Division Director Rob Clayton welcomed the participants with information on crash statistics, our responsibility to the public, and the importance of protecting first responders from harm.

Photo of TIM Training table top exercise on scene management

TIM Training attendees participated in a table-top exercise on scene management.

The National TIM Responder Train-the-Trainer (TtT) program provided participants the knowledge and materials necessary for them to conduct TIM training for TIM responders in their area. The TtT is a 1½-day course that covers the fundamentals of Traffic Incident Management, safe crash scene set-up, quick incident clearance and on-scene coordination.

Participants were able to learn from course instructors who were former first responders. Participants were also able to participate in a tabletop exercise as well as learn about proper accident scene set-up.

Traffic incidents, including crashes, disabled vehicles and debris on the road create unsafe driving conditions, put motorists and responders at risk, and account for approximately 25 percent of all traffic delays.

Photo of Incident Managment truck with compartments open so Supervisor Jeff Reynolds can show what is in them.

UDOT’s Incident Management Team Supervisor Jeff Reynolds showing TIM class participants the equipment on his vehicle during the outdoor scene setup exercise.

For each minute that a freeway travel lane is blocked during peak use, an estimated 4 minutes of delay result after the incident is cleared. This estimate accounts for 4.2 billion hours per year in delays. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Transportation reports that Americans burn more than 2.8 billion gallons of gasoline every year while stuck in incident-related traffic. TIM Training can give us the tools to clear incidents more quickly, saving time, money and lives. More information can be found on the National Unified Goal for Traffic Incident Management website.

The training was made possible through a Federal Highway Administration Strategic Highway Research Program.

UDOT Executive Director Carlos Braceras Featured in New AASHTO Video

AASHTO occasionally posts a video they call the “2 Minute Update”, featuring transportation leaders from different state DOTs across the country. This month’s video profiles UDOT’s Executive Director Carlos Braceras. Carlos explains his vision for UDOT and discusses our emphasis on integrated transportation and the importance of educating new engineers. AASHTO distributes the video to reporters nationwide, and a few have already filed stories, including this one from CE News.

 

Ride Public Transportation to Work Week

Next week (March 17th-21st) state employees are encouraged to use public transportation to travel to and from work. This ‘Ride Public Transportation to Work Week’ represents a concerted effort by the state to increase transit ridership as a means of improving air quality and reducing congestion.

Photo of two representative of ride public transportation to work week at a Trax StationBy participating in this effort, employees have an opportunity to lead by example in using our innovative, accessible and efficient public transportation system to make Utah an even better place to live and work.

Representatives from UDOT’s TravelWise program and the Utah Transit Authority will be available at the North Temple and Salt Lake Central TRAX Stations on Monday, March 17th and Wednesday, March 19th from 7:00-9:00am to answer questions and distribute materials for participating employees.

In addition to public transportation, employees have been asked to use a combination of proven strategies that promote alternatives to driving alone. The UDOT TravelWise program strategies are aimed at optimizing mobility, reducing energy consumption and improving air quality. They include:

  • Carpooling and vanpooling
  • Taking public transit
  • Active transportation (walking or biking)
  • Teleworking (conference calling, video conferencing or working from an off-site location)
  • Trip chaining
  • Skip the trip (planning ahead to bring a lunch or grocery shop once each week rather than a few times for a few items)
  • Alternative and flexible work schedules

Many Utahn’s are already using TravelWise strategies such as trip chaining, they just don’t realize it. Research has shown that 87 percent of Utahns support a program that promotes these kinds of strategies. State employees can be part of the solution by incorporating these strategies into our daily lives.

For more information about TravelWise, visit travelwise.utah.gov and for more information about the Utah Transit Authority’s services, visit rideuta.com.

Autonomous and Connected Vehicles

What does the future hold? That question is nearly impossible to answer unless we’re talking about ways to optimize mobility and reach zero fatalities. Then, we do have a few ideas. The U.S. Department of Transportation, state DOTs and automakers have been working on connected vehicles for several years and Google and some universities have been working on autonomous vehicles. Both of these efforts will allow for the safest and most efficient transportation system we’ve ever imagined.

Photo of an intersection

Connected vehicles can improve safety at busy intersections

So, what are autonomous and connected vehicles? Autonomous vehicles use sensors and photo imagery to drive themselves. Connected vehicles would assist the driver by providing information and resources. Blaine Leonard, Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Program Manager, explained it to me this way. When an autonomous vehicle approaches a signal it sees that it is green and that it can proceed. In comparison, a connected vehicle would have information from the signal including how long it will remain green as well as what the next signal phase is. It would even know what another unseen connected vehicle is doing down the road.

Recently the U.S. DOT National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced a rulemaking process which will ultimately mandate vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication as standard equipment in the future. This will allow these vehicles to share information and alert a driver in order to avoid a crash. This is just the first step though. As Blaine mentioned, the next step will enable transportation infrastructure to also communicate with vehicles. The Volpe National Transportation Systems Center estimates that these technologies could save over 5 million crashes a year.

There are concerns that transportation officials and automakers haven’t forgotten about, including privacy and security. For these technologies to work correctly they must be accurate and impenetrable to common problems we face such as hackers and viruses. There is also the question of privacy which is a sensitive and personal subject for each individual. At this time vehicle communication would be anonymous.

In Utah we have technology in place that makes us well suited for these advancements. One is the LiDAR data that includes a complete picture of roadway assets along state Routes and interstates. We also have an extensive fiber optic network that allows for statewide communication.

Variable Speed Limit Signs Now Activated on I-80

Photo of Variable Speed Limit sign with a semi passing by on I-80 in Parley's Canyon

Variable Speed Limit sign on I-80 in Parley’s Canyon

The UDOT Traffic Operations Center (TOC) now has a new tool to enhance safety for drivers  on I-80 – one of the most heavily-traveled roads in the state. Last Wednesday (Jan. 8), 15 new variable speed limit (VSL) signs were activated along I-80 in Parley’s Canyon. The new signs will be controlled by the TOC to help maintain consistent traffic flows and assist drivers in adjusting speeds when necessary due to weather conditions.

The 15 signs – 8 eastbound and 7 westbound, located between the mouth of the canyon and Jeremy Ranch, are equipped with LED display screens that allow UDOT to remotely adjust speeds. These adjustments will be made based on driver behavior and road conditions.

“We are always looking for new technologies to help us manage traffic more effectively and enhance safety,” said UDOT Region 2 East District Engineer Robert Miles. “These signs will help keep drivers moving and reduce the number of weather-related crashes in Parley’s Canyon.”

The variable speed limit signs in Parley’s Canyon have been divided into four zones – an eastbound lower zone and westbound lower zone, from the mouth of the canyon to Mountain Dell/Lambs Canyon, and an eastbound upper zone and westbound upper zone, from Mountain Dell/Lambs Canyon to Kimball Junction. When a speed limit is adjusted for a specific zone, the new speed limit will be displayed on all signs within the same zone. These zones were created because of the differences in weather patterns and average speeds observed in the canyon due to changes in elevation.

The TOC will monitor speed limits in the canyon. In the event of poor weather or low visibility, a traffic engineer will be able to review information such as current road conditions, weather forecasts, snowfall rates, observed speeds, and reports from maintenance personnel. Based on this information, the engineer can make the decision to reduce the speed limit as needed. Depending on conditions, speed limits may range from 35 to 65 miles per hour.

The new variable speed limit signs are the first of their kind in Utah. Other states, including Washington, Wyoming, Colorado and Nevada, currently use these signs and have observed a reduction in weather-related crashes in areas where these signs are employed. Washington (Snoqualmie Pass – I-90) and Wyoming (east of Evanston – I-80) in particular are using these signs in areas similar to Parley’s Canyon: interstate highways with moderate to heavy traffic, with significant elevation differences, that are prone to inclement weather.

The Parley’s Canyon VSL project was developed jointly by UDOT and the Utah Highway Patrol (UHP). The speed limits posted on these signs are not merely advisory speeds, but regulatory speed limits that will be enforced by UHP troopers.

I-80 in Parley’s Canyon was selected as the location for this pilot project due to its changing weather conditions, heavy traffic, and existing fiber optic communications network. The investment for the design and construction for the new signs was $750,000, and the annual operating expense is estimated between $7,500 and $10,000. UDOT is also considering installing variable speed limit signs in other locations around the state, such as Sardine Canyon and Provo Canyon, based on the results of this project.

This guest post was written by Aaron Mentzer with the UDOT Traffic team.

Consider a Map

Online maps are serving as great communication tools for UDOT Planning’s efforts to develop and improve facilities for pedestrians and cyclists.

A coordinated active transportation network for pedestrians and cyclists is an essential part of an integrated transportation system that considers the needs of all users. Recently, UDOT Director Carlos Braceras listed five areas of focus for the agency, and he included integrated transportation:

Photo of Road Respect bicyclists riding in traffic“UDOT will actively consider how to best meet the needs of trucks, bikes, pedestrians and mass transit when studying transportation solutions and ensure those solutions are applied to the most appropriate facilities. We will strive to provide Utahns with balanced transportation options while planning for future travel demand.”

How can UDOT employees meet the challenge of communicating and coordinating with the diverse transportation user groups? One way is by using online maps as communication tools.

“When you have a precise illustration, which a map provides, it gets everyone on the same page by relaying a lot of information in a concise, coordinated way,” says Evelyn Tuddenham, UDOT’s Walking and Biking Coordinator in the planning division. “Maps contain so much information – it allows viewers to see the ebb and flow in ways that you can’t accomplish just by looking at numbers.”

Maps as communication tools can enhance collaboration and help convey a distinct message. Here are some examples of how maps are being used to help plan a coordinated active transportation network:

The Utah Collaborative Active Transportation Study (UCATS) used online maps on an interactive website to show pedestrians and bicyclists existing facilities and then get feedback about where improvements are needed. Study participants used that information to identify a proposed regional bicycle network that will improve and extend the state’s active transportation system by making facilities safer and improving connectivity to transit.

The outcome of the UCATS study will have a huge impact on the active transportation in Utah by identifying needed improvements and systematically planning ways to coordinated and implement active transportation infrastructure.

screenshot of Utah Bike Maps websiteThe UDOT Walking and biking program is using a series of maps to show cyclists existing routes. The map series idea was proposed by Nick Kenczka, Research Consultant in UDOT Systems Planning and programming. Tuddenham resisted the idea at first, thinking that one map would be simpler.

“It turned out to be a great way to talk to cyclists,” Tuddenham says of the series. “Having a set of maps breaks information down and allows us to present the information in a more coherent way.”

Each map has a separate focus and a separate message. Altogether, the series is an effective tool for cyclists with different needs. Recreational cyclists can check out shoulder widths and other infrastructure elements, the difficulty of the terrain and the screen shot of popular rides online maplength of the route to plan trips. Bike commuters can use the maps to see traffic volume information and to check route. Cyclists can even zoom into specific areas on the maps and take a virtual ride down the road to see what they could encounter on a particular route. The maps are useful tools that can help cyclists make informed travel decisions.

Give it a try

Using maps to communicate is easier than you think. The UPlan Map Center, available on the UDOT Data Portal, allows users to build a custom map, or several maps, quickly and easily. Pre-built maps can also be used and changed to suite communication needs.

Combining a series of maps, like the ones used to communicate with cyclists, takes the help of a UDOT eGIS expert. Contact information for the eGIS team is available on the UDOT Data Portal.

More about maps: