Category Archives: Optimize Mobility

Behind the Scenes at UDOT – November 22, 2013 Wind Storm Response

Photo of UDOT personel receiving an update regarding the weather

UDOT Wind Event Weather Briefing

Weather events can have a huge impact on traffic and traveler delay. The UDOT Traffic Operations Center (TOC) handles routine day-to-day rush hour congestion and traffic signal timing smoothly after years of practice. But what about a large winter storm or wind event?

A significant amount of planning and consideration is needed to ensure that UDOT’s response to a storm is thorough and serving the needs of the public. For the high winds event that affected interstate and highway routes from Woods Cross to Centerville on Nov.21–22, 2013, TOC coordination started with a weather briefing. Weather briefings are generally held 24 to 48 hours before a storm to ensure that the incoming weather data is as accurate as possible. Many UDOT departments attend the weather briefings. The briefings are an essential tool to ensure that the UDOT response to an event

Photo of the portable RWIS stations next to I-15 in Centerville

UDOT Portable RWIS Station (Photo by Cody Opperman)

is coordinated and timely. “The weather briefing discussed what we anticipated, what steps they would take when certain thresholds were met, and a detailed schedule of who would be in charge throughout the event,” said Jason Davis, UDOT’s Director of Operations.

Photo of UDOT maintenance technician J.T. Dziatlik is foul weather gear

UDOT Maintenance Technician J.T. Dziatlik

Following the weather briefing, UDOT employees sprang into action. UDOT began strategically deploying equipment and personnel to assist with equipment malfunctions and outages due to the storm. The Traffic Operations Center had an event coordinator and meteorologist on staff around the clock for the duration of the event.

One of the most valuable pieces of equipment during a wind storm are the Road Weather Information System (RWIS) stations. A portable RWIS was deployed at the epicenter of the wind and communicated wind speeds and gusts back to the TOC. Over the course of the storm, the UDOT weather group posted dozens of Road Weather Alerts on the UDOT Traffic app, website and 511 phone line. The weather group was also in near-constant communication with UDOT’s region offices and maintenance sheds providing storm updates.

UDOT Launches a new Citizen Reporter Program

Diagram showing all of the different data sources for weather operationsCurrent and forecast weather conditions are a critical part of traveler information in Utah.  Utah has many high mountain passes and rural routes that frequently experience hazardous winter weather, and accurate road condition information for these routes is vital for traveler safety and route planning.

The UDOT Citizen Reporting Program enlists volunteers to report on current road conditions along specific roadway segments across Utah.  The volunteers can be UDOT employees, law enforcement, truck drivers, plow drivers, experienced commuters, or other volunteers.  The long term goal of adding Citizen Reporters to UDOT’s weather operations road reporting is to supplement current condition reporting on segments where drivers are already traveling.

All of the incoming data is compiled with carefully crafted logic to determine the condition of the road surface. Reports from plow drivers, law enforcement and other experienced reporters may be utilized in a different way than volunteer citizen data, however all data is immensely valuable and helpful in determining the condition of the road surface.

How do I become a UDOT Citizen Reporter?

In order to become a UDOT Citizen Reporter, you will need to complete a brief training (either online or in person), take a short quiz and complete a sign-up form. The training takes approximately 30 minutes. Once a volunteer has completed these steps, they will be provided with a login and PIN, and can begin submitting reports. Reports are submitted through the UDOT Citizen Reporting app, downloadable for Android and Apple devices from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

If you would like to become a Citizen Reporter, please follow this link to take the online training: www.udottraffic.utah.gov/training/citizenreporter. For more information or to schedule an in person training, email UDOTCitizenReporter@utah.gov.

2013 Construction Season Nears the End

The leaves have turned, the first snow has fallen on the mountains, and the 2013 construction season is nearing an end. UDOT and contractor crews have completed more than 200 road construction projects statewide in 2013. By the end of the year, 216 projects will have been carried out state roads and Interstates from Plymouth to St. George and from Wendover to Vernal. Each one of these projects was designed to help accomplish one or more of UDOT’s strategic goals:

    Photo of crews working along I-80 in Parleys Canyon

    Construction crews installing a new 66″ concrete pipe along I-80 in Parleys Canyon.

  • Preserve Infrastructure
  • Optimize Mobility
  • Zero Fatalities
  • Strengthen the Economy

In 2013, most construction projects fell under the goal to Preserve Infrastructure. These repaving and rehabilitation projects will keep Utah’s roads in good condition and prevent the need for more costly repairs in the future. Maintaining our highways helps them last as long as possible, and benefits the economy by keeping people, goods, and services moving throughout the state.

In 2012, UDOT completed 229 projects with a total value of $2,783,444,049, which included the I-15 CORE and Mountain View Corridor projects. By comparison, the total value of projects scheduled for completion in 2013 is $631,489,082. To make the best use of a much smaller budget during the 2013 construction season, the department focused on maintaining and making minor improvements to Utah’s roads, rather than major expansion or reconstruction efforts.

During the 2013 construction season, UDOT has resurfaced or repaired pavement on more than 400 miles of Utah highways and roads, and has completed 12 bridge repair or replacement projects. Some notable projects that have been completed or are scheduled for completion this year include:

    Photo of new bridge over I-15 at St. George Blvd during construction

    Workers constructing a new bridge over I-15 as part of the new DDI at St. George Boulevard.

  • I-80 Culvert Installation: Workers installed approximately two miles of 6-foot-diameter concrete pipe along I-80 in Parley’s Canyon to replace the original drainage system constructed in the 1960s.
  • I-15 Widening: Crews widened an 8-mile section of I-15 in southern Utah County from two lanes to three this year to reduce congestion and accommodate future growth in the area.
  • St. George Boulevard Diverging Diamond Interchange (DDI): Workers are converting the existing interchange at I-15 and St. George Boulevard into Utah’s fifth operating DDI to improve the flow of traffic.
  • U.S. 89/91 Repaving: Crews repaved U.S. 89/91 in Cache County from Sardine Summit to Wellsville.
  • U.S. 89 (State Street) Widening: Workers widened and repaved a two-mile section of State Street between Orem and Pleasant Grove.
  • Bangerter Highway Continuous Flow Intersection (CFI): Crews completed a new CFI at the intersection of Bangerter Highway and 13400 South to improve traffic flow in southwest Salt Lake County. Utah leads the nation with 11 CFIs (there are only 20 total in the nation).
  • I-215 Concrete Maintenance: Workers repaired concrete on I-215 from S.R. 201 to North Temple to extend the useful life of the pavement.

Moving forward in 2014, UDOT will widen I-15 at the Point of the Mountain and in Davis County, as well as continue its aggressive focus on maintaining existing roads.

This guest post was written by Leigh Gibson from the UDOT Traffic team. 

Traffic Signal Performance Measures announced as a 2013 AASHTO Innovation Initiative

Engineer Mark Taylor working in an open traffic signal cabinet

Engineer Mark Taylor working in a traffic signal cabinet.

Managing traffic is an effective way to reduce congestion, save fuel costs and improve safety. One of the most visible components of the traffic management landscape is traffic signals. Day-to-day traffic challenges keep the staff at the UDOT Traffic Operations Center (TOC) very busy- especially during winter weather, special events and during the morning and evening commutes. The operators at the TOC have the ability to remotely operate nearly 80% of Utah’s traffic signals, which can be a very helpful way to alleviate traffic congestion. Each signalized intersection has a metal cabinet adjacent to the intersection that holds the equipment needed to operate the traffic signals. The equipment that operates the traffic signal can be programmed for specific traffic patterns along a corridor in an effort to better manage traffic.

Every year, the American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) identifies innovative projects that have been successfully adopted by transportation agencies across the country. One of the 2013 AASHTO Innovation Initiatives was UDOT’s Traffic Signal Automated Performance Measures program. The program developed a structure that will allow UDOT to actively manage, in real-time, its traffic signal systems which will help traffic flow as efficiently as possible along any given roadway corridor. “When we have a maximum number of vehicles arriving at a traffic signal when the light is green, traveler delay is minimized,” said Mark Taylor, UDOT’s Traffic Signal Engineer. Other benefits to well-timed traffic signals are reduction in vehicle emissions and reduction in crashes. Since traffic management needs to occur every day of the week and at all times of day, the Performance Measures program helps to monitor and improve traffic flow even when a traffic signal engineer is not available.

UDOT is moving forward with an AASHTO Technology Implementation Group (TIG) which will work to document the techniques, benefits and technologies UDOT is using for Traffic Signal Performance Measures so other interested transportation agencies can begin their own program in this important area. More information about the AASHTO Innovation Initiatives selected for 2013 can be found on their website.

Whatever the Weather

During storms, driving conditions can cause travel delay, especially during the morning and evening commute.

When a storm hits the Wasatch Front, a twenty-minute commute can turn into an hour due to slick roads, start-and-stop traffic and low visibility. What if traffic could be managed more effectively to minimize the sluggish traffic speeds drivers experience during storms?

Recent technological advances in assessing weather and controlling signals have given traffic engineers better tools to keep traffic moving in stormy weather. On some corridors along the Wasatch Front, UDOT is taking a Weather Responsive Traffic Management approach that puts the tools to use.

WRTM uses sensors, traffic signal plans designed for storm conditions, and sophisticated traffic monitoring systems already in place to move traffic more efficiently during winter weather.

Traffic on Riverdale Road PhotoDuring winter months in 2013, an urban arterial in northern Utah served as testing area for WRTM. Riverdale Road intersects a busy shopping district and connects four Utah cities with Interstates 15 and 84. Over 47 thousand vehicles travel the corridor each day.

UDOT’s results in managing Riverdale Road traffic during winter storms were very good – for motorists, that is. Drivers experienced less stopped time at intersections compared to other storm days, and overall, traffic speeds were not significantly impacted by weather.

Here’s how the WRTM system worked on Riverdale Road:

  • Traffic engineers created signal timing plans for implementation before or during a storm. The plans accommodate travel speeds that are likely during storms so that signalized intersections along the corridor work together to make traffic flow more efficient.
  • A Road Weather Information System unit was installed in the corridor. The RWIS helped meteorologists and engineers anticipate upcoming storm severity to decide which signal timing plan to employ.

    RWIS on Riverdale Road Photo

    RWIS on Riverdale Road

  • Detection units were installed overhead along the roadway. The new equipment is better at detecting traffic movement during storms, and the equipment gave UDOT traffic speeds.
  • To monitor traffic during storms, UDOT used a Signal Performance Metrics System that lets signal operators assess and adjust traffic in real-time. After a storm, the system can be used to evaluate how the signal plans worked.

Winter 2013 ended up being a challenging year to test the WRTM system. During testing, the Salt Lake City and Ogden area experienced one of the worst winter storms in the past decade. Nevertheless, post-storm review showed an average or above average improvement in performance in traffic operations in over half of the weather events, including during the major storm.

Post-storm analysis also shows that cars maintained a high level of progression from intersection to intersection with platoons of cars arriving on green lights. When platoons of cars arrive at intersections on green lights, traffic flow throughout the corridor is more efficient.

Based on the success of the Riverdale Road WRTM performance, UDOT plans to expand the system to other corridors.

UDOT assists with traffic management for Draper Sergeant Derek Johnson’s funeral procession

Photo of the funeral processon on I-215

The beginning of Sgt. Johnson’s funeral procession on I-215.

On September 1, 2013, Utah lost Draper Police Sergeant Derek Johnson in the line of duty. This tragic loss brings grief and heartfelt sadness, but also patriotism, gratitude and remembrance from whole communities. Nearly 4000 law enforcement, family and citizens joined the memorial service at the Maverik Center and tens of thousands of thankful citizens lined the procession route.

UDOT’s Traffic Management Division collaborated with many law enforcement agencies to ensure that traffic flow to and from the Maverik Center and along the procession route moved as smoothly as possible. UDOT’s traffic signal operations staff were deployed to key intersections throughout the Salt Lake Valley to assist with traffic control, while UDOT’s Traveler Information Manager was using the @UDOTTraffic

Photo of wall of images from the Traffic Operations Center

Staff at the Traffic Operations Center monitored the procession route on cameras throughout the Salt Lake valley.

Twitter account to update the public on lane and ramp closures. UDOT was listening to the police radio event channels to monitor the traffic flow along the procession route.

Photo of flags along and citizens lined up along 12300 South.

Citizens lined up along 12300 South in Draper to honor Sergeant Johnson. Photo courtesy of Mark Taylor.

UDOT worked with the Unified Police Department, Unified Fire Department, Salt Lake City Police, Draper Police, the Utah Department of Emergency Management and the Utah Highway Patrol for traffic management during the funeral and procession. Several other agencies not mentioned here came together honor Sgt. Johnson – an awesome tribute to a dedicated public servant.

I-15 CORE Selected as National Top-Ten Project; Now Up to Public Vote

I-15 and University Parkway Aerial photo

University Parkway

In August I-15 CORE was picked as one of the top 10 finalists for the 2013 America’s Transportation Award sponsored by the American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO), AAA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

As a finalist, I-15 CORE is eligible for either the Grand Prize, which is awarded by a panel of judges, or the People’s Choice award, which is based on public voting. The winner receives a $10,000 donation for a local charity, and UDOT has selected United Way of Utah County for the donation. United Way of Utah County works to create lasting improvements in the community in the areas of education, income and health.

To vote, go to the following link, nominate.americastransportationawards.org/voting and select I-15 CORE.  Each person can vote up to 10 times a day through Oct. 2.

I-15 CORE was completed in December 2012 as the fastest billion-dollar highway project built in U.S. history. The project included the widening and reconstruction of 24 miles of I-15 from Lehi to Spanish Fork and was $260 million under budget.

United Way of Utah County seeks to help those most vulnerable in the community, focusing on three areas that are building blocks of a good life: education, income and health.

This is a guest post written by I-15 CORE communications team member Christina Davis.

Update: Thanks to everyone who voted. We didn’t win the people’s choice award but did win the Grand Prize and $10,000 for United Way of Utah County. Congratulations I-15 CORE team and United Way!

GIS tools at work in UDOT Region Four

UDOT Region Four takes in half of the state. While other regions face heavy snow or urban traffic, Region Four’s challenge is to coordinate work over a large area. Geographic Information System (GIS) tools have helped that coordination process.

The following post is the first of a two-part series about how GIS tools help employees expedite work and refine the quality of information needed to improve the transportation system.

Data Portal screenshotGIS data can be accessed at the UDOT Data Portal.  Much of the information on the site is geo-referenced – that is, given an exact spatial location. The UDOT Data Portal also has tools to view and analyze the data sets. Tools include maps and the Linear Bench, a straight line diagram generator. Both tools can be populated with multiple data sets, like the location of culverts or bridges. Data sets can also be downloaded.

Maps and apps improve work coordination

The Utah Prairie Dog, which occupies habitat within the right-of-way of many highways in Region Four, is afforded protection under the Endangered Species Act. UDOT recently completed a formal consultation with the US Fish and Wildlife Service that defined measures to minimize impacts to this species.

As part of implementing these measures, UDOT uses GIS and GPS tools to identify and quantify the acreage of habitat of temporary and permanent impacts. The tools expedite surveying and monitoring efforts so UDOT can quickly complete necessary road work.

Material pits are the sources of rock, sand and gravel used on construction and maintenance projects. Pits located on BLM or US Forrest Service land require permits.

An app that geographically displays the pits along with their permitting information is helping UDOT employees stay on top of the permitting process. The app generates an automatic email six months before expiration of the permit so UDOT won’t risk losing access to pits.  

I-15 CORE Wins Two Safety Awards

UDOT’s I-15 CORE and Provo River Constructors were recently selected by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association as winners of 2013 Roadway Work Zone Safety Awareness Awards in the local educational campaign and training categories. UDOT won for its campaign on the lane split traffic configurations and PRC won for its overall safety program that included their “Hands-on Safety” outreach.

Lane Splits Outreach Campaign

As part of I-15 CORE construction, the lanes on I-15 in Orem and American Fork were split around the construction zone. The lane splits created a communication and traffic challenge, as drivers would need to know which lanes to use long before they reached the area – so they could either exit or stay on the freeway.

The maintenance of traffic (MOT) and communications teams developed a comprehensive outreach campaign that would raise awareness of the upcoming traffic configuration and provide information on how to safely navigate them and divert at least 20 percent of traffic, to keep the freeway flowing smoothly. The campaign included TV and print news stories, radio advertisements, social media and direct mail. A highlight of the outreach campaign was a clever movie theater ad that played like a romantic-comedy trailer.

In less than one month, over a quarter-of-a-million movie goers saw the movie trailer and more than 8,000 viewed the instructional video the month before the lane splits were in place. As the real sign of success, traffic continued to move smoothly through the construction area while the splits were in place.

PRC’s Hands On Safety Campaign

PRC had to build 24 miles of I-15 in just 35 months, but the I-15 CORE design-builder still made safety its number-one priority.

PRC carried out a comprehensive safety program that all employees adopted in their daily work. All of the nearly 6,000 employees attended a mandatory Project Safety and Railroad Orientation before they could start work. Weekly toolbox safety meetings, monthly “All-Hands” safety meetings, safety pre-planning and pre-shift safety task planning, jobsite inspections, accident investigations, medical treatment management, and tracking of any indicators and trends before and after incident were all required.

Even with all this training, management began seeing a trend of hand injuries among work crews. To reverse this trend, PRC developed and implemented a “Hands-on Safety” program emphasizing pinch point awareness and hand protection guidelines. The program included presentations, posters and a policy change to require gloves to be worn at all times when handling tools and/or materials.

The success of PRC’s work zone safety approach resulted in crews achieving one million workhours without a recordable incident, and one million work-hours without a lost-time incident on four separate occasions.  PRC put in over 7 million work hours to build I-15 CORE and achieved a safety record that was four times better than the national average in the construction industry.

UDOT’s Road Weather Information System Network helps with safety

RWIS Network Map

UDOT RWIS network

Utah’s unique geography can be a challenge for traffic management and safety. Many of the critical highway routes in the state are in rural areas and can be prone to flooding, snow drifts, landslides, high winds or low visibility due to wild fire smoke. UDOT’s Road Weather Information System (RWIS) network currently has nearly 80 deployments throughout the state. An RWIS unit has several weather sensors that calculate wind speed, precipitation type, roadway temperature and more. Some RWIS have a traffic camera as well.

Utah has had an active winter and spring with several large storms, flooding and landslides. In June, UDOT deployed a portable RWIS unit near Monument Peak on SR-31. This site was adjacent to an area that was burned in a forest fire and was at risk for landslides. The portable RWIS can be relocated at a later date for other uses. The RWIS sends alerts to the UDOT Traffic Operations Center (TOC) meteorologists who can then contact UDOT crews and UDOT management working in a specific area and alert them to any danger of landslides or flooding. The alert information is also shared with the National Weather Service, the National Forest Service, the United States Geological Survey, Utah Highway Patrol and other agencies. UDOT contracts with Northwest Weathernet for meteorological services and RWIS installation.

Photo of portable RWIS station

Portable RWIS unit being deployed for use during the Rockport 5 Fire

 

Screen shot of RWIS alert

A rainfall alert from the portable RWIS

 

For more information about our use of RWIS also check out RWIS Update and Forecasting for Smarties.