Category Archives: Preserve Infrastructure

SEISMIC SAFETY

The Utah Seismic Safety Commission brings a diverse group of experts together to reduce earthquake risk.

Joshua Sletten

The fifteen member board was created to assess Utah’s earthquake risks, to promote awareness and to support state and local government efforts to protect public safety during and after a quake.

“The commission provides an integrated picture of seismic concerns for the whole community,” says Josh Sletten, UDOT Structures Design Manager and USSC Commissioner. Sletten represents the transportation point of view as the commission plans and implements ways to improve earthquake readiness in Utah. While the commissions efforts are not transportation centered, Utah’s transportation system is an important part of the overall picture since the transportation system is a vital part of response and recovery after a quake.

Keeping roads open

Two of UDOT’s key roles are to have an emergency response plan in place and to identify key routes that will remain operational after a major earth quake. The emergency response plan uses workers that are nearest the scene of the emergency to quickly inspect and identify the risk to the traveling public on structures and roadways. Next, engineers will strategically visit locations, starting with the most vulnerable areas first, to properly address affected structures.

Identifying key routes that provide access to hospitals, shelters and emergency services is an ongoing process as the community changes. Once key routes are identified, UDOT engineers take all aspects of the roadway into account. Structures especially are of great concern and UDOT builds structures like bridges and overpasses to withstand major quakes.

UDOT bridges are designed and constructed to AASHTO design standards which account for hazard events such as earthquakes.  Many of the bridges on I-15 through the Wasatch Front have been rebuilt in the last 15 years. While UDOT does not anticipate extensive damage to the transportation system, some damage will occur. And, uncertainty exists when it comes to events, such as power outages and how those events will affect the transportation system.

Risk ID

The USSC works closely with the United States Geological Survey on ways to identify potential risk during a quake. The USGS has developed a software program called ShakeCast to generate estimated damage data for structures like buildings and bridges. In an actual seismic event, ShakeCast can also be used to send notification to infrastructure owners indicating the level of shaking and estimated damage from the quake. For UDOT, using ShakeCast means that we know the level of damage that is likely to occur, according to Sletten.

When it comes to seismic safety, planning is critical. The USSC issued a strategic plan in 1995. Since that time, 27 of the 35 critical objectives have been met. By participating in the USSC, UDOT and other critical infrastructure owners and emergency service providers can work together to ensure that Utah citizens are as safe as possible during and after a major earthquake.

BLOG SURVEY

The UDOT Blog is intended to inform a transportation audience.

The UDOT Blog debut was April 21, 2010, and since then, 371 articles have been posted. The topics range from safety to geo-tech, and the intended audience is UDOT employees, private sector partners and members of the general public.

The blog is designed to allow readers to share ideas and find out about programs, projects and practices at UDOT. The format is based in part on an initial survey of UDOT employees. A total of 803 employees answered the survey, and provided feedback that became guidance for the blog.

The UDOT Communications Office invites you to take another survey so the blog can be improved.

EROSION REPAIR

UDOT is just one of the agencies working to repair erosion that occurred during a flash flood in Huntington Canyon in the Manti-La Sal National Forest.

UDOT is also in the process of rebuilding the road in two areas where water flow washed out embankment and shoulder.

A rain storm that occurred on August 1 caused a flash flood that washed trees, soil and rocks from the canyon walls into cut-ditches and culverts and onto SR-31. The flooding event was made worse by the Seeley Fire that occurred in the area before the flood. Because much of the vegetation was burned away, the runoff washed debris down the canyon. “It was an incredible flood,” says Jim Chandler, UDOT Region Four Area Engineer.

UDOT crews made a herculean effort to clear and open the road during the week after the flood, according to Chandler. But without the natural vegetation on the slopes, rain or snow melt in the spring could cause more erosion in Huntington Canyon. “It damaged more than just a highway,” says Chandler.

The flood also took its toll on the natural environment explains Darren Olsen, U.S. Forest Service District Ranger. The flash flood “scoured out the natural drainage areas” including seasonal stream beds that carry spring runoff or flooding to Huntington Creek and out of the canyon. Ash from the fire washed into the streams and killed fish and downstream agricultural users are dealing with sediment that clogs irrigation systems.

The most significant fire damage and erosion occurred on north-facing slopes where conifers typically grow. Many of those trees had been killed by beetles, and that dry wood provided fuel for the fire.

Olsen is helping to plan some mitigation in targeted areas to prevent similar flash floods in the future. “Already Mother Nature is doing a good job at re-vegetating the south facing slopes” where new growth is coming in. The USFS is planning to place wood mulch on 540 acres of area on steep slopes. The mulch will slow down runoff until vegetation can be reestablished. Reseeding areas of the Seeley Fire will be flown in to help get plants established.  This reseeding effort aims at encouraging “quick plant growth that will capture the rain.”

Olsen says that between Mother Nature and the USFS efforts, two to five years is the expected time for vegetation to fill in the burned areas. He says one concern is spring weather; a cold spell followed by warm weather could cause heavy runoff from snow melt.

BETTER JOINTS

Better longitudinal joints in asphalt pavement mean longer pavement life.

When not compacted adequately, longitudinal joints can be destined for failure and can threaten the whole pavement system.

A longitudinal joint in Hot Mix Asphalt pavement is formed when a new batch of asphalt is placed adjacent to existing pavement. Because of temperature and plasticity differences, sometimes the newer and older pavements fail to bond, and the joint has significantly less density than the rest of the pavement.

A long  joint that is not compacted adequately can be “the weak link in the pavement,” explains Kevin VanFrank, UDOT Engineer for Asphalt Materials. “What you have is a seam in the mat that’s difficult to keep water out of.” Because the joint is permeable, water seeps in, the pavement ravels and loses material. Soon that damage “starts to migrate into the balance of the system…you can lose the entire pavement system.”

Under the best of circumstances, joint is typically less compacted than the mat. Van Frank says that a small difference of two to three percent can be acceptable.

HMA mix designs also play a role in the compaction at the joint. “As we attack rutting, we end up with mats that are more difficult to compact and lose the compaction in the joints without making special effort.”

The best solution to achieving good compaction at the long joint is to use echelon pavement placement and install two widths of pavement at the same time. UDOT’s specification states that echelon paving is preferred; however, the method is not always practical because lane closures are required. When echelon paving is not practical, other techniques should be employed.

A survey of each of the fifty states conducted by the Federal Highway Association shows that long joint health is a big concern among departments of transportation. Half of the states were found to be not satisfied with the overall performance of long joints, however, not all states have specifications in place that seek to achieve good compaction.

Some states had density specifications in place and others defined accepted construction techniques. But, even though the survey found an array of best practices being employed, a definitive solution was not identified.

In an effort to find the best solution to achieve good joint compaction, UDOT will select projects and look to the paving industry to identify good construction techniques. “Our intention is to implement the compaction of the long joint to a standard value.”

“We’re going to define an outcome and let industry meet the outcome,” says VanFrank. “We have seen techniques used this year that make joint density approach mat density.” Van Frank believes that by using UDOT will select appropriate projects to be built next year and allow contractors to lead the way UDOT will be able to identify the best solutions to ensuring better joints.

THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES

To all those who sent in photos for the Faces in Transportation – Thanks!

Faces in Transportation is an annual competition that solicits photos that show the people who build, maintain and use our nation’s transportation system. UDOT employees sent in many great photos and two were selected by Director John Njord and Deputy Director Carlos Braceras.

Prizes of the contest include awards that go to the entering agency: first Prize, $500; People’s Choice Prize, $500; Three Prizes in each of three categories, $125 each.

Voting for the People’s Choice award is open. Follow this link to see UDOT’s photos and vote!


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

UAC AT UDOT

AggieAir is a Utah State University service that uses small, unmanned aircraft to provide aerial images to a variety of customers, including UDOT.

Located at the Utah Water Research Laboratory,  the AggieAir  photo collection method was first developed in response to agricultural needs, specifically to evaluate the effectiveness of irrigation practices.

Aerial images for agricultural needs can also be met by using satellites or manned aircraft; both methods have limitations, however. Satellite images often have course resolution, cloud cover can obscure the view of the area being photographed and a delay of up to one month in acquiring images can make the information outdated. Manned aircraft services are expensive.

Small plane services, like AggieAir offer a flexible platform that can provide high quality images for a variety of needs quickly and easily. According to AggieAir Research Engineer Austin Johnson, “UAVs are popping up everywhere” for that reason. He visited UDOT recently and and gave an overview of AggieAir, including some UDOT projects that have use the service to acquire images.

AggieAir collects common RGB photos Near Infered as well as thermal imagery and uses software similar to GIS applications to process the image data. While in flight, the planes take photos about every four seconds. The images are then combined to make a Geo-rectified mosaic image of the ground surface and features. The cameras can also be mounted on a vehicle for gathering ground level images.

The planes are small, lightweight and launched into flight using a staked bungee cord. There is no landing gear, so touchdown can be bumpy. The planes are made of durable Styrofoam that can be taped up after a rough landing.

UDOT  has used the service to get aerial images of the Southern Parkway project and the wetland area near Utah Lake. Other possible applications for the platform include taking an inventory of freeway structures and signs, before and after construction images, cataloging historic occurrences of flood or wetland areas, tracking erosion on embankment slopes, identifying invasive plant species and evaluating treatment plans for eliminating those species.

GROUND PENETRATING RADAR

The Federal Highways Administration is sponsoring demonstrations of a new technology that uses radar to analyze pavement.

GPR technology uses radar to create a cross sectional analysis of the pavement.

The new technology can help determine the remaining service life of pavement without using invasive means. Testing is necessary to find out what conditions are causing pavement deterioration, and then to determine the right course of action to take to preserve or replace the pavement.

Typically, engineers determine the remaining service life pavement by drilling core samples. Coring pavement takes time and resources to extract , transport and then test the pavement. Coring is also an inconvenience for the traveling public since lane closures are required for the work to take place.

Ground Penetrating Radar can provide a close and detailed look at pavement without the time, expense lane closures required by coring.

GPR technology uses radar to create a cross sectional analysis of the pavement under the surface. The equipment is mounted on a regular vehicle that can move with traffic, so no lane closures are required. While coring gives snap-shot looks at pavement condition.

In one sweep, GPR can collect enough information to have a comprehensive view of the pavement, including density, material variation, degradation due to stripping or other factors, and thickness. The data collection method works on concrete or asphalt and is “a better way to diagnose the problem,” according to Tom Yu, Senior Pavement Design Engineer with FHWA.

Although GPR is a great diagnosis tool for pavements that need rehabilitation, Yu sees other opportunities as well. “For me, the most promising area is construction [quality and assurance] testing.” Yu visited UDOT Region Three recently with a GPR equipped van and spoke at an Intelligent Compaction Demonstration. He will take the van on the road to collect data so he can demonstrate the usefulness of the new technology. “It needs to show its own value” before the pavement data collection method is widely adopted.

WAY TO GO, STEVE!

A UDOT Region Two employee received recognition from Governor Herbert for making a safety improvement.

Steve Poulsen

Some local motorcycle riders noticed some slick pavement on an on ramp and contacted UDOT Region Two engineer Steve Poulsen to ask for a remedy. His quick and effective action to improve safety got the governors attention. Poulsen was presented with a thank-you letter from the governor at a recent UDOT Senior Staff meeting.

Poulsen received a call from a motor cycle rider who uses the California Avenue on-ramp to southbound I-215 to go home from work each day.  “He, along with several of his friends ride motorcycles and they noticed a slippery condition on the onramp that concerned them because their motorcycles would slip as they entered the turning portion of the ramp,” according to Poulsen. The man went on to say he appreciates UDOT but had concerns about the potential safety hazard.

Poulsen asked motorcycle rider Ed Layton, a trainer at UDOT Region Two, to ride the ramp. “Ed verified back that it was a safety issue,” explains Poulsen.

The ramp was part of a recent improvement project, so Poulsen then contacted UDOT Resident Engineer Brian Chamberlain who oversaw construction on the project. Chamberlain suggested that the contractor take a look at the ramp surface. “The job was partial deck repair in various locations using a product that sets fast,” Poulsen explains. Poulsen and Chamberlain visited the site and confirmed that the patch area was slick and soft.

Project contractor Green’s Concrete came up with a solution. The surface of the pavement was reheated on-site and some rock was installed to provide additional friction. “And evidently it worked because I got feedback from Brian that once the stuff was re-heated with some topping rock, it set up much better.”

“It was nice to be recognized by John Njord, senior staff and the governor,” says Poulsen. He was surprised that the motorcycle rider took the time to contact the governor’s office. Poulsen is also grateful to Chamberlain, Layton and Green’s Concrete for their help.

RESEARCH PROJECTS SELECTED

Projects have been selected for funding from the 2012 UDOT Research Workshop held on May 10.

The Maintenance Group discusses development of a weather severity index during the 2012 Research Workshop.

Fifty-two projects were submitted this year to the UDOT Research Workshop. Of these, nine projects will be funded through the Research Division, one of which was combined from two submitted problem statements. Several other projects of those submitted will be funded directly by other divisions. Several other projects of those submitted may also be funded directly by other divisions.

The workshop serves as one step in the research project selection process which involves UDOT, FHWA, universities, private sector firms and other transportation agencies. UDOT Research Division solicited problem statements for six focus areas: Structures and Geo-technical, Environmental and Hydraulics, Construction and Materials, Maintenance, Traffic Management and Safety and Pre-construction.

At the workshop, transportation professionals met to prioritize problem statements in order to select the ones most suitable to become research projects. Three voting criteria were used: importance of research, relevance to UDOT, and likelihood of implementation. All UDOT staff voted during the prioritization process. After the workshop, UDOT Research Division staff reviewed prioritization and funding for each recommended problem statement with division and group leaders.

The selected projects include:

  • Development of a Utah Winter Severity Index
  • Additional research into sampling and testing protocols for cold in-place recycling of asphalt pavements
  • Development of mobile applications for use by UDOT Maintenance
  • Additional funding toward a multi-state pooled fund project to investigate lateral pile resistance near MSE walls
  • Additional funding toward a multi-state pooled fund to research passive force-displacement for skewed bridge abutments
  • Research into environmentally friendly and sustainable stream stability treatments in the vicinity of bridges
  • Evaluation of effective construction risk management through CMGC contracting

Projects presented at the Research Workshop to be funded by other divisions include:

  • The Aurora Project working to advance road weather information systems technology
  • Improving wet night visibility of pavement markings
  • Development of a culvert management plan
  • Implementing safety analysis tools in planning, programming, design and operations

Other projects are being considered and may yet be added.

A significant factor for success was the broad project support from various UDOT Divisions and university representatives. We were excited that a number of pro-jects may receive funding from other sources. Many UDOT divisions including Maintenance, Planning, Traffic and Safety and the TOC are considering contributing funding along with University Transportation Centers.

By: Kevin Nichol, P.E.
UDOT Research Division
Catherine Higgins
UDOT Communication Department

MAP-21 RESOURCES

AASHTO has created a website to consolidate information about MAP-21, Moving Ahead for Progress in the Twenty First Century, the federal transportation bill passed into law on July 6.

MAP-21 is intended to reduce project delivery time and save costs, improve safety and reduce traffic congestion.

UDOT and other transportation agencies will now start implementing provisions of MAP-21. To support the implementation effort, AASHTO has established work groups and introduced a website about the new law.

New features of the law are designed to reduce project delivery time and save costs by implementing early coordination between agencies to avoid delay in review processes. Core programs have been consolidated to include:

  • National Highway Performance Program, a new core program that consolidates Interstate Maintenance, National Highway System, and Highway Bridge programs. Provisions are intended to eliminate barriers that limit flexibility to using tax dollars efficiently when improving the national highway system.
  • Transportation Mobility Program, a new program that replaces the Surface Transportation Program. Provisions broaden the eligibility of surface transportation projects.
  • National Freight Network Program, a new core program aimed at reducing congestion in order to improve the movement of goods
  • Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program is a program that was retained. CMAQ provides funds to reduce congestion and improve air quality.
  • Highway Safety Improvement Program is a retained program that increases the amount of funding to develop and implement safety programs.
  • Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Program provides direct loans, loan guarantees, and lines of credit to surface transportation projects at favorable terms.

AASHTO President Kirk Steudle has established work groups to study the implementation process, including Project Delivery, Performance Measures, Planning, Asset Management, and Performance-Based Planning and Programming, Finance, Safety, Freight, Highways and Transit.

John Horsley, Executive Director of AASHTO is looking forward to implementing the changes. “We are also pleased that the legislation includes needed reforms to stretch taxpayer dollars with expanded innovative finance, improved efficiency with program consolidation, streamlined project delivery, and improved accountability with performance measures.”

For more information about MAP-21, visit the AASHTO MAP-21 website.