Category Archives: Preserve Infrastructure

SEND IN YOUR GREAT PHOTOS!

A photo contest is providing an opportunity to showcase the people who use and improve our state transportation system – but hurry, time is short!

Workers ready a Self-Propelled Modular Transporter for the Sam White Bridge Move

Face it, the UDOT family, including state employees and private sector partners, is full of dedicated people who enhance the quality of life in our state by improving mobility, maintaining infrastructure and building for the future. Do you have photos that showcase those people doing their important work? If so, the AASHTO Faces of Transportation photo contest may be a great way to share those images.

“Faces of Transportation” is a yearly contest that has a monetary prize attached. UDOT is heading a coordinated effort to submit photos for the contest, but the deadline is approaching quickly.

For the first time, contest organizers are asking for photos that fit into three themes:

  • Building the Future – showing people planning, designing and maintaining the transportation network.
  • On the Road – showing long distance travel opportunities afforded by the transportation network.
  • Taking a Ride—showing people using transportation networks to commute, run errands or to discover new places.

Please send digital photos to chiggins@utah.gov by Wednesday, July 25. Digital files must be a minimum of 600 dpi quality or better. All entries must be accompanied by a completed entry form. A text file with the information and caption should also be included. For assistance, contact Catherine Higgins at 801-803-9413 or by email.

Photos selected for the contest will be highlighted on the UDOT Blog and Flickr.

MEETING FLEET CHALLENGES

The First Annual National Fleet Management Conference brought fleet managers together to share expertise.

Steve McCarthy, Fleet Manager at UDOT

Fleet managers at the nations departments of transportation are facing many of the same issues, including limited budgets, new emissions and mileage regulations and how to manage costs during the life-cycle of equipment. Those common concerns brought fleet managers and staff members from across the nation together to share best practices and “cross pollinate ideas,” says Larry Galehouse, Director of the National Center for Pavement Maintenance.

The effort to organize the conference was born out of AASHTO’s Sub Committee on Maintenance and sponsoring agencies included, AASHTO, TRB, American Association of State Transportation Highway Transportation Officials Research Board, AASHTO Equipment Management, Technical Services Program, Southeastern States Equipment Managers Conference, Inc.

UDOT Deputy Director Carlos Braceras gave one of the keynote addresses at the conference. As the chair of the AASHTO Subcommittee on Maintenance, it was “extremely important to have Carlos give them the vision of AASHTO,” according to Galehouse.

Feedback on the conference has been largely positive, says Galehouse. The next conference will be held in 2014.

Here is an excerpt from Braceras’ address:

At the Utah Department of Transportation, we are driven in all we do by a set of strategic goals known as the “Final Four.”  These strategic goals provide guidance in our department’s efforts to improve the quality of life and economic vitality of our state.  These goals help remind us of our responsibilities.  They are: preserve infrastructure, optimize mobility, improve safety, and strengthen the economy.

Our fleet helps us meet every one of those goals. By maintaining our roads and highways, not only is our equipment fleet preserving our infrastructure, it’s allowing us to provide a quality transportation system that helps bring industry to our state…therefore strengthening the economy.  By plowing our roads during frequent and often treacherous winter storms, keeping our roads free of debris, and making repairs that keep our roads functioning smoothly…our fleet allows us to optimize mobility and improve safety.

UDOT’s fleet is valued at about $200 million dollars.  Whether your DOTs have a larger fleet or a smaller fleet…it is a significant investment of taxpayer money and it is our responsibility to utilize it to the best of our ability and make it work as efficiently as possible.  That’s why we’re here today.  To learn from each other, to discuss what works and what doesn’t work, to find solutions to the challenges every one of our DOTs is facing in this changing economic time.

Download the entire speech here: Carlos Fleet Speech

 

SHOW ME THE MONEY

A new UDOT website lets the public see how tax money is spent to build and improve state roads.

Nearly all UDOT projects designed and built during the last 5 years along with future STIP projects are included in UDOT Projects, a new website.

Three years in the making, the new UDOT Projects website provides easy access to information about projects, including location, purpose, status, total budget and funding source. UDOT Deputy Director Carlos Braceras had the original vision to create a site where the public could see project funding and costs in as close to real time as possible – not a small order explains UDOT Projects Project Manager Stan Burns.

Building UDOT Projects meant that databases containing project information needed to be automatically fed into the website. The Utah Department of Technology Services found a way to seamlessly link internal databases,which include hundreds of projects, to UDOT Projects. As project information is added to databases, those additions are automatically uploaded to UDOT Projects.

The website presents information  for everyone – from the general public to policy makers.

Tabs representing UDOT’s four strategic goals, including Preserve Infrastructure, Optimize Mobility, Improve Safety and Strengthen the Economy, categorize projects by main purpose. Projects in the design, construction or substantially complete phase are placed on a map so citizens can find projects close to home or along a commuter route. Clicking on a project produces pop ups with links to information about budget, costs and status.

Another tab labeled Information Warehouse lists nearly all UDOT projects designed and built during the last 5 years along with future STIP projects. UDOT projects are primarily funded by the Utah Legislature and gas tax revenues which are directed into four funds, and the Information Warehouse Tab gives the status of each fund. On the Project Map tab, an Interactive Project Report tool for queries and analysis lets users sort, view, print and export data.

Altogether, the map, query tool, budget and funding information provide a lot of utility for the public and those who work with UDOT.  End users can easily find and display what ever information is desired. “If you want to know how much we’ve spent on pavement preservation, you can see that,” says Burns.

UTAH’S UNIFIED PLAN

Utah’s all-inclusive transportation plan for state and local roads and transit is one of a kind in the United States.

Bangerter Highway at 7800 South

The Unified Transportation Plan: 2011 to 2040 is a comprehensive project list that includes urban and rural transportation improvement projects from UDOT and Utah’s four Metropolitan Planning Organizations – Wasatch Front Regional Council, Mountainland Association of Governments, Dixie MPO and Cache MPO.

Engineers, elected officials, planners and citizens collaborate for years to produce the list that also includes “planning time horizons, funding and growth assumptions, and modeling approaches,” according to Andrew Gruber, Executive Director of WFRC.

The Unified Transportation Plan “allows us to speak with a unified voice to our legislature about our transportation priorities and needs” says UDOT Transportation Planner Walt Steinvorth. Having one plan means that transportation projects are prioritized and funded in a coordinated manor.

Transportation has a critical role to play in economic growth and mobility. “The significant investments that the Legislature, local governments, and voters have approved have not only created thousands of private-sector engineering and construction jobs, but they have also allowed us to keep pace with the rapid growth Utah has experienced,” according to Gruber.

“One of the reasons that Utah’s economy has been strong and has outperformed most other states is the solid investment we have made in transportation infrastructure – both roads and transit, and increasingly, bike and pedestrian infrastructure.”

And the fact that Utah is the only state with a Unified Transportation Plan has earned national attention and praise. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood visited Utah recently and called the plan a model for the nation. Janet Kavinoky, Director of Transportation Infrastructure for the United States Chamber of Commerce has called attention to the plan in an article for the Eno Center for Transportation.

BACKPACK ADVENTURE

UDOT will use an innovative hybrid bridge system that combines the durability of concrete with the strength of Fiber Reinforced Polymer.

The system, called Bridge in a Backpack, uses stiffened FRP tubes that are shaped into aarches and filled with concrete. While design of the brides varies, the arches are typically attached to a concrete footing and covered with corrugated decking then covered with compacted soil. The new bridge, which is being designed, will be built in Ogden Canyon on SR 39 near Huntsville.

Hundreds of the tubular structures have built in the United States, although the building method is fairly new. The arches were developed by the University of Main. FHWA has developed an implementation strategy and is funding part of the construction costs of the new bridge.

Advantages of the Bridge in a Backpack system include:

  • Fast construction which benefits the driving public.
  • Light weight components that can be transported easily.
  • Potentially lower maintenance costs over the life of the bridge – FRP is not susceptible to road de-icing chemicals as is steel.

UDOT has used FRP in other structures. UDOT’s Beaver Creek Bridge on US-6 near Soldier Summit has a deck that is reinforced with FRP bars. The bridge is instrumented with sensors that measure strain. Researchers are collecting data that will show how the deck holds up under traffic.

UDOT will also build a bridge with hybrid-composite beams near Beaver. The design uses an FRP box to with a concrete arch inside that gives the beam compressive strength. More than just a covering, the box “provides shear strength and encapsulates the tension and compression elements,” according to the HCB Company website. The arch structure inside the beam is surrounded with low density foam core. A prestressing strand provides additional strength and steel shear connectors provide stiffness. Along with being very strong and durable, the beams are also light and easy to lift and place.

HIGH-VALUE RESEARCH

The 2012 Research Workshop held on May 10 brought transportation experts together to present, discuss, and then prioritize potential research opportunities.

The UDOT Maintenance group prioritizes problem statements at the Research Workshop

At the workshop, transportation professionals meet to prioritize problem statements in order to select the ones most suitable to become research projects. The workshop serves as one step in the research project selection process and involves UDOT, FHWA, universities, private sector firms and other transportation agencies.

Good communication with all parties is essential before, during and after the workshop. “Success depends on a continuous dialog with UDOT’s technical experts and industry researchers to help determine transportation challenges to solve,” says UDOT Research Director Cameron Kergaye. Recent changes in the project selection process have been aimed at improving that ongoing internal conversation in order to produce:

High-value research – UDOT Senior and group leaders help select technical areas where the benefit-cost ratio is highest.

Timely preparation of statements – sending problem statements to  participants ahead of the workshop helps participants to be prepared for discussions.

Problem statements that address UDOT’s priorities – UDOT staff vote during the prioritization process, and UDOT division leaders also prioritize the problem statements based on organizational needs and available funding.

More research projects – After the workshop, the UDOT Research Division Staff works with division leaders to identify additional funding.

Before the workshop, UDOT Research Division solicits problem statements. This year, six focus areas were identified: Structures and Geotechnical, Environmental and Hydraulics, Construction and Materials, Maintenance, Traffic Management and Safety and Pre-construction. This year, the workshop enjoyed good support from the research community; fifty-two projects were submitted – 7 more projects than last year.

During the Workshop, participants divide into groups to prioritize problem statements. This year, three voting criteria were used:  importance of research, relevance to UDOT, and likelihood of implementation.  All attendees participated in the statement discussions and UDOT staff voted during the prioritization process.

After the workshop, UDOT Research Division staff reviews prioritization and funding for each problem statement with division and group leaders. The outcome of the 2012 workshop is that 17 projects will receive funding; ten projects will be funded through the Research Division, six will be funded by other UDOT divisions and UDOT Research will fund one pooled-fund project solicited  by another state.

Research Project Manager Kevin Nichol who coordinated the workshop explains that the projects enjoyed broad support. “We were excited that a number of projects received funding from other sources.” Many UDOT divisions including Maintenance, Planning, Traffic and Safety and the TOC contributed funding along with University Transportation Centers.

The additional funding support shows that UDOT divisions see the value in the process, according to Kergaye. He believes the strong show of support is a result of problem statements that are more carefully constructed and more closely aligned to UDOT’s priorities.

“We’ve got some good projects,” says Nichol. “Some are extending the scope of existing research and some new projects that are just coming about.”

To see details on the list of final projects, visit the UDOT Research Division website.

LONG JOINTS

The Federal Highways Association and the Asphalt Pavement association are working together to identify ways to prevent longitudinal joint failure.

A longitudinal joint in asphalt pavement is formed between two adjacent passes during installation. Joints that are not dealt with properly are subject to failure – visually, the pavement seems to unravel as weather and wear take a toll on the joint itself and sometimes the pavement section as a whole.

In a presentation given at the Asphalt Pavement Association, Howard Anderson characterized joints as a key part of the overall health of the pavement. When all other pavement characteristics are good, “you can still have failure with the pavement if the joint is poor.” The slide show below is a short version of Anderson’s presentation.

A good joint requires getting paving operations started off right. Some key considerations include having a balanced paving operation when it comes to plant production, the number of trucks, taking into account the travel time to and from the plant and paver speed coordinated to match the tonnage arriving on the project. Trucks should be loaded so the asphalt is not segregated by age.

ROAD VIEW ROCK STARS

By Catherine Higgins and Gary Kuhl

An innovative and robust data collection system will help UDOT take better care of assets associated with state roads.


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

The Mandli Road View’s decked out Hummer gets attention when it cruises through town. Some onlookers even have concerns about privacy. But the sophisticated gear mounted on the front and back of the vehicle does not  spy on people; the equipment collects information about assets associated with roads. For UDOT, those assets include thousands of miles of pavement and thousands of bridges, overpasses, signs, barrier and guardrail.

Mandli Communications, Inc. recently displayed the vehicle for UDOT engineers from UDOT Traffic and Safety, Maintenance, Structures, Motor Carriers and Asset Management. The three UDOT departments are combining forces to collect asset data. UDOT engineers overseeing the project are not aware of any other departments of transportation that are collecting as much data in one pass as is occurring in Utah.

Data collection will be accomplished by using five integrated systems:

High definition LiDAR sends out bursts of light to measure the distance to an object. LiDAR can collect “over a million points per second” according to the vendor’s website. While other methods collect asset data like pavement condition every few feet, LiDAR creates a spatially accurate point cloud for a continuous accurate measurement of pavement and all surrounding roadway assets, including vertical clearance for the overpasses.

  • Three HD cameras that record two hundred frames per mile will take a right-of-way inventory for a visual record of roads and associated assets. The photographs will allow users to take a virtual drive on any state route. The images will also be available for public view.
  • A Laser Crack Measurement System will detect, measure and classify pavement cracks and wheel path rutting.
  • An ARRB Hawkeye profiling system uses accelerometers and lasers to measure the profile of the road surface and from that data, will derive IRI, a measure of pavement smoothness.
  • Together, a GPS system, Gyroscopic Aplanix and distance measuring system will Geo-reference all of the data and provide integration with UDOT mile posts. Additionally this data will provide GIS linework for each route, horizontal curve, elevation and grade data.

Mandli was selected to provide the services through a competitive selection process. Asset data collection will be colleced on entire state system including ramps and collectors, and will include the number of lane miles, surface areas including width of shoulders and medians, all signs, guardrail, cable barrier and rumble strips. After collection, the Utah Department of Technology Services and UDOT Engineering Technology Services will develop an integrated database for displaying, querying and analyzing assets on an easy to use desk top application.

Departments of transportation across the nation, including UDOT, have traditionally maintained stand-alone data bases for each asset category to track maintenance and inspection data. An integrated data base will help UDOT have a better understanding of the transportation system as a whole and make better use of funding, staffing and other resources used to care for state assets.

UGATE

UDOT is developing a GIS backbone for sharing and viewing information about the state’s transportation system.

This screen shot shows the straight line diagram component of the Explorer Application. Designed to have broad utility, the application helps us display linear relationships which can be hard to view in a typical map.

UGate is a robust data repository that is automatically populated by many data base systems already in place. Once uploaded to UGate, data can be integrated with other information and accessed by end-users via web application portals like UPlan.

The big picture

The effort is allowing UDOT’s information to be less fragmented and “more consistent and concerted,” says Frank Pisani who heads the Enterprise GIS Team. Stand-alone databases exist in many forms all departments ac cross UDOT. Now, layers of information, such as future and past projects, bridge inspections, pavement quality, can be viewed together to give a more complete picture of the state’s transportation system.

As an illustration, Electric Program Management is a database used to track project funding, scheduling and staffing. Currently, ePM automatically uploads to UGate and along with other information, is part of Transparency In Government Spending, an application portal that lets end users see the ePM information integrated with an interactive map (like the example below) and query tools.

Department of Technology Services programmer Ruben Schoenefeld is on the UGate development team. He points out that having a data set on display via a web-based application instead of a spreadsheet or other stand-alone form has  advantages. Quality control can be managed more easily. “Even though it may be scary for the data owners to put their data ‘out there’ for others to see, they profit from it by getting feedback.”


View Larger Map

Successful data integration

Data collection needs to be web-based in order to auto-feed into UGate. Culvert inspection data, for example, will soon be collected via smart-phone. The GIS capability of smart phones will make data upload seamless, not to mention easy and accurate.

Besides TIGS, “there are now multiple applications that use that structure,” says Schoenefeld, naming Highway Reference Online as another example. Once a feature of the UGate system is put in place, multiple applications can take advantage of that feature. The interactive map is one example.

Schoenefeld has enjoyed being part of the effort to improve the way data can be used. “It’s fun to see it all come together,” he says.

Learning the system that creates features like the interactive map has been challenging for programmers. But the promise of integrated data in a system that will have years of utility for UDOT is worth the effort. Pisani believes UGate is a “web tier delivery architecture that we feel can accommodate future changes in technology.”
Getting the word out

Steve Quinn, UDOT Director of ePM and ETS and Pisani are planning to take the message on the road – visits to the UDOT Regions are being planned for this summer. Both are anxious to show what GIS can do to help improve the way UDOT builds and maintains the state’s transportation infrastructure.

UTAH TRAVEL STUDY UPDATE

For the last three months, transportation planners have been asking Utahans how, when and where they travel.

The Utah Travel Study will help planners prioritize highway and transit projects for the 30-year long range transportation plan.

Sponsored by six agencies, including Metropolitan Planning Organizations and UDOT, the Utah Travel Study has contacted more than five thousand households across Utah so far. Over eight thousand college students have also participated. And this summer, a special bicycle and pedestrian survey will collect information to help planners “understand more about bike and walk travel behavior and needed improvements in Utah,” says Elizabeth Greene, with Resource Systems Group, Inc. Research firms RSG and Westat, are administering the survey on behalf of the sponsoring agencies.

The survey asks participants to provide 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 are also asked to report information about trips made in one 24-hour weekday period and answer questions about transportation priorities.

Once compiled, the database will help planners prioritize highway and transit projects for the 30-year long range transportation plan. UDOT and other transportation agencies spend billions of dollars on highway and transit projects, and the data gathered by the survey will help planners ensure that money is well spent.

All six sponsoring agencies will have access to the database for planning and research. The data base will not include personal information – such as names or contact information – of the respondents. Some of the results will be published as a brief report so sponsoring agencies can share what they’ve learned with the public.

“Travel demand modelers, transportation planners, and policy-makers across the state of Utah will all analyze the data as part of their jobs,” explains Greene. “The first and foremost goal is to understand travel patterns and travel needs in order to best plan for future transportation improvements and investments.”

UDOT and other transportation agencies “really values the participation of Utahan’s from across the state.”  It’s important to hear from everyone who is contacted. Only by hearing from everyone can the state of Utah best understand the overall travel patterns and travel needs in the state and thereby best plan improvements and investments in the future,” explains Greene.

“To prepare for the Olypmic Games ten years ago, Utah invested heavily in transportation projects. Since then, development of our transportation system has continued, benefiting our economy, safety, and quality of life,” says UDOT Director John Njord. ” The Utah Travel Study will help UDOT in making decisions about future investments as we continue to develop our transportation system while preserving our existing assets and infrastructure.”

Data collection will continue throughout the summer.