Category Archives: Preserve Infrastructure

INTELLIGENT COMPACTION

UDOT Project Manager Jim Golden and UDOT Engineer for Technology and Support Brent Gaschler

The Federal Highways Administration and UDOT will partner to study an innovative method for compacting pavement.

Proper compaction of asphalt pavement is critical when building or reconstructing roads. Without proper uniform compaction, differential settlement can lead to cracking and water intrusion can cause breaks and potholes, and overall, both conditions can shorten pavement life.

UDOT and FHWA will study the use of Intelligent Compaction equipment this summer on a project on US 89 and SR 180 in UDOT Region Three. The purpose of the study is to relate IC measurements to nuclear gauge or coring density tests to demonstrate how the system can be used for improved quality control and quality assurance.

IC systems are similar to regular compactors equipped with GPS to determine the location and number of passes, sensors to determine the increasing stiffness of the pavement. As the compactor makes passes, the GPS and stiffness measurements are integrated to a digital display that gives the operator a comprehensive real-time picture of the compaction process. All information is recorded and can be downloaded for review by the project owner.

Core samples of the HMA will be taken “to see the correlation between stiffness and density” and demonstrate the value of this tool for QA/QC, says Brent Gaschler, UDOT Engineer for Technology and Support, who is working with FHWA to coordinate the effort. The demonstration of the IC method will take place during four days in late July or early August at the contractor’s discretion.

INNOVATION

Gilbert Chlewicki , known as the Father of the DDI, gave the keynote address at the UDOT Research Workshop.

Gilbert Chlewicki spoke about innovation at the UDOT Research Workshop. "Innovation does not have to be provocative or really out there, it can be very simple."

Chlewicki focused his remarks on innovation and some of the key ways creativity is fostered in engineering organizations. UDOT employees are familiar with many of his talking points – leaders at UDOT purposely create an environment where innovation is encouraged.

According to Chlewicki, barriers to innovation can include organizational disconnect between engineering specialties and a general disinclination on the part of members of the engineering profession to try new things combined with fear of failure.

Most departments of transportation are structured in ‘pillars’ with very little overlap between areas of specialty, such as design or traffic operations. For innovation to occur, engineers in transportation agencies need to understand how different specialties co-relate.

For example, “it’s good to understand how geo-metrics and traffic operation work together,” said Chlewicki. He also pointed out that engineering is a conservative profession and in a department of transportation – or any organization – fear of failure can subvert innovation.

Are the cards stacked against innovation? Chlewicki seemed optimistic that innovation can be fostered and encouraged and offered some suggestions for employees and organizations:

  • Don’t get bogged down by a standard, code or a process. Finding a solution may be outside of the commonplace approach.
  • Look for uncomplicated solutions. “Innovation does not have to be provocative or really out-there, it can be very simple.” Chlewicki pointed to the Diverging Diamond Interchange as an example of a simple solution. Named by by Popular Science magazine as one of the best innovations in 2009, the DDI switches traffic to the opposite side of the roadway in order to avoid left-turn conflicts.
  • “Hang out with other innovators.” Creativity can rub off!
  • Organizations should reward innovation if possible and try to provide an environment where failure is not punished.

It’s good to make room for an ‘ah ha!’ moment. While looking to innovation as a way to solve transportation challenges is necessary in the modern world, once in a while, innovation just happens. “It’s not always need based,” said Chlewicki. “…sometimes it comes out of nowhere.”

TRAILBLAZER AWARD

Dr. Kyle M. Rollins, researcher and Professor of Civil Engineering at BYU has won the UDOT Research Division’s annual Trail Blazer Award.

UDOT Director of Research Cameron Kergaye, Trailblazer award recipient Dr. Kyle Rollins and workshop organizer Kevin Nichol pose after the award ceremony. Rollins is known in Utah and around the country for research on pile foundations.

Rollins was honored at the annual Research Workshop lunch. Last year’s winner, Blaine Leonard praised Rollins for his contribution to a broad range of research topic areas and for the innovative and creative ways he has accomplished that research.

“The Trailblazer Award is recognition of long time contributions to transportation research in Utah,” said Leonard. The honor is given to people who “start new paths for the rest of us to follow.” Rollins is known in Utah and around the country for research on pile foundations and load testing and is one of the few researchers that “does a fair amount of full scale load testing on piles,” said Leonard. Some of Rollins’ resent research includes evaluating and predicting corrosion rates of piles, evaluating the interaction between soil-abutment-bridge structures for seismic performance based design and field testing of colloid silica grouting for mitigation of liquefaction risk.

A “creative guy,” Rollins does dynamic testing using a tool called a statnamic – it’s basically a rocket engine, explained Leonard. This means, not only is Rollins geotechnical engineer, “he’s also a rocket scientist,” joked Leonard.

Rollins also partners effectively with the private sector, said Leonard, and often finds funding and other resources needed to carry out testing thoroughly and cost effectively. He stays on the cutting edge of research and also has the ability to develop research projects that produce practical solutions for the real world – “stuff that has been really useful.”

Rollins gave credit to UDOT’s innovative and accepting culture and to smart, hardworking students at BYU. “I have had success “because of the situation I have been in… UDOT is a pretty innovative organization.” His colleagues around the country “don’t always have that situation.”

Rollins appreciates UDOT’s acceptance of innovative testing methods, such as using small explosive charges to liquefy soil and sand boxes on a table top, and notes that some of his testing methods have received international recognition.

STOPPING SCOUR

UDOT has recently surveyed bridges over waterways with unknown foundations and identified which is at risk for scour.

Montezuma Creek

Over time, water can excavate soil and rocks from around bridge piers, piles and abutments causing bridge scour and putting the structure at risk for premature failure. Scour can happen gradually on structures with constant slow moving water or quickly during a flood event.

This concrete wall provides a permanent fix for scour.

Bridge inspectors check for scour along with other structural features of bridges on regular inspections that occur within every 24 months. For bridges over waterways, inspectors look at the bridge structure, orientation, geomorphic conditions , the type of rock or soil near the abutments, the location of sediment carried by the water, and the angle, magnitude and duration of the flow. Inspectors also check piers or piles for evidence of scour holes (where water has excavated soil from around structures) or corrosion on structural elements.

Inspectors take detailed notes about the location of potential or actual problem areas. Close regular monitoring is a way to “keep our finger on the pulse of the bridge,” explains UDOT Central Hydraulics Engineer Denis Stuhff.

After inspection, a Plan of Action is developed for each bridge that includes management strategies and countermeasures for keeping the bridge safe for the traveling public before, during and after a flooding event. Sometimes permanent structural countermeasures are taken; however the most common countermeasure is the addition of strategically placed riprap.

Placing riprap is an economically sound and effective approach that allows UDOT to address the potential of scour at all bridges rather than just a few since pinpointing which bridges will be vulnerable from year to year is not an exact science. “At any time, any bridge over a waterway may have a flood,” says Stuhff who uses a gambling metaphor to explain.

“Catchment areas in Utah are like one big casino. We put our hydrology quarter in our hydrology slot machine once a year and we pull the handle… somewhere in the state, it’s paying off.”

UDOT DIRECTOR TO RECEIVE DISTINGUISHED ALUMNI AWARD

John Njord received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Utah Department of Civil Engineering.

UDOT Director John Njord

Njord received the Distinguished Alumni Award and was inducted into the CE Academy. The award is given to an “alumnus that has been influential in education, industry, business, government, or construction,” according a Department of Civil Engineering newsletter.

Njord’s leadership has “made this transportation agency the envy of transportation agencies across the country and in fact, around the world,” says UDOT Deputy Director Carlos Braceras. “John is one of those exceptional leaders that allowed every employee in this agency to be their best.”

Njord joined the Utah Department of Transportation in 1988 after graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering degree from the University of Utah. He worked as a Field Engineer, Local Governments Liaison Engineer, Engineer for Urban Planning, Director of Olympic Transportation Planning and Deputy Director before becoming Executive Director in 2001.

Braceras credits Njord’s “natural leadership and his caring for the employees” for making UDOT “a productive place to make a difference.”

Njord said he was “shocked” and “obviously honored” on learning of his selection, especially in light of previous recipients and their accomplishments in this community. “I realize that in many ways I am the face of the department – I am the front guy,” he said. Njord believes that the  accomplishments made by department employees “has drawn recognition to me.”

Under his direction, Njord has led the effort to use innovative solutions to improve the transportation system in Utah. UDOT leads the nation in Accelerated Bridge Construction. Thirty-seven bridges associated with interstate highways have been built off-site and moved into place. The agency has pioneered the design and construction of innovative intersections and interchanges that have enhanced traffic mobility.

His role as he sees it is “to provide an environment where folks feel like they can solve problems.” Njord seeks to foster “a healthy environment where the best ideas can come forward.”

While some think of engineers as professionals who seek to work strictly by the book, Njord takes exception to that view. “True engineering begins as textbook engineering,” said Njord. “When you depart from ‘chug and plug’ engineering, all the innovation lights can turn on.”

Njord believes that any engineering problem can be solved when employees are willing to explore any idea. “And in the end, we are doing a great service for the citizens of our state.”

“I believe most of our employees go home and think ‘we’re doing good things.’”

The other CE Academy inductees are:

C. Ross Anderson
David Eckhoff
Paul Hirst
Jim Nordquist
Ron Reaveley

DOCTOR SEEKS SLOW CURE

Prolonged internal curing promises to help concrete resist shrinkage and cracking.

Concrete designed for internal curing resists shrinkage and cracking. The small plywood square in the foreground is a temporary cover for a sensor embedded in the concrete that will help researchers gather data.

BYU researcher Dr. Spencer Guthrie is comparing and evaluating the performance of concrete on two concrete bridge decks – one is made of regular concrete and the other is made with “pre-saturated lightweight aggregate fines,” explains Guthrie.  “My particular task is to quantify the differences between this type of concrete and conventional concrete in bridge deck applications.”

Adding the wet, fine aggregate causes prolonged internal curing which has been shown to reduce shrinkage and cracking in concrete.* Internal curing also makes the concrete less porous and therefore delays the intrusion of water and dissolved chemicals and minerals that eventually cause the steel reinforcement to corrode.

A detailed explanation of internal curing can be found in a YouTube video of a presentation given by Dr. Jason Weiss of Purdue University School of Civil Engineering. According to Weiss, “internal curing increases hydration and ‘densifies’ the system.”

Concrete (basically cement and aggregate) cures through a chemical reaction, called hydration, which occurs when water saturates the cement. Internal curing is especially useful when it comes to high performance concrete that has a very dense aggregate matrix. Concrete mixes that are designed to be dense and structurally robust restrict water movement during the curing process.

Pre-wetted aggregate temporarily holds water in the concrete mixture without increasing the water-cement ratio.  As the hydration unfolds, tiny pockets of water in the aggregate continue to react with the cement. “When we get more internal curing water, we keep the system moist, we keep the system reacting, we keep hydrating the cement which means we’re going to have lower overall porosity in the system,” says Weiss.

Guthrie and engineers at UDOT will eventually have objective data that will show the differences between conventional concrete and concrete designed for internal curing. Sensors embedded in the concrete measure time, water content, temperature, and electrical conductivity, which is a good representation of permeability. Guthrie and others will also conduct strength and durability tests in the lab.

Weiss claims that internal curing can effectively double the life of bridge decks, making it possible to use transportation resources more wisely.

 *According to Guthrie: “Shrinkage always happens before cracking (and is often the cause of the cracking).”

LIGHT ROCKS

Lightweight concrete proved to be a good solution for a deck replacement project in rural Utah.

Lightweight concrete is not commonly used for constructing bridge decks according to Joshua Sletten, Structures Design Manager at UDOT. Some of the barriers to using lightweight concrete are availability of aggregate and slightly higher cost. Additionally “many engineers simply aren’t familiar with it and may shy away from it for that reason.”

However, light weight concrete was a good choice for the Taggart Bridge. The twin structures that carry I-84 over the Union Pacific Railroad were originally built in 1967. Lightweight concrete allowed the bridge deck to accommodate a thicker deck and asphalt overlay to meet the adjoining freeway profile and not exceed the load capacity of the older, pre-stressed concrete girder bridges.

 


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.
The bridge geometry, along with the need to keep the freeway open during construction, presented challenges that were met by UDOT, Hanson Structural Precast and Granite Construction Company Inc. Design was the project’s first hurdle.

Both bridges are three-span structures on a curved alignment. A total of sixty individual deck panels were designed, and “no two panels were the same,” according to UDOT Design Engineer Robert Nash. He kept the outside dimensions the same where possible but “the location of shear blockouts and leveling devices were different for every panel.” Each panel was designed utilizing reinforcing bars grouted into the top flanges of the concrete beams.

Hanson created precise shop drawings for each pre-cast panel. An indoor pre-cast yard made Hanson immune to weather delay, and a rigorous internal quality control process eliminated fit issues at the construction site. Panels used concrete with Expanded Shale Lightweight Aggregates from Utelite Corporation, a local supplier.

Granite Construction achieved UDOT’s aggressive construction schedule requirements while keeping traffic moving during construction. Workers even kept pace during snow flurries and low temperatures that would have stopped a cast-in-place deck pour.

In addition to the deck replacement, Granite also completed extensive substructure repair work on columns, pedestals, bent caps, wingwalls beam ends and backwalls. The project was completed ahead of schedule and under budget and won Granite’s project of the year award among entries costing up to $5 million and UDOT’s Rural Project of the Year.

The lightweight concrete deck panels seem to be performing well, according to Sletten. “I think you will see it utilized more frequently in the future.”

DIVIDE AND SPONSOR

The UDOT Research Workshop allows participants to prioritize research projects. Register by May 3 to participate.

Cameron Kergaye speaks at 2011 UTRAC

Usually held yearly, the Research Workshop is organized by the UDOT Research Division as a way to allow researchers and transportation experts from UDOT, FHWA, universities, private sector firms and other transportation agencies meet, network, share solutions and most importantly, prioritize research topics.

The May 10 2012 Research Workshop is approaching quickly and Kevin Nichol, Research Project Manager and workshop organizer hopes all who can be involved in the process will register  by May 3 to participate. Good participation – that is having a broad cross section of experts and a high number of participants makes for a healthy process – all involved can bring a different point of view or expertise to the table.

For researchers, that participation means presenting problem statements that detail proposed research. It’s a way for researchers to “engage their expertise,” says Nichol. This year, research problem statements are being accepted in six specialty areas:

  • Structures and Geotechnical
  • Environmental and Hydraulics
  • Construction and Materials
  • Maintenance
  • Traffic Management and Safety
  • Pre-construction

Problem statements need to be submitted by April 26.

A national expert on the Diverging Diamond Interchange will be the keynote speaker at the Research Workshop. Pioneer Crossing was UDOT's first DDI.

UDOT employees can participate in the workshop by registering for one of the specialty areas. At the conference, groups will meet separately to hear and prioritize problem statements.

It’s always exciting to see how the groups view and prioritize the research problem statements, according to Nichol. The Workshop draws a vibrant, intelligent community of transportation experts who take an important step in putting research in motion.

Ultimately, the knowledge and understanding gained by research will make for a better transportation system. For example, the 2011UTRAC Workshop produced studies that examined cost effective snow plow blade selection, sign management, and design of integrated abutment bridges.

General session

This year, workshop attendees will have a chance to hear from Gilbert Chlewicki — a national Diverging Diamond Intersection expert and advocate. Chlewicki is a leading expert on DDIs with respect to “geometric design, signal placements, traffic design, driver acceptability, pedestrian and bicycle issues, and locations for implementation,” according to his website.

NEW ENGINEERS

UDOT Engineers In Training are finding their work at UDOT challenging and rewarding.

Greg Merrill is an Engineer in Training in UDOT's Rotational Engineer Program

Short bios on the newest engineers at the agency describe some of the experiences and knowledge that are being gained by UDOT Rotational Engineers and Interns as they work to design, build and take care of the transportation system. The bios are a way to introduce the Engineers in Training to others at UDOT and associated private sector firms.

UDOT’s Rotational Program gives engineers a chance to “understand the overall role of the department,” says Richard Murdock, who has managed the program for 7 years. The program has existed for more than 20 years in a similar organizational form. UDOT gains by welcoming in enthusiastic, newly graduated engineers who view the world of transportation with new eyes. The Rotational Engineers come from diverse backgrounds and varied experiences.

Engineers apply to the program right out of college. Once at UDOT, EITs work under the supervision of Professional Engineers and rotate from one UDOT department to another about every six months. UDOT has a reputation for providing a good EIT experience, so more candidates apply that the program can accommodate. UDOT also offers a number of year-round internships that include full state benefits.

The EITs like the opportunity to work in the different specialty areas and gain broad experience. The rotations allow new engineers “to see how each [department] works and functions and how they each tie together,” says Greg Merrill who is assigned to Region One Construction. Rotations provide “a chance to find your niche” in preparation for later specialization.

Mandatory rotations include construction, design, maintenance and traffic and safety. Many of the EITs mention design as being particularly challenging. “I had no idea what went into a project from either the design or construction side, so I had to ask a lot of questions and do a lot of research,” writes Megan Leonard, “ Being able to actually design projects is an amazing process and learning how many little details go into each project was an eye opener.”

Many of the Rotational Engineers appreciate the chance to network and learn from others at UDOT. “I have had great supervisors that have provided plenty of guidance whenever I have needed assistance understanding a concept or completing a project,” writes Aaron Pinkerton.

Leonard appreciates the respect she is shown at work. “I recommend this program to everyone who can apply for it. I feel like I’m trusted and treated like an actual staff member and not just a glorified intern.”

Read the bios:

Brian Allen

Zack Andrus

Jeremy Bown

Eric Buell

Scott Esplin

Ryan Ferrin

Alex Fisher

Megan Leonard

Greg Merrill

Ryan Nuesmeyer

Phillip Peterson

Aaron Pinkerton

Kayde Roberts

Brandon Weight

GO GREEN, WEAR ORANGE.

Utah residents are invited to participate in UDOT’s first annual Adopt-a-Highway Earth Day clean-up.

UDOT's Adopt a Highway program will clean-up for Earth Day

Hundreds of groups in the state have committed to doing regular clean up along state routes. UDOT would like to welcome those groups and others to celebrate Earth Day a day early by participating in the first annual Adopt-a-Highway Earth Day event on Saturday, April 21 starting at 9 a.m.

Registered groups who want to participate should meet at the UDOT Maintenance Station nearest their assigned state route. All other groups or individuals who want to participate should contact the nearest Adopt-a-Highway coordinator by phone or email so UDOT can be provide orange bags and safety gear for the event.

Some areas in east Salt Lake or Summit County may still be too snowy for a clean-up. Groups that still want to participate should call and make arrangements to meet at another area nearby.

Adopt a Highway groups across the state of Utah have elected to celebrate Earth Day on Saturday April 21. UDOT Adopt-a-Highway coordinator Ashlee Parrish is promoting the statewide event as a way to help improve the community, the environment, and the aesthetics of state highways and “welcome this warm weather with a little spring cleaning!”