Category Archives: Preserve Infrastructure

UDOT LEADER OF THE YEAR

Lee Theobald, Business Analyst Supervisor in Systems Planning and Programming is UDOT’s 2011 Leader of the Year.

UDOT Leader of the Year Lee Theobald spoke to employees gathered to honor the nominees. He gave his co-workers all of the credit --"They make me look good," he said.

Eight UDOT leaders and their guests gathered for lunch, great conversation and to be honored for their service by UDOT Director John Njord and UDOT Deputy Director Carlos Braceras. “We do have some very talented people that work here here at the department of transportation — men and women that are leading this organization into new realms,” said Njord.

Kudos to all who were nominated for UDOT Leader of the Year:

Troy Esterholdt – Region One
Lee Nitchman – Region Two
Kurtis Park – Region Three
Ray Bentley – Region Four
Ron Butler – Operations
Stacy Frandsen – Project Development
Tim Rodriguez – Administration / Risk Management
Lee Theobold – Systems Planning and Programming

UDOT Leader of the Year, Lee Theobald: A highly respected leader and mentor, Theobald is famous at UDOT for his expertise, infectious and upbeat personality and his let’s-get-it-done attitude. Theobald’s leadership has helped transform his team into a model of efficiency and accuracy that has earned praise from UDOT leaders, team members and the Federal Highway Administration.

“Over the last thirty three years, Lee as worked his way up through the Planning ranks by being a leader who is dedicated to his work, staff, UDOT and is an inspiration to all those who know him,” according to nominator Stan Burns, UDOT Engineer for Asset Management who nominated Theobald. “Lee knows how to lead, manage and mentor multiple successful teams simultaneously.”

After a recent reorganization, Theobald took on new duties and staff and became responsible for collecting traffic statistics and road data, the Linear Referencing System and the uber important Highways Performance Monitoring System which is tied to more than half of UDOT’s Federal Funding. Theobald faced the challenge by inspiring employees and leading with vision. Within a few months, the disparate groups were transformed into a cohesive, collaborative team.

And, FHWA noticed, according to Burns. “Folks at the federal government said that HPMS report was some of the best they had seen from any state.”

Perhaps the best indicators of Theobald’s leadership ability are the statements made by those he leads. Here are a few statements made team members:

“Lee Theobald is one of those people who make it easy to come to work. Because of his even and pragmatic approach towards the execution of his responsibilities, Lee makes the challenges of work less burdensome, the problems less dramatic, and the successes more rewarding. Lee’s appreciation for his co-workers breeds cooperation, respect, and pride among his teams. Lee is one of those wonderful people that make a difference.” — Toni Butterfield

“Lee has given me the opportunity to use my skills and talent to do the job. He also provides me with plenty of assistance when the need arises. Also he is a very good boss and is there to help you keep focus on the job at hand.” — Doug Malone

“I have worked with Lee for seventeen years now. He is a leader that leads by example. He has always been the easiest going guy. He is always the one to go to for the answer to most questions. He is always willing to help and finds the best way to make the job less stressful. When I need advice he is the one I go to. He is one of those people that everyone has only good things to say about him. Lee will listen to your wants and needs and if he can help or make it happen he usually does. He is a leader that leads by example. Everyone that knows Lee knows that they can trust him and be confident in the answers and advise he gives.” — Pete Bigelow

EARTHQUAKE DRILL

UDOT will participate in an earthquake preparedness drill and an extended exercise that will simulate what could happen to the transportation system during a real earthquake.

“We are one of the critical infrastructure owners,” says Chris Siavrakas, Emergency Management Coordinator at UDOT. Transportation, along with other critical systems, including energy, water and health care, is part of an interdependent system, and the aftermath of an earthquake, UDOT employees will be responsible to make sure the transportation system is safe.

UDOT bridges are designed and constructed to AASHTO national 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 crashes or power outages and how those events will affect the transportation system.

During the Shake Out, a SimCell participants will call UDOT and other agencies and report realistic incidents.

To test readiness for dealing with such events, UDOT will participate in a scripted simulation. The calls will be generated by a “SimCell,” a group of Shake Out participants based at a state government building who will call UDOT and other agencies and report realistic incidents. An Emergency Operations Center set up for the Shake Out at UDOT’s Traffic Operations Center will take calls all day.

After an actual earthquake, calls will be coming in from a variety of sources – motorists, UDOT Maintenance employees, other agencies or businesses – and having a test that simulates that process will be useful. During the exercise, EOC participants will collect and evaluate data and “roll it into a report,” says Siavrakas.

UDOT will partner with the United States Geological Survey Earthquake Hazards Program to obtain realistic data. The USGS has software called ShakeCast that is available for use by critical infrastructure owners. The software can generate estimated damage data for structures like buildings and bridges. In an actual seismic event, ShakeCast can be used to send notification “within minutes of an earthquake indicating the level of shaking and the likelihood of impact” to facilities chosen by the user according to the USGS website.

The exercise will help the EOC “test our procedure of collecting artificial but plausible bridge damage data,” says Siavrakas.

STRONG MOTION

Placing instruments that measure strong motion can help departments of transportation design and build bridges that can withstand an earthquake.

A researcher places downhole instrumentation for monitoring seismic activity. Placing and maintaining monitoring equipment is expensive, so researchers working with UDOT have identified the best and most cost effective sites for other potential locations.

It’s important that bridges on interstates withstand a potential earth quake – experts agree that Utah “is a seismically active region”  with the potential of experiencing a major earth quake some day. The primary threat from earthquakes is the intense shaking that can cause structures, including bridges, to collapse. UDOT has taken that eventual future event into account in and has built structurally sound bridges and retrofitted existing bridges. Standards for bridge design and construction are based on past research using data collected from actual earthquakes.

Research can help provide more information about how to design and build bridges that can withstand earthquakes. UDOT has one seismic station in the I-15 spaghetti bowl. The protected equipment is monitored to make sure it continues to be in working order. Placing and maintaining equipment is expensive, so finding the best and most cost effective sites for other potential locations is important.

UDOT has identified a process for determining the appropriate location of other stations, if funding is identified,  in a report just issued by the Research Division. Research Project Manager David Stevens explains that having a method to select the best sites is important “so that the information is useful, not redundant.”

Researchers place instruments on bridges– including accelerometers and other equipment – designed to collect data on how quake motion can affect bridges. A new UDOT Research Division report identifies criteria to consider when placing equipment:

  • Proximity – Bridges to be instrumented should be chosen based on close proximity to an identified fault line. However, placing the equipment near another instrumented bridge near the same fault line could mean the two sites collect essentially the same information, so the data could be redundant and not useful.
  • Importance – Three factors help identify how critical the bridge is to the transportation system. ADT measures are easy to come by and a good indicator of public dependence on the bridge. The number of viable alternative routes and the current value the bridge also point to the relative importance of the bridge.
  • Structural form – For initial data collection, a simple structure is best “to lay a foundation of strong motion behavior knowledge” and then progress to collecting data from more complex bridges. Researchers describe a simple bridge as one with no skew, one span, two girders and no curvature.
  • Local soil – Seismic events affect soil types differently, so bridges chosen for instrumentation should be distributed among different soil types.
  • Age Older bridges that are due to be replaced are obviously not good candidates for instrumentation.

Continuing research in Utah and other states can help contribute to the body of knowledge about how bridges react during a major seismic event. For more about UDOT’s Strong Motion Instrumentation Plan, including details about a decision-making process and also types of equipment that could be used, read the report.

The UDOT Research Division currently oversees and maintains downhole instrumentation and equipment near the I-80 to SR-201 flyover bridge.  UDOT Structures Division and UDOT Research Division “work together to keep it ready for recording strong motion, as well as to explore near-term research uses for the instrumentation,” according to Stevens.

UDOT U

UDOT University is a collective effort to bring all training offered at the department under one organizational umbrella.

A trainer tests pre-ride skills at the Trans Tech Academy, part of the Transportation Education Program. Courses offered through the TEP can be found through the UDOT U website.

Although UDOT U is still in the development stage, over 400 courses are offered.

The public face of UDOT U is a website, but the organization represents all of UDOT, with over forty people working together to create an inventory of existing training and also expand opportunities. Richard Murdock, UDOT University Administrative Vice President, says organizers are not looking to take over training functions from agency divisions, just create a clearinghouse of opportunity so employees can look across disciplines to find what they need. UDOT U Provost Richard Manser says the effort will make training at UDOT more systematic, organized and easier to find.

UDOT U is organized and operated similar to a regular university with five colleges, 32 schools, a course catalog, registration and a calendar. Although UDOT U is still in the development stage, with over 400 potential courses, enough is offered there to take a good look. Topic wise, “we cover just about anything the dept does,” says Murdock. UDOT is one of only 5 departments of transportation in the United States organizing training in a similar way.

A good example

Training has long been a main focus at UDOT; many divisions have developed comprehensive training programs, much offered on-the-job, to meet specific needs. For example, UDOT’s Transportation Education Program is an excellent and nationally known program and Murdock hopes the TEP can be used as a template for other UDOT U training opportunities.

The TEP prepares Transportation Technicians to perform maintenance and construction tasks – many move back and forth between maintenance and construction by driving a snow plow in the winter and working in a construction spring through fall.  Skills needed for the job include operating front loaders and road sweepers, repairing safety features like guardrail and road delineation markers and gathering and testing construction materials.

The TEP makes use of a wide variety of community based and in-house training opportunities. For example, the Salt Lake Community College teaches Math and in house experts teach how to collect materials for inspection and testing.  The TEP has prepared hundreds of workers to perform the core duties, allowing UDOT to use people-power effectively and efficiently throughout the year.

UDOT U’s future

More courses will be added to UDOT U soon; by July 1 2012, each of the colleges will add 32 new courses. Eight presentations from the last UDOT Annual Conference are also online now, and next year, more sessions will be offered.

Another goal according to Manser is to “have a ladder or a flow chart for every position title at UDOT.” Defining a training “pathway” for each position will promote the development of competency and help employees maintain expertise.

Online access to records is in the works. Murdock and others are working with the Utah Department of Human Resources Management to piggyback on their record keeping system. That way, students can check records online to produce proof of required training or supervisors can see what training employees have taken.

Murdock is looking forward to improving UDOT U by expanding training opportunities and website functionality. He wants all employees and others who work with UDOT to be aware of UDOT U, visit the site and see what is offered there. Manser says with improvements, the system will be easier to use, and more people will access it. “The system is going to grow and get better.”

EIGHT HONORED AT UDOT

Mechanic Ron Grundy is the 2012 Employee of the year.

Employee of the Year Ron Grundy speaks to a UDOT audience while Exemplary Employees and guests look on.

Eight people named Exemplary Employees and their guests met at the Calvin Rampton Complex to share lunch and conversation with each other and to be honored for their service by UDOT Director John Njord and Deputy Director Carlos Braceras. “We have tremendous employees at the department of transportation.” Hard working, dedicated employees at UDOT make the organization vibrant, responsive to customers and help the organization to continually “change into a better place to be.”

This year’s Exemplary Employees are:

  • Pam Wilcock – Region One
  • Shane Bushell – Region Two
  • Jacob Merryweather – Region Three
  • Ron Grundy – Region Four
  • Kim Banks – Operations
  • Denis Stuhff – Project Development
  • Penni Taylor – Administration Group
  • Daniel Kuhn – Systems Planning and Programming

Njord honored each employee individually and then presented the Employee of the Year Award to Ron Grundy. A Roving mechanic for UDOT, Grundy is a self starter who consistently performs above expectations and serves as a great mentor and trainer for other employees and mechanics.

Grundy’s dedication to always keep up with an increasingly more complex and technical work environment has made him a valuable resource. Grundy is well trained through taking advantage of offered courses and spending many hours studying.  He is always in high demand by his customers who have confidence that his work will be completed quickly and correctly. A top notch diesel and heavy equipment mechanic, Grundy is proficient at repairing hundreds of pieces of equipment.

Grundy also focuses on fostering teamwork. The Chip-seal teams, which provide important cost-saving maintenance, count on him to be on-hand to provide quick repairs to maintain productivity.  Grundy is always available to problem-solve when tough mechanical issues arise. He also has great personal work relationships with everyone he serves.

REAL WORLD ESTIMATES

UDOT’s Estimate Support Team scrutinizes all associated project costs for better pre-bid estimates. 

The team also lends expertise to project teams to appropriately price change orders. The process, called cost-based estimating, is a departure from using average historical costs. Project costs, such as materials, can be subject to fluctuation due to market forces and project location, so an average of historical costs may not provide a good representation of specific project costs. Estimates that are close as possible to market costs allow UDOT to:

  • Allocate funds more wisely – high estimates leave money on the table when bids come in lower than expected. Better estimates mean funds can be shifted to other projects an average four months sooner.
  • Minimize re-advertizing – pre-bid cost estimates that are too low result in bids that may not be subject to approval. Re-advertizing is costly and delays improvements to the transportation system.
  • Be wise stewards of public funds during construction – pricing change orders correctly keeps the construction budget under control and allows UDOT to get the most out of every project dollar.

Chris Wilson, Abdi Fatemi, Jason Henrie and George Lukes are the Estimate Support Team. The team's cost based approach is producing estimates closer to the expected bid amounts.

Since June 2011, the UDOT Estimate Support team members George Lukes of UDOT and Jason Henrie, Abdi Fatemi and Chris Wilson of Stanley Consultants have been integrating with project teams. The team’s cost based approach is producing estimates closer to the expected bid amounts — the percentage of estimate funds awarded at bid opening jumped from 77 percent in 2010 to 91 percent in 2011.

Working together

Estimating project costs is more than just taking a look at market values. Estimators need to be experienced in the contracting world – “It takes a long, long time to be a good estimator,” says Fatemi. He has over three decades of experience working as a contractor and pricing projects.

Randall Taylor, UDOT Region Four Constructability and Environmental Engineer, has been working with the team since September 2011. He appreciates Fatemi’s extensive background and thinks cost based estimates give project teams “greater confidence that the budget is sufficient” and that the bids will come in near the expected range.

Fatemi knows the contracting world and Taylor knows the characteristics of region projects and local material sources. “We make a good team,” says Taylor. The two have come up with ways to save costs. For example, a Region Four project will re-use milled off tailings where possible instead of purchasing new material  – “energy savings and savings to the project” will result explains Taylor.

Taylor believes the present approach is an advantage. “We’re getting better estimates. We know better where our costs are going to be and we’re in a stronger position to negotiate change orders.”

GOOD TIP

Planners at the Wasatch Front Regional Council are finalizing the 2012-2017 Transportation Improvement Program or TIP, a six-year program of highway and transit projects for Salt Lake, Ogden and Layton.

Projects included in the program will help meet the transportation needs of the area. Updated yearly, the systematic process of putting together the TIP is designed to be continual, comprehensive and cooperative. WFRC works closely with UDOT, the Utah Transit Authority elected officials and the public to finalize the TIP.

The program lists priority projects for the Wasatch Front region that are developed and approved by the WFRC Board and local elected officials, and presented for public review and comment.

The process starts in the fall of each year when WFRC invites project sponsors to submit letters of intent. WFRC planners evaluate each project and determine conformity to the air quality standards. The Technical Advisory Committee, Councils of Governments and the Transportation Coordinating Committee and WFRC planners approve and rank projects.

The projects are incorporated into UDOT’s Statewide Transportation Improvement Program  after approval by the UDOT director as the governor’s designee. The STIP is also submitted to Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration for approval and adoption.

The projects listed in the TIP are incorporated into UDOT’s Statewide Transportation Improvement Program

ROTATIONAL PROGRAM

UDOT’s Rotational Engineer Program gives new graduates a career kick-start.

Candidates seeking a Professional Engineer license need to graduate from a qualified university engineering program, take a competency test, and complete four years of supervised work as an Engineer in Training before taking the PE and other exams.  The EIT experience at UDOT is designed to benefit both parties –the agency benefits from gaining well educated, hard working employees, and UDOT provides a varied and challenging work environment that helps engineers to gain valuable experience.

UDOT’s Rotational Program gives engineers a chance to “understand the overall role of the department,” says Rotational Program Manager Richard Murdock, who has managed the program for 7 years. The program has been around for over 20 years in a similar form with changes and updates being made as needed. UDOT also offers four summer internships that include full state benefits.

Daniele Dearinger worked full-time as a Design Tech at UDOT Region Two before being hired as a rotational engineer in UDOT Structures.

Engineers apply to the Rotational Engineer Program right out of college, and since UDOT has a reputation for providing a good EIT experience, more apply that the program can accommodate. Fifty-three engineers applied for a recent posting in Richfield. Murdock believes UDOT is getting “ the best of the best,” in the rotational and internship programs.

Murdock meets with engineers in training quarterly to discuss goals, then coordinates with supervisors to design a program that meshes agency and individual career goals. Job placements change about every six months. All engineers in training need to complete a mandatory placement in construction and design.

Daniele Dearinger, who recently graduated from the University of Utah, was hired as a Rotational Engineer in UDOT Structures two months ago.  Her first rotation was at the UDOT Traffic Operations Center. Dearinger worked full-time as a Design Tech at UDOT Region Two for over five years while attending school; doing both “was a lot of work,” she says.

Dearinger is enjoying meeting more people at UDOT and gaining more experience in different areas. When it comes to career goals, she has an open mind about where she’d like to end up, but is really enjoying work in structures – especially when it comes to doing calculations. “I just feel like I’m in heaven,” while doing calculations she says.

As a rotational engineer at the TOC, Deb Henry worked on an innovative variable speed project.

Deb Henry is on the other end of the rotational experience having just been hired as a permanent Design Engineer at Region Two. She enjoyed her time as a rotational engineer and says moving from placement to placement fills in knowledge gaps and builds professional competency.

For example, experience in the design and construction fields works together.  “it’s not a good design unless it can be built well and maintained easily, and you don’t know that unless you’ve been to construction.”

Henry also spent time in Governor Huntsman’s office in a fellowship program offered to a lucky few.  Government often operates in organizational silos “so it’s good to see what other parts of government do,” says Henry. A fellowship like the one she participated in help bridge the knowledge gap between offices and agencies.

Henry saw improvements put into action very quickly during her time at the UDOT Traffic Operation Center. She sees the TOC’s success as a function of being very technology-forward. “They’re doing a great job” at making the transportation system work more efficiently. Henry worked on an innovative project to possibly place variable speed signs at locations that experience a wide range of weather conditions.

UDOT currently has nineteen rotational engineers and “will welcome more soon,” says Murdock.  The promise of a great experience “draws people here and helps us retain our engineers as they move into permanent positions here at UDOT.”

DEFLECTION

A falling weight deflectometer is a non-destructive method for testing the load capacity of pavement.

The FWD simulates traffic, and with data gathered from the tests, engineers can learn about the pavement characteristics.

A FWD is a machine with sensors that measures pavement deflection when a raised weight is dropped. The force of the dropped weight is transmitted to the pavement by a load plate.

The FWD simulates traffic and from the data gathered from the tests, engineers “can tell a lot about the pavement characteristics,” such as pavement thickness and load transfer properties according to Gary Kuhl, UDOT’s Statewide Pavement Management Engineer.

Pavement needs to be appropriately stiff and flexible to hold up to traffic loads – stiff enough to be durable and flexible to rebound from traffic.  The FWD measures pavement deflection at the drop point and extending five feet away. Layer thickness, pavement temperature, and deflection data are collected, and remaining life can be calculated when traffic volumes and weights are included.

UDOT has an FWD that can be used to collect data on project level roadways. The data is very useful for pavement maintenance and design engineers. While many engineers at UDOT are familiar with FWD and what it does, not all are familiar with how to make full use of the data.

A training to give pavement and maintenance engineers information about how the FDW can help with pavement design is planned for February 2 7 in Region Two.  Engineers from across the state will attend to learn more about the FWD and how to fully exploit data for pavement design.

For more about FWD testing, see this article on the Pavement Interactive website.

HIGH PERFORMANCE

A yearly publication outlines accomplishments and shows how UDOT plans to move forward.

bridges under construction in being built in the interchange infield near Provo Center Street.

UDOT publishes the Strategic Direction and Performance Measures yearly to set the state’s transportation stage, communicate how construction, maintenance and safety projects improve the system, and to chart the road ahead. Utah is facing unprecedented growth in population and Vehicle Miles Traveled. The combination of factors poses a challenge, but efforts to expand capacity and make the system more efficient are helping Utahns avoid transportation gridlock.

“We have stemmed the tide,” when it comes to travel delay, explained UDOT Director John Njord today at the Utah Transportation Commission Meeting. Njord reviewed pages from the Strategic Direction, which has recently been added to the UDOT website, and highlighted some key points for commission members.

Delay has been defeated by tactically executed capacity projects. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

A graph that tracks travel delay with and without recent and planned capacity projects illustrates Njord’s point. Delay has been defeated by tactically executed capacity projects without witch road users would experience three to five times the amount of delay. Njord hopes to continue to make system wide improvements and believes that planned projects, if funded, will leave a “legacy for the citizens that come after us.”

Other important themes in the new Strategic Direction include:

  • Increasing capacity—a look at major capacity projects, including the I-15 CORE project and the Mountain View Corridor. Both projects will be completed by the end of 2012
  • Employing Innovation – UDOT has long taken pride in the innovative techniques. Last year, UDOT used Accelerated Bridge Technology to build and move the Sam White Bridge into place on I-15 – the pioneering process holds the record in the Western Hemisphere for the longest structure to be moved into place.
  • Express Lanes success – Thousands of Utahns saving travel time by using the Express Lanes. During peak traffic, users travel about 14 miles per hour faster than the general lanes.
  • New technology – the best and most up-to-date information from UDOT’s Traffic Operation Center is available in a new smart phone app. Nearly 30,000 people downloaded the app in the first four weeks since its release.

The Strategic Direction, which has recently been added to UDOT’s website, can be viewed online or in PDF.