Category Archives: Preserve Infrastructure


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.”


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.


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.


Pavement made from natural asphalt mined in Utah will be placed in Uintah County this spring.

A Plant Mixed Oil Sands Asphalt demonstration took place in fall of 2011. Natural occurring asphalt in the oil sands acts as the binder – no additional binder is specified in the in the mix design.

The Uintah Transportation Special Services District’s Seep Ridge Road Project will use a newly formulated specification for Plant Mixed Oil Sand Asphalt – PMOSA. According to Kimball Young, the spec produces pavement that is reverse-engineered to live up to oil sands roads that are still in good shape 40 years after being placed.

Pavement made from oil sands has been shown to be flexible and durable in the field.

Young is President of Natural Asphalt Solutions, Inc., a privately funded company focusing on research and development of products using oil sands.

Pavement made from oil sands has been shown to be flexible and durable in the field. Randlett Road, the Bonanza Highway and SR-121, between Maeser to Lapoint near Vernal, Utah, show minimal wear and very few ruts and cracks compared to other asphalt roads that carry similar loads. However the mix used on those roads differ – the Maeser pavement was placed using road-mix method and the Bonanza Highway pavement is a hot-mix design. Young’s challenge is to develop a mix design that is reproducible.

Just like a conventional HMA project, paving with PMOSA needs to be “reviewed, monitored and tested throughout the process,” says Young. The oil sand content of PMOSA varies from 33 to 40 percent with the average about 36 percent, Young explains. The variation allows for some field judgment when formulating the product, “depending on how it coats the aggregate.” Natural occurring asphalt contained in the oil sands acts as the binder – no additional binder is specified in the in the mix design.

Finding an effective way to introduce the oil sands to aggregate at the plant is an ongoing challenge. Oil sands particles can be anywhere from “pea sized to orange size” in the field, according to UDOT Engineer for Asphalt Materials Kevin VanFrank. Under laboratory conditions, tests of the PMOSA mix design meets UDOT standards for low volume roads. But, “it’s the scale up, the transition between the lab and the plant that has yet to be demonstrated.”

During the mixing process, the oil sands particles need to get hot enough to bond to the aggregate, and that bonding is not likely to occur with large particles. According to VanFrank “the problem is delivering the material uniformly…they face continued challenges.”

Problems aside, the technology along with the properties realized by using oil sands in pavement is promising. Van Frank believes the effort is worthwhile. Providing new products to the market is a function of the free enterprise system, and so far no other organizations have stepped forward to take on that role.

The Seep Ridge Road will be built south of US 40 and extend to the Uintah County line.


UDOT offers citizens the chance to clean up state roads.

Volunteer groups that commit to adopt a road segment free up state workers to complete tasks like fixing potholes and repairing roadway safety features.

People who participate in the Adopt A Highway program “like it because it’s rewarding and it doesn’t cost anything,” says Ashlee Parrish who coordinates the program in the Salt Lake, Tooele and Summit County.  UDOT has six Adopt a Highway Coordinators across the state.

It is free to participate, but when groups clean up roadways, taxpayers benefit. Clearing trash from state roads is labor intensive and time consuming. Volunteer groups that commit to adopt a road segment free up state workers to complete tasks like fixing potholes and repairing roadway safety features. Adopt A Highway crews contribute labor valued at about $ 900 thousand per year, according to UDOT Maintenance Methods Engineer Lynn Bernhard.

Ashlee Parrish

Parrish coordinates cleanup efforts of about 100 volunteer groups who commit to remove trash at least three times a year. Road segments are divided into two mile increments. And, according to Parrish there are a lot of segments “that don’t have dibs called on them.” While she has been successful at recruiting groups for the program, she’d like people to know that there is “lots of opportunity out there.”

Getting the word out has been done by word of mouth in the past, but Parrish started a Facebook page that has also helped to bring some groups to the program. She asks groups who have participated in the past to send in photos and tag their friends in the shots. Social media is a good way to create enthusiasm because it allows people to share photos and comments about activities.

Some groups have been active in maintaining the same route for years. The Stockton Ward LDS Youth began volunteering with the program on June 9, 1991. “They adopted SR36 that goes right through Tooele and have done a stellar job keeping it beautiful,” according to Parrish.

Parrish likes seeing clean highways. “I am a crazy litter-hating hippie,” she says, and like other citizens in Utah, appreciates the beauty of the state.

Top 10 reasons to Adopt a Highway:

10. It’s less work than cleaning up after your kids
9. Any change you find on the side of the road is yours to keep
8. Orange vests make a great fashion statement
7. You only have to clean three times a year, but you can brag about it for 730 days
6. It’s another two year commitment you can put on your resume
5. The best time you’ve spent on the side of the road with family and friends since the car broke down in 1989
4. You’ve always said you should spend more time outdoors
3. Nobody likes a dirty road
2. You’re helping keep Utah beautiful
1. It’s the right thing to do

For more:

Like Adopt a Utah Highway on Facebook

Community groups who want to participate should contact the nearest Adopt A Highway Coordinator.



A technology that is used to create magic on the silver screen will help UDOT take better care of transportation assets.

LiDAR creates a point cloud for a continuous accurate measurement of pavement and all surrounding roadway assets.

State roads along with many associated features comprise UDOT’s transportation assets. Determining a long term, cost effective asset maintenance strategy starts with knowing the location and condition of each asset.  UDOT cares for thousands of miles of pavement and hundreds of other assets, like bridges, signs and guardrail, so collecting data on location and condition can be a challenge. Departments of transportation across the nation, including UDOT, have traditionally maintained stand alone data bases for each asset category.

To better care for roadway assets UDOT Traffic and Safety, Maintenance, and Asset Management will use Mobile LiDAR, a vehicle mounted system that sends out bursts of light to measure the distance to an object. The technology has many applications, including creating special effects for movies.

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 point cloud for a continuous accurate measurement of pavement and all surrounding roadway assets. “Nobody else is collecting as much data in a single pass,” says Stan Burns, Engineer for Asset Management.

Using LiDAR will allow UDOT to have a single data base for all assets. “And, because will do this every other year we will be able to produce a deterioration curve for individual assets” so engineers to have a better understanding of the life of each asset category. The one source advantage will make for a “much more robust” maintenance strategy.

For example, the LiDAR collection method can include measuring the precise location, size and even the level of retroreflectivity of on signs along interstates. Measuring retroreflectivity is typically a hands-on process that is expensive and time consuming.  “This technology would allow us to break down the percent of the signs meeting or failing only replace the ones that need it,” says Burns.

Another advantage of the LiDAR system is that data can be collected on both sides of the road at once. In the past, UDOT has obtained directional data in alternate years.

In addition to LiDAR, the data collection vehicle has a GPS unit and video cameras. After collection is complete, UDOT employees will have access to the information on desktop computers. The desktop software is easy to use and will allow users to see video and virtually drive a roadway, take still shots from the video, access data on the condition of assets and navigate to locations by milepost.

The Mobile LiDAR collection project is a joint effort among UDOT departments, including Traffic and Safety, Maintenance, and Asset Management. Mandli Communications, Inc. was selected to provide the services through a competitive selection process. The three groups along with the Utah Department of Technology Services and UDOT Engineering Technology Services will develop an integrated database for displaying, querying and analyzing assets. Assets collected will include pavement distress of the entire state system including ramps and collectors, the number of lane miles, surface areas including width of shoulders and medians, all signs, guardrail, cable barrier and rumble strips.

This guest post was written by Catherine Higgins.


An approved products list will save time and costs for UDOT construction teams.

Crews build retaining walls and bridge supports on the I-15 CORE project. A new Approved Products database should help save time for inspectors, expedite the project close-out process, and allow construction teams to work more efficiently.

UDOT construction teams, made up of Resident Engineers and the engineers and technicians they manage are some of the busiest people at UDOT. “We really stretch them,” says UDOT Engineer for Materials Scott Andrus. REs often manage several projects that can range from pavement preservation to constructing a bridge.  “They’ve got a lot of work to do.” Some of that work includes gathering the “fist full of paperwork” it takes to document the use of products used in the construction process.

UDOT identifies products that are approved for use in construction. It’s up to the construction team inspectors on the job to obtain all the documentation necessary to show that contractors are using approved products. All materials need a certification letter and testing documentation.

Materials Technician Barry Sharp is compiling an Approved Product List that includes many of the products that are used repeatedly. The database is available online now, and will soon be available in Project Wise, UDOT’s online project management system.

The Project Wise database will have PDF versions of paperwork for inspectors to see. A few projects will be chosen to test the Project Wise database this summer “to make sure it will function as expected before implementing it fully,” according to Andrus.

Both the online and Project Wise versions will contain the same products divided into about 25 categories. Approximately 300 products are listed. Contractors can still use products not on the list – suppliers will just have to submit the right paperwork.

The Approved Products database should help save time for inspectors, expedite the project close-out process, and allow construction teams to work more efficiently.


UDOT field tests products to find effective and efficient solutions to construction and maintenance needs.

Central Maintenance Methods Engineers, Central Materials and the New Products Evaluation Panel, Traffic and Safety Division, Structures Division, Region Maintenance Engineers, Maintenance Area Supervisors, Station Supervisors, Resident Engineers, vendors, contractors, all conduct field testing and evaluation of products. Some evaluations are conducted according to FHWA’s Experimental Features Program.

UDOT Research Division provides support when needed. “Speaking for the Research Division, we’re here to help as we can,” says engineer David Stevens, Research Project Manager.  The lessons learned are generally very much worth sharing, no matter which unit in UDOT performs the evaluation.”

Testing and sharing information about field tested products is always a team effort.  The Research Division performs field evaluations by request as time and resources allow. Suppliers often participate by donating product and giving guidance on how to use new products. Maintenance and construction personnel often attend test demonstrations to find out about products.

Here are two examples of some recently field tested products:

When mixed, PolyQuick has a similar structural value to concrete pavement.

PolyQuick polyurethane concrete pavement patch.  A “catalyzed product,” PolyQuick heats as two primary ingredients are combined and a chemical reaction occurs, explains Dennis Reeves with Alta Paint and Coatings.

Reeves recently demonstrated a new application method on I-15. The old method of application used a bucket to combine the ingredients. However, since the product cures quickly, any unused product can become a “boat anchor.” A new applicator mixes product right at the tip and reduces waste.

PolyQuick has a similar structural value to concrete pavement. The differential movement that can occur under traffic when concrete pavement and patch materials have disparate structural values can cause the patch to pop out.  And once applied, the product cures quickly so expensive and inconvenient lane closures can be minimized.

DuroMaxx steel reinforced polyethylene pipe. Using strong and durable pipes maintenance workers won’t have to excavate and repair drainage systems as often. DuroMaxx pipe, manufactured by Contech, is being tested on Manhead Road in Rich County. The pipe has been in place for a year and UDOT testers have observed about half the amount of deflection as compared to ADS pipe

UDOT relies on field tests to find the best products for the job.


A new training video for maintenance technicians takes learning styles into account.

Research found that many workers are hands-on visual learners who like fast-paced instruction. The new video moves quickly from topic to topic and shows images of testing procedures.

Clear Roads, a research organization that focuses on winter transportation maintenance issues, has produced a new video about how to test de-icing chemicals. While it looks like a typical of training video, the specific communication approach is tailored to “hands on, visual learners,” says UDOT Maintenance Methods Engineer Lynn Bernhard.

Clear Roads has produced written manuals in the past, but “people weren’t using the manuals,” says Bernhard. “Why?  We were not getting information to them in the right way.” Before making the video, Clear Roads contracted with University of Wisconsin at Madison to do some research on how best to communicate with maintenance workers. “You have to assess your audience,” says Lynn.

Research found that many workers are hands-on visual learners who like fast-paced instruction. The new video moves quickly from topic to topic and shows images of testing procedures.

Clear Roads is taking advantage of social media like Twitter and Facebook to let people know about the new video. Youtube makes accessing the video easy as well.


The hard working Signals Maintenance Team took on increased responsibilities and has delivered improved safety, efficiency and value to UDOT customers.

Region One Signals Team

WASHTO lends support to transportation agencies that have a quality improvement program. Each year, state agencies choose winners according to how those employees support the mission of the agency. UDOT has a committee that judges nominations and selects the team or employees that are most deserving.  UDOT’s program is called Achieving Great Performance. This week and next, blog posts will highlight award winners.

The four-person Signals Maintenance Team from UDOT Region one has responsibility for optimizing and maintaining 325 signals and traffic sensors in the northern part of the state. Keeping signals optimized and operational is demanding and important work. Signals that are not operating correctly can cause delay, inconvenience and sometimes confusion for road users.

Despite the important responsibility to take care of nearly 30 percent of all signals statewide, the Region One Signals Maintenance Team took on the additional responsibility of replacing or updating lighting on all Region One interstates. By performing both areas of responsibility expertly, the Region One Signals Team has earned a Quality Award.

A bright idea

Because of team only consists of four members, a strategic approach was necessary. Team members too stock of the talents and abilities of each group member and executed a divide-and-conquer approach. Two team members took on lighting and two tackled signals. Each service call was handled strategically as well. In order to provide the best use of time per call, team members took care of immediate needs first and then performed additional work if warranted and if time allowed. By taking thoughtful, deliberate approach, team members eliminated a backlog of signal and lighting work.

Darin Fristrup, Region One Traffic Operations Engineer nominated the team. Fristrup points out those team members “spent over 766 hours on the lighting issues, replaced or repaired 256 luminaires and other lighting hardware, and pulled nearly 15,000 feet of copper wire.”

“They did all this while continuing to be on call to repair, replace, or maintain Region One’s 325 traffic signals, and provided numerous hours of assistance to local government agencies in the maintenance of their signals, as needed,” said Fristrup. “There is no group more dedicated to their responsibilities than the Region One Signals Maintenance Team, who is highly deserving of this award.”

Congratulations to team members: Dale Lake, Scott Harris, David Townsend, Jereme Fullmer