Category Archives: Preserve Infrastructure


Men and women who work to keep state roads clear of snow and ice during winter months meet to yearly to share ideas and hear about new technologies.

Ralph Hilsman, Jeff Walker, Lloyd Muhlestein and Travis Jeppsen work at Station 1423. “They care,” says Muhlestein about Snow School presenters. He appreciates the chance to learn from other employees and also share what he has learned during his extensive 23 years of experience at UDOT.

UDOT Central Maintenance conducts yearly training meetings for snow removal crews. While some informally call it “Snow School,” the meeting is an information exchange rather than just instruction from the top down.

Equipment Safety Training Manager and former “shed guy” Curtis Sanchez coordinates the one-day training in all UDOT regions. About 700 employees attend to get reminders, updates and new information about winter operations.

UDOT crews need to be proficient at using weather information and a variety of snow removal equipment and road anti-icing agents specific to a location within Utah. When a new winter operations approach is added to the mix, the weather team and Central Maintenance counts on getting good feedback from the crews who use the new approach on the snow removal front lines.

The day-long event is “shop to shop communications,” says Maintenance Supervisor Lloyd Muhlestein. “It’s all about equipment, the weather and what worked last year.”

Talking weather

“We’re here to support you,” says UDOT Weather Information Systems Manager Leigh Sturges, who works with a team of seven meteorologists on duty 24-7 to gather, report and forecast weather conditions. UDOT uses the Road Weather Information System to collect weather data on state roads, air temperature, road temperature, solar radiation and humidity. Some RWIS stations detect anti-icing agents on the road and some have remote controlled cameras to view the surrounding areas.

Sturges uses regular email updates and the RWIS website to monitor conditions and the progression of storms. If a conditions change unexpectedly, supervisors get a phone call from a meteorologist – even if conditions change late at night or early in the morning.

The weather team is working on expanding and improving weather gathering equipment, and works directly with maintenance station personnel to identify places for new or mobile RWIS stations or other devices that detect road conditions.


UDOT has over 500 trucks that are used to plow roads during winter. Trucks are expected to have a useful life of least 14 years. UDOT Central Maintenance puts a lot of emphasis on taking care of equipment.

New tankers mix water and salt into a slurry that's less likely to bounce or blow off of the road.

New tow plows and “first responder” tanks have been added to UDOT’s snow arsenal. Tow plows attach to the side of a truckand double the road area that can be plowed. The tanks combine salt and water before depositing the slurry-like mix on the road in front of a storm. Wetting the salt is a much more effective approach for keeping roads clear since dry salt can bounce or blow off the road.

This year, the Provo Canyon crew will use a triple blade plow equipped with an ice breaker, a squeegee and a standard blade. Each blade can be adjusted independently from the truck cab, and the blades can be used alone or in any combination. Along with new anti-icing agents, crews in Provo Canyon should be able to improve snow removal operations where some areas “never see the sun in winter,” says Sanchez.

Keeping it real

Sanchez and staff from UDOT Central Maintenance keep the topics current and relevant in order to provide the most help and support possible to UDOT road maintenance crews.

“They care,” says Muhlestein about Snow School presenters. “There are a lot of things we forget about during the summer.” He appreciates the chance to learn from other employees and also share what he has learned during his extensive 23 years of experience at UDOT.



People who work for and with UDOT will enjoy the variety of topics offered at an annual conference.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Once a year, UDOT sponsors a three-day conference with general and breakout sessions and a display area filled with vendors. The UDOT conference is information rich and a great chance to network with people who design, build and take care of Utah’s transportation infrastructure.

Every year, the conference offers new information to keep people up to speed on current issues, studies and events. Here are four examples:

UDOT Research Poster Session

For the first time, UDOT research will host a poster session that focuses on individual research projects on. The session will give attendees a chance to talk with university professors and students about present transportation challenges and solutions in an informal setting.

Ride Aware Tour Review

A team of elite cyclists traveled through Utah last summer to raise awareness about how motorists and cyclists need to share the road. Cyclists also attended community events along the tour route. The effort prompted a lot of great media coverage. UDOT and the Department of Public Safety, Highway Safety Office co-sponsored the tour. The communication effort for the tour focused on traditional and social media to get the word out about safe driving and cycling.

UDOT Standard Drawings

Presenters will show an overview of major changes to the standard drawings that have been approved for new 2012 Standard Drawing Book.

Reducing Wildlife Vehicle Collisions

Reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions improves safety for people and animals. Researcher Patricia Cramer has worked with UDOT and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and will have information about evolving solutions to reduce wildlife collisions in Utah and in the nation.


A Shift to Solar Powered Supplies and Greener Road Construction

Guest Post: Provided by Andrew Johnson, former employee of the UDOT Traffic Operation Center. (Images and information provided by Trans-Supply).

Environmental and economic sustainability is an issue that will continue to come up as new roads are constructed and repaired.

Solar powered equipment is becomming more common

Road construction is no small endeavor, and a new two-lane asphalt road with an aggregate base can require around 25,000 tons of crushed stone and costing millions of dollars per mile. It isn’t cheap, and it’s not easy, but even some simple changes can make a big difference.

Some of the recent “green” alternatives, from hot in-place recycling and adding old rubber tires as road filler to making the switch to solar powered barricade lights, are changing the way we look at road construction and maintenance. Some things, like switching out the lights, may seem like a small change, but there is a real opportunity there to save money and improve productivity.

Brandon Anderson, the owner of, recently mentioned this increased interest in solar powered supplies and the trend away from battery-powered caution lights. “I have noticed a change in sales from battery powered barricade lights to their solar powered counterparts,” he said. “I believe this is due to solar technology becoming more affordable and making it a viable, economic alternative to traditional battery models. The sales for our barricade lights are almost exclusively solar, and that’s a win-win situation because it’s both cheaper and more environmentally friendly.”

Simply Solar

Solar-powered LED caution and barricade lights are becoming more common in road construction areas because they can – very reliably – draw attention in low visibility areas and warn drivers of dangerous conditions or obstructions without incurring the same costs. LED lights are durable, can last years longer than traditional lighting, and offer better distinction at long distances. They require less power to illuminate, reduce the costs of continually replacing batteries, have no filament that can burn out, and provide superior visibility even in poor conditions.

These solar devices are created by first determining how much energy the device will need to achieve autonomy (i.e. how much energy it will need to store to run without the aid of the sun), and then make sure it has a large enough battery to hold the necessary charge. Most regular batteries will need to be replaced once every three months (give or take). These batteries, on the other hand, require little to no maintenance and can power the efficient LED lights for years.

Solar powered road lights have been around for some time, and the same technology is being implemented more and more on everything from street signs and traffic lights to barricades and road studs. A good arsenal of traffic control devices will be an extremely effective tool that will increase safety and allow for better work production.

When lights rely on solar power instead of a tradition battery any barricades which have sat in storage for weeks, or even months, can be put into immediate use without having to check each device to make sure the battery hasn’t fully discharged. The same applies to renting these barricades or signs to others. It won’t matter how much they are or aren’t used, they can simply be moved to their new location where they will continue to provide reliable service.

In the past, the costs around solar technology have, unfortunately been economically prohibitive, but those costs are being driven down every day by new manufacturing techniques and other developments with the technology. It may seem like a small thing to switch from battery powered lights to solar powered, but even the little things will quickly add up when it comes to saving money and improving efficiency. And when road construction is already such a large and expensive endeavor, it’s important to take advantage of every opportunity.

Reuse and Recycle

NAPA (National Asphalt Payment Association) estimates that 18 billion tons of asphalt is already in place. The good news is that, with all new technology we have for recycling and repaving on location, we already have a great resource for our future roads. By reusing what we already have, there is a great opportunity to save money while building quality roads.

Asphalt is America’s most recycled product. More than 100 million tons of asphalt pavements are reclaimed every year, and the vast majority of it (more than 95%) is recycled or reused. By combining the reclaimed asphalt with materials from other industries – like used tires or roofing shingles – the entire road can be resurfaced without the same costs and effort behind using virgin materials.

The question of economic and environmental sustainability won’t just go away. If we overuse our resources, there will come a time when we will not be able to maintain our current levels of construction. At the same time, if we cannot sustain an economically viable business model, we will end up with the same results. These new green alternatives have become extremely effective, reliable, and efficient, and with careful management, we can maintain quality roads and minimize the impact on the environment.



A recently completed freeway project in Washington County has provided important travel and safety improvements for road users who drive the mountainous region.

Between the Black Ridge Mountains north of St. George to the Iron County line, I-15 is characterized by steep climbs and wildlife crossing the freeway. The important commerce and recreation corridor carries UDOT Region Four’s highest traffic volume with 25,000 vehicles a day, including 5,000 trucks, moving in both directions. A project to build new climbing lanes and install extensive wildlife fencing reached substantial completion in late September and UDOT has already received some positive feedback on the improvements.

Utah State Troopers noticed better traffic mobility right away, and called to tell UDOT Station Supervisor Todd Abbott. “They think it’s far out.” Abbot has been in touch with Point of Entry workers too, who indicate that local and interstate freight carriers are happy about the new lane too.

Black Ridge -- with only two lanes, road users experienced delay during peak travel times.

All road users are inconvenienced by travel delay, which also has an associated cost. But the extra lane offers the most noticeable benefit to passenger vehicles – “what an improvement, to get up the mountain from St. George to Cedar and not get behind two semis,” says UDOT Project Manager Scott Goodwin. Before the project, traffic on the two lane-north bound side of I-15 could be sluggish during peak travel times.

Goodwin managed Region Four’s first Design Build with the Black Ridge project. Anticipating the new lane would be built on the outside of the freeway, Goodwin was surprised when the contractor proposed building the entire project in the median. “It required more help from geo-tech – Jim Higbee was very involved,” says Goodwin. “It turned out to be a really nice project,” with the added lane and 12 feet of maintenance area between the mountain and new barrier. ATMS conduit and cable was installed through the project and south of the project, in an area improved two years ago.

UDOT works with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to identify appropriate improvements that work for wildlife.  Bruce Bonebreak, UDWR Habitat Manager appreciates the efforts to make interchanges, box culverts and other freeway areas more wildlife friendly. “This deer herd has suffered a lot in recent years from highway mortality when they try to access the winter ranges,” says Bonebreak. UDOT “has done a very commendable job” of working with UDWR.

Wildlife fencing was installed along both sides of I-15 from the lower part of the Black Ridge to the overpass west of Kanarraville, providing protection for over 12 miles of freeway. “This area has long been plagued with high numbers of collisions between vehicles and deer, particularly during the late fall to early spring period,” according to Randall Taylor, UDOT Resident Engineer. “At freeway speeds collisions are serious. Car parts and the carnage of deer carcasses along I-15 resulted in pleas for help from local residents.”

I-15 adjoins 2500 acres of land owned by the Indian Peaks and Cedar Bands of the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, and the Tribe also has an interest in reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions. Tribal efforts include improving plant life on the east side of the freeway to provide food for animals so hopefully, fewer try to cross. “If we can improve habitat on the east side of the freeway, it will not only save deer and elk, but also people,” says Gaylord Robb with the tribal office. Robb has secured a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that will provide additional fencing with an upcoming UDOT project.

The Black Ridge to Iron County project is the most in an ongoing effort to improve safety and traffic mobility on I-15 from the Arizona State line through Utah. Project Manager Scott Goodwin talks about taking on UDOT Region Four’s first Design Build with this project in a previous post.


Materials engineer John Butterfield discusses concrete pavement with workers on the I-15 Corridor Expansion Project.

UDOT Engineers from many different areas of expertise work together at improve our transportation system.

Most engineers at UDOT are civil engineers. Civil engineering is a designation for professionals who design, build and maintain structures in the natural and built environment.

Some common activities of all engineers include preparing reports and cost estimates, writing specifications and collaborating with engineers of other specialties. Within civil engineering, there are many specialties. At UDOT, most engineers fall into these categories:

Construction: Build and maintain roads and associated structures. Manage a team of engineers and technicians to inspect the work of contractors, monitor progress and pay bills.

Design: Design new roads or improvements to existing roads. Road features can include barrier types, curb, gutter, sidewalk, striping and sign layout, Coordinate with other design engineers for bridges, drainage systems, etc.

Geo-technical: Analyze and evaluate the natural environment to provide systems that support built structures associated with the transportation system. Design footings and foundations for bridges, design landslide mitigation, determine processes to prevent or mitigate settlement of roadway embankment or structures such as mechanically stabilized walls, retaining walls, bridges etc.

Hydraulics: Determine bridge length and geometry over rivers by analyzing the stream flows and taking into account potential events like storms; design roadway drainage systems.

Materials: Analyze and test materials, mainly concrete and asphalt used to build road surfaces, and determine the strength properties and insure to insure durability.

Project: Manage project budget, schedule and scope from design through construction.

Structural: Design, modify and maintain roadway structures such as bridges, box culverts and retaining walls. Perform inspections of bridges and propose projects to improve stability or to fix structures to meet new demands, such as increased traffic.

Traffic:  Analyze traffic movement using computer simulations to see how freeways and intersections function under different conditions such as changing traffic volume, road width or signal time. Determine the timing of new signals and make changes and improvements to existing signal timing to improve safety or mobility.


A Utah product could be the answer to more durable asphalt roads.

SR-121 near MP 29

Three thirty year old roads in Utah are aging remarkably well. While other asphalt roads in the area have been rebuilt, 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 roads that carry similar loads. What’s the difference? Pavement made from native asphalt excavated in Utah.

“It’s pretty stout,” says UDOT Engineer for Asphalt Materials Kevin VanFrank who has tested oil sands pavement with a Hamburg asphalt mix performance tester. After over 12,000 passes with the machine’s weighted wheel, the old pavement showed similar wear as compared to newer typical asphalt mix designs used on similar roads.

Old oil sands mix designs varied in the past. SR-121, Maeser to LaPoint was paved in road mix method using kerosene as a cutter to mobilize the oil sands. Randlett Highway and the Bonanza Highway were paved using a hot mix. To make use of oil sands today requires a standardized design that considers repeatability and durability.

Standardized design

Core sample of asphalt pavement made from oil sands

Oil sands, mined in the Uintah basin, are a source of natural asphalt that have been used in pavement for 80 years, explains Kimball Young, who is overseeing a project to put the product to work for the Uintah Transportation Special Service District with support from USTAR. Young’s project team has developed a non-proprietary design and placed oil sand pavement in test areas in Uintah County. Plant Mixed Oil Sands Asphalt uses un-processed oil sands along with the usual pavement components – crushed aggregate and hydrated lime.

The mix development process started with testing the old pavement. VanFrank worked with University of Utah researcher Pedro Romero on initial testing. Young worked with Tim Biel of CME Transportation group to continue the testing and development of a mix design that produces a stable mix and can be reproduced. Romero has maintained his involvement throughout the process.

All testing showed that pavement made from oil sands can produce high quality, durable pavement for light to medium traffic loads. The durability of oil sand pavement may be due to slower oxidation rates in natural asphalt as compared to asphalt from refined petroleum, explains Biel.

The mix design developed by Young’s team is composed of 35 to 40 percent oil sand containing  a minimum of 12 percent asphalt and 60 to 65 percent course aggregate. Young’s team is testing warm mix designs with and without hydrated lime.


A Smoother Road Could Lead to Energy Savings and Increased Safety

A road near Arches National Park.

This guest post is provided by Andrew Johnson, former employee of the UDOT Traffic Operations Center.  

The rising gas prices have had an effect on all of us, one way or another, and without any relief in sight, many of us are looking for ways to save money and improve fuel efficiency. When we think about ways to improve mileage and save money, the factors that usually come to mind involve aerodynamics, engine efficiency, and tire pressure, but recent studies suggest that there is at least one external element that could impact both safety and energy savings.

Dr. Richard Willis, an assistant research professor at Auburn University, reported that some simple improvements to the smoothness of road pavement could save a lot of money. He suggests that, in total, we could save 2.4 billion gallons of gasoline and 900 million gallons of diesel every year, which would lead to an estimated $12.5 billion.

The problem is from something called rolling resistance, which can be defined as the energy that is lost between the tire and road. The imperfections in the pavement, as well as the stiffness of the tires, directly affects how energy is lost and how much is required to keep the vehicle in motion. Of course, it shouldn’t come as a real surprise that the less time we spend bouncing around on roads and highways, the more efficiently our vehicles will run.

Understanding the Numbers

The numbers for the above study were broken down like this: In 2010 a study by Schmidt and Ullidtz showed that slight improvements in road smoothness could yield reductions in fuel consumption by 1.8 to 2.7%. Some other studies have actually suggested that this number could be much higher – as much as 4.5%. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics, on the other hand, says that vehicles consumed 168 billion gallons of gasoline and diesel, which means that at an average price (according to AAA) of $3.66 per gallon ($3.93 for diesel) and a conservative estimate of 2% fuel reduction, we arrive at the $12.5 billion figure.

Driver Safety

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that one third of all highway fatalities can be attributed to poor road conditions. Perhaps a little surprising is that most of these fatalities happen on two-lane, while the highways are comparatively safe. The combination of better road quality and better conditions (better visibility, wider lanes, etc.), actually seems to be more conducive to safe driving.

Utah’s Road Conditions

So how well has Utah done with providing smooth roads? According to the Federal Highway Administration – pretty good. The FHA released some statistics in 2008 that put Utah near the top for maintaining good roads. Of Utah’s roads, only 6.4% were considered to be in poor or mediocre condition, which is pretty good compared to states like New Jersey or Hawaii (48.6% and 44.4% of their roads, respectively, were considered to be in poor or mediocre shape).

More and more studies are showing us exactly how important it is to maintain our roads and look for ways to improve driving conditions. While there is a lot of internal factors that affect driver safety and energy usage (from engine efficiency to simply being a conscientious driver), a smoother road can have more impact than many of us think.

Image and information provided by Online Driving University and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.


American Road and Transportation Builders Association, FAQs

National Asphalt Pavement Association, Press Release



Determining the strength of concrete is critical when it comes to getting traffic back on the road.

A concrete cylinder is checked for compressive strength.

Concrete pavement starts out looking like a muddy jumble of rocks and dirt. The mix contains water, cement, aggregate, fly ash and additives. When combined, a chemical reaction occurs, and concrete matures as water hydrates the cement. It’s the job of UDOT engineers, contractors, transportation technicians and lab workers to verify when the compressive strength of concrete has been reached so a road can be put in service or the next construction process can be started.

Determining the strength of concrete takes expertise, time and effort. Concrete can be damaged if the wrong assessment is made so before freeway traffic hits new pavement, or back fill is placed against a retaining wall, workers systematically test the concrete to make sure adequate strength is reached.

Traditionally, transportation technicians first take field measurements to check for consistency, air and content of the mix. Then, the concrete is poured into cylinders using the same mix used for the project. Cylinders are tested in pairs at set time intervals using a mechanized press that measures compressive strength.

The traditional testing method is time and labor intensive. Costs for the process can add up, especially if the predetermined testing interval falls on weekends or after normal work hours – technicians need to retrieve and transport the cylinders from the field to the lab and lab workers need to be on hand to run the test.

The UDOT Region One Materials Lab is using technology to predict compressive strength of concrete while saving up to eighty percent of testing costs.

A maturity meter and sensor

The method uses sensors placed in concrete and a maturity meter to measure time and temperature. The data, along with a math formula, can be used to chart a maturity curve specific to a concrete mix. The curve can be created using sample cylinders before the concrete is placed in the field. Or, meter readings can be done concurrent with construction. The maturity curve allows workers to predict when compressive strength is reached.

The cost for testing one batch of concrete multiple times using traditional methods can easily add up to a few hundred dollars. One sensor can be read multiple times and costs less than $50 for the same information.

“A maturity curve shows the progress of the chemical reaction,” says Scott Nussbaum, Region One Materials Engineer. “Using maturity meters helps reduce risk, save money and open to traffic as soon as possible.”

A maturity curve helps predict when compressive strength is reached.


Summer is spent getting ready for winter at UDOT’s Heavy Equipment Shop.

Rust holes in the side of a truck bed are gone. After a few coats of orange paint, this truck will be ready for winter.

John Walker, UDOT Equipment Shop Supervisor calls the employees who repair heavy equipment “talented craftsmen.” The before and after photos of the truck show the results of their careful work. This truck will be painted, and then be ready to be put back in service before the first winter storm.

Holes in the side of this truck were repaired.











Air quality as it relates to transportation is an important concern among citizens and policy makers in Utah’s metropolitan areas where population growth has placed an increased demand on our transportation system.  

A construction zone on Bangerter Highway

Utah is one of the fastest growing states in the nation.  Our transportation system will need to be made as efficient as possible to support that growth. Projects planned through year 2030 will improve mobility – will building those projects necessarily contribute to a decline in air quality?

UDOT works with other state agencies in “a continual consultation process to make sure we’re in compliance with federal air quality standards,” according to Elden Bingham, Air Quality Programs Coordinator for UDOT. Bingham participates in the compliance conformity process along with representatives from federal and state regulatory agencies and local Metropolitan Planning Organizations.

The federal government requires states to monitor and comply with National Ambient Air Quality Standards, and the Utah Division of Air Quality monitors air quality in Utah.  The EPA has designated six pollutants that are monitored by DAQ throughout the state – the pollutant of concern to transportation planners are ozone and its precursors hydrocarbons (HC) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxides (CO), and particulates (PM-10 or PM-2.5). These pollutants cannot exceed specified levels. When air quality does not meet federal standards, a non-attainment area can be designated. States with non-attainment areas are required to develop a Statewide Improvement Plan.

SIPs, which are approved by the federal government, must contain air quality goals and strategies to meet those goals. UDOT works with the DAQ to develop transportation strategies that meet the air quality improvement goals in the SIP. All transportation projects must conform to the SIP in order to receive federal funding.

Conformity to Utah SIP goals takes place on the regional and project level. Metropolitan Planning Agencies manage regional transportation conformity of projects on the Transportation Improvement Plan, a list of proposed projects. After modeling future traffic demand and determining the level of emissions expected to be produced, the MPOs issue an Air Quality Memorandum that confirms that the projects in the TIP won’t exceed goals of the SIP.

Project level conformity is the responsibility of sponsors, like UDOT, who build transportation projects.  Projects that receive federal funding or those that are regionally significant (including primary arterial roads, freeways or fixed guide-ways) must conform to goals in the SIP. On the project level,  sponsors conduct a Hot Spot Analysis to show that transportation projects don’t contribute adversely to the air quality in the area.

Planning studies done by the Wasatch Front Regional Council show that improved mobility can actually have a beneficial impact on local air quality. Idling and excessive stop and go traffic puts strain on automobile engines causing increased emissions. WFRC compared future transportation conditions in 2030 with and without planned projects. By eliminating traffic delay, vehicle emissions will be reduced by 285,000 vehicle hours per day – that equals 1.2 tons of the precursor pollutant nitrogen oxide.

Precursor pollutants contribute to the formation of other pollutants; nitrogen oxide produces ozone along with light and heat. Air quality standards are expected to be reconsidered in 2013.


Utah’s emissions inspection program and cleaner running cars have also helped improve air quality.

To learn more about air quality conformity, visit the Air Quality Planning page on the UDOT website.

UDOT’s TravelWise website suggests option for drivers who want to save energy and help roadways operate more efficiently.

The Hot Spot Manual gives project managers air quality analysis guidance.

WFRC has posted the 2012-2014 TIP and and Air Quality Memorandum.

The Federal Highways Administration produces a brochure that summarizes the air quality conformity process.
The Utah Division of Air Quality website shows current conditions.

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality lists tips for individuals:  What You Can Do.

Tribune story: Salt Lake City and County officials ask parents to cut back on idling.