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RESTING PLACE

UDOT is hosting the National Safety Rest Area Conference.

Planners, vendors, welcome center managers and maintenance providers from across the United States and Canada are in downtown Salt Lake City this week to hear presentations about planning, and maintaining facilities that support travel along the Interstate Highway system.

The primary purpose Safety Rest Areas is to provide a place to take a break for road users who travel long distances. However, some state departments of transportation, including Utah are playing a role in supporting the local economy as well.

Not just for safety any more

Conference Presenter David Dahlquist of RDG Planning and Design believes that SRAs that are memorable and call attention to local history and culture can invite road users to stay longer, visit local attractions and spend money at restaurants, lodging and other businesses.

David Dahlquist of RDG Planning and Design has been successful at bringing artists and engineers together to create very memorable SRAs in Iowa.

SRAs are often the first chance state tourism and transportation agencies get to make a good first impression. As such, the facilities can be a valuable marketing opportunity to “make a connection with the traveling public.”

Dahlquist has been successful at bringing artists and engineers together to create very memorable SRAs in Iowa. By researching local history and culture, the facility designs pay homage and call attention to “the story of a place.”

Sometimes, according to Dahlquist, a SRA or other transportation design can be the best place to show visitors the unique historical and cultural assets of the area. A SRA in Cedar Rapids is a good case in point.

Who is Grant Woods?

Artist Grant Woods created the famous painting American Gothic, a depiction of rural life in America. One Iowa SRA has a Grant Woods themed design where visitors can learn about the man and his art – including his former home in Cedar Rapids.

By directing tourists to the home, Dahlquist believes the local community has realized economic benefits. “Economic development follows cultural tourism,” and the local businesses reap the rewards, he says.

Like Iowa, Utah has a rich cultural heritage and attractions that draw visitors. Over 13 million visitors per year arrive in Utah by car. Tomorrow, read how UDOT and the Utah Office of Tourism cooperate to provide safe places to stop, rest and learn about the state.

RESTORING SR-31

UDOT crews are working hard to clear debris and reestablish drainage in the area of the Seeley Fire where a flash flood stripped the area of trees, rocks and soil and shut down SR-31.

The flooding occurred during a rain storm on August 1 in the Manti-La Sal National Forest in southeastern Utah. The storm dropped about one and a quarter inch of rain in a half hour. Although similar storms are fairly common in the forest, this storm “was enhanced by the fire,” says Jim Chandler, UDOT Region Four Area Engineer.

“When fires go through the forest, they can make the soil hydrophobic,” explains Chandler. The temporary soil condition can occur when burned material takes up the empty pore spaces where water would normally seep in. In just a short space of time, the runoff “hit rocks and trees and brought them down the canyon,” says Chandler. “The fire just created the perfect condition to wash everything away.”

And much of the debris ended up on SR-31. Chandler says in one spot, rock, soil and trees were piled over 6 feet high. UDOT crews from the Huntington, Wellington, Colton, Emery, Mt. Pleasant and Gunnison Maintenance Stations “worked hard day after day moving a lot of material and trees,” says Chandler. Given that the road was open one week later, their effort was “quite amazing.”

The run-off that occurred during the flash flood also caused scour in stream beds and in other natural run-off areas, according to Darren Olsen, U.S. Forest Service District Ranger. Olsen says the USFS is planning some mitigation to prevent similar flash floods in the future.

Because of the volume of debris flow, the most challenging part of the erosion repair effort for UDOTis cleaning out and restoring culverts and cut ditches “so that the water that does reach the road can pass through with minimal damage to the road”  says Daryl Friant, UDOT District Engineer.  During a storm, runoff flows along the road in cut ditches and the under the road through culverts.

UDOT is also in the process of rebuilding the road in two areas where water flow washed out embankment and shoulder and one area where water flowed over the road and caused pavement to break up.

Work will continue through fall, according to Chandler. “They’ll be out there until the snow flies,” getting drainage established in order to make the area safe for the traveling public.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

CONTROLLED SLIDE

Crews unload parts of a new avalanche control system.

UDOT is installing new avalanche control systems that can be activated remotely.

Two of the new avalanche control systems are being installed in a known avalanche path called Valerie’s Slide in Little Cottonwood Canyon on the lower face of Mount Superior.

“It is unique in that it will allow us to initiate snow slides without artillery,” says Project Manager Steve Poulsen. The system is a better alternative than howitzer-fired or hand dropped shells since the slide area is adjacent to Snowbird Village and SR-210.

The visible part of the system is a downward-facing twelve foot long, two foot diameter tube. An underground oxygen and propane storage farm feeds the gases to exploders where the gases are mixed in preparation for firing. The units are then triggered by remote control producing a shock wave that moves through the tube. The resulting controlled slide prevents a bigger, potentially more destructive slide.

Two similar units have been in operation for two years. The new units are planned to be operable for this coming snow season. “Next year we plan to install 5 more units along other slide path starting zones in the Mt. Superior area that will further reduce the need to fire artillery over Snowbird village buildings,” says Poulsen.

LEND A HAND

Local residents recently helped UDOT ‘hand paint’ a bridge.

A pedestrian bridge that will be put into use over U-111 at 8200 South is decorated with the bright colored hand prints.

A pedestrian bridge that will be put into use over U-111 at 8200 South is decorated with the bright colored hand prints. The unusual adornment method was proposed by State Representative Jim Bird.

UDOT embraced the idea and extended an invitation to the public to participate. Many of the people who lent a hand to the project will also benefit from the structure once it’s put in place.

“It turned out to be a really great event,” says Andrea Gumm, Public Information Manager on the project. Initially, people who live in the area were targeted for participation. After a story about the upcoming event appeared in the media, word got out –“we got people from all over.” About one hundred people responded.

Gumm sees the hand prints as a way that people can feel some ownership of the structure. Those who showed up to “leave their mark” were really enthusiastic. She observed several children pointing out their hand prints and stating that they would remember and show their prints to friends once the bridge is in place.

The pedestrian-bridge was removed as part of work done on 7800 South and Bangerter Highway. Since the bridge still has some functional life, the structure will be put to good use on U-111 at 8200 South, a location that has been identified as needing a safer pedestrian crossing.

The bridge will be moved into place this fall.

RELY ON RESPECT

“Road Respect, Cars & Bikes Rules to Live By” is a safety campaign that encourages motorists and cyclists to know and abide by the rules of the road – laws and common sense practices that help keep all road users safe. 

Matt Sibul, Planning Director with the Utah Transit Authority speaks to the media at the Salt Lake Intermodal Center

The Utah Department of Public Safety and Utah Department of Transportation started a joint effort to encourage safe practices and good relationships between motorists and cyclists in 2011. The centerpiece of the communication effort is a statewide bicycle tour.

In June 2012, thirty cyclists representing law enforcement, public safety, transportation and bicycle advocacy participated in a six day 509 mile ride through Utah.  Along the way cyclists joined community leaders and citizens, including local cyclists at planned Rallies and Stops meant to promote the rules for sharing the road.

Rallies and Stops were organized by community volunteers. “It’s taken many, many hours to get to this point,” explained UDOT Deputy Director Carlos Braceras at a kick-off event in Salt Lake City.

Months before the tires hit pavement, tour co-organizers Evelyn Tuddenham with UDOT and Kari Gibson with the Utah Highway Safety Office networked with communities throughout the state to organize Road Respect events. Mike Loveland is an avid cyclist and a lieutenant with the Utah Highway Patrol. He participated as a cyclist and also helped plan the tour.

Loveland’s work life is spent enforcing the rules of the road. But after work, he spends a lot of time cycling. So, he is in a unique position to see safety issues from the perspective o f a cyclist and a motorist.  The Road Respect campaign and tour is a way to encourage a “get-along attitude” between cyclists and motorists, Loveland explains. Cooperation and consideration is necessary since both groups, according to Loveland “own a piece of the road.”

Local communities appreciate the effort

Activities at the Rallies and Stops drew families for fun activities, including include bike rodeos, helmet give-away items, street and trail rides and speakers, including elected officials who endorsed the Road Respect message. Mayor Bruce Burrows of Riverdale City praised the effort at a Stop on the Road Respect Tour.

Riverdale officials are working on a Complete Streets plan for the city that includes bike lanes and trails “that will interconnect every part of the city.”

According to the National Complete Streets Coalition website (http://www.completestreets.org), “Complete Streets policy ensures that transportation planners and engineers consistently design and operate the entire roadway with all users in mind – including bicyclists, public transportation vehicles and riders, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.”

Citizens in Riverdale want cycling, explained Burrows at a tour Stop. “We want to be ahead of the curve, to be very proactive in getting things done.” And with more cyclists on the streets of Riverdale, it’s even more important that when people ride or drive, they know the rules of the road.

Mayor Dennis Fife of Brigham City, Utah also sees the value in making his city bicycle friendly. He explained how he invited Jack Leavitt, a retired engineer from ATK to head the city’s bicycle committee at a Stop.

Both Fife and Leavitt are pleased with the progress the city has made. “We’ve got new bicycle lanes that go north and south through the whole city on both the west side and east side,” says Leavitt. “We’ve seen a great increase of families now that we have these bike lanes.” So, the Road Respect message is well timed!

Getting the message out

Road Respect events around the state were well attended by families, cycling club members, community groups and elected officials. And that great community support at official Rallies and Stops was in part due to great media coverage of the tour.

Kerry Bringhurst, News Director at Utah Public Radio used the messages developed by Tuddenham and Gibson to cover the tour and associated events. In fact, even though UPR broadcasts originate in Logan, the station covered events around the state starting the first day of the tour. Coverage included interviews of Road Respect organizers, stories about the tour and information on the website, including an interactive tour map.

Bringhurst believes covering the Road Respect tour was an important service to listeners “not just to help cyclists, but to help motorists.” Bringhurst says the information sent to the station about the tour were excellent.

The Road Respect Tour communication effort included carefully developed press releases, fact sheets and a list of myths about cycling meant to help media outlets educate the public and promote Road Respect events. Tour organizers “gave me what I needed so I could do accurate interviewing,” said Bringhurst.

Cars and bicycles together

Road Respect Tour cyclists were joined by motorists driving replica Shelby Cobras to demonstrate the importance of respect between drivers and riders. Some of the Rallies on the Road Respect Tour even featured mini car shows.

While the tour involves bikes and cars, there’s really one group – people. More and more Americans ride and drive for work and for fun. All people deserve to be shown respect, whatever the chosen transportation mode.  Salt Lake County Deputy Mayor Nichole Dunn, who spoke at a Rally in Draper, told the audience that when teaching safety, respect is the key.  “If you base an event around respect you really can’t go wrong.”

CLASSICAL GAS

At work and at home, UDOT Fleet Manager Steve McCarthy is all about transportation.

The building was owned and operated as a gas station by a local refinery and once stood on Center Street in Provo. The truck is a 1929 Model A Roadster.

Steve McCarthy says he grew up in the transportation industry and has “always been tied to that gas and oil stuff.” At work, McCarthy is responsible to make sure UDOT’s fleet, valued at about $200 million, runs as safely and efficiently as possible. At home, the transportation theme continues with a vintage 1920’s gas station building in his back yard.

The building was owned and operated by a local refinery and once stood on Center Street in Provo. McCarthy has outfitted the exterior to resemble an old Texaco station. He started collecting gas station items, including gas pumps, a vending machine and an assortment of fan belts and hoses, in 1995. Eventually he’d like the building to a fully stocked service station that looks ready for business “like it would back in the day.”

The building “has a history here in this town,” says McCarthy. Before he acquired it, the building was the subject of a TV news story and and artist rendering  and also used as a backdrop for a ZCMI photo shoot.

WILD APP

A new smart phone app is helping UDOT and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources work together to improve safety.

Mule deer pass under a bridge on U.S. 6. This photo was taken by an onsite motion activated camera placed by Wildlife Researcher Dr. Patricia Cramer with USU.

The new Utah Wildlife Vehicle Collision Reporter is a tool that helps track and categorize animals that are hit by vehicles on state routes. The app is for use on GPS enabled smart phones that are used by UDOT contractors who pick up carcasses from state roads. UDOT and DWR both need the information to identify where improvements, such as wildlife crossings and fencing, are needed.  “It’s the single most important data set we use,” says Ashley Green, UDWR Wildlife Coordinator for Statewide Projects.

Habitat Biologist Doug Sakaguchi with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has helped track high wildlife-vehicle hit areas since 2005. Data shows fewer hits have occurred in areas where new wildlife crossings and fences have been installed over the past seven years. Crossings and connected fencing work together to direct wildlife through crossings.

In the past, Green says that staff spent many hours entering data. Sometimes, important data was lost, forgotten or duplicated. Eventually, Green realized that a better system was needed so UDWR employees could spend less time entering data “and have more time to analyze data to make recommendations on making wildlife mitigations.”

The app was the idea of a graduate student at Utah State University who is conducting research at several locations around the state. He proposed the idea for the app to UDOT and UDWR –employees at both agencies thought the idea was worth pursuing. With funding from UDOT, AGRC programmers designed the app, which works on Android and iPhone systems.

Paul West, UDOT’s Wildlife Program Manager makes recommendations for improvements aimed at protecting wildlife or threatened or endangered species for every UDOT project. He analyzes the data for “hot spots,” which represent an increase in wildlife hits. Those kinds of data spikes indicate where new crossings or fences are needed “now or in the future to correct that situation,” says West. Installing crossings and fencing needs to be done strategically in order to provide help where it’s needed most. Better data means better decisions about wildlife crossings can be made.

UDOT Engineer for Maintenance Methods Lynn Bernhard put together the contracts that require vendors to use the app. “Wildlife data is captured immediately at the exact time and place that the carcass is picked up and automatically transferred into the Division of Wildlife Resources database,” says Bernhard.

Using the app eliminates a lot of errors and simplifies the work of UDOT’s contractors. Workers who use the app only need to enter a few bits of information about the animal. The app populates the rest of the information, including mile marker, state route, UDWR region and other details, based on the GPS location.

UDOT and  UDWR will continue to work together to make roads safer by reducing the number of vehicle-wildlife crashes, explains Bernhard, “and that’s what it’s all about, eliminating crashes.”

For more, view an AGRC presentation about the development of the app.

INTERSECTION UPDATE

New safety features will get the attention of motorists.

An auto-activated warning tells motorists on SR 202 that SR 201 traffic does not stop.

The location where State Routes 201 and 202 meet near Rio Tinto has been the site of two recent fatal car crashes; the last one occurred in January. “Rio Tinto has been so concerned with this intersection that they prohibit all Rio Tinto employees from making through and left turn movements at this intersection,” according to Brandon Weight, Rotational Engineer with UDOT Central Traffic and Safety.  Weight designed the improvements to the intersection, which have now been installed.

After the last fatal crash, concern for the safety of motorists prompted UDOT Region Two Traffic Engineer Robert Miles to look for ways to improve safety at the location. He assigned to engineer Alex Fisher, an intern at UDOT, to research some options and propose changes.

The speed disparity on the two routes provided the challenge. SR 201 traffic tends to be fast and motorists have a long stretch of highway with few stops required between Tooele and Salt Lake. SR 202 is slower, and motorists entering SR 201 may not realize that oncoming traffic is traveling fast. Conversely, motorists traveling on SR 201 might not anticipate slower moving traffic entering the roadway.

Since the intersection does not meet all the criteria for a signalized intersection, Fisher proposed an auto-activated warning and stop signs. Read about her proposal in a previous blog post.

Weight found the designing the improvements very satisfying. He worked under the direction of UDOT Traffic and Safety Engineer Larry Montoya.

Design challenges

According to Weight, the most challenging part of the design was placing the radar detection and signs in a location that allows adequate stopping sight distance for semis. Other challenges included designing the raised island to allow adequate site distance for vehicles stopping on SR 202 and the minimum turning path for semis entering the refinery.

Very few changes to the design needed to be made during construction. “Once construction started, the conduit placement and wire call-outs needed to be adjusted,” according to Weight. “All changes were adjusted in the final as-built drawings.”

The procurement contractor was Cash Valley Electric under the direction of Eric Ward. The contractor provided a high quality finished product. The system was turned-on by David Mount of Region Two on Monday, June 18, 2012, “Rio Tinto has told me they are happy with our efforts to improve the safety at this intersection,” says Weight. UDOT will monitor the improvements to make sure the improvements function as intended by design.

TRANS TECH INITIATIVES

From Kevin Griffin, UDOT Director of Maintenance and Rob Wight, UDOT Engineer for Construction: Over the past year our District Engineers have been working hard to address issues that had been identified with our Transportation Technician program.  The District Engineers have done a great job in addressing these issues and we felt it was important to identify what they have been working on.  Some of the issues with the Transportation Technician program that they have addressed are:

Better Communication/ Career Development

Training

Workload exceeds Resources

Project Specific Training

Geographic Challenges / Mentoring

Efficiency of using internal inspection

Identification of Cost Efficiencies

The District Engineers will be working closely with their staff at each region to explain the details of these initiatives and how the initiatives will improve the Transportation Technician program. We would personally like to thank all of the District Engineers for their efforts here.  The hard work they have done will have a lasting impact to the Transportation Technician program and to the department.

SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?

It’s a decision that drivers face every day when approaching an intersection – to slow down and stop upon seeing a yellow signal or to maintain speed and risk running a red light.

Signal Systems Engineer Mark Taylor monitors dilemma zone detection online.

The dilemma zone is the space before entering an intersection where drivers make that sometimes tough call to stop or keep going. On a high-speed roadway, the decision needs to be made in seconds, and the wrong choice can be dangerous.

Intersections are complex configurations where two roadways intersect. Many of the most important driving skills – such as maintaining an appropriate speed, staying attentive and alert, and using good judgment – come into play all at once. The crash types that are common at intersections include rear-end and T-bone; both can cause serious injury or death.

To improve safety at intersections, UDOT has installed dilemma zone detectors. The detection equipment uses radar to see cars as they approach an intersection. Software used with the equipment is programmed to extend the signal phase to allow cars more time to get through the intersection.

Deciding when extra time is needed based on scientific studies that show how most drivers are likely to behave, explains UDOT Traffic Signal Operations Engineer Mark Taylor. Traffic signal engineers use those studies to define three fields drivers cross before entering an intersection. Drivers in the field closest to the signal usually always go through the light. In the field farthest from the intersection, most cars stop.

The middle section is the dilemma zone “where drivers realize ‘I’ve got a decision to make,’” says Taylor. Cars entering that dilemma zone at a pre-determined point in time trigger the system to extend the signal phase, eliminating the dilemma and also the potential for an un-wise decision. While the system is backed up by science, Taylor uses some engineering judgment as well. “I put logic in with that radar,” he says.

“UDOT’s policy is to install Dilemma Zone Detection on every approach that is 40 miles per hour or higher,” says Taylor. Over five hundred intersections in Utah have been equipped with Dilemma Zone Detection.

For more: Read this article about how Dilemma Zone Detection can show a twenty percent reduction of cars exposed to the yellow signal and 70% reduction in red light running.