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To test readiness for dealing with damage from a quake, UDOT participated in a scripted simulation along with the state Emergency Operations Center at the State Capitol.

As simulated earthquake damage was reported, GIS experts at UDOT began building an online map showing the damage to the transportation system. Emergency Operations Center participants at the state capitol could view the map in real time as changes were made.

In the aftermath of an earthquake, UDOT employees will be responsible to make sure the transportation system is safe. The first step in that process is assessing damage to roads and bridges. As part of the Shake Out earthquake drill, UDOT used a United States Geological Survey Earthquake Hazards software program called ShakeCast to generate estimated damage information for roads and bridges.

GIS, Electronic Asset Management and communication experts gathered in one room to interact with the state EOC at the state capitol. Minutes after the quake drill at 10:15 today, scripted calls and email started arriving at the UDOT Traffic Operations Center. As simulated damage was reported, GIS experts began building a map showing the simulated damage to the transportation system. EOC participants at the state capitol could view the map in real time as changes were made. The UDOT participants used a color coded system to identify critical routes and the status of each route.

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.

“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. The simulation was good practice for what would occur in the first several hours after an earthquake.


Cyclists and motorists will tour the state to spread good will, safety education and family fun.

Mike Loveland, pictured second from the left, is an avid cyclist and a lieutenant with the Utah Highway Patrol. He sees the Road Respect campaign as a way to promote a cooperation and consideration between cyclists and motorists.

For the second year, avid cyclists with the Road Respect Tour will travel through the state and stop for rallies that celebrate respect between cyclists and motorists.  “Road Respect, Cars & Bikes Rules to Live By” is a grassroots campaign that seeks to encourage safe practices and good relationships between motorists and cyclists. The centerpiece of the campaign is a six day 509 mile ride through the state that will take place June 4-9.

Mike Loveland

Thirty cyclists representing law enforcement, public safety, transportation and bicycle advocacy will stop along the tour route to join community rallies meant to educate the public about rules for sharing the road. Local cyclists are encouraged to join the cyclists on their route and ride with them into the rallies.

Activities at the rallies will include bike rodeos, helmet give-aways, street and trail rides and speakers. Some of the rallies will include mini car shows. Participants will be encouraged to sign a pledge to signify compliance with obeying rules of the road.

Mike Loveland is an avid cyclist and a lieutenant with the Utah Highway Patrol. He participated as a cyclist last year and is helping to plan this year’s tour. Because of his job and his pastime, Loveland sees both sides of the issue.

The Road Respect campaign and tour is a way to encourage a “get-along attitude” between cyclists and motorists, he explains. Cooperation and consideration is necessary since both groups, according to Loveland “own a piece of the road.”

For more, read an article in Cycling Utah Magazine.


UDOT’s Continuous Flow Intersections have been used to enhance east-west traffic mobility in Salt Lake County.

CFI’s provide more green-light time by eliminating potential points of conflict. Watch this new video to see how the innovative configuration can increase the number of cars moving through an intersection by up to 70 percent.


Pavement markings are a critical safety element on Utah roads and UDOT Central Maintenance is continually looking for ways to improve the way markings perform.

Retroreflective glass beads in pavement markings show up at night when headlights illuminate the pavement.

Pavement markings are divided into three categories:

  • Roadway striping, including lane and shoulder markings
  • Messages that provide information such as school zones
  • Islands or islands and parking lots

Most of UDOT’s efforts and costs are aimed at maintaining over 58 thousand centerline miles of lane markings. UDOT’s goal is to paint all lane markings ever year. Long distances and other maintenance duties make that effort a challenge. Region maintenance employees establish a visual quality level goal on each route, and then evaluate markings using an A through F grade against the goal. The worst markings are painted first.

Years of UDOT research has shown that recessing paint slightly below the pavement helps markings last three to five times longer because markings are less vulnerable to snow plows. UDOT Region Two Pavement Maintenance Coordinator Dan Betts has pioneered a method of cutting into the pavement slightly to recess the area slightly below the pavement surface.


Betts and UDOT Maintenance Planning Engineer Ken Berg are trying different types of retroreflective glass beads added to the paint to find the best solution for improving visibility of markings at night and in the rain. The markings are made up of two elements – paint that acts as a binder and glass beads that are applied to the paint while wet. A variety of glass beads are available, all with slightly different properties. Berg and Betts are evaluating several types of beads to see which ones work best at night and in the rain.

“We are constantly looking for new products and technologies that are both cost effective and provide long term durability,” writes Berg in a new Pavement Marking White Paper on the topic. “We are asking pavement marking suppliers to apply a product of their choice and guarantee that it will perform for a 5 year period. Our intent is to eliminate yearly public impact from striping operations by providing the best pavement markings we can with minimal disruption to traffic.”


UDOT is participating in the Shake Out, an earthquake preparedness event planned for April 17, 2012.

Over 700 thousand people in Utah have signed on to drop, cover and hold on during a one minute drill that’s part of the Shake Out. Utah is an active seismic region – that information is commonly known. What residents may not know is how to properly seek protection during the time an earthquake is occurring.

The designated time for the earthquake drill is 10:15 a.m. for the state of Utah. All Utah residents are being encouraged by organizers to participate in a drop, cover and hold on drill. Some organizations, UDOT included, will participate in extended earthquake preparedness exercises.

Drop, cover and hold on

Taking cover under a sturdy table or desk is the best strategy in an earthquake.

The primary threat from earthquakes is the intense shaking that can cause structures like office buildings and schools to partially or fully collapse. When that shaking occurs, the safest place to be is under a heavy object like a desk or table. Rescuers who respond to earthquakes find victims in “survivable voids” created when people duck under a sturdy object.

Participating in the drill “builds muscle memory” explains Chris Siavrakas, UDOT’s Emergency Management Coordinator. “Panic is not knowing what to do,” so doing the drill even once makes it more likely that a person will quickly drop, take cover and hold on when the earth really starts to shake.

Another part of the Shake Out drill is situational awareness that can occur before drill. Siavrakas hopes employees will ask themselves “what hazards are around me?” UDOT employees work all over the state in office buildings, on work sites, and many spend many hours each day driving for work. Each employee should think about various work locations and visualize what could happen during an earthquake, and then plan the safest place to drop, cover and hold on.


At-grade crossings give trains and cars a place to meet up – and not in a good way. Vic Saunders, Public Involvement Manager at UDOT Region One is actively promoting rail safety by giving presentations at area schools.

Kent Brown, Vic Saunders Kent Jorgenson, Ahmad Jaber Andrew Glad, Philip Lavorgna and Walt Webster received awards from Operation Lifesaver. See the post below for more information about award recipients.

Saunders is a certified presenter for Operation Lifesaver, a rail safety organization that was formed in Idaho. After a successful short term public awareness campaign, state officials found that fatalities fell in Idaho by 43 percent. Other states adopted the program – Utah was third – and now the organization operates across the country. Saunders is one of several presenters from UDOT and other organizations, including the Utah Transit Authority.

Whether walking or driving, it’s imperative to maintain good situational awareness at train crossings. Young people can be prone to walk or drive distractedly by paying attention to friends, texting or listening to music. Saunders has spent hundreds of hours in drivers ed classes talking about why paying attention is so critical.

“You are forty percent more likely to die on a highway at a railroad crossing that at any other place,” says Saunders. He was recently honored as a Safety Partner of the Year by Operation Lifesaver for giving presentations. Last year, Saunders gave sixty-two presentations that reached nearly three thousand people, “most of them 16 year old kids getting ready to go out and drive.”

The videos for the presentations are shockingly straight forward and show images and video of actual crashes. Saunders believes that “it gets their attention” to see the real images. “They all think it’s going to be somebody else.”

Congratulations to Saunders and other award winners!

Persons in photo from left to right:

Kent Brown – Utah Central Railway, 2nd Runner-up Safety Partner Presenter of the Year, gave 24 presentations to 1,031 people

Vic Saunders – Utah Department of Transportation, 1st Runner-up Safety Partner Presenter of the Year, gave 62 presentations to 2,662 people

Kent Jorgenson – Utah Transit Authority, Safety Partner of the Year, gave 98 presentations to 3,255 people

Ahmad Jaber – Utah Department of Transportation, State Coordinator’s Award of Excellence, The state coordinator’s award of excellence is given to an individual or an organization that has demonstrated excellence in participating in or supporting the Operation Lifesaver program through activity, in-kind support, and/or financial contributions.

  • Managed the Operation Lifesaver Utah program since 1976 (year started in Utah) to 1996.
  • Provided a full-time person as the first state coordinator, who was Lillian Witkowski
  • Provides personnel to give Operation Lifesaver presentations to the public
  • Contributes financially to the Operation Lifesaver Utah program on an annual basis

Andrew Glad, Volunteer Presenter of the Year, gave 106 presentations to 3,408 people

Philip Lavorgna, 1st Runner-up Volunteer Presenter of the Year, gave 78 presentations to 2,195 people

Walt Webster, 2nd Runner-up Volunteer Presenter of the Year, gave 70 presentations to 2,363 people


In the right location, Variable Speed Limit signs can narrow speed differential and reduce crashes.

Wyoming has had success with placing a VSL signs on a 45 mile section of I-80 between Rawlins and Laramie. The signs are connected to an Intelligent Transportation System that feeds speed and weather data to Wyoming’s Transportation Management Center in Cheyenne. Other locations have used VSL signs, including Washington State’s Snoqualmie Pass on I-90, and have seen improved safety as well.

VSL signs allow engineers to monitor the traffic on the road, determine a speed that’s safer for conditions, and then change the posted speed on electronic signs. Engineers at UDOT’s Traffic Operations Center are preparing to evaluate I-80 through Parley’s Canyon as a location that may be appropriate for the signs.

Speed and fiber

Although all locations are different and need to be evaluated individually, like I-80 between Rawlins and Laramie, many of the crashes that do occur in Parley’s are due to high speeds and weather, explains engineer Scott Jones who will manage the operation of the VSL system for UDOT.

Lowering the posted speed limit has reduced the speed differential on I-80 in Wyoming. (Click to enlarge)

Conditions through the canyon can change quickly due to winter weather, and sometimes “in winter conditions, some people are not slowing down,” says Blaine Leonard, ITS Program Manager at UDOT.  When some motorists slow down and others maintain high speeds, that differential “creates very unsafe conditions,” says Leonard.

WYDOT’s experience with the VSL sign system has shown that lowering the posted speed limit reduces the speed differential. Engineer Ken Schultz with WYDOT also reports that the department is seeing fewer crashes, fewer closures, and improved travel time reliability. Plans to expand the system to other locations in Wyoming are in the works.

Since VSL signs are part of an Intelligent Transportation System, “we need good fiber to connect to the signs and operate them efficiently,” says Leonard. Fiber optic cable buried along the freeway would allow the system to tie in with UDOT’s ITS system already in place.

UDOT is very early in the process of looking at placing the VSL signs, but indications are that the system may help improve safety through the canyon.


Variable Speed Limit Signs have helped reduce crashes on a 45 mile section of I-80 between Rawlins and Laramie in Wyoming.

I-80 in Wyoming -- wind and snow can cause low visibility and slick roads.

Photo courtesy Tom Kelly Photography. See the link below for more images.

Driving on the stretch of roadway can be treacherous when wind and snow combine to make for slick roads and poor visibility. “That’s our biggest challenge,” says Ken Schultz, WYDOT State Maintenance Engineer. To help motorists deal with road weather and improve safety, the Wyoming Department of Transportation studied the area and then placed speed VSL signs that can be changed according to conditions.

This WYDOT Traffic Camera photo shows I-80 between Laramie and Rawlins.

The signs, along with RWIS stations and speed detectors are connected to an intelligent transportation system that feeds data on speed and weather to Wyoming’s Transportation Management Center in Cheyenne. Online cameras let engineers and motorists see the conditions. Before speed is adjusted, engineers monitor traffic and weather to establish a pace speed more in line with conditions, and also consult WYDOT maintenance workers and highway patrol troopers in the area.

The protocol for reducing speed that uses weather, speed and experiential data has worked well,   says Schultz. “Everybody is really tuned in to it.” Speed sensors show that drivers are responding to the lowered speed on the VSL signs. Since the signs have been placed, fewer crashes have occurred. Schultz also believes that a switch to better de-icing chemicals have also played a role at improving safety.

While winter weather makes winter driving challenging, speed differential also contributes to unsafe conditions. When some vehicles are driving slowly and some are driving very fast, crashes are more likely to occur.

According to NCHRP Report 505, “studies show that regardless of the average speed on the highway, the more a vehicle deviates from the average speed, the greater its chances of becoming involved in a crash.”

Schultz believes the VSL signs, along with warning signs  and online cameras, have provided better information that “does help folks to make decisions about their travel,” including driving slower or even delaying travel until conditions improve.

UDOT is preparing to evaluate I-80 through Parley’s Canyon as a location that may be appropriate for VSL signs. Although all locations are different and need to be evaluated individually, like I-80 between Rawlins and Laramie, many of the crashes that do occur in Parley’s are due to weather and speed differential.  

For more:

  • Read an article by Joan Barron of the Star-Tribune
  • See more photographs of I-80


A guest post by Daniel B. Kuhn, UDOT Railroad & Freight Planner

One of the most impressive sights in the diverse world of freight transportation in Utah is that of a lengthy Union Pacific Railroad double-stack container train speeding along at 60 MPH or more. These trains have been a common sight on select Utah railroad lines since the mid-1980s when transcontinental double-stack operations began. Known as intermodal trains in railroad parlance, these special trains carry domestic and international cargo containers two high on specialized rail cars that reduce weight and fuel consumption by being articulated into sets ranging from three to five cars in length.

Providing good highways to move the truck freight is one way UDOT supports Utah’s economy and business community, and the growing intermodal freight business sector here in the Mountain West.

Intermodal freight transportation combines the best of highway and rail service, combining trucking’s speed and flexibility with railroading’s fuel efficiencies and economies of scale when moving mass quantities of containers. Trucking will continue to dominate freight movement across North America inasmuch as most freight moves short distances or requires speedy delivery which railroads cannot match. However, while Utah’s primary freight network highways are in superb condition, the freight highway routes in many states are not. This combined with the fact that trucking is usually more expensive than intermodal is diverting a growing amount of freight to the railroads.

One key advantage railroads have with intermodal freight service is their ability to run longer trains with the same number of crewmembers. Here in Utah UP intermodal trains have grown from 80 to 100 cars in length to as much as 200 cars. The use of environmentally-sensitive, high-efficiency diesel-electric locomotives placed at strategic locations within a given train, and operated via computer-aided radio control from the lead locomotive, has made these huge trains possible. This practice, known as Distributed Power Units (DPU) is also used on other types of freight trains running in Utah.

Most of the freight carried by Union Pacific’s intermodal trains is passing through Utah en route to and from west coast seaports and Midwestern and eastern cities, Salt Lake City is also home to one of Union Pacific’s largest intermodal freight terminals. The Salt Lake City Intermodal Terminal (SLCIT) is located on the west side of the city along 5600 West (State Route 172) between the S.R. 201 freeway and Interstate 80. SLCIT’s location gives trucks serving that facility quick access to the primary freight network highways that link the Wasatch Front with the rest of the Mountain West region.

Utah is already the crossroads for long-distance trucking in western America, having the highest truck traffic percentage (23% of total traffic on Utah highways is large trucks) of all 50 states. Providing good highways to move the truck freight heading to and coming from Union Pacific intermodal trains at SLCIT is one way UDOT supports Utah’s economy and business community, and the growing intermodal freight business sector here in the Mountain West.

UP intermodal trains serve SLCIT every day en route to and from the Midwest and southern California, with the facility averaging around 500 containers and truck trailers, the later known as Piggyback when carried by train, being handled each day. On average from 900 to 1200 trucks arrive and depart SLCIT on a daily basis, with weekends being the busiest times. Utah’s highways are critical links in SLCIT’s ability to serve as the regional hub for intermodal rail and truck freight service. Containers and piggyback trailers are trucked as far distant as Montana, Idaho and Wyoming from SLCIT.

Northern Utah sits at the crossroads of two major UP intermodal routes, with trains bound for northern California and the Port of Oakland passing through Ogden and crossing the famous Lucin Cutoff across the Great Salt Lake, while southern California trains serve SLCIT and then head southwest via Milford and Las Vegas to the Los Angeles Basin. East of Ogden, the trains of both routes use the historic Overland Route mainline across Wyoming and Nebraska, which was part of America’s first transcontinental railroad. Double-stack trains do not use UP’s former Rio Grande mainline over Soldier Summit en route to Helper and Denver as the tall container stacks will not fit through the many tunnels along that route.

According to the Association of American Railroads, the major Class 1 rail carriers in the U.S. and Canada carried 13.7 million trailer and container loads in 2010. While this amount sounds large, truck freight on our highway system was between four and five times that amount. However, rail intermodal is expected to grow at a rate of around six percent each year through 2022 according to the American Trucking Association. Depending upon future economic conditions, the sight of those long and colorful double-stack trains will continue to be an increasing part of the Utah transportation scene, further reinforcing Utah’s status as the freight and logistics Crossroads of the West…


Lighting maintenance on I-15 in Salt Lake County is nearly complete and nighttime drivers should notice that the freeway is brighter.

A worker raises the high-mast light fixtures after completing maintenance.

One of the most common reasons people call the UDOT main office is to express concern about freeway lighting. Appropriate lighting is important to safety. According to numerous studies (see NCHRP Project No. 5-19, P. 73)  night time crashes can be reduced by over 20 percent at some locations by adding lighting. System to system interchanges and other places where the freeway is complex having many directional signs indicating interchanges or exits benefit from good lighting. For example, on the I-15 to I-80 interchange in Salt Lake County, lighting helps assist state-to-state motorists head in the right direction.

Work on high-mast lights on I-15 is almost complete.

UDOT has been working hard to replace centerline lighting on I-15 through the Salt Lake Valley.  High mast fixtures, ballasts and fuses need to be replaced about every four years. Starting from 106th South and proceeding north, crews have been working on Sundays to re-lamp the freeway.

Good news – the work is nearing completion. “There are a few poles along there with circuit problems, but we will get that addressed soon,” according to Richard Hibbard, UDOT Traffic and Safety Signal and Lighting Engineer. “The I-215 South Interchange gore areas still need some work as well.”

Shane Killen with Black and McDonald of Sandy, Utah has been managing the project. “It’s been a pretty routine process,” says Killeen, who has been working with crews on successive Sundays to avoid heavy traffic. Other than a few snow days and some underground power issues, the work has gone well. Killeen anticipates that the work will be completed before the end of March.