Category Archives: Uncategorized

WILD AWARD

FHWA has given UDOT and partner agencies an award for successful wildlife mitigation efforts on U.S. Highway 6.

First to be photographed at Beaver Creek Bridge

Beaver Creek Bridge on US-6

A diverse team of experts from federal and state government joined forces in 2005 to find better ways to help wildlife get across US Highway 6 between Spanish Fork and Price, Utah. Members from the Wildlife Coordinating Committee, drawing from FHWA, UDOT, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, the Bureau of Land Management, Uinta National Forest Service, and Utah State University, collaborate to identify high wildlife-vehicle collision spots and make recommendations for improvements.

“Their efforts are showing measurable success,” says Brandon Weston, UDOT Environmental Manager and chairman of the committee. FHWA has recognized that success with a Exemplary Ecosystem Initiative Award.

The committee has been successful by studying wildlife habitats, building cross-agency partnerships and using innovative solutions backed by the best science available, according to Rebecka Stromness, past UDOT Environmental Manager.  Stromness wrote the nomination for the award, which points out that many past activities, including  construction of the original road and railroad, logging, fur trapping, livestock grazing, agriculture, and urban development, have served to eliminate or degrade wildlife habitat. “With the implementation of mitigation for each specific project, vehicle-wildlife collisions are being reduced and wildlife movement across the highway is gradually being restored.”

Professor Patricia Cramer, a wildlife research assistant professor with Utah State University, is tracking the success of crossings by placing cameras to record images of wildlife. Cramer joined the committee years before research started. Knowing UDOT was planning an ambitious and challenging effort to improve safety on US-6, she saw the potential for the highway to be the “crown jewel of wildlife crossings in Utah.” Her research started with a UTRAC grant and continues with funding from Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

Doug Sakaguchi, Habitat Biologist with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, has served on the committee since 2005. The success of the committee in collaborating to reduce the number of wildlife killed is “exciting to me,” says Sakaguchi. His graph (below) shows a reduction in the number of carcasses before and after two bridges were replaced with new bridges that accommodate wildlife movement.

Before and after (click to enlarge). A new bridge planned at Mile Post 203 will allow wildlife to cross.

Weston, Cramer and Sakaguchi point to a railroad bridge replacement project at Mile Post 200 as an example of a successful outcome. The old structure, a three-span steel girder bridge, needed to be replaced. The new bridge that accommodates the rail lines limits the ability of wildlife to cross. Through the committee’s efforts, a wildlife crossing was added to the project just west of the new bridge. The new crossing allows over 800 Mule Deer each year to cross under US-6.

The committee provides a model that shows how agencies can work together to improve highway safety and reduce animal-vehicle collisions, explains Weston. The committee’s job with US 6 is nearly complete, but members will continue to meet to discuss research and wildlife mitigation efforts in other parts of the state.

“We are not starting from scratch anymore,” says committee member Ashley Green, UDWR Wildlife Coordinator for Statewide Projects. He is confident that other areas of the state can benefit from cross-agency cooperation even though wildlife crossing areas pose problems that are “difficult, complex and not easy to fix,” he explains. “We have seen some really awesome success.”

In addition to improving wildlife crossings, UDOT has added new bridges, general purpose and passing lanes, concrete barrier, guardrail, centerline and shoulder rumble stripes, warning signs and improved the road alignment on US 6.

Read more:

FUN RUN OPENS MOUNTAIN VIEW CORRIDOR

The first portion of the Mountain View Corridor opened first to runners, then motorists.


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

The first three-mile section of Mountain View Corridor (MVC) in Utah County opened to motorists at 2100 North in Lehi. Hundreds turned out for a charity 5K, Fun Run and community BBQ to mark the occasion. All proceeds raised at the event will support four local charities including North Point Elementary School, Hess Cancer Foundation, Boys and girls Club of Utah County and Anything for a Friend.

PAVEMENT MARKINGS IN CANYONS

New pavement markings in Echo and East Canyons will improve visibility and safety at night and during storms.

This slide show provides a few images of work done this week in Echo and East Canyons. Click on the large images to see captions. Place your cursor in the bottom portion of the show to select another image.


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

A past UDOT Blog post gives more information about how UDOT is testing beads and grooving pavement.

SIGN UPDATE

New I-15 Sign in Cedar City, Utah

Interstate signs are updated to improve safety and provide better readability and directional help for road users.

New signs have been placed on Interstate 15 near Cedar City. The signs meet new Federal standards and the messages on the signs have better relevance to the local area.

As interstate signs age and Federal standards change, UDOT identifies interstate segments that could be improved by a sign facelift. Sometimes single signs need to be replaced due to fading or other damage, but replacing a sequential group, as exemplified by the Cedar City project, gives UDOT the chance to update a series of signs that work together to provide clarity and consistency for road users.

Evaluation of old signs is based many factors. Current Federal standards are outlined in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). Here are three broad areas engineers consider when prioritizing sign replacement projects:

Retroreflectivity: Light that bounces back to a light source instead of being generally diffused is retroreflective. “It’s right back at you,” says Wes Starkenburg, Sign Engineer at UDOT. Signs use sheeting and tape with prismatic reflectors that send headlight beams back to drivers.

Federal requirements determine the level of reflectivity of all signs on roads with public access. The level of retroreflectivity is evaluated by a trained sign inspector who visually inspects sings. Wear from weather and sun can decrease the level of retroreflectivity making signs harder to read. A trained eye taking a look at signs at night is a good start. Using a retroreflectometer allows an objective evaluation.

According to FHWA, approximately three times as many crashes occur at night, making retroreflectivity of signs an important safety feature.

Readability: Lettering used on interstate signs, sometimes informally called “Highway Gothic” is simple and easy to read. Spaces between letters, the shape and size of lettering are consistent from sign to sign which helps avoid confusion.  The number of words should be limited so signs can be read quickly.

Messaging: As cities grow and small towns become more urban, messages on signs can become outdated. To make sure a series of signs helpful to road users, UDOT works with local elected or transportation officials to develop new messages to provides good directional help.

BREAK AWAY

A project to install new welcome signs around the state also gave UDOT a chance to use a new sign base.

The new Welcome to Utah signs gave UDOT a chance to use a new sign base.

Welcome to Utah signs placed last year feature Utah attractions and a breakaway type base that’s new to UDOT. A similar design has been used successfully in Idaho and other states for many years. The signs were placed in or near clear zones on interstates and at Utah Welcome Centers.

Clear zones are designed to allow errant vehicles a place to safely stop or re-gain control.    Signs that are installed in the clear zone are required by the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices to be protected by a crash cushion or have a breakaway design – that is, in a crash, the sign post should break away from the base and go over or under the vehicle.

It’s long been known that breakaway signs are safer for drivers than rigid signs.  In 1963, the Texas Highway Department, the Texas Transportation Institute and the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads cooperated when “Substantial miles of the Interstate System was under construction or scheduled for construction” and the need for safer sign supports was imperative. New sign bases were designed, tested and put into use. (Highway Research Record #174, Guardrails, Barriers and Sign Supports)

This interactive timeline on the TTI website shows that crash testing on breakaway sign bases was conducted at their facility in 1964, and the first known life saved as a result of a breakaway sign base was documented in 1965.

The new sign base has been tested according to Federal requirements, but UDOT Traffic and Safety wondered how well the sign base would hold over time. Since the signs are placed throughout the state and subject to all kinds of weather, the welcome sign project provided a good chance to find out how the base performs in high winds or heavy snow – so far, the sign bases are working well.

The posts on new base are secured to footings using couplings that break away in a crash leaving a very short stub. Joints on the posts also cause the sign to fold on impact. The design limits property damage to the road user and UDOT. After the base is damaged, repair is simple and inexpensive; posts can be re-bolted using conventional tools. “It is a matter of changing the hinge plates on the posts and couplings on the ground,” according to Customer Services Representative for the vendor. Because of the design, “usually the posts do not need to be replaced.”

Dave Skinner, Road Operations Coordinator in Region Three near the Wyoming State Line sees all kinds of extreme weather.  “You name it… cold, snow, rain, and very high wind,” he says. High winds regularly damage signs in his area. “Last year, the wind got a whole bunch of them,” he reports. But the new sign base has held up under daily windy conditions that range between 20 and 50 mph.

UDOT Traffic and Safety is looking forward to working with the UDOT Regions to identify other appropriate places to use the new sign bases.

FUN RUN

UDOT and local charities will hold a fun run on a new portion of the Mountain View Corridor in Utah County.

Before the tire rubber hits the road, runners are invited to put shoes to pavement to celebrate the opening of the first section of Mountain View Corridor. Several local charities are working with UDOT to hold a 5K & Fun Run on Saturday, September 24, 2011. All proceeds raised at the event will benefit North Point Elementary School, Hess Cancer Foundation, Boys & Girls Club of Utah County and Anything For a Friend.

Visit the Mountain View Corridor website for more details or to register for the race.

This video shows an overview of summer construction progress:

VOTE TODAY

Municipal primary elections are today — be sure to vote.  AND you can vote twice; UDOT’s 3500 South project is in the running for a people’s choice award.

The 3500 South Project was widened to include three travel lanes in each direction and a center-running dedicated lane for UTA’s Bus Rapid Transit line. The project was completed 7 months ahead of schedule and $6 million under budget. Early completion also saved the public $2.3 million in road user and safety costs.

Click here to vote.

After construction: Center running lanes for UTA's Bus Rapid Transit extend from 2700 West to Bangerter Highway.

GETTING READY

A handful of innovative up-grades will improve safety and winter travel through Provo Canyon.

Station Supervisor Neil Lundell stands by new crash cushions in Provo Canyon.

US-189 through Provo Canyon is part of a Scenic Byway that follows the Provo River, crosses the Uinta National Forest and provides access to Sundance Resort, Timpanogos National Monument, and the Deer Creek Reservoir. The steep, winding road requires drivers to use caution year around. But during winter, Mother Nature ups the ante; deep canyon walls, weather conditions, and the Provo River make clearing ice and snow a challenge.

Sun angle is much lower in the winter, explains UDOT Meteorologist Scott Patterson. “The canyon is so steep that some sections of the road will see little if any sunlight to help melt the snow and ice.”  And the Provo River running along the road adds moisture that can lead to frost on these shaded sections of the road. Due to the orientation of the canyon, “in southwest winds, heavy snow can fall in the canyon” while nearby areas see much less snowfall.

A look at three years of crash data averages comparing the road to statewide crash averages shows that Provo Canyon’s conditions are atypical in Utah. Contributing factors for crashes are more likely to include conditions related to weather and visibility. “Drivers in Provo Canyon need to realize that this is a unique place…you can’t treat it like an average roadway,” says Scott Jones, UDOT Safety Programs Engineer.

Provo Canyon crash data compared with statewide data shows that weather conditions have played a greater than average role in crashes.

UDOT works hard to make all roads as safe as possible. As new technologies become available, UDOT can make changes and improvements. Some new road features and equipment in Provo Canyon will enhance safety year around and improve winter snow and ice removal. “We have a big bag of effective new tools and we’re pulling out the right ones out for this location,” says Lynn Bernhard, Maintenance Methods Engineer for UDOT.

Rebounding delineators survive vehicle hits: Delineators are devices with retroreflectors that give guidance to drivers at night and when visibility is low. Pole mounted delineators help drivers see the edge of the road when snow is deep. Provo Canyon will have a new type of pole mounted delineator that’s designed to rebound after a vehicle hit. The delineators stay in service longer and require fewer repairs – good news for motorists and UDOT crews.

Collapsible, easy to fix crash cushions: Attenuators, sometimes called crash cushions, are placed on fixed structures or gore areas on freeways to minimize injuries to motorists, absorb kinetic energy during a crash, redirect automobiles in a path parallel to the attenuator and minimize property damage to vehicles and the roadway. Most attenuators are one-hit wonders; they do their job well but need extensive repair or full replacement after a crash.


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Attenuators with a very smart new design have been installed in Provo Canyon. The system is made of separate connected chambers that collapse when hit head on. When hit from the side, damage is limited to the impacted sections.  A hydraulic cylinder inside the chambers absorbs the crash. Repair is simple; maintenance workers simply re-expand and re-bolt the attenuator sections or replace the damaged sections.

“Two quarter-inch bolts and it’s back in service,” says UDOT Station Supervisor Neil Lundell. He estimates that repairs will usually take about an hour. The cost for repairing the new crash cushions is much less – from thousands of dollars to hundreds per crash when a section of the system needs to be replaced. When just the bolts need to be replaced, cost per crash is about .25.

Simple to switch triple-blade plow: Three culprits of winter road calamity – snow, slush and ice – each require a different plow blade. Provo Canyon’s weather system delivers spotty conditions along the roadway. In the past, plow operators had to go back to the maintenance station to switch blades. A new triple blade plow will let operators switch among blades while on the road.

The triple blade plow was developed by the Clear Roads organization, a group of public and private entities that study ways to maintain mobility and safety during the winter months. The triple blade plow is a non-propriety design that any manufacturer can produce.

An under-road system to combat winter frost: A de-icing system will be installed where moisture from the river causes frost to form. Sensors embedded under the pavement trigger the release of de-icing liquid before ice forms on the road. Many high mountain bridge decks have de-icing systems, but this pavement segment is the first road to get the special help.

A new solution for pre-wetting: Lundell says his crew will use “a different cocktail,” for wetting the road before a storm. The brine solution has ingredients that freeze at a lower temperature and help prevent ice from forming.

Safe driving in Provo Canyon

All together, the changes will help preserve mobility and safety. Motorists also need to do their part by driving safely. Jones stresses that “drivers need to be actively engaged in driving” not just in Provo Canyon, but on all roadways.

Lundell sees many crashes that happen when motorists drive too fast for conditions and the crash data above backs up his observations. Even when message boards warn drivers “they still just keep going too fast.” He urges motorists to always use caution. “Just because the snow is off, don’t speed up.”

SAFE WALKING AND BIKING

UDOT launched the annual statewide “Walk More in Four” challenge today.

UDOT's Student Neighborhood Access Program is a comprehensive safe walking and biking to school program that engages and educates students, parents, school administrators, crossing guards and communities.

During September, students can practice safe walking and biking for a chance to earn money for their school and bikes and scooters for themselves. This year, the school with the highest percentage of students participating will win $500 to be used by its safety committee.

Walk More in Four encourages all Utah K-8 students to walk or bike to school at least three days each week during the four weeks in September leading up to International Walk to School Day, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011. Schools must register for the competition by September 7.

The Walk More in Four Challenge is part of the Student Neighborhood Access Program. To encourage safe walking and biking, SNAP provides free resources, including mapping software, a 35-minute musical assembly and DVD, student activity booklets and teacher lesson plans, to assist in getting more students walking and biking safely to school. For more information about the Walk More in Four Challenge or SNAP, visit the website or call Utah’s Safe Routes to School Coordinator, Cherissa Wood, at (801) 965-4486.