Grapic showing three school kids and the SNAP Walk 'N Roll slogan Since 2009, the UDOT SNAP team has been teaching Utah students the importance of safe walking and biking practices. To encourage more students to walk and bike to school, the SNAP, Walk ‘N Roll assembly was created. Featuring professional performers and catchy, upbeat songs, the SNAP, Walk ‘N Roll assembly is a highly-sought after coveted production that covers what to do in construction zones and how regular exercise can improve a student’s focus and health.

With the new school year comes another round of SNAP, Walk ‘N Roll assembly performances. This year SNAP was pleased to bring the assembly to 30 schools across the state. To date, more than 100,000 Utah students have seen the SNAP, Walk ‘N Roll assembly.

Photo of SNAP Walk 'N Roll AssemblyThe SNAP assembly is available to elementary schools in the Alpine, Canyons, Davis, Granite, Jordan, Murray, Nebo, Ogden, Provo, Salt Lake and Weber school districts. Elementary schools outside of the listed districts can request a free SNAP, Walk ‘N Roll DVD, that features the entire assembly performed on a professional sound stage.

The music from the SNAP assembly is available for free on the UDOT SNAP website.

To see more pictures and learn about the SNAP performers, visit the SNAP Facebook page.

This guest post was written by Cherissa Wood UDOT’s School and Pedestrian Safety Program Manager.

Photo of Director Carlos Braceras addressing kids at Dilworth ElementaryThe Student Neighborhood Access Program, or SNAP, is committed to promoting safe walking and biking habits for Utah’s elementary and middle school age children. Every year, SNAP holds a competition that encourages Utah students to walk and bike to school instead of being dropped off by a parent.

The fifth annual Walk More in Four challenge, held every September, was once again successful in encouraging Utah students to walk and bike safety to school. The WMIF challenge awarded 600 prizes to students all across the state who walked or biked at least three days a week during the four weeks of September. Prizes included bikes, scooters, helmets and more.

At this year’s WMIF kickoff event at Dilworth Elementary in Salt Lake City, UDOT Executive Director Carlos Braceras spoke to students, parents and teachers about the importance of safe walking and biking practices.

Photo of students signing walk more in four pledge sheetNew to the challenge this year were online progress charts. Students and parents could log on to the WMIF website and track their walking and biking progress. The online progress charts allowed SNAP to collect more accurate information about the students who participated, as well as provided a paper-free way to turn in charts. More than 45 percent of students who participated in this year’s challenge took advantage of the online progress chart and SNAP hopes to see even more use the online charts next year.

This year the WMIF challenge had a record 160 schools participate in the challenge, and a record $8,500 was collected in donations from Walmart locations across the state.

And check out these lucky winners.

Photo of Daisey Allen staning on the seat of her bike wearing her helmet

Daisey Allen, a student at Kanab Elementary in Kanab, Utah, showing off her new bike and helmet.

Photo of student winners with their prizes.

UDOT School and Pedestrian Safety Program Manager Cherissa Wood poses for a picture with scooter winner Arianna Kerr and bike winner Holden Anderson at Middle Canyon Elementary School in Tooele, Utah.

Photo of student standing next to his prize.

Bates Elementary kindergarten student Brock Berry smiles with his scooter and helmet in his classroom.

This guest post was written by UDOT School and Pedestrian Safety Program Manager Cherissa Wood.

Photo of completed canstruction structuresAt a time when one in six Utahns are at risk of going hungry, UDOT and its contractors are working to make a difference.

During the 2013 annual UDOT conference four teams of engineers from CH2MHILL, HDR, UDOT and Michael Baker Corporation/Wadsworth Construction showed off their design skills during their first ever Canstruction design/build competition.

“I’m so proud of this year’s Canstruction event participants and want to thank each of them for making this a successful first year. These donations will help several families in need over the coming holidays,” said CH2M HILL engineer and event organizer Brian Michels. “I’m looking forward to next year’s event and hope that we can exceed this years donation.”

Each engineering team constructed sculptures using thousands of cans of donated food. Each of the designs took four to six hours to construct, and the results were impressive. Check out of this time-lapse video of the engineers in action:

The following awards were presented to the engineering teams:

  • UDOT – Structural Ingenuity
  • HDR – Juror’s Favorite
  • CH2M HILL – Best Meal
  • Michael Baker/Wadsworth – Best Use of Labels & People’s Choice

Photo of trailer loaded with canned good from the canstruction event at the Utah Food BankThe Canstruction event was made possible thanks to company food drives and generous monetary donations from sponsors including WCEC Engineers, Hunt Electric and Perkins Engineering. At the close of the conference 11,250 cans of food were collected and donated to the Utah Food Bank with the help of UDOT’s West Jordan Maintenance Shed, along with over $2,200 in cash donations. Thanks to everyone who made this year’s Canstruction event a huge success.

This guest post was written by Mary Rice with Penna Powers Brian Haynes.

In August, I announced a number of changes the leadership team would be implementing to better recognize our employees and their concerns. Based on feedback from surveys and focus groups earlier this year, we understood that our employees felt we could improve on providing dialogue between employees and leadership.

As a result of what we heard, we have created an Employee Advisory Council (EAC), which includes representatives from every group and region who will meet with Shane Marshall and me each quarter. The EAC will provide a direct avenue for employees to share concerns, ideas and feedback with the leadership team.

The EAC met for the first time on Oct. 3, and based on the number of topics we discussed, we decided to increase the length of our meetings from one and a half hours to two. I am excited to hear so many ideas and topics from our employees that can help make our organization even better.

During our discussion, the EAC decided to make all our meeting minutes available here on the blog, so all employees can be aware of the issues and questions we address. Also available is the full roster of EAC members, so if you have a question or concern you can pass it along for discussion at our next meeting.

Some of the topics we discussed were:

  • Employee Morale – Increase recognition for the good work being done by our employees.
  • Performance Plans – Consider changing plans so supervisors can adequately rate those who exceed expectations.
  • Performance Recognition – Promote and expand recognition program, which employees feel is not consistent or as robust as it could be.
  • Outsourcing – Address the concern that the amount of work given to consultants threatens job security for UDOT employees. Employees will not lose jobs because of outsourcing.
  • Policy Explanations – Provide information about the reason(s) for policy changes instead of just announcing that change has occurred.
  • Market Comparability Adjustments (MCAs) – Give more background and context with the annual MCA report from Human Resources so it is easier to understand.
  • Employee Communication – Improve communication by offering more one-on-one access to the leadership team, for example by conducting regular visits to maintenance.

These are just highlights, but more detailed notes are available in the minutes. I encourage you to download and read the more detailed version for this meeting and those that follow. The next meeting has been scheduled for January, and all employees will receive an email from me as soon as those minutes are available.

We hope that all employees will engage the EAC and take part in our continual effort to improve as an organization. I look forward to hearing from you!

Employee Advisory Council Roster

October 2013 EAC Minutes

Carlos and Shane took time to speak to all of the Annual Conference attendees during the general session on Wednesday. The director and deputy director speeches have always been one of the most important parts of the conference. This is a chance for them to set a direction and energize us for the coming year and to let us know how we’ve been doing.

Carlos was first up and took us through the process he went through applying for the job as executive director. It was a multi-step process that led to a great life lesson we can all learn from. The process, or journey, itself was the important part. This gave him time to reflect and plan for UDOT’s future. Without that time, he admitted, things would be very different. The end result was the vision document we wrote about back in August. He also explained that his job is not to be the one with all the ideas but instead to provide an environment for employees to come up with, and implement, innovations that will improve how we do business. And, he’ll be right there in front, cheering us on and doing what he can to help.

Shane was up next and gave us a brief introduction of himself, shared some of the results from the annual survey and employee interviews and explained a few areas we need to improve in. Coincidentally several of the concern areas the survey and employees brought up are also part of Carlos’ vision. The big one though was transparency. The public felt this was an area we needed to improve and employee interviews echoed.

Another concern that was brought up was a need to improve communication between senior leaders and employees. To help with this an advisory committee has been formed and the first meeting has taken place. The Employee Advisory Council (EAC) will meet quarterly and Shane asked that any concerns be taken to one of the members for discussion at their next meeting.

Shane also took a minute during his presentation to clear up a rumor that has been floating around. He reassured employees that their jobs are not in jeopardy due to privatization and asked station supervisors to take that message back to their sheds.

Shane wrapped up the general session by thanking everyone and expressing his excitement and optimism for the upcoming year.

The leaves have turned, the first snow has fallen on the mountains, and the 2013 construction season is nearing an end. UDOT and contractor crews have completed more than 200 road construction projects statewide in 2013. By the end of the year, 216 projects will have been carried out state roads and Interstates from Plymouth to St. George and from Wendover to Vernal. Each one of these projects was designed to help accomplish one or more of UDOT’s strategic goals:

    Photo of crews working along I-80 in Parleys Canyon

    Construction crews installing a new 66″ concrete pipe along I-80 in Parleys Canyon.

  • Preserve Infrastructure
  • Optimize Mobility
  • Zero Fatalities
  • Strengthen the Economy

In 2013, most construction projects fell under the goal to Preserve Infrastructure. These repaving and rehabilitation projects will keep Utah’s roads in good condition and prevent the need for more costly repairs in the future. Maintaining our highways helps them last as long as possible, and benefits the economy by keeping people, goods, and services moving throughout the state.

In 2012, UDOT completed 229 projects with a total value of $2,783,444,049, which included the I-15 CORE and Mountain View Corridor projects. By comparison, the total value of projects scheduled for completion in 2013 is $631,489,082. To make the best use of a much smaller budget during the 2013 construction season, the department focused on maintaining and making minor improvements to Utah’s roads, rather than major expansion or reconstruction efforts.

During the 2013 construction season, UDOT has resurfaced or repaired pavement on more than 400 miles of Utah highways and roads, and has completed 12 bridge repair or replacement projects. Some notable projects that have been completed or are scheduled for completion this year include:

    Photo of new bridge over I-15 at St. George Blvd during construction

    Workers constructing a new bridge over I-15 as part of the new DDI at St. George Boulevard.

  • I-80 Culvert Installation: Workers installed approximately two miles of 6-foot-diameter concrete pipe along I-80 in Parley’s Canyon to replace the original drainage system constructed in the 1960s.
  • I-15 Widening: Crews widened an 8-mile section of I-15 in southern Utah County from two lanes to three this year to reduce congestion and accommodate future growth in the area.
  • St. George Boulevard Diverging Diamond Interchange (DDI): Workers are converting the existing interchange at I-15 and St. George Boulevard into Utah’s fifth operating DDI to improve the flow of traffic.
  • U.S. 89/91 Repaving: Crews repaved U.S. 89/91 in Cache County from Sardine Summit to Wellsville.
  • U.S. 89 (State Street) Widening: Workers widened and repaved a two-mile section of State Street between Orem and Pleasant Grove.
  • Bangerter Highway Continuous Flow Intersection (CFI): Crews completed a new CFI at the intersection of Bangerter Highway and 13400 South to improve traffic flow in southwest Salt Lake County. Utah leads the nation with 11 CFIs (there are only 20 total in the nation).
  • I-215 Concrete Maintenance: Workers repaired concrete on I-215 from S.R. 201 to North Temple to extend the useful life of the pavement.

Moving forward in 2014, UDOT will widen I-15 at the Point of the Mountain and in Davis County, as well as continue its aggressive focus on maintaining existing roads.

This guest post was written by Leigh Gibson from the UDOT Traffic team. 

October 24th, 2013

Show Me a Sign

No Comments, Preserve Infrastructure, by Catherine Higgins.

The new Outdoor Advertising Control Map is improving government transparency and boosting efficiency at UDOT.

Photo of a billboard on I-15 in Weber CountyThe outdoor advertising industry, UDOT Project Managers and UDOT Permit Officers represent three of the groups that are benefitting from a new online map that shows geospatial locations of billboards along interstate routes.

State governments enforce federal rules regulating billboards on some routes. Back in the 1960s, Ladybird Johnson took an interest in highway beatification and worked with congress to pass laws limiting the proliferation of billboards on freeways.

UDOT has a codified agreement with the federal government that determines how billboards are treated on federally-funded primary routes, the National Highway System and Scenic Byways. The agreement, passed in 1968, established the UDOT Outdoor Advertising Control System.

Not controlling billboards would mean UDOT’s share of federal money for roads would be reduced by tens of millions of dollars each year.

From days to minutes

Until recently, finding out when the exact location of a billboard could take a day or longer. Depending on the information needed, state employees would sometimes have to check up to three separate documents or drive to a billboard location, which could be hundreds of miles away.

Now, new GIS tools mean it’s possible to put information about billboards in the hands of anyone with online access. See the map by visiting the UDOT’s Outdoor Advertising Control Program web page or UPlan, UDOT’s Map Center.

By using the map, a few mouse clicks can produce an image of the billboard and get information about federal rules that apply – like proximity to the closest billboard. “It’s the first time we’ve been able to see billboards online in real-time and connected to our inventory control system,” says Rod McDaniels, Outdoor Advertising Control Program Manager, who worked with a multi-disciplinary team of experts to re-design the way UDOT regulates outdoor advertising signs.

Getting it together

Gathering and organizing the information involved identifying known sign locations and filling in information gaps where needed, conceptualizing and building an efficient system to regulate billboards, and building a user-friendly online, interactive map. During the process, over 5 hundred geospatial points referencing signs were updated.

Saving time and funding dollars

Putting the map online has reduced the workload for UDOT employees, which conserves funding. Formal requests for information from the public have been reduced since people in the sign industry can easily find the needed information.

Feedback from the outdoor sign industry has been positive. “It brings us into the twenty-first century,” says Krissy Plett, Statewide Permits Officer for UDOT. “Now they don’t have to send someone out to view a sign” since users can take a virtual trip to a billboard using the map.

The map helps expedite project delivery too. UDOT project managers and maintenance workers can now easily see the exact location of signs that may be impacted by road work.

Links:

See the map, a PDF tutorial, and find information about state and federal laws and rules here.

See more maps or make your own map by visiting UPlan.

Interested in government transparency? See the UDOT Projects website to get information about past, current and future UDOT projects.

Engineer Mark Taylor working in an open traffic signal cabinet

Engineer Mark Taylor working in a traffic signal cabinet.

Managing traffic is an effective way to reduce congestion, save fuel costs and improve safety. One of the most visible components of the traffic management landscape is traffic signals. Day-to-day traffic challenges keep the staff at the UDOT Traffic Operations Center (TOC) very busy- especially during winter weather, special events and during the morning and evening commutes. The operators at the TOC have the ability to remotely operate nearly 80% of Utah’s traffic signals, which can be a very helpful way to alleviate traffic congestion. Each signalized intersection has a metal cabinet adjacent to the intersection that holds the equipment needed to operate the traffic signals. The equipment that operates the traffic signal can be programmed for specific traffic patterns along a corridor in an effort to better manage traffic.

Every year, the American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) identifies innovative projects that have been successfully adopted by transportation agencies across the country. One of the 2013 AASHTO Innovation Initiatives was UDOT’s Traffic Signal Automated Performance Measures program. The program developed a structure that will allow UDOT to actively manage, in real-time, its traffic signal systems which will help traffic flow as efficiently as possible along any given roadway corridor. “When we have a maximum number of vehicles arriving at a traffic signal when the light is green, traveler delay is minimized,” said Mark Taylor, UDOT’s Traffic Signal Engineer. Other benefits to well-timed traffic signals are reduction in vehicle emissions and reduction in crashes. Since traffic management needs to occur every day of the week and at all times of day, the Performance Measures program helps to monitor and improve traffic flow even when a traffic signal engineer is not available.

UDOT is moving forward with an AASHTO Technology Implementation Group (TIG) which will work to document the techniques, benefits and technologies UDOT is using for Traffic Signal Performance Measures so other interested transportation agencies can begin their own program in this important area. More information about the AASHTO Innovation Initiatives selected for 2013 can be found on their website.

October 15th, 2013

Whatever the Weather

No Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

During storms, driving conditions can cause travel delay, especially during the morning and evening commute.

When a storm hits the Wasatch Front, a twenty-minute commute can turn into an hour due to slick roads, start-and-stop traffic and low visibility. What if traffic could be managed more effectively to minimize the sluggish traffic speeds drivers experience during storms?

Recent technological advances in assessing weather and controlling signals have given traffic engineers better tools to keep traffic moving in stormy weather. On some corridors along the Wasatch Front, UDOT is taking a Weather Responsive Traffic Management approach that puts the tools to use.

WRTM uses sensors, traffic signal plans designed for storm conditions, and sophisticated traffic monitoring systems already in place to move traffic more efficiently during winter weather.

Traffic on Riverdale Road PhotoDuring winter months in 2013, an urban arterial in northern Utah served as testing area for WRTM. Riverdale Road intersects a busy shopping district and connects four Utah cities with Interstates 15 and 84. Over 47 thousand vehicles travel the corridor each day.

UDOT’s results in managing Riverdale Road traffic during winter storms were very good – for motorists, that is. Drivers experienced less stopped time at intersections compared to other storm days, and overall, traffic speeds were not significantly impacted by weather.

Here’s how the WRTM system worked on Riverdale Road:

  • Traffic engineers created signal timing plans for implementation before or during a storm. The plans accommodate travel speeds that are likely during storms so that signalized intersections along the corridor work together to make traffic flow more efficient.
  • A Road Weather Information System unit was installed in the corridor. The RWIS helped meteorologists and engineers anticipate upcoming storm severity to decide which signal timing plan to employ.

    RWIS on Riverdale Road Photo

    RWIS on Riverdale Road

  • Detection units were installed overhead along the roadway. The new equipment is better at detecting traffic movement during storms, and the equipment gave UDOT traffic speeds.
  • To monitor traffic during storms, UDOT used a Signal Performance Metrics System that lets signal operators assess and adjust traffic in real-time. After a storm, the system can be used to evaluate how the signal plans worked.

Winter 2013 ended up being a challenging year to test the WRTM system. During testing, the Salt Lake City and Ogden area experienced one of the worst winter storms in the past decade. Nevertheless, post-storm review showed an average or above average improvement in performance in traffic operations in over half of the weather events, including during the major storm.

Post-storm analysis also shows that cars maintained a high level of progression from intersection to intersection with platoons of cars arriving on green lights. When platoons of cars arrive at intersections on green lights, traffic flow throughout the corridor is more efficient.

Based on the success of the Riverdale Road WRTM performance, UDOT plans to expand the system to other corridors.

Photo of the funeral processon on I-215

The beginning of Sgt. Johnson’s funeral procession on I-215.

On September 1, 2013, Utah lost Draper Police Sergeant Derek Johnson in the line of duty. This tragic loss brings grief and heartfelt sadness, but also patriotism, gratitude and remembrance from whole communities. Nearly 4000 law enforcement, family and citizens joined the memorial service at the Maverik Center and tens of thousands of thankful citizens lined the procession route.

UDOT’s Traffic Management Division collaborated with many law enforcement agencies to ensure that traffic flow to and from the Maverik Center and along the procession route moved as smoothly as possible. UDOT’s traffic signal operations staff were deployed to key intersections throughout the Salt Lake Valley to assist with traffic control, while UDOT’s Traveler Information Manager was using the @UDOTTraffic

Photo of wall of images from the Traffic Operations Center

Staff at the Traffic Operations Center monitored the procession route on cameras throughout the Salt Lake valley.

Twitter account to update the public on lane and ramp closures. UDOT was listening to the police radio event channels to monitor the traffic flow along the procession route.

Photo of flags along and citizens lined up along 12300 South.

Citizens lined up along 12300 South in Draper to honor Sergeant Johnson. Photo courtesy of Mark Taylor.

UDOT worked with the Unified Police Department, Unified Fire Department, Salt Lake City Police, Draper Police, the Utah Department of Emergency Management and the Utah Highway Patrol for traffic management during the funeral and procession. Several other agencies not mentioned here came together honor Sgt. Johnson – an awesome tribute to a dedicated public servant.