March 28th, 2013

Farewell to Director John Njord

No Comments, Employee Focus, by Becky Parker.

John Njord Farewell AddressEmployees gathered in the Calvin Rampton Atrium and via video conference at offices around the state to hear John’s final farewell. He began by mentioning the major accomplishments we’ve seen over the past 12 years during his time as director. These accomplishments include the 2002 Winter Olympics, new procurement methods such as design-build and CMGC, bridge moves and innovative interchanges and intersections. “We’re not just using best practices we’re establishing new best practices here at the Department of Transportation,” John explained.

John continued his farewell with a list of things he will miss, most of which included interactions with employees. “I will miss friendships that I’ve developed over 25 years with the Department … I’m going to miss that more than anything.” While leaving is difficult, John is looking forward to time with his family. His plans include motorcycle trips on the very roads he has spent so many years being responsible for.

Governor Herbert and John NjordIn closing John voiced his optimism for the Department’s future. He has no concerns that the work won’t progress in his absence instead his hope is that each employee will come to realize that the accomplishments over that last 12 years are their own. “In reality you really didn’t need me to be here at all, and when you discover that … it’s at that point in time I will know that I have been successful.”

Following John’s speech employees lined up for an opportunity to say goodbye and express their appreciation for his leadership. Governor Gary Herbert and Lieutenant Governor Greg Bell  joined the well-wishers and presented John with a declaration naming March 28, 2013 John R. Njord Day in Utah.

A video of John’s speech is available on UDOT’s YouTube channel.

This is a guest post written by the TravelWise team.

Utah’s air quality has been a topic of much conversation during this past winter inversion season. While the winter inversions are over, Utah continues to face air quality challenges. In an effort to meet those challenges, on Feb. 12, Governor Gary Herbert sent a memo to state agencies directing them to establish a “meaningful and measurable” Trip Reduction Implementation Plan (TRIP) through UDOT’s TravelWise program.

UDOT set the example by establishing its own TRIP, identifying ways its employees will reduce their weekly trips. UDOT set its trip reduction goal at 15 percent, which will be accomplished through a combination of telecommuting, teleworking, vanpooling/carpooling, taking public transit, using flexible work schedules and walking or bicycling to work. Each of the four Regions, as well as the Traffic Operations Center and the Complex has identified areas of improvement and has committed to helping UDOT meet the TravelWise TRIP goal.

UDOT’s TravelWise team is now working with other State agencies, using UDOT’s TRIP as a model. To learn more about UDOT’s TravelWise program or to view UDOT’s TRIP, visit travelwise.utah.gov.

UDOT Executive Director John Njord presented two Traffic Management Division employees with Silver Barrel Awards yesterday.

Matt Luker Silver Barrel Award

Rob Clayton, Matt Luker and John Njord

Matt Luker received his award for his efforts on the Flex Lanes project. This project had several difficult engineering aspects as well as some challenging software programs. The Flex Lanes project on 5400 South in the Salt Lake Valley allows for more dynamic use of the roadway depending on the conditions and heaviest direction of travel. The Flex Lanes project optimizes mobility on this busy corridor. Matt was involved on the design, testing and troubleshooting of this project for over 3 1/2 years. Matt is a signal engineer responsible for corridor-wide signal timing in UDOT’s Region 4 as well as for special projects. Prior to his current role, Matt was an Assistant Signal Engineer. Matt has worked for UDOT for 4 1/2 years.

Chuck Felice Silver Barrel Award

Rob Clayton, John Njord, and Chuck Felice

Chuck Felice received his award for managing the design and production of the UDOT Traffic smartphone app. The UDOT Traffic has been downloaded over 150,000 times since its launch in November 2011. More recently,Chuck managed the project to add additional alerts to the UDOT Traffic app and website. John Njord gave Chuck his Silver Barrel Award and mentioned that he is proud of the work that is done within the UDOT Traffic Management Division. Chuck delivers the projects that he manages effectively, however he always strives to deliver more than was asked of him. Chuck is the lead software developer for UDOT’s Traffic Management Division and is responsible for software design and integration. Chuck has worked for UDOT for 6 1/2 years.

2012 Employee of the Year Dave Kelley

Congratulations to Dave Kelley 2012 Employee of the Year!  Out of several great nominees senior leaders selected Dave for this honor and took time today to share their appreciation.

Dave works in Region Two as a Trans Tech III in the South Valley Maintenance Station. While in this position he has shared his background knowledge in rangeland science and trained fellow employees on new procedures. Besides utilizing his mentoring abilities Dave has embraced new skills himself; learning everything he can and then putting it into practice. Dave is also a pleasure to work with, as his nomination explains his “infectiously positive attitude keeps the crews’ spirits high and maintains motivation.”

Dave is an asset to the Department and we are lucky to have him among us.

March 15th, 2013

2012 Employee of the Year Nominees

No Comments, Employee Focus, by Becky Parker.

It is spring and here at UDOT that means we have an opportunity to honor a few of our great employees. These individuals have been nominated by their co-workers and selected by senior leaders to receive recognition for their truly fantastic efforts. One individual will be selected as our Employee of the Year which will be announced Tuesday, March 19. And, the nominees are:

  • Adam Anderson — Operations Motor Carrier Division
  • Kristi Barney — Administration Comptroller’s Office
  • Marci Brunson — Region Four Administrative Services
  • Jim Harris — Region One Roadway Maintenance
  • Dave Kelley — Region Two Maintenance
  • Mike Romero — Project Development Structures Division
  • Kristi Urry — Systems Planning and Programming Program Financing
  • Clayton Weaver — Region Three Construction

If you work with any of these folks, or just happen to run into them, be sure to pass along your congratulations. We are lucky to have them as part of our Department!

Note from administrator: Besides Lisa Miller this post also contains information written by Brad Lucas. Both Brad and Lisa work in the Traffic Management Division.

Preserving Utah’s road infrastructure is a critical component of UDOT’s Strategic Goals. The UDOT Traffic Management Division is creating an Asset Management Plan for devices within the Advanced Traffic Management (ATMS) System to help UDOT to continue its proactive maintenance of field devices. Devices the plan will take into account include traffic cameras, variable message signs (VMS), pavement detectors, road/weather stations, etc. An Asset Management Plan can also help to identify funding sources for new and replacement equipment.

Traffic Camera RepairWith over 1800 devices throughout the state and over 1800 miles of fiber optic cable to maintain, each of UDOT’s 16 technicians are responsible for over 100 devices. “Our staff is responsible for troubleshooting, corrective maintenance, ordering replacement parts and device installation. With a statewide system to maintain, some of these tasks can take up to a half day to complete per device,” said Brad Lucas, UDOT ITS Systems Engineer. Long term performance of the system relies on good maintenance now and allows for easier expansion and replacement in the future.

UDOT’s strategy must have a statewide approach and address long term system growth and health. “Some components of our infrastructure are aging, and good system maintenance helps to extend the life of the equipment,” said Lucas. UDOT’s Asset Management Plan will research the best and most meaningful use of public resources when budgets are tight and demand for data from field devices is high.

UDOT currently achieves between 85% and 90% of all system devices are fully operational. An Asset Management Plan will help to raise those percentages, identify life cycles for equipment replacement and strategically manage the equipment to ensure its long-term performance. Keeping the equipment operational helps to manage traffic more efficiently, and having reliable statistics on how the system is performing is an important metric for how public funds are spent.

This guest post was written by Philip Ellsworth for industry magazine LiDAR News. Philip is a consultant working with UDOT’s Consultant Services Division.

Mandli Vehicle

UDOT recently brought on Mandli Communications to undertake a groundbreaking inventory of Utah State Routes, the Mandli vehicle is equipped with multiple sensors, including a Velodyne LiDAR sensor.

In a world where LiDAR has revolutionized movie making, the Utah Department of Transportation is employing this impressive technology on a groundbreaking data collection project that will set the stage for vastly improved asset management — not just at UDOT, but across the country. After advertising a one-of-a-kind Request for Proposals (RFP) in the fall of 2011, UDOT has recently entered into a contract with Mandli Communications to gather, identify, and process a wide variety of roadway assets along its entire 6,000+ center lane miles of State Routes and Interstates. With the winning bidder (Mandli) proposing to use mobile LiDAR as its primary technology on the project (along with an array of other sensors), this UDOT contract may very well be the first of its kind in technological magnitude and scope.

In the beginning, the project was a simple effort to update an ongoing program where a contractor had been hired to gather roadway distress data for the Department. It was not long before the initially small UDOT team began to see that there was more potential to their efforts than just pavement distress data. With the leadership of Stan Burns, Director of UDOT Asset Management, they expanded their efforts to pull in other groups, asking everyone along the way, “What data can your division use to enhance your asset management decisions through a simplified collection effort?” It was soon discovered that some divisions had been duplicating efforts, potentially costing the Department precious resources; quickly a dynamic and diverse team began to form.

Signalized Intersection Data

The UDOT project includes an inventory of numerous roadway assets, including signalized intersections and some pavement marking, using LiDAR imaging as a backbone of the project.

A goal, established to “deploy state of the art collection methods to improve and develop rigorous safety, maintenance and preservation programs” became a key motivator to UDOT embarking on this project. Beyond this goal, it is clear that UDOT believes that the ability to make efficient asset management decisions is entirely dependent upon the accuracy and credibility of the available data. Confidently knowing the full details of UDOT’s multi-billion dollar infrastructure makes a better decision-making environment for leaders. And with safety at the forefront of UDOT’s and the public’s mind, it is critical to have the most dependable data possible in order to make potentially lifesaving decisions.

Mandli has completed the first phase of the project – data gathering – and is in the process of the second phase of the project – post processing and data delivery. Mandli proposed to gather both the positive and negative directions of data on Utah roads in 2012 and then come back in 2014 and update the data sets. The UDOT Roadway Imaging and Inventory program requires the vendor to gather no less than a dozen different roadway assets including roadway distress data, surface areas, lane miles, number of signs, ROW images, vertical clearances, and more with each of those categories broken down even further into subcategories ranging from condition data to GPS data, etc.

Sensors on the UDOT Mandli flagship vehicle include a Velodyne LiDAR sensor, a laser road imaging system, a laser rut measurement system, a laser crack measurement system, a road surface profiler, a position orientation system, and more – certainly making it one of Mandli’s most advanced asset gathering vehicles in their fleet.

While UDOT acknowledges a few hiccups along the way, the Department is excited to see the final results, expecting that the scope of the data being collected in and of itself will be better than what is available today. However, expectations of better data simply due to the size of the project hasn’t stopped UDOT from getting heavily involved in the Quality Assurance (QA) aspects of the project; aggressively pursuing the accuracy side of the project as well, even requiring a weekly QC/QA update meeting between UDOT, Mandli and their QA partner Stanley Consultants. This QA effort, combined with tight data tolerances, is expected to net UDOT a data set that meets one of their top original goals to “Gather the most data pertaining to roadway condition, location and roadway assets in an economical way, while maintaining a high level of accuracy and quality.”

UDOT believes that the use of LiDAR is actually providing more return on their investment, helping them meet their goal of gathering as much data as possible in an economical way, while maintaining a high level of accuracy and quality.

UDOT believes that the use of LiDAR is actually providing more return on their investment, helping them meet their goal of gathering as much data as possible in an economical way, while maintaining a high level of accuracy and quality.

While this project’s level of data collection is certainly possible using more traditional, ’boots on the ground‘ methods, UDOT believes that adding the use of LiDAR is actually providing more return on their investment. In the beginning, there was some hesitancy on the part of some involved, with some even expressing doubt that an endeavor of this magnitude could ever achieve its goals, or at least not without a technology such as LiDAR to complete it. The team moved forward anyway, knowing that an effort
was needed to gather the most data they could in the most cost-effective way possible – in order to increase their ability to make asset and safety management decisions with more confidence. They were truly convinced from the beginning that the effort to cobble together a diverse team would benefit each division through an “economies of scale” approach to procurement. When it was found that LiDAR was within reach, and had even been proposed by the winning team, the excitement level for the project increased exponentially. This alone, UDOT team members believe, has kept team members vigorously involved, creating a collaborative effort that even some naysayers now applaud.

UDOT team members have learned that collaboration is important because of its affect on the DOT’s ability to integrate their asset data in a meaningful way. Having multiple sets of similar data dispersed in disparate ways leads to duplication of efforts, an increase in the loss of data integrity, and an increased risk for data to become obsolete more quickly than if the data can be integrated and accessed through a collaborative effort. This project is proving to UDOT that integration is not only necessary in today’s asset management world, but that it is indeed possible.

UPLAN Website

UDOT’s UPLAN network, distributed through an ArcGIS platform is helping to get their roadway data into as many hands as possible, including the public.

One tool in UDOT’s bag of integration innovation is their UPLAN planning network platform, which has found itself in a symbiotic relationship with the UDOT Roadway Imaging and Inventory program. UPLAN is distributed on an ArcGIS platform, in conjunction with UDOT’s existing Oracle-based systems. Frank Pisani, UDOT’s GIS Manager says that it was initially developed as an internal planning tool but has quickly become UDOT’s enterprise-wide attempt to disseminate its vast database of information in a user-friendly environment, accessible online at http://uplan.maps.arcgis.com. The Roadway Imaging and Inventory project will help UPLAN by supplying it with a large amount of accurate information, while UPLAN will help the Roadway Imaging and Inventory project by becoming another portal by which the data can be distributed. This creates a scenario where not only will UDOT managers and staff be anticipating the project data, but the public can now anticipate the opportunity to experience the data as well.

No fewer than eight managers from various divisions, both inside and outside UDOT (including asset management, structures, traffic & safety, GIS, technology services, motor carriers, and more) have been collaborating on this UDOT project for well over a year. And now, with the project in full swing, these eight divisions are continuing to work together, while bringing others into the project along the way.

One group of experts that has been increasingly interested in the project are UDOT preconstruction engineering teams – those who spend a majority of their time designing UDOT roads, bridges, and other infrastructure. The mobile LiDAR point cloud has proven extremely intriguing to these preconstruction groups and as a result there is a clear desire within UDOT to discover its untapped potential. Preconstruction engineering teams are even investigating the possibility of getting high enough accuracy out of the LiDAR point cloud to be used in some preliminary design scenarios. For this endeavor, they’ve turned again to the LiDAR industry of professionals and are working with consultants, including Virtual Geomatics, to develop methods to enhance the accuracy of the LiDAR point cloud through a calibration process. Early efforts appear promising, with indications of getting to an average accuracy level of +/- 3 cm when using control points contained in the point cloud data.

Another group within UDOT that has increasingly expressed interest and favor for this project are members of the Department leadership and management, not only from those close to the project but others as well. UDOT indicates that a paradigm shift may be occurring within the DOT where employees in leadership and beyond are more commonly asking spatially-oriented questions, which fosters an environment where the value of data integration and data accuracy is not just recognized but demanded.

UDOT may well be showing that system-wide mobile LiDAR is within reach for DOT's across the nation.

UDOT may well be showing that system-wide mobile LiDAR is within reach for DOT’s across the nation.

Even with the long awaited MAP-21 legislation driving DOT’s across the nation to re-think their asset management programs, through its requirement that each state develop a risk-based asset management plan for the National Highway System, UDOT has found a way to stay at the leading edge of another transportation industry leap. And they’re clearly showing that system-wide mobile LiDAR is within reach for DOT’s across the nation.

February 12th, 2013

Copper Wire Theft

4 Comments, Preserve Infrastructure, by Tania Mashburn.
Wire Theft Photo 1

Thieves used a golf club shaft to locate the copper wiring. They dug it up, cut it, and tried to pull it out by attaching it to a vehicle.

Driving in the dark lately? You may have noticed the lights are out along some sections of major interstates, like I-15, I-80, and I-215. But don’t blame the power company or burned out light bulbs…the real culprits are thieves who are in the business of stealing copper wire.

When you and I drive past the big light posts on the freeway, we might not think twice about the copper wiring that powers high mast and interchange lighting. But to some, the junction boxes next to the posts are a gold mine waiting to be found. To uncover the copper wiring and pull it out, thieves have used everything from shovels and trucks…to golf clubs and horses.

To combat their creativity, we’ve got to get a little creative ourselves. Led by Richard Hibbard, UDOT’s State Lighting Maintenance Crew (Mike Bishop, Todd Wright, John Garcia, Walter “Woody” Wood, and Brandon Clark) focuses on the hardest hit areas and the biggest targets.

Wire Theft Photo 2

The lighting crew has tried relocating and burying boxes as a method of theft deterrent, but in this case, the thieves managed to locate the box and dig it up.

The crew is now moving junction boxes away from the light posts and burying them randomly, making the boxes more difficult for thieves to find. (Don’t worry, we’ve got a locator ball inside so our own guys know where they are.) The crew is also welding handhole covers onto poles, filling some boxes with concrete, and adding rebar to others to make it harder to chip the concrete away.

Despite our best efforts, thieves are still getting to some of those areas and they’re hitting new locations seemingly every week. Hibbard says some of the hot spots are I-80 near Stansbury Park, I-215 at 700 North and 2100 North, I-15 at 600 North, and I-215 at I-80. He says, “I- 215 at I-80 is just a mess. If anyone wants to know why those lights are out it’s because half the wiring is gone.”

In fact, the amount of copper wire that UDOT has had to replace in just the past two years is staggering. Since February 2011, crews have replaced 110,000 feet of copper wire in Region 2 alone.

Wire Theft Photo 3

Sign structures are fair game with wire thieves. Here they have cut wire in a structure-mounted disconnect box and pulled it out through the ground-level junction box.

They suspect there’s another 75,000 feet missing they haven’t gotten to yet. And the situation does not appear to be improving. In January 2013, thieves made off with 15 hundred feet of copper wire from just one location.

Metal recyclers pay about $2.75-$3.00 per pound for unstripped wire, so a thousand feet of stolen wire would net someone anywhere from $300 to $700. Unfortunately, it costs a lot to replace that wire, and taxpayers are footing the bill. In the past two years, nearly $450,000 of materials and man hours has gone into replacing stolen copper wire. That’s enough money to pay for 26,000 feet of new cable median barrier.

Something needs to change, but what can we do? The answer is keep your eyes open. Hibbard says, “If you see anyone that appears to be working on lighting, someone should be asking questions.” And he means anyone. If you see a guy on a bike digging near a light post, a car pulled off the side of the freeway, or even someone in an orange vest poking around a junction box…be suspicious.

Hibbard suspects many of the thieves are electricians or others who know what they’re doing and look professional. He thinks some thefts may be happening during the day, but most happen at night. “The most suspicious thing is just any time you see a car parked on the side of the road, especially at night. I always find myself wondering what’s going on there.”

If you suspect copper wire theft is underway, but you’re not quite sure, you can always call the TOC and they’ll be able to find out if there’s legitimate work going on in that location.

Wire Theft Photo 4

The lighting crew welded a metal plate over a handhole, but in this case the thieves were able to bend it enough to get to the wire.

If you’re positive there’s a theft underway, just call the police. Let’s put the thieves behind bars, because after all, it’s our taxpayer money they’re stealing.

Wire Theft Photo 8

Thieves will attempt to chip out concrete caps within a box, but rebar will prevent the concrete from “chunking,” making removal far more difficult.

Wire Theft Photo 5

This is an example of a theft-deterring junction box lid. The polymer concrete has a steel plate backing and is attached to the box with security bolts. However, this hasn’t stopped someone from attempting to chip out a bolt as is evident on the lid surface.

February 11th, 2013

2013 Strategic Direction — Part 4

No Comments, Uncategorized, by Kristen Hoschouer.

This is the fourth and final post in our series about the 2013 Strategic Direction. Please also check out Part 1: Preserve Infrastructure, Part 2: Optimize Mobility and Part 3: Zero Fatalities.

Strengthen the Economy

This goal recognizes UDOT’s role in creating and managing a transportation system that enables economic growth and empowers prosperity. Investing in major roadway projects in the past few years has paid great dividends. While many cities in the United States show increasing travel times, Utah travel times are decreasing. This is very significant considering the population of Utah has grown 63 percent since 1990.

UDOT is providing a product for future generations. When Utah’s roadways are safe, free of congestion and operate efficiently, Utahns are free to live where they like with a wider selection of jobs. Businesses are also able to reach a wider range of customers and employee base. Success in the first three goals creates a solid foundation for economic growth.

UDOT understands the importance of mobility and its significance for economic growth. Businesses also understand the importance of locating in areas where their product can be distributed quickly and efficiently, and where their employees can benefit from a healthy quality of life.

Everyone benefits from a safe transportation system, including the economy. When a roadway is known to be safe, residents and visitors will be more likely to use it. Safe roads can promote the growth of business along that roadway and the local economy.

For the third year in a row, Forbes magazine has named Utah as the best state in the U.S. for doing business. According to economist, transportation plays a big role in the state’s business environment. Certainly, businesses in Utah are benefiting from the improved mobility on roadways.

In conclusion, UDOT has completed two of the largest projects in our history using only state funds and delivered the largest construction season in our history. Our significant challenge remains. However, the future is bright for transportation as we focus on our four strategic goals.

This is the third part of a 4 part series about the 2013 Strategic Direction. Please also check out Part 1: Preserve Infrastructure,  Part 2: Optimize Mobility and Part 4: Strengthen the Economy.

Zero Fatalities

UDOT remains committed to safety. This new goal replaces the previous goal of “Improving Safety” emphasizing UDOT’s commitment to reducing fatalities. Some may believe that zero is unattainable, however to those who’ve lost family members on Utah roads one fatality is one too many. Zero Fatalities is the only goal acceptable to Utahns and to UDOT.

In 2012, 218 lives were lost on Utah’s roads in car crashes–the lowest Utah traffic fatalities have been since 1959. We are making progress toward our goal of Zero Fatalities, but we still have a ways to go.

Every UDOT project incorporates safety improvements. In 2012, UDOT programmed $19.2 million for specific safety projects, including:

  • 42 miles of median cable barrier installed, for a total of 231 miles since 2003
  • Approximately $17 million of Safety Program funds were assigned to specific safety projects in 2012
  • 12 new traffic signals constructed
  • 24 traffic signal upgrades constructed
  • 11 pedestrian/school crossing improvements
  • Construction of 20 safe sidewalk projects
  • Installation of 540 sidewalk access ramps

In UDOT, the focus on safety within engineering begins with planning, designing and building safe roadways. Engineering for safety is UDOT’s commitment to a safe-system approach. The main principle of a safe-system approach is the roadway is designed and built to realistically prevent traffic related deaths even when driving behaviors create crashes.

Education is also important roadway safety. Utah demonstrates its commitment to safety through outreach efforts that help educate the public and make Utah a safe place for living, traveling and doing business. These education programs include:

Since 2009, UDOT safety programs have:

  • Totalled more than 135 presentations to elementary schools
  • Reached more than 100,000 students statewide

UDOT’s Incident Management Program began in 1994 as part of UDOT’s on-going commitment to safety on Utah’s roads. From the beginning, the program has provided significant benefit by increasing first responder safety, reducing congestion and delays and reducing secondary crashes.

Snow and ice removal is a major component to safe driving in Utah. To clear snow from approximately 6,000 centerline miles of Utah’s roads, UDOT employs the latest technologies and trains crews to ensure they are ready.

  • On average, Utah receives more than 25 winter storms each year and UDOT crews remove more than 65 million tons of snow and ice from Utah’s roads.
  • To help keep our roads clear around the clock, UDOT operates a fleet of approximately 500 snowplows.
  • UDOT’s winter operations budget for the 2012-2013 winter season is $23.3 million, including equipment, salaries, sand, salt, brine and avalanche control.