Last Friday, we held a press conference inviting the media to help increase awareness of avalanche safety and the resources available to those who access avalanche country, including the backcountry in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Backcountry skiers and snowboarders endanger hundreds of people by not utilizing available information sources and entering avalanche country at the wrong time. Skiers and riders need to be aware that their actions and decisions may not affect only themselves, but also drivers along the canyon road. Little Cottonwood Canyon is one of the highest-risk roads for avalanches in North America and backcountry skiers and snowboarders need to be aware that UDOT may carry out artillery or explosives avalanche control work at any time during the avalanche season (November to May).

Liam Fitzgerald, UDOT’s Highway Avalanche Safety Supervisor, helped inform the public at the press conference of the numerous resources UDOT and our partners provide to inform backcountry users of where and when avalanche work will be carried out, including:

The press conference was a success and you can watch one of the resulting stories below.

Our next steps to increase awareness of UDOT’s avalanche resources are a social media campaign targeted to appropriate audiences. By utilizing local public opinion leaders such as professional athletes and prominent ski/boarding brands, an informative UDOT Avalanche Awareness video will be spread locally to help keep backcountry users safe.

Here’s to a safe 2013 winter season!

February 6th, 2013

2013 Strategic Direction — Part 2

No Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Kristen Hoschouer.

This is the second part of a 4 part series about the 2013 Strategic Direction. Please also check out Part 1: Preserve Infrastructure, Part 3: Zero Fatalities and Part 4: Strengthen the Economy.

Optimize Mobility

The goal of optimizing mobility continues to include the need to build new highways, expand existing highways, build more bicycle and pedestrian paths and expand the transit network. UDOT accomplishes this by adding capacity, managing lanes, developing innovative cross roads, coordinating signals, and providing traffic information.

Since 2006, more than 575 lane miles have been added to the state system from various programs that fund more than 100 projects. Currently, capacity projects are primarily funded through the Transportation Investment Fund (TIF). Some of these projects include the I-15 CORE, Mountain View Corridor, US-40 passing lane improvements, SR-18 intersection upgrades at St. George Blvd. and US-6 passing lane improvements. These capacity projects dramatically improve delay on Utah roadways.

Wasatch_Front_Delay

Without capacity improvements, delay along the Wasatch Front would have experienced a three-to-five fold increase.

UDOT currently has 124 miles of Express Lanes (62 miles both northbound and southbound) with 54 continuous miles between Spanish Fork and North Salt Lake City making Utah’s Express Lanes the longest continuous Express Lanes in the country. More than 13,000 Express Pass transponders have been purchased, speeds average 9 mph faster than the general lanes and travelers experience a higher level of safety.

Developing and constructing innovative cross roads is a fundamental in optimizing mobility on Utah roadways. Flex Lanes, Commuter Lanes, ThrU-Turn Intersections (TTI), Diverging Diamond Interchanges (DDI) and Continuous Flow Intersections (CFIs) decrease delay at intersections, reduce travel time, improve safety, and reduce the length and cost of construction.

The Traffic Operations Center (TOC) continues to be the key to providing a cost-effective and and efficient solution to help relieve congestion on Utah’s roads and highways. Using advanced technologies such as cameras and traffic/weather sensors, operators in the TOC can monitor traffic, detect problems and take actions necessary to return traffic flow to normal.

UDOT uses a variety of methods to provide actual travel times and accurate traffic and weather information to help drivers make choices that reduce delay, prevent crashes and improve air quality. By implementing an extensive Intelligent Transportation System (ITS), UDOT is able to know what is happening on Utah roads, and provide travelers the information they need to plan their routes. UDOT communicates travel information online at udot.utah.gov and through variable messages signs (VMS), traffic cameras, twitter, facebook, and YouTube, and the UDOT Traffic App.

February 5th, 2013

2013 Strategic Direction — Part 1

No Comments, Preserve Infrastructure, by Kristen Hoschouer.

This is the first part of a 4 part series about the 2013 Strategic Direction. Please also check out Part 2: Optimize Mobility, Part 3: Zero Fatalities, and Part 4: Strengthen the Economy.

After a record breaking construction year, with more than 200 projects completed, worth just over $3 billion, what is in store for UDOT in 2013? The newly completed 2013 Strategic Direction and Performance Measures highlights accomplishments by the department in 2012 and introduces goals for 2013 and the coming years.

Key to the Strategic Direction document are the UDOT Strategic Goals. These goals ensure that we focus our efforts and capital on the most important activities. This year we have revised our goals, which include:

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

Details on each goal will be provided in a four part series, beginning with:

Preserve Infrastructure

Preserving Utah’s multi-billion dollar investment is the single largest expenditure year to year within UDOT. Keeping the state’s bridges and pavement in good condition is the most effective way to extend the life of the transportation system. This is accomplished by applying well-timed preservation treatments to roads, and addressing critical needs first. By applying a combination of routine maintenance, preservation and minor and major rehabilitation projects, UDOT is able to utilize limited funding to maximize the pavement condition.

In 2012:

  • More than 100 preservation and rehabilitation projects were completed,
  • Approximately 350 miles, or six percent of the system, received a specific preservation or rehabilitation treatment,
  • Six critical bridges were replaced,
  • Eighty-four new bridges were built by capacity-driven project,
  • Two pedestrian bridges were built,
  • Bridge preservation and rehabilitation activities were performed on more than 170 bridges.

Please also check out Part 2: Optimize Mobility.

February 5th, 2013

Snow Removal

No Comments, Zero Crashes, Injuries and Fatalities, by Becky Parker.

Last week it seemed like it would never stop snowing. Thankfully this week’s commutes along the Wasatch Front have been a little easier on motorist’s nerves. For weeks like last week though we have 510 plows ready throughout the state and our crews make every effort to keep the roads clear and safe. Here is what they have used through January 28.

  • 94,924 tons of saltLoading Salt
  • 9,918 cubic yards of grit
  • 69,330 gallons of liquid deicer
  • 2,621 snow plow blades
  • 388,940 gallons of fuel
  • 87,287 equipment hours

As far a budget, it costs an average of $1,000,000 per storm.

An inauguration of an elected official is an exciting event, and UDOT was on hand during the January 7, 2013 inauguration of Governor Herbert to ensure that traffic moved smoothly. UDOT was contacted by Capitol staff ahead of the inauguration hoping to mitigate traffic problems that were observed during previous inauguration events. The UDOT Traffic Management Division (TMD) and UDOT Region 2 were tasked with using the knowledge and tools available to ensure that traffic delays were at a minimum during this important event.IMT Truck & Utah State Capitol

“The staff at the UDOT TMD and Region 2 went above and beyond to help get attendees of Governor Herbert’s inauguration where they needed to go safely and with little confusion or traffic delay,” said Eric Rasband, UDOT Engineer-in-charge for the event.

UDOT’s duties were to coordinate signal timing plans, attend pre- and post-event meetings, coordinate with Capitol employees and local police as well as handle traffic control and snow/ice removal. UDOT also utilized its social media outlets for parking alerts and related information.

The total attendance for the event was between 1000 and 1500. Overall, traffic moved very well and there were no major delays.

In 2012, 215 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. These 215 fatalities were preventable and we hope we can continue to see this number decline, ultimately to zero.

Fatality Numbers

Here are five simple ways to save lives—including your own—on Utah’s roads.

  1. Always, always buckle up. Wearing your seat belt is the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself in a crash. In 2012, buckling up could have saved 67 lives on Utah’s roads. Buckling up takes two seconds to do, and could mean the difference between life or death in a crash. Commit now to always wear your seat belt, and let your passengers know that your car won’t move until everyone is buckled up.
  2. If you’ve been drinking, don’t drive. Designate a driver, call a cab or take public transit. There is no excuse for driving under the influence. Sadly, 41 people died in Utah due to impaired driving in 2012. Alcohol and illegal drugs aren’t the only things that can impair your driving. Prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines and lack of sleep can also impair your ability to drive safely.
  3. Too tired? Don’t drive. Believe it or not, drowsy driving kills. Fourteen fatalities in 2012 are attributed to drowsy driving. If you’re feeling drowsy, pull over and switch drivers, find a safe place to sleep for the night or get out of the car and stretch or jog for a few minutes. Drowsy driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving.
  4. Stay focused on the road. With so many potential distractions, a driver’s attention may easily get diverted if the driver isn’t making a conscious effort to stay focused on the road. It takes just one time of looking away for a brief moment—reading a text, changing the radio or even answering the phone—to cause a disaster. Twenty people died in 2012 in distracted driving-related crashes.
  5. Slow down and don’t drive aggressively. Whether you have a “need for speed” or you’re running a few minutes late, pushing that accelerator a little harder could cost you your life—it cost 43 people theirs in 2012. A total of 49 people died on Utah’s roads in 2012 due to aggressive driving or speeding. Aggressive driving means operating a vehicle in a way that endangers or is likely to endanger people or property.

2012 Zero Fatalities Infographic

Join us as we continue the conversation about Zero Fatalities, what you can do and how we’re doing toward our goal in 2013 by following us on Twitter and liking us on Facebook. You can also review the full 2012 Fatalities Data Analysis report by visiting the Zero Fatalities website.

This post was written by Jane Putnam, Zero Fatalities Team.

UDOT marked two significant milestones as it celebrated the completion of the largest road construction projects in Utah history on Saturday, December 15 with the opening of the Utah County I-15 Corridor Expansion (I-15 CORE) and 15 miles of the Mountain View Corridor (MVC) in Salt Lake County.

“We have delivered the World Series and the Super Bowl all in one day,” said UDOT Executive Director John Njord.

Local leaders, including Governor Gary Herbert, House Speaker Becky Lockhart and Senator John Valentine, joined UDOT in cutting the banner on the record-breaking I-15 CORE project Saturday afternoon. More than 100 people braved the chilly December weather to join the festivities. Refreshments including hot chocolate, hot dogs and special I-15 CORE sugar cookies were available to say thank you to the public for their patience throughout construction.

I-15 CORE Ribbon Cutting

I-15 CORE Ribbon Cuttin

“Hear the noise. That’s the sound of progress,” Herbert said, as cars and trucks passed underneath the Sam White Bridge on I-15. “That’s the sound of commerce, that’s the sound of a state that’s really going in the right direction.”

Construction on I-15 CORE was finished in an unprecedented 35 months, making it the fastest billion-dollar public highway project ever built in the United States. The project came in $260 million under budget.

Saturday’s celebration was held on the Sam White Bridge in American Fork, the site of one of the project’s greatest achievements. In March 2011, UDOT moved the bridge — the longest two-span bridge to be moved by self-propelled modular transporters
(SPMTs) in the Western Hemisphere — into place over I-15 in one night.

“The technology to move the Sam White Bridge into place in hours instead of months is indicative of all the work that took place on this project” to complete it quickly and keep traffic moving, Njord said.

I-15 CORE reconstructed 24 miles of freeway from Lehi to Spanish Fork, with two additional freeway lanes in each direction.

Earlier that day, snow flurries didn’t deter over 200 runners who bundled up in their winter gear to attend the MVC opening celebration, which featured a 5K Polar Bear Fun Run to give members of the community an opportunity to enjoy the road before it opened to motorists.

“It looks like Christmas to me,” said Governor Herbert as he spoke to the chilly, but upbeat crowd.

MVC Opening 5K Polar Bear Fun Run

MVC Opening 5K Polar Bear Fun Run

Runners were entertained by music courtesy of the Copper Hills High School Marching Band, stayed warm with the help of hand warmers and MVC beanies and enjoyed holiday treats, hot cider and hot chocolate provided by the project’s contractors.

Representative Wayne Harper and West Jordan Mayor Melissa Johnson also addressed the audience and thanked UDOT for their continued innovation and partnership in developing this vital roadway.

The current phase of MVC is 15 miles long and features two lanes built in each direction from Redwood Road (at approximately 16000 South) to 5400 South, with signalized intersections where future interchanges will be located.

To meet projected transportation demands in the year 2030, future construction will build out the remainder of the corridor by adding interchanges and inside lanes to achieve a fully functional freeway that will connect with I-80 in Salt Lake County and I-15
in Lehi.

Construction funds have been identified to extend MVC from 5400 South to 4100 South in the next few years.

The roadway also features 15 miles of trails adjacent to the corridor, 9 miles of paved bike lanes and UDOT’s first radar activated bike turn signal.

“The vision for the Mountain View Corridor came from the communities in Western Salt Lake County,” said Project Director Teri Newell. “UDOT is proud to make this vision a reality and provide these communities with a new transportation solution.”

MVC provides increased mobility, but will require motorists to adjust their driving patterns and learn how to navigate a new one-way roadway, as this initial phase is similar to a divided highway with one-way northbound and southbound roadways. Signs
are posted along the corridor and at each intersection to help motorists adjust to the new traffic patterns. UDOT has also produced a navigational video to teach motorists how to drive on the new roadway.

Governor Herbert touted the success of both the I-15 CORE and MVC projects, highlighting their importance state. “This is about economic development. If you want a state to thrive economically, you’ve got to have a transportation system that works,” said Herbert.

You can find out more on the I-15 CORE Infographic and the project website, www.udot.utah.gov/i15core. Additional details about the MVC project are available on the MVC Infographic or by logging on to www.udot.utah.gov/mountainview.

This is a guest post by Mary Rice of the Mountain View Corridor Project Team.

UDOT is developing a way to rate storm severity in order to make better use of resources.

A Utah-specific weather severity index will help UDOT improve the efficiency of snow fighting tactics. Here, a tow-plow clears I-15 in Salt Lake City.

Managing resources during winter months in a state that experiences extreme to mild weather conditions can be challenging. Researchers working with UDOT are investigating a method to define the severity of storms and seasons by using a winter severity index to assign numerical value that represents storm characteristics like intensity and duration. Rating storms will help the UDOT Maintenance Division evaluate the allocation of resources like staffing, de-icing chemicals and equipment.

CLICK TO ENLARGE: This map shows precipitation patterns

A number of Midwestern states and provinces in Canada have developed weather severity indexes. While examining how those indexes were developed is useful, those models consider region-specific terrain and weather patterns. For example, some states have indexes that take freezing rain into account; freezing rain is common in other parts of the country but rare in Utah.

Terrain plays a significant role in Utah’s climate, according to Jeff Williams, UDOT Weather Programs Manager. The mountain range that extends from Logan to St. George is a “spine” that divides Utah and acts as a climate barrier. Precipitation patterns differ widely from the east to the west side of the mountain range.

During winter, storms move in from the west. “When storms arrive from the west and meet the mountains, rising air leads to increased precipitation,” says Williams. Those storms cover the mountains with snow. Sinking air dries the area east of the mountains making winter the most arid time of year.

During summer, Monsoons that originate from the Gulf of Mexico bring warm moist air to Utah. Storms and sometimes floods occur east of the mountains while the mountains usually stay dry.

A Utah-specific weather severity index will help normalize the difference between locations and weather events. By comparing resource use from location to location, operations and maintenance managers will be able to improve the efficiency of snow fighting efforts.

December 8th, 2012

ROCKY ROADS

1 Comment, Preserve Infrastructure, by Catherine Higgins.

Why do asphalt roads deteriorate? Sometimes the causes of road deterioration are easy to determine and sometimes the causes can remain a bit of a mystery.

Some common causes of deterioration include:

Traffic – heavy truck and automobile traffic causes wear and rutting over time.

Water – water that seeps under the pavement and makes the earth underneath soft. The freeze-thaw cycle causes damage when water seeps into the pavement, freezes and expands, then melts. Over time, the freeze-thaw cycle can break pavement.

Erosion – water can erode slopes and excavate under roads causing indentations and cracking.

Time and sunlight – UV light ages asphalt over time.

Researchers theorize that water vapor condenses underneath the paint leading to damage to the pavement.

Pavement preservation techniques, including surface treatments like slurry sealing, crack sealing, micro surfacing, and help preserve asphalt roads.

One less known cause of pavement deterioration is pavement markings. A UDOT Research project looked at 13 areas around the state, where pavement markings and deterioration had occurred together, to determine if the markings caused deterioration.

Researchers carefully examined each area, making note of all distresses. Pavement markings were found to be significant contributors to pavement deterioration in some cases.

Researchers theorize that water vapor condenses underneath the paint leading to damage to the pavement in the form of raveling or de-bonding. Cracking near the pavement markings also seem to indicate that paint causes stresses that cause cracks that can lead to more damage. Laboratory tests have not yet confirmed the theories.

Selecting the right preservation treatment for the right pavement condition, along with proper production and placement helps eliminate the deterioration that seems to be caused by pavement markings. UDOT has discontinued the use of some pavement treatments that allows water vapor to become trapped between paint and the pavement surface.

About 25 thousand times each year, oversize loads travel on Utah highways and arterials. Routing big loads properly protects the traveling public and UDOT’s roads and bridges.

A super load, being moved eastbound on 4oo North in Bountiful, stops briefly.

Read more about oversize loads here and see more photos of oversize loads on UDOT’s Flickr photostream.