The Strategic Highway Research Program 2 is nearing the end of a long effort to conduct and prioritize research projects.

Some SHRP 2 products address rapid design and construction methods that minimize road user inconvenience and produce long-lived facilities.

Planning for SHRP2 began in 1999, and in 2009, funding for the effort was authorized by Congress. SHRP 2 is intended to address critical needs related to the nation’s highways. Some of the products of that research are nearing completion.

Neil Pedersen, Deputy Director of Implementation for SHRP 2, visited UDOT this week as part of an effort to ask state departments of transportation to “help TRB with the transition from research to implementation.”

SHRP 2 products are process related and address problems facing the nation’s highways in four critical areas:

  • Safety – focuses on ways to prevent or reduce the severity of crashes by understanding the behavior of drivers.
  • Renewal – focuses on rapid design and construction methods that minimize road user inconvenience and produce long-lived facilities.
  • Reliability – focuses on ways to effectively reduce traffic congestion by managing traffic flow and reducing and clearing crashes or other incidents.
  • Capacity – focuses on ways to plan new facilities that improve mobility while meeting the economic and environmental needs of the community.

Sixty five products representing “targeted, short-term, results-oriented research” have been forwarded through a prioritization process. Those products will be taken through the implementation phase by state DOTs after a competitive selection process.

Pedersen described the implementation effort as a “lead state concept” whereby states DOTs take on the process of implementation by demonstrating and evaluating the value, ease of use and usefulness of the products. Once products have been demonstrated successfully, “others will follow,” said Pedersen. The implementation process will take approximately three years for each product.

Pedersen explained that states that have experience in specific areas may have an inside track when it comes to being selected to take the lead. However, rather than taking on a project that has already been implemented, states make a needs-based assessment since states that are chosen will receive funding and technical assistance.

UDOT Deputy Director Carlos Braceras says he and Director John Njord have asked UDOT senior leaders to evaluate projects and determine which ones are the most suitable opportunities for UDOT.

SHRP 2 is managed by the Transportation Research Board on behalf of the National Research Council. FHWA and AASHTO will provide funding and technical support during the implementation process. UDOT Research staff facilitated Pedersen’s visit.

October 12th, 2012

PORTS PROMOTE SAFETY

2 Comments, Optimize Mobility, Strengthen the Economy, by Catherine Higgins.

Ports of Entry have a critical safety role to play in Utah, where the percent of truck traffic on state highways is the highest in the nation.

Utah Port of Entry inspectors conduct over 37 thousand vehicle safety inspections on commercial motor vehicles per year at eight ports throughout the state.

Utah is strategically critical to North America’s commercial trucking industry. By way of I-80, Utah is a freight crossroads for big rigs that move goods through North America. Two of I-80’s most important feeder routes – I-84 from the Pacific Northwest, and I-15 from Las Vegas and southern California, junction with I-80 in Northern Utah.

Consequently, UDOT’s highways handle a disproportionately high amount of freight for the entire country. Large trucks make up 23 percent of total traffic on Utah highways; the national average is 12 percent.

Heavy truck traffic and Utah’s crossroads standing make for a challenging environment for UDOT Ports of Entry workers who are charged with maintaining safety and facilitating commerce.

Port workers partner with Utah Highway Patrol Troopers to ensure that commercial trucks operating in the state don’t pose a threat to safety. One way that mission is accomplished is through regular vehicle inspections conducted at ports of entry.

Inspectors conduct over 37 thousand vehicle safety inspections on commercial motor vehicles per year at eight ports throughout the state. Over 10 thousand of those trucks pass through the Perry Port of Entry on I-15 north of Brigham City.

When it comes to conducting inspections, ports focus on carriers and shippers that pose a risk to highway safety.  An automated transponder system called Prepass helps expedite that effort.

“It’s really a great sorting tool, allowing qualifying carriers to proceed down the highway.  Then we can spend our time on those that need a closer look,” says Leona Dalley, Perry Port of Entry Supervisor. Prepass allows cleared vehicles to pass by ports at highway speed.

Eliminating a stop means greater efficiency for shippers and helps UDOT  strengthen the economy.  Safety for all highway users is also improved because port workers can focus inspection efforts where the greatest need exists. Added benefits include reduced fuel consumption and emissions. In Utah, those benefits have been significant.


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Utah Ports of Entry are part of the UDOT Motor Carriers Division.

October 10th, 2012

SAFE ROUTES AWARD

No Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

UDOT participates in the Safe Routes to School, an award-winning program that helps communities identify and implement safety improvements.

The “UDOT Crossing Guard Fundamentals” DVD and Quick Reference is an aid to local law enforcement agencies who have the responsibility to train crossing guards. In 2012, 97 percent of all known law enforcement agencies were using the crossing guard training materials developed by the SNAP program.

The Harvard Bright Ideas in Government Award, which honors innovative government partnerships, has been given to National Center for Safe Routes to School (SRTS) for working with communities across the country to make walking and riding to school safer for kids.

SRTS is a data driven program that collects information on the travel habits of school children to improve safety at the local level and to also understand trends at the national level.  The program also funds infrastructure and non-infrastructure projects at the state level.

UDOT has participated in the SRTS program since 2007. During that time sixty-nine projects have been funded, including infrastructure improvements, such as sidewalks, paved trails and installed bike racks, and non-infrastructure activities, such as walk-to-school-day events, bike rodeos, and safety assemblies.

The Student Neighborhood Access Program is a comprehensive, state-wide non-infrastructure program that falls under the SRTS umbrella.

Walk More in Four

Too many cars around a school drop-off point can result in traffic congestion, increase the risk of fender-benders and make watching out for pedestrians and cyclists more difficult. Walk More in Four is an annual fall SNAP event that encourages students in Kindergarten through eighth grade to walk or bike safely to school. The program aims to teach kids safe habits and to reduce the number of cars driving on streets around schools. SNAP has had a positive impact, according to Cherissa Wood who coordinates UDOT’s SNAP program.

A voluntary survey of participants indicates that most students rarely walked or biked to school during the previous year. “By encouraging students to walk or bike to school at least three times each week during September, SNAP positively changed the travel behaviors of Utah students and provided the means for develop a lasting, safe and healthy habit,” says Wood.

Since the first statewide Walk More in Four event in 2009, more than 6,000 Utah students have walked or biked to school at least three times each week during September.

A SNAP Map shows the safest walking and biking routes.

SNAP Mapping Software

Getting kids to school safely is aided by SNAP Mapping Software. The web-based program uses Google Maps™ to help principals create and distribute maps that show the safest walking and biking routes.  More than 200 Utah elementary, middle, and junior high schools from 24 school districts have a current SNAP Map.

SNAP, Walk ’n Roll

Since its launch in 2009, more than 90,000 elementary students at 100 schools have enjoyed “SNAP, Walk ’n Roll,” a free safety assembly for elementary age students. The show uses music and actors to teach the importance of following the SNAP Map, bicycle and pedestrian safety and how to stay safe around road construction.

Crossing Guard Training

The “UDOT Crossing Guard Fundamentals” DVD and Quick Reference is an aid to local law enforcement agencies who have the responsibility to train crossing guards. In 2012, 97 percent of all known law enforcement agencies were using the crossing guard training materials developed by the SNAP program.

October 5th, 2012

PRECAST PANELS

1 Comment, Optimize Mobility, Preserve Infrastructure, by Catherine Higgins.

This post is second in a series about how research supports innovation at UDOT. Many in the transportation community and the general public are familiar with UDOT’s method of building bridges off-site and then moving them into place. Other important innovations garner less attention. See the first post here.

UDOT’s innovative pre-cast pavement panels speed up concrete road repair.


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Precast concrete elements are often used for bridge girders, decks or MSE walls. But using pre-cast panel systems to repair or build pavement is not yet common. UDOT Research Division has partnered with FHWA Highways for Life to develop and demonstrate a design for a precast pavement panels, and so far, “they seem to be working very well,” says UDOT Research Project Manager Daniel Hsiao who oversaw panel testing and design.

The innovation is in the speed of construction, and the non-proprietary design. Using a cast-in-place method involves closing lanes and waiting for concrete to cure before traffic can travel on the pavement.  With pre-cast pavement panels the cure time takes place off site, so traffic lanes can be reopened soon after installation.

The unique design specifies leveling bolts that are commonly used in bridge deck construction. After placement, the bolts are turned against steel panels on the sub-base to achieve correct elevation. Four bolts are placed in each panel during the casting process. Six grout ports are also included in each panel. Using the bolts also means that traffic lanes can be open before the grout is fully cured.

The panels are also designed to be a standard size, 12 by 12 feet square and 9 inches thick.  A standard panel size helps minimize construction costs and simplify installation. The panels are reinforced with steel rebar to support lifting the 17,000 pound panels.

Because the design is non-proprietary, “anybody can use it,” says Hsiao. The non-proprietary aspect helps support a competitive bidding environment, which conserves limited funding.

October 4th, 2012

SIGNAL HISTORY

3 Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

The traffic signal systems of today are the result of a stream of innovative technologies starting with a simple light box on a pole.

Salt Lake City Police Officer Lester Wire designed and built a pole mounted box that housed green and red lights.

Utah has approximately 1700 traffic signals owned by city, county and state governments. Sophisticated and efficient, modern signal systems are coordinated and monitored by traffic engineers and centrally controlled by computers. Devices that detect cars can adjust signal timing along traffic corridors to allow for directional traffic flow throughout the day. When needed, traffic engineers can make changes to keep traffic flowing.

Effective signal coordination improves safety, saves fuel, reduces emissions, enhances traffic flow, and decreases travel delay and traffic congestion.

The story of how modern signal systems were developed starts in Utah; the first traffic signal for automobiles was put into service in 1912 in Salt Lake City at the intersection of Main Street and Second South.

Salt Lake City Police Officer Lester Wire saw the need to help move traffic through intersections safely and efficiently.  He designed and built a pole mounted box that housed green and red lights. Wires connected to the trolley system overhead carried electricity. The lights were changed manually by an officer who stood nearby and used his discretion to make the switch.

UDOT has created an exhibit that shows how technology has progressed since the early days of traffic management. A collection of signals and equipment, including a model of Lester Wire’s first traffic light, will be on permanent display at the UDOT Traffic Operations Center. The collection is open to the public.

Signal innovations

Shortly after Wire’s traffic light was put into use, other inventions pushed signal technology forward quickly. Signal development followed electronic and computing trends, and some key transformational changes include:

1927    The invention of the fixed control timer, which made it possible for the first traffic operations center to manage 31 signals in Los Angeles.

1928    The first semi-actuated signal, installed in Detroit, which used a microphone to detect the sound of a car horn and assign right-of-way.

1952    The first actuated signal system which adjusted timing based on traffic demand. Installed in Denver, the system was made possible by analog technology.

1972    The first Advanced Traffic Control system which used microprocessors, fiber optic cable and inductive loops to connect and control timing at 113 intersections in Washington DC.

UDOT Today

UDOT is currently using radar detection to improve safety and optimize traffic signal performance.

Radar is being used to detect cars in the ‘dilemma zone’ – a space prior to entering an intersection where drivers decide to stop or keep going. Software used with the radar equipment is programmed to extend the signal phase to allow cars in the dilemma zone more time to get through the intersection.

UDOT also uses an online tool to improve the way traffic engineers monitor and optimize signal performance. Signal Performance Metrics, originally developed by Indiana Department of Transportation and Purdue University, uses dilemma zone radar detection along with software developed by UDOT in cooperation with Wavetronics and Econolite.

The system locates and counts cars, places a time stamp on every car and then pulls that data into online graphs that can be observed in real time. By observing traffic movement as it occurs, engineers can make immediate changes to optimize traffic flow.

Director John Njord has charged UDOT traffic engineers with creating a world-class traffic signal system. UDOT has taken full advantage of modern innovations and established itself as a leader in modern traffic management.

 


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

More about signals

  • Pulse, a trade magazine published by Wavetronics, published a great article on the history of traffic signals.
  • A page on the FHWA website explains the benefits of signal coordination.

October 3rd, 2012

SILVER BARREL

No Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

Congratulations to UDOT Region One Signal Engineer Carrie Jacobson who received a Silver Barrel Award for heading a team of engineers who kept traffic moving during a major event – the annual Hill Air Force Base Air Show.

The Silver Barrel Award is way to call attention to employees who excel.

The team worked with the Utah Highway Patrol and city officials to plan and carry out ways to help road users get to and depart from HAFB.

Building on experience UDOT signal engineers have gained from managing other events, the Region One Signal Team first offered to help, then met with base officials to identify problems that have occurred in the past. Jacobsen’s team then developed some signal timing plans that gave more green light time where needed. The team paid special attention to places where traffic congestion has occurred in the past.

Approximately 225 thousand people attend the two-day event. Engineers manned stations at the Traffic Operations Center to observe traffic. Signal engineers were posted at critical locations along the route to observe traffic and make adjustments at signal cabinets when traffic backed up.

HAFB officials and the Utah Highway Patrol were grateful for the help and gave Jacobson’s team an award called a Challenge Coin, usually reserved for those in the military, for helping with traffic flow during the event.

October 3rd, 2012

ROUGHED UP

No Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

UDOT is participating in a study of  High Friction Surfacing as part of a nationwide study sponsored by FHWA.


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

On sharp curves, freeway ramps or steep hills, rain and high speeds can combine to create dangerous slick conditions, especially for semis or other large vehicles. FHWA is reaching out to UDOT and other states to promote the study and possible implementation of HFS. Several states have used HFS and realized an immediate reduction in crashes.

HFS, usually consisting of an epoxy binder and a non-polishing aggregate, improve roadway skid-resistance in places where motorists need help to brake more effectively. HFS  improve skid resistance by applying a microtexture that increases pavement-tire friction. The aggregate used in HFS is critical; calcined bauxite is used often because it maintains it’s microtexture and resists material loss under heavy traffic.

UDOT has identified two locations, one in Payson and one in Logan Canyon, where HFS will be evaluated. Before and after studies that look at crash data, skid resistance, and other factors, will provide the basis for an objective assessment. UDOT will also monitor how the HFS tolerates weather extremes, traffic and snow plows.

If the treatment is shown to be effective, UDOT may draft a specification or special provision to allow HFS to be used at other appropriate locations.

See the slide show above to see a step by step narrative of how the treatment was applied in Payson. For photo captions, click on the images.

A wetland bank can be a successful and accepted way to mitigate for the loss of wetland habitat areas due to transportation projects.


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

The EPA s defines a wetland mitigation bank as a “a wetland, stream, or other aquatic resource area that has been restored, established, enhanced, or (in certain circumstances) preserved for the purpose of providing compensation for unavoidable impacts to aquatic resources…” The Water Resources Development Act of 2007 calls mitigation banking “the preferred mechanism for offsetting unavoidable wetland impacts associated with Corps Civil Works projects.” Wetland banks are regulated by the The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency.

EPA rules call for a “no net loss” policy in compensating for wetlands that are impacted by transportation or other projects. An ecological assessment assures that the bank area is functioning as intended. A credit system, representing the value of the compensation, assures that lost wetlands are adequately compensated for. Banks must be monitored and managed on an ongoing basis to make sure performance standards are met.

UDOT has established a wetland a mitigation area, called the Northern Utah County Mitigation Bank, which compensates for  of transportation project impacts in Utah County, including I-15 CORE and Pioneer Crossing. The NUCMB totals 120 acres and is located in Lindon, Utah. This wetland bank will eventually provide 76 mitigation credits — enough capacity to provide mitigation for any UDOT FHWA transportation project throughout the majority of Utah County .

Advantages of UDOT’s mitigation bank

The NUCMB provided a cost-effective way to mitigate wetland impacts in northern Utah County. Having a mitigation bank also accelerated the permitting process, saving taxpayers millions of dollars and years of time. UDOT, along with private sector partners, worked together throughout the process to design, permit and monitor the NUCMB.

September 27th, 2012

FISH FRIENDLY

2 Comments, Preserve Infrastructure, by Catherine Higgins.

This post is first in a series about innovation at UDOT. Many in the transportation community and the general public are familiar with UDOT’s method of building bridges off-site and then moving them into place. Other important innovations garner less attention. Check back for future posts on other innovations at UDOT.

When roads cross streams, culverts need to accommodate fish.

UDOT sponsored research has resulted in a better understanding of how to make sure small native Utah fish can move freely so important fish populations can be maintained.

Research on how successfully fish pass through culverts has resulted knowledge about how to accommodate small non-game native Utah species.

Connectivity between waterways is important to many fish species in Utah, explains Drew Cushing, Utah Department of Wild Life Resources Sport Fish Coordinator.  Culverts can increase stream velocity and prevent fish from spawning, finding food, and escaping temperature extremes from season to season.

The wildlife and transportation community has had a good understanding of how to make culverts passable to large fish. However, less has been known about how to accommodate small fish.  UDOT sponsored research in two phases has resulted in a better understanding of how to make sure small native Utah fish can move freely so important fish populations can be maintained.

The first phase of research was conducted by Lindsay D. Esplin, EIT and Dr. Rollin Hotchkiss of BYU. In a lab setting, Esplin and Hotchkiss tested how different types of substrate affected fish passage rates.  Their findings indicate that placing small rocks, approximately the size of the fish, reduced stream velocity and created places for the fish to pause before continuing to swim. During the experiment, fish were observed stopping, foraging and swimming up and down the rock-lined artificial water way inside the lab.

The second phase of research was conducted in the field near Salina, Utah. Researchers Suzanne Monk, EIT and Hotchkiss conducted fish passage tests by measuring fish population densities at three sites along Salina Creek. All sites had different characteristics including a rock lined culvert, a bare box culvert and a stream section without a culvert. The rock-lined culvert and the stream both contained rocks that were close to the same size as the small fish.

While small fish were able pass through all locations, fish passed through the rock lined culvert more successfully than the bare box culvert. While more research is needed, the field test seemed to clearly confirm that placing small rocks approximately the size of fish inside a culvert allows the fish to pass successfully.

The results of the lab and field test will inform the way UDOT builds new and retrofits in-use culverts.

Next week: Pre-cast panels help speed-up freeway repair.

September 25th, 2012

SILVER BARREL

2 Comments, Employee Focus, by Catherine Higgins.

A new employee award will recognize outstanding performance at UDOT.

Silver Barrel

UDOT has the responsibility to build and maintain state roads. But the work done by employees to build bridges, maintain pavement or remove ice and snow also has an intrinsic value. An efficient and well-maintained transportation system supports economic vitality, improves quality of life, and helps make Utah a great place to live.

“The work we do has an impact on people,” said UDOT Director John Njord as he presented the Silver Barrel award to the first recipient today.  The Silver Barrel Award is way to call attention to and thank the many employees who excel. “We have it all the time – people are always doing good things at UDOT,” says Njord. Ultimately, that good work helps Utah citizens.

The Silver Barrel recipients will receive a certificate, a pin, and a hardhat sticker to wear with pride. Like college football players who get a helmet sticker for a great pass or block, the Silver Barrel sticker and pin will be visual reminders of a job well done.

The number of recipients will not be limited, and Njord expects to give many away.  “Someone could earn a lot of them, or everyone could earn one or more.” An employee who wants to call attention to a potential recipient should contact his or her supervisor.