October 25th, 2012

2012 ZERO SUMMIT

No Comments, Zero Fatalities, by Catherine Higgins.

The annual Zero Fatalities Safety Summit provides common ground for safety professionals from different areas of expertise.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

UDOT traffic engineers and emergency medical technicians are all about staying safe, but members of the professions look at safety issues from different perspectives. UDOT Traffic Engineer Brad Lucas thought the Zero Fatalities Safety Summit was helpful because of the idea-mixing encouraged at the event. “We all promote safety.” For example, “I got the perspective of emergency personnel and how they deal with traffic accidents,” he explains. Lucas will take that knowledge with him as he performs his job at UDOT.

The partnering that takes place among a variety of safety-promoting agencies is not new – UDOT has been working with community partners for more than six years. Zero Fatalities is a combined effort of law enforcement, safety educators, engineers, health educators and emergency responders.

The outcome of the partnership has resulted in several ambitious and successful programs, all of which seek to achieve the goal to achieve Zero Fatalities by taking aim at the five top behaviors that kill people on Utah roads: drowsy distracted, aggressive and impaired driving and not buckling up.

This year, over four-hundred people attended the summit – more attendees than ever before. Forty-eight workshops were presented over the three day event. Specialty areas included Engineering, Emergency Medical Services, Child Protection Services and Education.

The pre-conference activities focused on high school drivers’ education and raising awareness of safety issues specific to teens. At the end of the conference, attendees honored some of the individuals and organizations that take special effort to help get Utah road users closer to the Zero Fatalities goal. Some of UDOT’s finest received awards for the fine work they do.

Kristy Rigby, Program Manager from UDPS was happy to see a jump in attendance this year. She’s committed to boosting that participation more in future years, and believes that when more people join in, the result will be safer roads and fewer crashes.

October 24th, 2012

CLOSING GAPS

No Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

Wasatch Front transportation agencies are studying how people connect to transit.

The Utah Collaborative Active Transportation Study – is a comprehensive project that will look at ways to enhance pedestrian and bicycle connections to major transit lines and lay the groundwork for an urban network of bicycle routes along the Wasatch Front – and anyone can participate.

The first step to using public transit is getting to an access point such as a Trax station or a bus stop. Many transit users count on active transportation – walking or cycling – to reach that connection.

UDOT and the Utah Transit Authority, in cooperation with Wasatch Front Regional Council, Mountainland Association of Governments and Salt Lake County have just launched an effort to identify difficulties walkers and cyclists face when getting to transit hubs. UCATS – the Utah Collaborative Active Transportation Study – is a comprehensive project that will look at ways to enhance pedestrian and bicycle connections to major transit lines and lay the groundwork for an urban network of bicycle routes along the Wasatch Front – and anyone can participate.

The study team is using an effective and dynamic web-based in-put mechanism.  An online forum allows users to create a profile and dialog with other users about connectivity issues.

The UCATS website allows easy direct public input, according to Evelyn Tuddenham UDOT Bicycle & Pedestrian Coordinator, because participants don’t need to attend a public meeting or wait to be called to contribute. And the process facilitates dialog – UCATS participants can even collaborate online to solve problems.

The study team is encouraging a wide range of participants including “people who like to ride bikes but don’t,” says Tuddenham. “We need to hear from them… not just from the people who are comfortable riding on the road.”

Discussions that take place through the UCATS website will help the project team shape recommendations “that look at the nuts and bolts of the infrastructure recommendations coming out of the study.” For UDOT, one outcome will be bicycle plans for UDOT Regions One, Two and Three.

UCATS will have a big impact on the future of bicycling and walking along the Wasatch Front, says Tuddenham. “We want to improve mobility for all kinds of users by giving them active transportation options and closing the gaps linking to transit.”

October 20th, 2012

SNOW ARSENAL

1 Comment, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Tow plows are one way UDOT improves the efficiency of snow removal to keep roads clear during the winter.

UDOT has over 500 trucks that are used to plow roads during winter. Eight of those trucks are equipped with tow plows. When deployed, tow plows swing from the back to the side of the truck and double the amount of snow that can be plowed. Tow plows require trucks with larger motors and tag axles that are capable of handling the large piece of equipment.

UDOT’s fleet is valued at about $200 million dollars – a significant investment of taxpayer money.  UDOT Central Maintenance puts a lot of emphasis on taking care of equipment to make sure trucks and plows work efficiently and have a long useful life.

Many of UDOT’s operators attended a training recently to practice skills and to get a review of how take care of towplows.  The slides below show some of the operating systems on tow plows.


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In addition to adding tow plows to its snow removal arsenal, UDOT has improved the efficiency of feet vehicles by adding wing plows to most of the existing 10 wheeler fleet, by using sanders for spreading de‐icing materials, and by using brine, high performing salts and other liquid anti‐icing agents. Wetting the salt is a much more effective approach for keeping roads clear since dry salt can bounce or blow off the road.

UDOT’s strategic goals, briefly stated, are to preserve infrastructure, optimize mobility, improve safety, and strengthen the economy. Known as the Final Four, the goals provide guidance in all agency departments by articulating the responsibilities UDOT has as to the public.

By maintaining roads and highways, UDOT’s equipment and fleet meet all of the Final Four goals. By preserving infrastructure, UDOT provides a quality transportation system that helps bring industry to the state, which also strengthens the economy. By plowing roads during winter storms, and making repairs that keep roads functioning smoothly, UDOT’s fleet helps optimize mobility and improve safety.

October 19th, 2012

CROSSINGS AND SAFETY

1 Comment, Zero Fatalities, by Catherine Higgins.

Research on improving wildlife connectivity has helped improved safety on state roads.

This post is third 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 about fish-friendly culverts here and the second post about pre-cast panels here.

UDOT has been working with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and researchers to track the success of wildlife crossings. The research has helped both state agencies to meet the important goals of making roads safer for people and wildlife. As more knowledge is gained about what makes a wildlife crossing accommodating to wildlife, UDOT and DWR have improved crossings by adding additional features.

This photo shows the original fencing and white lines that show Cramer's suggested location for moving the fencing to better accommodate deer.

A new I-80 bridge over the Weber River provides an example of how UDOT, DWR have partnered to improve an important wildlife crossing. Part of the bridge project included pathways for people and wildlife along with wildlife exclusion fencing to direct animals to use the path.

Dr. Patricia Cramer, Utah State University Researcher Assistant Professor began monitoring and tracking wildlife passage by placing motion activated cameras to capture images of wildlife using the path. While placing the cameras, Cramer noticed some of the fencing blocked the crossing and she made suggestions for a new configuration.

UDOT and UDWR agency representatives met and planned two escape ramps would be constructed on the fence line on the west side of the highway on both sides of the river.  Cramer monitored the crossing before and after the escape routes were constructed. Before the ramps, fifteen deer were recorded near the ramp but only 2 used the crossing successfully. After the escape ramps were constructed, cameras recorded seventy nine deer approaching the ramp and fifty seven deer successfully using the crossing.

Research at the site is showing that the passage rate of mule deer is steadily improving. Cramer has studied many crossings in Utah, and her research was originally funded by UDOT’s Research Division.  UDWR is funding Cramer’s research and UDOT and UDWR will continue to work together to plan and improved effective crossings by using Cramer’s research.

For more about how UDOT and crossings:

Read an article on the USU website about Cramer.

Read a blog post about how UDOT partnered with UDWR and won an award from FHWA.

Read a blog post about a high-arch crossing and how elk are beginning to use the crossing.

 UDOT’s first radar activated signal for cyclists is providing safer access to Mountain View Corridor.

A newly completed seven mile portion of the Mountain View Corridor also includes bike lanes and multi-use trails from Porter Rockwell Blvd at 16000 South to Old Bingham Highway. Cyclists were invited to celebrate the opening by participating in a race on October 13.

A newly completed seven mile portion of the Mountain View Corridor also includes bike lanes and multi-use trails from Porter Rockwell Blvd at 16000 South to Old Bingham Highway. “I would think Mountain View Corridor will be busy bike route with the beautiful scenery and trails,” says UDOT Traffic Signal Operations Engineer Mark Taylor, who is also a cyclist.

The new road segment includes a bike lane and trail access point at Porter Rockwell Blvd. Anticipated high traffic volume and speed in the area prompted traffic engineers to find a safer way for cyclists to reach that access point from busy Redwood Road.

UDOT has installed radar detection and a signal specific to cyclists turning left from Redwood Road onto Porter Rockwell Blvd. The signal improves safety for motorists and cyclists.

This video gives a good overview of the signal:

Cyclists sometimes use the left turn lane along with automobile traffic. However, due the T intersection configuration where Porter Rockwell meets Redwood road, “there is not a concurrent vehicle movement cyclists can use,” explains Taylor. The signal stops traffic so cyclists can turn left on Redwood Road, then travel west on Porter Rockwell Boulevard to the Mountain View Corridor bike lanes and multi-use trails.

To activate the signal, cyclists need to stop in the designated area on the right north-bound shoulder of Redwood Road.  Radar detection picks up the presence of cyclists, stops traffic with a red light, gives cyclists a green light, and provides enough time to cross Redwood Road.

UDOT chose radar detection over other alternatives including inductive loops and video detection. Modern bicycles don’t have enough metal to disrupt the electromagnetic field created by inductive loops. And, video detection does not work well at night or during storms.

UDOT uses radar detection often, however, is the first use of the technology for a signal specific to cyclists.

October 17th, 2012

TOWING THE LINE

2 Comments, Optimize Mobility, Zero Fatalities, by Catherine Higgins.

Operators of UDOT tow plows recently got a chance to practice driving skills.

Three tow plows practice driving skills on a course that simulates intersections, car lined streets and on-ramps. When deployed, the tow plow swings sideways to clear twenty five feet.

“They’re different,” than regular plows, explains Chris Scribner who drives a tow plow for UDOT during the snow season. A tow plow can startle drivers because “it looks like it’s jackknifing,” he says. When deployed, the tow plow swings sideways to clear more of the roadway – a total of twenty five feet, to be exact. A truck with a tow plow takes the place of two trucks. Scribner is one of about thirty plow operators who attended a training to practice driving the unusual plow that helps UDOT improve the efficiency of snow and ice removal.

Curtis Sanchez, Equipment Safety Trainer at UDOT, organized the training “to make sure the operators are as comfortable as possible,” he explains. The training includes classroom time focusing on safety and the pre-ride check and then driving on a course set up to simulate intersections, car-lined streets and on-ramps.

Dirk Richards, a trainer from UDOT Region One, help set up the course. He says it’s important that drivers learn to be aware of their surroundings, and how the equipment will deploy. “So when they are working, there are no surprises on the road.”

Driving the plow is not for rookies. “We’re choosing the best operators in each shed” to be tow plow drivers, says Sanchez.

Driver Mark Prows says tow plow operators need to be acutely aware of the roadway environment and the movement of the plow that’s operated by a complex hydraulic system — all while driving. He compares it to playing the piano. “You have to keep your fingers moving and your eyes on the sheet music… if you’re a little bit off of your game, things can go bad fast.”

UDOT acquired the first tow plows after Heavy Equipment Manager Steve McCarthy saw them at a conference. “I thought it was an idea we needed to explore,” he says. UDOT is one of only a few states that use tow plows. Eventually each shed along the I-15 corridor will have at least one. UDOT currently operates eight tow plows.

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.