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.

Images and information provided by Andrew Johnson and 24 Salt Lake Traffic.

Construction on the I-15 corridor expansion through Utah County, called I-15 CORE, is still in full-swing, but officials say all lanes could be open as early as Thanksgiving.

The new interchange at University Parkway and I-15. When complete in December, I-15 CORE will be the fastest billion-dollar public highway project ever built in the U.S.

Between January 2010 and May 2012, about 6 million hours have been logged in the I-15 CORE project, which is almost as many hours as it took to construct the Empire State Building in New York.

About 6 million hours have been logged in the I-15 CORE project — almost as many hours as it took to construct the Empire State Building.

“A workforce of nearly 2,000 people has put in those 6 million hours designing, building, and managing the I-15 CORE project,” says UDOT I-15 CORE spokesperson Leigh Dethman in a recent interview. “From surveying, to traffic management, to construction, to quality assurance and oversight, the project has helped spur economic development and job creation during construction.”

When complete in December, I-15 CORE will be the fastest billion-dollar public highway project ever built in the U.S.

Facts about the I-15 CORE construction project

The I-15 CORE project is the largest highway project in Utah history, and crews with Provo River Constructors are reconstructing 24 miles of I-15 through Utah County.

Two additional lanes are being added each direction from Spanish Fork to Lehi. In addition, 10 freeway interchanges and 63 bridges are being replaced or rebuilt, and the Express Lane is being extended from University Parkway in Orem to Spanish Fork.

Here is a look at some project facts as of May 31, 2012:

  • Crews have installed 49 miles of drainage pipeline, which is twice the length of Utah Lake.
  • 269 lane-miles of concrete have been poured, which is enough to build a two-lane highway from Provo to Logan.
  • 7.1 million tons of fill dirt have been excavated and placed, which is enough to fill 13 BYU Marriott Centers.
  • 1.9 million square yards of concrete pavement have been used, which is more than 5 times the amount of pavement used to pour construct the runways at the Salt Lake City International Airport.
  • Nearly 1,600 employees have been working on the management, engineering and construction teams.
  • Nearly 6 million hours of labor have been logged. It took 7 million hours to construct the Empire State Building!

“We’re delivering a complete reconstruction of the freeway that will meet traffic demand through the year 2030, while at the same time we’re using innovation to minimize delays for the traveling public,” says Todd Jensen, UDOT I-15 CORE project director. “Completing I-15 CORE in an unprecedented 35 months represents Utah’s worldwide leadership in innovative road construction.”

Stay up to date with the project by visiting the I-15 CORE website.

September 22nd, 2012

PUBLIC-PRIVATE REST AREAS

1 Comment, Strengthen the Economy, by Catherine Higgins.

UDOT was the first state department of transportation to partner with private service stations to provide Safety Rest Areas on interstates.

A Chevron Station near Cove Fort serves as a public-private rest area. Visitors have access to restrooms and water without having to make a purchase.

A business in Springville was the first public-private Safety Rest Area; it replaced an old SRA that needed to be torn down. Five more partnerships have followed, and overall, the approach has worked well for UDOT, businesses, taxpayers and road users.

The partnership requires some commitment on the part of participating businesses, according to UDOT Permits Engineer Rhett Arnell who oversees five of the rest areas. Businesses must be easy to access from the freeway, agree to stay open around the clock, provide water and access to clean restrooms without requiring a purchase, and have adequate parking for cars and tractor-trailers.  Arnell spoke at the National Safety Rest Area Conference in Salt Lake City this week.

UDOT provides signage that directs drivers to the stops. The benefit for businesses is more customers, which helps offset higher maintenance costs.  The Utah Department of Tourism provides free information about local and regional attractions.

The partnerships have saved thousands of dollars of funding each year, according to Arnell. Cleaning services costs UDOT over $80 thousand per rest area per year.  And the partnerships have saved taxpayers from funding new buildings.

Businesses that participate seem to like the arrangement. Arnell said that some have opted out of the program and then decided to participate again.

A UDOT report issued in 2007 found that the public-private partnerships work well to provide for the basic needs of road users. The report suggests that the program be expanded to more locations and lists some additional features, such as picnic and play areas, that could be added in the future.

About Safety Rest Areas:

The first interstate rest areas came into being in 1938 as a part of the Federal Highway Aid Act. The Interstate Highway Act of 1956, establishment of the Highway Trust Fund in 1956, and the Highway Beautification Act of 1965 focused more attention on rest area construction nationwide.  Utah’s Rest Area System was developed at the same time Utah’s highway system was built.

UDOT’s newest Welcome Center and rest area was built in 2010. Tie Fork is located on US- 6 at milepost 202. The building and surrounding area is a tribute to Utah’s railroad past and the former town of Tucker.

September 20th, 2012

SAFETY FIRST

No Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

The primary purpose of Safety Rest Areas along interstates is crash prevention.

A Safety Rest Area that also serves as a Welcome Center in Jensen, Utah.

Drowsy driving is a major cause of crashes in Utah and nation wide. SRAs  provide road users a place to take a rest break after traveling long distances.

Utah crash statistics indicate that seven fatigue related crashes occurred in the state in 2011. That number may be low considering that drowsy driving seems to be pervasive – a Utah Department of Public Safety poll indicates that 44 percent of respondents admit to falling asleep or nodding off while driving.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving results in 1,550 deaths, 40,000 injuries and more than 56,000 crashes each year in the US.

The National Sleep Foundation offers some advice on avoiding drowsy driving:

  • Before a trip, get at least eight hours of sleep – 71 percent of drivers who reported falling asleep in the Utah poll got less than eight hours of sleep the night before the trip
  • Take a break every 100 miles or 2 hours and have a snack or go for a brisk walk or run
  • Switch drivers during long trips
  • Take a nap—SRAs provide safe place to take a short nap if necessary

ZERO Fatalities

UDOT, the Utah Department of Public Safety and many other organizations have partnered to promote ZERO Fatalities, a crash prevention effort that addresses five major causes of traffic related death: drowsy driving, distracted driving, aggressive driving, impaired driving and not buckling up.

September 19th, 2012

WELCOME VISITORS

No Comments, Optimize Mobility, Strengthen the Economy, by Catherine Higgins.

The Utah Office of Tourism and UDOT partner to help support the state’s economy.


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Over 13 million visitors per year arrive in Utah by car, and for many of those travelers, a Utah Welcome Center is the first stopping place. Welcome centers are a safe spot to take a rest break and learn about what Utah has to offer.

UDOT and the Office of Tourism operate six welcome centers at gateway locations close to freeways or highways and near state borders. The Utah Office of Tourism headquarters at Council Hall in Salt Lake City also serves as a welcome center. All centers are staffed with friendly travel consultants that provide free information, maps, brochures, and travel guides. Restrooms, vending, and parking areas are located on-site, and most offer free Wi-Fi.

Having a place that provides information and assistance to visitors is an important service that supports the local economy. “Our front doors are our airport and our roads,” said Chad Davis, the State Welcome Center Coordinator. Davis gave a presentation about the facilities at the 2012 National Safety Rest Area Conference hosted by UDOT. Tourism brings in over $8 hundred million to the state, and that number is going up, said Davis. That revenue offsets over one thousand dollars per tax payer per year.

Economic research indicates that positive outcomes can occur when visitors stop at a welcome center. A Rhode Island study found that tourists spend more money and an Iowa study found that tourist spent more time. And tourism generates jobs as well. Partnering with the Utah Office of Tourism helps UDOT accomplish one of four core goals, to strengthen the economy.

Good design sells

The Utah Office of Tourism and UDOT also partnered to produce and place beautiful new Welcome to Utah signs in 2010. The signs serve as ‘high art’ and feature images of attractions with the Utah Office of Tourism’s Life Elevated slogan.

The beautiful designs were created by landscape illustrator David Meikle who grew up in Utah. He was excited to create images that reflect what he loves about the state. UDOT estimates that over 31 million vehicles could pass the welcome signs each year.

The NSRA is part of AASHTO’s Maintenance Sub Committee, and responsibility for organizing the conference is accomplished by state transportation agencies. This year, UDOT takes the lead with support from the Kentucky Department of Transportation.

September 18th, 2012

RESTING PLACE

No Comments, Strengthen the Economy, by Catherine Higgins.

UDOT is hosting the National Safety Rest Area Conference.

Planners, vendors, welcome center managers and maintenance providers from across the United States and Canada are in downtown Salt Lake City this week to hear presentations about planning, and maintaining facilities that support travel along the Interstate Highway system.

The primary purpose Safety Rest Areas is to provide a place to take a break for road users who travel long distances. However, some state departments of transportation, including Utah are playing a role in supporting the local economy as well.

Not just for safety any more

Conference Presenter David Dahlquist of RDG Planning and Design believes that SRAs that are memorable and call attention to local history and culture can invite road users to stay longer, visit local attractions and spend money at restaurants, lodging and other businesses.

David Dahlquist of RDG Planning and Design has been successful at bringing artists and engineers together to create very memorable SRAs in Iowa.

SRAs are often the first chance state tourism and transportation agencies get to make a good first impression. As such, the facilities can be a valuable marketing opportunity to “make a connection with the traveling public.”

Dahlquist has been successful at bringing artists and engineers together to create very memorable SRAs in Iowa. By researching local history and culture, the facility designs pay homage and call attention to “the story of a place.”

Sometimes, according to Dahlquist, a SRA or other transportation design can be the best place to show visitors the unique historical and cultural assets of the area. A SRA in Cedar Rapids is a good case in point.

Who is Grant Woods?

Artist Grant Woods created the famous painting American Gothic, a depiction of rural life in America. One Iowa SRA has a Grant Woods themed design where visitors can learn about the man and his art – including his former home in Cedar Rapids.

By directing tourists to the home, Dahlquist believes the local community has realized economic benefits. “Economic development follows cultural tourism,” and the local businesses reap the rewards, he says.

Like Iowa, Utah has a rich cultural heritage and attractions that draw visitors. Over 13 million visitors per year arrive in Utah by car. Tomorrow, read how UDOT and the Utah Office of Tourism cooperate to provide safe places to stop, rest and learn about the state.

The extensive and careful work done in the Body Shop and Heavy Equipment Shop prolongs the life UDOT’s fleet and conserves funding.


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Mechanics and auto-body workers at UDOT are getting heavy equipment ready for winter. Even though last winter was relatively mild, workers in the shop have plenty to do. With around forty two hundred pieces of heavy equipment in the fleet, work is non-stop.

“Right now, we are doing the things we can’t do in the winter,” says Steve McCarthy, UDOT’s Fleet Manager. By mid September, “mountain areas can get snow any time.” His crew is working with maintenance station supervisors to make sure each crew has the equipment needed to remove snow and ice.

UDOT’s fleet is valued at about $200 million, a significant investment of taxpayer money. Besides repairing fleet vehicles, strategies are being employed to conserve funding and work as efficiently as possible by:

  • Keeping fleet vehicles longer; most are kept between sixteen and eighteen years and some up to twenty.
  • Purchasing trucks with larger motors and tag axles that can handle tow plows and adding wing plows to the 10-wheeler fleet. Tow plows and wing plows remove a wider swath of snow from the roadway and boost efficiency.
  • Using larger sanders to spread de‐icing materials and applying brine, high performing salts and other liquid anti‐icing solutions to remove snow and ice more efficiently.
  • Leasing or renting some heavy equipment which can save repair costs while employing new more efficient technology.

By employing smart fleet strategies, UDOT has been able to maintain high performance standards and eliminate the need to purchase 25 percent more equipment.

Newly trained mechanics are getting work experience at UDOT.

Raymond Bentor, Job Corps Intern at UDOT, rebuilds the a rear suspension in the heavy-duty shop.

Job Corps students that have reached the end of their training program need real-world work experience before they begin their careers. Two young mechanics are getting that opportunity at UDOT’s Central Heavy Duty Shop where they serve as interns. For those interns and the UDOT mechanics that provide supervision, the experience has been very positive.

The success of the UDOT-Job Corps association is due to the excellent training program at Job Corps and the variety and complexity of the work load at Central Maintenance. “Their training is really top notch,” says Rod Andrews, UDOT Heavy Duty Shop Supervisor.  The trainees come to the site ready to do more than busy-work and can be assigned to a variety of big or small tasks. “You find that they fill a little niche that you need,” says Andrews.

Johnnie Brandt removed the transmission from this road grader. “I don’t like just standing around,” says Brandt.

Intern Johnnie Brandt says he is ready and willing to do anything he can get his hands on. “I don’t like just standing around,” says Brandt.  He works with all the mechanics at UDOT to quickly move repair jobs through to completion. Brandt has done jobs ranging from changing oil to removing a transmission from a road grader.

UDOT’s shop is great for providing diverse work experiences.  “Just look at the variety of stuff we have in this shop,” says John Service, UDOT Journeyman Mechanic, as he points to the assortment of heavy equipment undergoing repair. Service has worked closely with Brandt and appreciates his great attitude and willingness to learn.

Intern Raymond Benter has been at other work sites besides UDOT’s shop. He says moving from site to site helps build his skill sets, learn to adapt and “really know what it’s like to work.”

Benter is willing to “get right in there and do his job,” says Truck Shop Supervisor Jeff McCleery. “He’s willing to learn, listen and he has a good skill level and good attitude.”

Interns will spend about six weeks at UDOT before moving to another work site.

A new national performance metric will help fleet managers make decisions about retaining core equipment.

Departments of transportation are facing many of the same issues, including limited budgets, new emissions and mileage regulations and the need to manage life-cycle costs. At the same time, equipment costs are increasing, making it challenging for departments of transportation to replace aging vehicles.

AASHTO’s Equipment Management Technical Services Program recently sponsored the First National Equipment Fleet Management Conference. The event brought experts together to share the best practices from the nation’s departments of transportation. An important outcome of the conference is the development of a national metric that will provide “a high-level snapshot” of how departments of transportation are managing equipment life cycles, according to a problem statement issued by the EMTSP.

Departments of transportation are facing many of the same issues, including limited budgets, new emissions and mileage regulations and the need to manage life-cycle costs. At the same time, equipment costs are increasing, making it challenging for departments of transportation to replace aging vehicles.

UDOT’s Fleet Manager Steve McCarthy is the Vice Chair of the EMTSP. He attended the conference, participated in development of the metric, and is optimistic about what the metric data will provide over time — “more data about whether or when to replace equipment.”

The metric identifies and tracks fleet utilization standards, preventative maintenance compliance, and fleet availability. Departments of transportation from across the nation have different standards and practices. Using one metric to collect data across the nation will help departments of transportation compare agency against agency and identify the most effective strategies for managing fleet life cycles.

The EMTSP is already a resource for best practices and a clearing house for comprehensive, up‐to‐date information about fleet management. With data from the new metric, departments of transportation should be able to further fine tune fleet performance to effectively review life cycle costs, develop funding requests based on real-world needs and readily identify best-practice methods.