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.

September 11th, 2012

REGIONS TAKE THE REINS

No Comments, Preserve Infrastructure, by Catherine Higgins.

Change at Central Maintenance is aimed at giving the four UDOT Regions an expanded role in setting the direction of maintenance functions.

Regional maintenance station personnel do the work to preserve the transportation system. Here, workers repair a longitudinal crack in asphalt pavement. Many maintenance workers have decades of accrued knowledge about area roads, structures, and even typical weather patterns.

Soon after taking charge in early 2012, Central Maintenance Director Kevin Griffin named two Deputies.  Method Engineers Tim Ularich and Shana Lindsey have been given the responsibility to spend more time working closely with the regions. Region personnel are the ones directly responsible for maintaining the state transportation system.

Ularich and Lindsay are part of a cultural shift at Central Maintenance that will let regions take a larger role in developing innovations, setting performance standards, and deciding on budget distributions.

Giving the regions more say makes sense – after all, regional maintenance station personnel work to preserve the transportation system and perform core functions like snow and ice removal.  Many maintenance workers have decades of accrued knowledge about area roads, structures, and even typical weather patterns.

Tim Ularich, Ken Berg, Jessica Andrews, Shana Lindsey, Lynn Bernhard, Lloyd Neeley.

That institutional expertise can be valuable if tapped. Each year, Central Maintenance conducts method studies that investigate new or better technologies. Those studies have typically been developed at the central level. Ularich says he and Lindsey will spend face time getting the region’s take on what is needed. “Then, we’ll bring it back and implement the studies.”

The role of the two deputies will not be limited to the method study process. Lindsey says she and Ularich are on hand for anything, including obtaining standards and specifications, putting contracts in place and procuring materials – “we are coordinating that help.” Both deputies know the UDOT organization and can provide adept support. Central’s role will be to insure consistency across the state, she explains.

Regions will also play a larger part in determining performance standards. And that new role will come with commensurate responsibility; each region will be accountable for the performance of its maintenance crews.

Along with organizational and process changes, two web-based tools are being developed to help the regions. A Performance Dashboard will show performance measures in real time and a procurement system will help maintenance crews acquire necessities, like plow blades and sand, more easily.

The new direction at Central Maintenance will help the regions “achieve the departments goals” with the help and guidance of Central Maintenance says Griffin. “We’re not going to tell them how to do their work; we’re here to work with the regions to set performance standards and to support them.”

September 7th, 2012

FEATURING FLICKR

No Comments, Optimize Mobility, Preserve Infrastructure, by Catherine Higgins.

UDOT’s Communication Office uses Flickr to share photos of the state transportation system. 


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Flickr is an easy to use photo platform that provides a way to share visual essays of how UDOT improves the state transportation system.  UDOT’s Flickr photostream contains images of media events, conferences, construction and maintenance projects and equipment.

One great feature of Flickr is that photos can be arranged in ordered sets with captions. Those sets can explain a process or show progress on a construction project. For example, this set contains images of the Telegraph Street Bridge replacement in St. George.

Flickr also integrates well with other forms of social media. Slide shows on the UDOT Blog are Flickr sets. Links to photos or photo sets are easy to share by email.

The UDOT Communications Office would like to expand the use of Flickr to include a wider range of photos from across the state so a variety of UDOT activities can be shared among employees, private sector partners, media and the general public.

Send in your photos

Here are some general guidelines for sending in photos:

  • Make sure the images are high quality JPEG images that are 1200 x 800 pixels.
  • For subject ideas, choose subject matter that shows UDOT’s four areas of focus: Improve Safety, Optimize Mobility, Preserve Infrastructure and Strengthen the Economy.
  • Show candid shots of events or work processes. Real life scenes are the most interesting.
  • Take photos from different perspectives to get a good overall view of an event or construction or maintenance project.
  • Send in photos taken recently.
  • Send in a series of photos or a single photo.
  • Anyone can send in photos as long as the subject relates to UDOT.
  • Photos will be used on Flickr at the discretion of the UDOT Communications Office.

Photos can be sent by email or delivered on a disk or other storage device to the Communications Office at the Calvin Rampton Complex. Please include photo descriptions and your contact information.

September 6th, 2012

OUT OF SIGHT

No Comments, Optimize Mobility, Preserve Infrastructure, by Catherine Higgins.

I-15 CORE project concrete drainage pipes were installed under the freeway without shutting down traffic lanes. 

Provo River Constructors installed drainage pipe using by using augers or a tunneling machine with a cutting head to excavate under the freeway while lanes stayed open.

Some of the ways UDOT keeps lanes open during construction are easy to see – for example lane shifts that allow work to occur safely next to traffic. And, UDOT is famous for moving already-built bridges into place. But some lane-saving construction takes place out of the public eye.

The I-15 CORE contractor, Provo River Constructors, used a method of installing drainage pipe that avoids open cuts that require lane closures. Called jacked pipe, the system uses augers or a tunnel boring machine with a cutting head to excavate under the freeway while simultaneously pushing pipe segments through to the other side. I-15 CORE recently won a Project Achievement Award from the Concrete Pipe Association for the jacked pipe installation.

Minger Construction of Chanhassen, Minnesota installed over two miles of pre-cast reinforced jacked pipe. The innovative construction methods used by the sub-contractor made for accurate and efficient installation.

Additionally, the project used long -rebar as reinforcement in small-gauge pipe, which is not common. “The rebar keeps the pipe straight,” according to Randy Whalen, Marketing Engineer of Oldcastle Precast, producer of the pipe. Keeping pipe “dimensionally accurate,” is more critical with smaller pipe since “pipe that is even one eight inch off can induce a curve.”

Given the maintenance of traffic constraints coupled with the aggressive schedule, the process of jacking pipe under the freeway was very important to the overall project. Provo River Constructors was required by UDOT to keep traffic lanes open during construction, explains Robert Stewart, I-15 CORE Deputy Project Director. “I don’t think you could have built this project without jacking and boring.”

For a more detailed description of jacked pipe construction methods, read an article posted by Concretepipe.org. Scroll down to the previous post to see a slide show of the work on the I-15 CORE project.