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.

October 2nd, 2012

WETLAND BANKING

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

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.

September 24th, 2012

FASTEST PROJECT

1 Comment, Optimize Mobility, Preserve Infrastructure, by Guest Post.

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, Uncategorized, 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.