January 22nd, 2014

WASHTO Award Nominees

No Comments, Employee Focus, by Carlos Braceras.

Every year the Western Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (WASHTO) awards individuals or groups in their member states that have shown exemplary work in improving the quality of their respective organizations.

We received a record number of nominations from UDOT teams this year and the submittals were truly impressive. Their talents and ingenuity are a testament to the high caliber of employees we have here at UDOT. I wanted to take the time to highlight this year’s nominees and briefly outline their submissions.

Our maintenance folks do a remarkable job. For example, our maintenance team in Parley’s Canyon has worked to upgrade lights to LEDs and efficiently used the fill dirt from an area construction project in parts of the Canyon that need it most. When this summer’s flooding had the potential to cause road damage, our Huntington Canyon maintenance crews went above and beyond to create a rebar/riprap fix that prevented additional damage from occurring.

When a better data collection process was needed for the Maintenance Management Quality Assurance Program, our Region Two folks helped to support it. When we had to think creatively about how to best maintain our assets, Region Four’s asset management group adopted the motto, “Take Care of What we Have” and implemented a three year plan for Level II road maintenance that focuses on crack sealing and lane leveling.

I am constantly amazed at how dedicated our maintenance folks are at ensuring our transportation system investments are well cared for and our shop employees are no different.

The Region Three Mechanic shop employees collectively have over 200 years of experience between them. This has given them the skills and expertise needed to repair state-owned equipment using best practices and the latest technology. Their experience has helped the region to successfully meet the Department’s goals.

In Region One, the equipment shop team retrofitted five older snow plows with saddle tanks to give them the same pre-wetting capabilities that newer vehicles have. This ingenuity is essential to maintaining UDOT’s reputation as a national leader.

Our Signals Operations folks have made significant strides in innovation and national leadership. They have been tasked with creating a World-Class Signals system and are well on their way to making it happen. We now have over 750 intersections bringing real-time data to the Traffic Operations Center.

Managing data can be a significant undertaking- something our GIS group knows very well. Working closely with other divisions, they have helped to create an inventory system with real-time information regarding outdoor advertising along state routes. In addition, they have been an asset in producing interactive maps for Transportation Commission meetings, mapping bike routes, and creating a UPLAN Safety Index.

Another group that understands management is our Project Management team. Now with just a few clicks of the mouse a project can be set up, tracked, updated and the status communicated. ePM has been improved in the way it handles financial information for our project managers, and our Program Finance folks have developed a way to release excess funds earlier in the project process to allow for timely reprogramming on new projects.

Communicating information is key, not only in project management, but also when it impacts the public.

We now have a Little Cottonwood Canyon Communications Tool (LCCCT) for communicating information to the traveling public and our Travelwise program has improved our air quality messaging on overhead VMS boards to encourage motorists to drive less or carpool.

Our employees coordinated a partnership with Ogden City to install fiber in Ogden Canyon. They took the time to go beyond their normal responsibilities, finding a synergistic solution to an otherwise seemingly insurmountable task. They showed that proactive planning really makes a difference.

Our structures planning team has adopted “Plan for Every Structure” as their goal. The Treatment Matrix and overhaul of The Critical Bridge List are two examples of how they’ve done exactly that. Not only are we at the forefront of thoughtful structures planning but also of innovative bridge construction.

Representatives from around the country descended on Echo Junction this past summer as our project team pioneered the combination of Geosynthetic Reinforced Soil (GRS) and Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC).

At UDOT, quality work happens not only on the roads but off them as well.

For example, the Seeley Burn Scar left quite a mark. Our folks worked collaboratively with the Utah Geological Survey to install a Road Weather Information System in the scar’s watershed that helped anticipate flooding before it happened.

Our avalanche team successfully installed a release system near avalanche slide paths. This system can be operated remotely to set off snow slides in a controlled environment that reduces the likelihood of larger, more destructive avalanches.

The central materials group proactively reached out to precast suppliers and revised the current specifications to allow limited amounts of specific items to be saved ahead of time. As a result, we now have high-demand items when an unexpected need arises.

Our research team initiated a new transportation innovation breakout group this year that generated new ideas about special types of concrete pavements for urban areas and laser striping for more accurate lane delineation.

UDOT University has made literally hundreds of courses available to UDOT employees, trained approximately 850 individual participants, and provided approximately 1500 hours of training to department personnel.

As you can see, the selection pool for this year’s WASHTO Quality Award was very competitive. All of these groups’ accomplishments are impressive in their own right and collectively represent the quality work we do here at the Department. I want to express my appreciation to all of the nominees for their hard work and dedication.

219 lives were lost in car crashes on Utah’s roads in 2013, up two from 2012. Although Utah only experienced a slight increase in fatalities from last year, any climb in fatality numbers is troubling.

Graphic demonstrating 219 live losts on Utah highways

Even more alarming is the number of Utahns killed in crashes because they were not buckled up. Excluding pedestrian, bicyclist and motorcyclist fatalities, nearly half (46.7%) of people killed on Utah’s roads in 2013 were not wearing a seat belt.

Chart showing the significant increase in fatalitiy numbers of Improper Restraint compaired to other factors.

Wearing a seat belt is one of the simplest things you can do to prevent death or serious injury when involved in a crash. In fact, people who aren’t properly buckled up are 40 times more likely to die in a car crash than those who are.

Buckling up only takes moments to do, and could mean the difference between life or death. Commit now to always wear your seat belt, and let your passengers know that your car won’t move until everyone is buckled up.

Here is a snapshot of the top five deadly driving behaviors killing people on Utah’s roads:

Graphic showing the top five deadly driving behaviros and how many people were killed by each.

Utah is making progress toward our goal of Zero Fatalities, but we still have work to do. UDOT reminds drivers and passengers to always wear your seat belt, slow down, put down phone and never drive drowsy or impaired. If we work together, we can each our goal of Zero Fatalities.

Join us as we continue the conversation about Zero Fatalities on Twitter and Facebook. You can also review the full 2013 Fatalities Data Analysis report by visiting the Zero Fatalities website.

This guest post was written by Zero Fatalities team member Mary Rice.

January 21st, 2014

Pavement Marking Check-up

No Comments, Preserve Infrastructure, by Catherine Higgins.

Photo of right side white lineRetroreflectivity, which makes pavement markings visible at night, happens when the light from vehicle headlights bounces back toward the driver’s eyes. Visible markings help prevent lane departure crashes. But markings degrade over time due to weather and wear from traffic, so departments of transportation need to keep on top of pavement marking maintenance through regular inspections and replacement of sub-par markings.

Until recently, markings were measured subjectively by just taking a look and rating the condition of the marking. For the past year, however, retroreflectivity has been measured objectively, and data from those measurements is available on UDOT’s Data Portal.

Each spring and fall, employees from UDOT’s Maintenance Planning Division measure the retroreflectivity of markings on a randomly chosen selection of roadway segments, including dashed lane markings and solid lines that mark the edge of the road.

Photo of the van that is used to measure pavement markingMeasurements are taken using a mobile retroreflectometer mounted in a van. The retroreflectometer, shoots a high intensity Laser in a sweeping motion over marked pavement and measures the light that reflects back in milli-candelas per lux per meter squared – a measure of light per unit area.

The data gathered by the measuring effort is compiled and graded from A+ to F – this spring, UDOT got a B. This year’s fall data is in the process of being compiled. The data on UDOT’s Data Portal can be viewed on a map alone or along with other data sets.

Over time, having an objective measurements of pavement retroreflectivity will help support safety by helping to direct funding where improvement is needed.

Photo of Variable Speed Limit sign with a semi passing by on I-80 in Parley's Canyon

Variable Speed Limit sign on I-80 in Parley’s Canyon

The UDOT Traffic Operations Center (TOC) now has a new tool to enhance safety for drivers  on I-80 – one of the most heavily-traveled roads in the state. Last Wednesday (Jan. 8), 15 new variable speed limit (VSL) signs were activated along I-80 in Parley’s Canyon. The new signs will be controlled by the TOC to help maintain consistent traffic flows and assist drivers in adjusting speeds when necessary due to weather conditions.

The 15 signs – 8 eastbound and 7 westbound, located between the mouth of the canyon and Jeremy Ranch, are equipped with LED display screens that allow UDOT to remotely adjust speeds. These adjustments will be made based on driver behavior and road conditions.

“We are always looking for new technologies to help us manage traffic more effectively and enhance safety,” said UDOT Region 2 East District Engineer Robert Miles. “These signs will help keep drivers moving and reduce the number of weather-related crashes in Parley’s Canyon.”

The variable speed limit signs in Parley’s Canyon have been divided into four zones – an eastbound lower zone and westbound lower zone, from the mouth of the canyon to Mountain Dell/Lambs Canyon, and an eastbound upper zone and westbound upper zone, from Mountain Dell/Lambs Canyon to Kimball Junction. When a speed limit is adjusted for a specific zone, the new speed limit will be displayed on all signs within the same zone. These zones were created because of the differences in weather patterns and average speeds observed in the canyon due to changes in elevation.

The TOC will monitor speed limits in the canyon. In the event of poor weather or low visibility, a traffic engineer will be able to review information such as current road conditions, weather forecasts, snowfall rates, observed speeds, and reports from maintenance personnel. Based on this information, the engineer can make the decision to reduce the speed limit as needed. Depending on conditions, speed limits may range from 35 to 65 miles per hour.

The new variable speed limit signs are the first of their kind in Utah. Other states, including Washington, Wyoming, Colorado and Nevada, currently use these signs and have observed a reduction in weather-related crashes in areas where these signs are employed. Washington (Snoqualmie Pass – I-90) and Wyoming (east of Evanston – I-80) in particular are using these signs in areas similar to Parley’s Canyon: interstate highways with moderate to heavy traffic, with significant elevation differences, that are prone to inclement weather.

The Parley’s Canyon VSL project was developed jointly by UDOT and the Utah Highway Patrol (UHP). The speed limits posted on these signs are not merely advisory speeds, but regulatory speed limits that will be enforced by UHP troopers.

I-80 in Parley’s Canyon was selected as the location for this pilot project due to its changing weather conditions, heavy traffic, and existing fiber optic communications network. The investment for the design and construction for the new signs was $750,000, and the annual operating expense is estimated between $7,500 and $10,000. UDOT is also considering installing variable speed limit signs in other locations around the state, such as Sardine Canyon and Provo Canyon, based on the results of this project.

This guest post was written by Aaron Mentzer with the UDOT Traffic team.

Photo of crew members from maintenance station 2425 receiving their Silver Barrel AwardsExecutive Director Carlos Braceras presented several Silver Barrel Awards to employees from Maintenance Station 225 – Salt Lake Metro. The first award was presented to Station Supervisor Jake Brown for his exemplary service assisting a community group in their neighborhood clean up of the 600 North overpass.

On Saturday, Nov. 9, the Capitol Hill Neighborhood Council and the Rose Park Community Council co-sponsored a clean up of the 600 North overpass. Several community residents and almost thirty West High School JROTC students attended the event. Anticipating that most of the students would not have tools or gloves for the clean up, the Capitol Hill Neighborhood Council asked UDOT for a little help. In response, Jake supplied brooms, shovels, rakes, gloves, vests and garbage bags to the group. The group was thrilled with the support and readily put everything to good use.

Photo of Carlos Braceras presenting maintenance station 2425 with Silver Barrel AwardsJake’s willingness to support his community is a key reason why he is so deserving of the Silver Barrel Award. As Capitol Hill Neighborhood Council Chair Richard Starley wrote, “We could not have done it without Jake’s support. We appreciate his willingness to help and follow through on our requests. . . . The overpass and I-15 interchange haven’t looked this clean since they were built.”

Members of Jake’s crew, Fred Baney, Mike Gailey, Robert Giolas, Brian Goins and Curtis Trott, were also presented a Silver Barrel for assisting the Salt Lake City Fire Department with containment of a semi fire on the northbound I-15 ramp to westbound I-80.

On the morning of December 5, 2013 the maintenance station was contacted at 3:20 a.m. to provide assistance with the fire fighting efforts. Due to the cold temperatures crew members were concerned about ice and responded with a plow truck and sander, a loader and a liquid brine truck with a hose attachment. Salt Lake City fire trucks began to run low on water so Photo of Carlos Braceras congratulating and thanking maintenance station 2425 crew membersUDOT crew members used the brine truck to help douse the flames. The loader was used to expose the burning cargo allowing fire crews put out hot spots.

Once the fire was out Jake and his crew cleaned up the debris, assisted the tow company with removing the semi and its cargo, salted and removed ice patches and had the ramp open for the morning commute. Congratulations to these very deserving individuals.

Co-authored by Region 2 Communications Manager Adan Carrillo. Thanks also goes to Adan for providing the photos. 

UDOT

For just over a year UDOT leadership has been recognizing our great employees by presenting them with a Silver Barrel Award. The following employees have been the recipients up until now and deserve our appreciation.

Operations – Motor Carrier

  • Carrie Baker
  • Tamy Scott

Operations – Traffic Management

Project Development

  • Fred Doehring

Region 1

  • Zack Andrus
  • Scott Baker
  • Dan Chappell
  • Jed Christensen
  • Audrey Drawn
  • J. Tucker Doak
  • Reggie Estes
  • Jesse Glidden
  • Gary Grant
  • Jared Jensen
  • Chris Lizotte
  • Tammy Misrasi
  • Jordan Nielsen
  • John (Peaches) Norwood
  • John Pace
  • Joseph Phillips
  • Alfred Puntasecca
  • Dirk Richards
  • Neil Sarle
  • Christopher Scribner
  • Richard Sorenson
  • Derek Smith
  • Jason Stimpson
  • Tyler Wagstaff

Region 2

Region 3

  • David L. Jean

Region 4

  • Todd Abbott
  • Ronnie Albrecht
  • Branden Anderson
  • Lisa Anderson
  • Dave Babcock
  • Dave Baird
  • Ken Ballantyne
  • Ray Bentley
  • Eric Betts (received 2 Silver Barrel Awards)
  • Mike Blotter
  • Bryan Brinkerhoff
  • Joshua Brooks
  • Robert Brown
  • Marci Brunson
  • David Bybee
  • Daryl Christensen
  • Max Conder
  • Erick Cox
  • Gaylen Dalton
  • Gale Davis
  • Shawn Davis
  • Tab Davis
  • Wesley Erickson
  • Clyde Fish
  • John Fullmer (received 2 Silver Barrel Awards)
  • Cameron Gay
  • Robert Gilson
  • Joshua Green
  • Sam Grimshaw (received 2 Silver Barrel Awards)
  • Ron Grundy
  • Eric Hansen
  • Leonard Heaps
  • Pam Higgins
  • Jacob Ibanez
  • David Johnson (received 2 Silver Barrel Awards)
  • Kerry Johnson
  • Lyle Judd
  • Karen Julander
  • Ben Kelly
  • Ronnie Krause
  • Steve Kunzler
  • Kevin Lambeth
  • Mark Laws
  • Devan Meadows
  • Josh Miller
  • Faron Mitchell
  • Lance Mooney
  • Sue Moorehead
  • Darren Mortensen
  • Kike Murdoch
  • Kade Murdock
  • Jim McConnell
  • Duwayne McCormick
  • Brian Nielson
  • Anne Ogden
  • Gary Orton
  • Kenny Orton
  • Mike Randall (received 2 Silver Barrel Awards)
  • Dave Roberts
  • Stan Roberts
  • AJ Rogers
  • Morgan Shaw
  • Layne Slack
  • Brian Sorenson
  • Jason Standage
  • Dale Stapley
  • Tim Turner
  • Marc Wood
  • Justin Woodard (received 2 Silver Barrel Awards)
  • Cindy Wright

December 5th, 2013

Consider a Map

3 Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

Online maps are serving as great communication tools for UDOT Planning’s efforts to develop and improve facilities for pedestrians and cyclists.

A coordinated active transportation network for pedestrians and cyclists is an essential part of an integrated transportation system that considers the needs of all users. Recently, UDOT Director Carlos Braceras listed five areas of focus for the agency, and he included integrated transportation:

Photo of Road Respect bicyclists riding in traffic“UDOT will actively consider how to best meet the needs of trucks, bikes, pedestrians and mass transit when studying transportation solutions and ensure those solutions are applied to the most appropriate facilities. We will strive to provide Utahns with balanced transportation options while planning for future travel demand.”

How can UDOT employees meet the challenge of communicating and coordinating with the diverse transportation user groups? One way is by using online maps as communication tools.

“When you have a precise illustration, which a map provides, it gets everyone on the same page by relaying a lot of information in a concise, coordinated way,” says Evelyn Tuddenham, UDOT’s Walking and Biking Coordinator in the planning division. “Maps contain so much information – it allows viewers to see the ebb and flow in ways that you can’t accomplish just by looking at numbers.”

Maps as communication tools can enhance collaboration and help convey a distinct message. Here are some examples of how maps are being used to help plan a coordinated active transportation network:

The Utah Collaborative Active Transportation Study (UCATS) used online maps on an interactive website to show pedestrians and bicyclists existing facilities and then get feedback about where improvements are needed. Study participants used that information to identify a proposed regional bicycle network that will improve and extend the state’s active transportation system by making facilities safer and improving connectivity to transit.

The outcome of the UCATS study will have a huge impact on the active transportation in Utah by identifying needed improvements and systematically planning ways to coordinated and implement active transportation infrastructure.

screenshot of Utah Bike Maps websiteThe UDOT Walking and biking program is using a series of maps to show cyclists existing routes. The map series idea was proposed by Nick Kenczka, Research Consultant in UDOT Systems Planning and programming. Tuddenham resisted the idea at first, thinking that one map would be simpler.

“It turned out to be a great way to talk to cyclists,” Tuddenham says of the series. “Having a set of maps breaks information down and allows us to present the information in a more coherent way.”

Each map has a separate focus and a separate message. Altogether, the series is an effective tool for cyclists with different needs. Recreational cyclists can check out shoulder widths and other infrastructure elements, the difficulty of the terrain and the screen shot of popular rides online maplength of the route to plan trips. Bike commuters can use the maps to see traffic volume information and to check route. Cyclists can even zoom into specific areas on the maps and take a virtual ride down the road to see what they could encounter on a particular route. The maps are useful tools that can help cyclists make informed travel decisions.

Give it a try

Using maps to communicate is easier than you think. The UPlan Map Center, available on the UDOT Data Portal, allows users to build a custom map, or several maps, quickly and easily. Pre-built maps can also be used and changed to suite communication needs.

Combining a series of maps, like the ones used to communicate with cyclists, takes the help of a UDOT eGIS expert. Contact information for the eGIS team is available on the UDOT Data Portal.

More about maps:

Photo of UDOT personel receiving an update regarding the weather

UDOT Wind Event Weather Briefing

Weather events can have a huge impact on traffic and traveler delay. The UDOT Traffic Operations Center (TOC) handles routine day-to-day rush hour congestion and traffic signal timing smoothly after years of practice. But what about a large winter storm or wind event?

A significant amount of planning and consideration is needed to ensure that UDOT’s response to a storm is thorough and serving the needs of the public. For the high winds event that affected interstate and highway routes from Woods Cross to Centerville on Nov.21–22, 2013, TOC coordination started with a weather briefing. Weather briefings are generally held 24 to 48 hours before a storm to ensure that the incoming weather data is as accurate as possible. Many UDOT departments attend the weather briefings. The briefings are an essential tool to ensure that the UDOT response to an event

Photo of the portable RWIS stations next to I-15 in Centerville

UDOT Portable RWIS Station (Photo by Cody Opperman)

is coordinated and timely. “The weather briefing discussed what we anticipated, what steps they would take when certain thresholds were met, and a detailed schedule of who would be in charge throughout the event,” said Jason Davis, UDOT’s Director of Operations.

Photo of UDOT maintenance technician J.T. Dziatlik is foul weather gear

UDOT Maintenance Technician J.T. Dziatlik

Following the weather briefing, UDOT employees sprang into action. UDOT began strategically deploying equipment and personnel to assist with equipment malfunctions and outages due to the storm. The Traffic Operations Center had an event coordinator and meteorologist on staff around the clock for the duration of the event.

One of the most valuable pieces of equipment during a wind storm are the Road Weather Information System (RWIS) stations. A portable RWIS was deployed at the epicenter of the wind and communicated wind speeds and gusts back to the TOC. Over the course of the storm, the UDOT weather group posted dozens of Road Weather Alerts on the UDOT Traffic app, website and 511 phone line. The weather group was also in near-constant communication with UDOT’s region offices and maintenance sheds providing storm updates.

Diagram showing all of the different data sources for weather operationsCurrent and forecast weather conditions are a critical part of traveler information in Utah.  Utah has many high mountain passes and rural routes that frequently experience hazardous winter weather, and accurate road condition information for these routes is vital for traveler safety and route planning.

The UDOT Citizen Reporting Program enlists volunteers to report on current road conditions along specific roadway segments across Utah.  The volunteers can be UDOT employees, law enforcement, truck drivers, plow drivers, experienced commuters, or other volunteers.  The long term goal of adding Citizen Reporters to UDOT’s weather operations road reporting is to supplement current condition reporting on segments where drivers are already traveling.

All of the incoming data is compiled with carefully crafted logic to determine the condition of the road surface. Reports from plow drivers, law enforcement and other experienced reporters may be utilized in a different way than volunteer citizen data, however all data is immensely valuable and helpful in determining the condition of the road surface.

How do I become a UDOT Citizen Reporter?

In order to become a UDOT Citizen Reporter, you will need to complete a brief training (either online or in person), take a short quiz and complete a sign-up form. The training takes approximately 30 minutes. Once a volunteer has completed these steps, they will be provided with a login and PIN, and can begin submitting reports. Reports are submitted through the UDOT Citizen Reporting app, downloadable for Android and Apple devices from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

If you would like to become a Citizen Reporter, please follow this link to take the online training: www.udottraffic.utah.gov/training/citizenreporter. For more information or to schedule an in person training, email UDOTCitizenReporter@utah.gov.

November 25th, 2013

SNAP, Walk ‘N Roll

No Comments, Zero Fatalities, by Guest Post.

Grapic showing three school kids and the SNAP Walk 'N Roll slogan Since 2009, the UDOT SNAP team has been teaching Utah students the importance of safe walking and biking practices. To encourage more students to walk and bike to school, the SNAP, Walk ‘N Roll assembly was created. Featuring professional performers and catchy, upbeat songs, the SNAP, Walk ‘N Roll assembly is a highly-sought after coveted production that covers what to do in construction zones and how regular exercise can improve a student’s focus and health.

With the new school year comes another round of SNAP, Walk ‘N Roll assembly performances. This year SNAP was pleased to bring the assembly to 30 schools across the state. To date, more than 100,000 Utah students have seen the SNAP, Walk ‘N Roll assembly.

Photo of SNAP Walk 'N Roll AssemblyThe SNAP assembly is available to elementary schools in the Alpine, Canyons, Davis, Granite, Jordan, Murray, Nebo, Ogden, Provo, Salt Lake and Weber school districts. Elementary schools outside of the listed districts can request a free SNAP, Walk ‘N Roll DVD, that features the entire assembly performed on a professional sound stage.

The music from the SNAP assembly is available for free on the UDOT SNAP website.

To see more pictures and learn about the SNAP performers, visit the SNAP Facebook page.

This guest post was written by Cherissa Wood UDOT’s School and Pedestrian Safety Program Manager.