July 31st, 2012

RWIS UPDATE

2 Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

New RWIS system upgrades and stations will help plow crews work more efficiently this winter.

The sensors that detect salinity are a little larger than hockey pucks and are embedded in the pavement.

Weather forecasters at UDOT rely on information from Road Weather Information Systems placed strategically around the state to make area specific, accurate and timely weather reports to help maintenance crews and motorists. Summer is spent updating RWIS Stations in preparation for the snow season.

RWIS stations are Intelligent Transportation System devices coordinated at the Traffic Operations Center. The devices record air temperature, road temperature, solar radiation, humidity and some detect salinity on the road.

The salinity information “is really helpful to maintenance shed people and how they do their jobs in the winter,” says Leigh Sturges, UDOT Weather Information and RWIS Manager. “There’s a big push this year and next to put all our RWIS up to a higher quality standard,” she says.  By fall 2012, more RWIS stations will have sensors that detect salinity and eventually, all stations will have the helpful devices.

The sensors that detect salinity are a little larger than hockey pucks and are embedded in the pavement along with cables that are connected to the RWIS station. Sensors send readings back to the TOC. Maintenance station employees can easily access the readings online.

Roger Frantz, Parley’s Canyon Maintenance Station Supervisor for UDOT has been using the temperature and salinity data gathered by RWIS stations for about eight years – ever since the stations were first installed. The information helps make plowing operations more efficient by helping plow operators know how much salt to use. “Our goal is to just put down enough salt to keep the road from freezing.”

Using salt breaks the bond between the ice and the pavement and allows plow operators to remove snow and ice efficiently. A too-heavy salt application is expensive and can be counterproductive. Because of the endothermic reaction that occurs, salt actually takes heat from the road. Heavy salt application is especially a problem during storms that last through several days.

“By depressing the road temperature too much, you can exhaust your energy source, which is heat,” says Frantz. Plow operators need to use enough salt to keep the road from freezing until the next pass when more salt is used. By using the RWIS sensor readings, his station now uses one-third the amount of salt as was used previously.

In addition to new sensors, six new RWIS stations will be deployed – two located along the Mountain View Corridor, two installed on the I-15 CORE project and two installed on I-80 near Coalville.

The installation crew will also put in an icy bridge system on Fish Creek Bridge on I-70. The system uses a non- invasive sensor pointed at the road surface to detect friction and send a signal to activate a sign that warns motorists of icy conditions on the bridge.

July 26th, 2012

MVC AWARDS

No Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

Congratulations to the Mountain View Corridor team for winning several awards!

Aerial view of the Mountain View Corridor

FHWA Excellence in Right-of-Way Stewardship Award (2012)- In February 2012, FHWA announced that MVC project leaders had been selected to receive the 2012 Excellence in Right-of-Way Stewardship Award for their role in property acquisition for the MVC. They were recognized for creating acquisition teams focused on landowner needs, implementing a system to work with lending institutions to protect owners’ financial status, and adopting web-based tracking systems to streamline the acquisition process. Under the guidance of these leaders, the MVC right-of-way team proactively sought to partner with landowners to achieve the best solutions for both the individuals and the state.

At the outset of the project, the right-of-way team was faced with an unparalleled task of acquiring right-of-way for the MVC across 421 separate owners’ property, with 803 different parcels. Through solution-oriented collaboration, the right-of-way team has resolved all but six of these acquisitions to date, resulting in less than a two percent condemnation ratio for this project.

ARTBA PRIDE Award (2012) – In May 2012, Copper Hills Constructors (CHC) was awarded the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) PRIDE Award for their work on the Mountain View Corridor project. This award annually recognizes extraordinary efforts of individuals, companies, public agencies and industry-related associations that serve to enhance the image of the U.S. transportation design and construction industry.

Utah Best of State Award (2012) – In May 2012, UDOT’s Mountain View Corridor (MVC) project was awarded Best of State in the Public Works category. The Best of State Awards were created to recognize outstanding individuals, organizations and businesses in Utah. By recognizing excellence in our community and sharing examples of success and triumph in so many worthy endeavors, we hope all will be inspired to reach a little higher, to try a little harder, and to work a little smarter for our dreams and goals.

Communicator Awards (2012) – In May 2012, UDOT’s Mountain View Corridor (MVC) project was awarded two Communicator Awards for the project’s Interactive Map and Website. The Silver Awards of Distinction were presented to the project team by the International Academy of Visual Arts. The Communicator Awards is the leading international awards program honoring creative excellence for Communications Professionals. Founded by communication professionals over a decade ago, The Communicator Awards receives over 9,000 entries from companies and agencies of all sizes, making it one of the largest awards of its kind in the world.

ARTBA TransOvation Award – In June 2012, Copper Hills Constructors (CHC) and the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) was awarded the 2012 TransOvation award for the entry “Modified CMGC Contracting.” The TransOvation award program was established in order to recognize and honor innovative transportation infrastructure-related products, services, technologies and techniques that quantitatively improve transportation safety, save transportation users and taxpayer’s time and money and/or make our transportation infrastructure more environmentally sustainable.

July 24th, 2012

24TH STREET EA

4 Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

An environmental study is looking at ways to improve mobility in downtown Ogden. 

 Environmental Assessment currently underway identifies environmental impacts that may result from potential improvements to I-15 at 24th Street.

UDOT is asking stakeholders to get involved by learning about the project and commenting on an Environmental Assessment that identifies the environmental impacts that may result from potential improvements to I-15 at 24th Street. The EA study area is bounded by the West Ogden Community to the east, 31st Street to the south, 1900 West to the west, and 21st Street to the north.

UDOT is studying impacts to the freeway and to nearby arterial streets that could result from improvements to the Midland Drive / 2550 South intersection, the 24th Street Interchange and the area within the Ogden City Industrial Park. UDOT Project Manager Bret Slater believes that the potential improvements will have a positive impact on freeway flow, safety and mobility on arterial streets.

The study team has carefully evaluated potential improvements. “Every possible alternative has been scrutinized, analyzed and looked at,” says Slater. He wants the public get informed about the alternatives and to provide comments.

Stakeholders who comment “help us through the environmental process,” says Slater. “ We need folks to tell us what they think” about potential impacts. Engineers can conduct traffic studies and design roads and structures, but local residents may have a knowledge and understanding of the local area that the project team lacks, he explains.

The study team is working with area property and business owners, government leaders and federal and state agencies to identify all potential areas of concern before a final decision is made. Elisa Albury, UDOT Environmental Lead on the project has recently helped plan and conduct an open house to inform stakeholders about the EA. Albury says the open house event provided “a status report” to inform stakeholders.

To comment on the EA, visit the study website.

July 23rd, 2012

MAP-21 RESOURCES

2 Comments, Optimize Mobility, Preserve Infrastructure, by Catherine Higgins.

AASHTO has created a website to consolidate information about MAP-21, Moving Ahead for Progress in the Twenty First Century, the federal transportation bill passed into law on July 6.

MAP-21 is intended to reduce project delivery time and save costs, improve safety and reduce traffic congestion.

UDOT and other transportation agencies will now start implementing provisions of MAP-21. To support the implementation effort, AASHTO has established work groups and introduced a website about the new law.

New features of the law are designed to reduce project delivery time and save costs by implementing early coordination between agencies to avoid delay in review processes. Core programs have been consolidated to include:

  • National Highway Performance Program, a new core program that consolidates Interstate Maintenance, National Highway System, and Highway Bridge programs. Provisions are intended to eliminate barriers that limit flexibility to using tax dollars efficiently when improving the national highway system.
  • Transportation Mobility Program, a new program that replaces the Surface Transportation Program. Provisions broaden the eligibility of surface transportation projects.
  • National Freight Network Program, a new core program aimed at reducing congestion in order to improve the movement of goods
  • Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program is a program that was retained. CMAQ provides funds to reduce congestion and improve air quality.
  • Highway Safety Improvement Program is a retained program that increases the amount of funding to develop and implement safety programs.
  • Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Program provides direct loans, loan guarantees, and lines of credit to surface transportation projects at favorable terms.

AASHTO President Kirk Steudle has established work groups to study the implementation process, including Project Delivery, Performance Measures, Planning, Asset Management, and Performance-Based Planning and Programming, Finance, Safety, Freight, Highways and Transit.

John Horsley, Executive Director of AASHTO is looking forward to implementing the changes. “We are also pleased that the legislation includes needed reforms to stretch taxpayer dollars with expanded innovative finance, improved efficiency with program consolidation, streamlined project delivery, and improved accountability with performance measures.”

For more information about MAP-21, visit the AASHTO MAP-21 website.

July 20th, 2012

RELY ON RESPECT

No Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

“Road Respect, Cars & Bikes Rules to Live By” is a safety campaign that encourages motorists and cyclists to know and abide by the rules of the road – laws and common sense practices that help keep all road users safe. 

Matt Sibul, Planning Director with the Utah Transit Authority speaks to the media at the Salt Lake Intermodal Center

The Utah Department of Public Safety and Utah Department of Transportation started a joint effort to encourage safe practices and good relationships between motorists and cyclists in 2011. The centerpiece of the communication effort is a statewide bicycle tour.

In June 2012, thirty cyclists representing law enforcement, public safety, transportation and bicycle advocacy participated in a six day 509 mile ride through Utah.  Along the way cyclists joined community leaders and citizens, including local cyclists at planned Rallies and Stops meant to promote the rules for sharing the road.

Rallies and Stops were organized by community volunteers. “It’s taken many, many hours to get to this point,” explained UDOT Deputy Director Carlos Braceras at a kick-off event in Salt Lake City.

Months before the tires hit pavement, tour co-organizers Evelyn Tuddenham with UDOT and Kari Gibson with the Utah Highway Safety Office networked with communities throughout the state to organize Road Respect events. Mike Loveland is an avid cyclist and a lieutenant with the Utah Highway Patrol. He participated as a cyclist and also helped plan the tour.

Loveland’s work life is spent enforcing the rules of the road. But after work, he spends a lot of time cycling. So, he is in a unique position to see safety issues from the perspective o f a cyclist and a motorist.  The Road Respect campaign and tour is a way to encourage a “get-along attitude” between cyclists and motorists, Loveland explains. Cooperation and consideration is necessary since both groups, according to Loveland “own a piece of the road.”

Local communities appreciate the effort

Activities at the Rallies and Stops drew families for fun activities, including include bike rodeos, helmet give-away items, street and trail rides and speakers, including elected officials who endorsed the Road Respect message. Mayor Bruce Burrows of Riverdale City praised the effort at a Stop on the Road Respect Tour.

Riverdale officials are working on a Complete Streets plan for the city that includes bike lanes and trails “that will interconnect every part of the city.”

According to the National Complete Streets Coalition website (http://www.completestreets.org), “Complete Streets policy ensures that transportation planners and engineers consistently design and operate the entire roadway with all users in mind – including bicyclists, public transportation vehicles and riders, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.”

Citizens in Riverdale want cycling, explained Burrows at a tour Stop. “We want to be ahead of the curve, to be very proactive in getting things done.” And with more cyclists on the streets of Riverdale, it’s even more important that when people ride or drive, they know the rules of the road.

Mayor Dennis Fife of Brigham City, Utah also sees the value in making his city bicycle friendly. He explained how he invited Jack Leavitt, a retired engineer from ATK to head the city’s bicycle committee at a Stop.

Both Fife and Leavitt are pleased with the progress the city has made. “We’ve got new bicycle lanes that go north and south through the whole city on both the west side and east side,” says Leavitt. “We’ve seen a great increase of families now that we have these bike lanes.” So, the Road Respect message is well timed!

Getting the message out

Road Respect events around the state were well attended by families, cycling club members, community groups and elected officials. And that great community support at official Rallies and Stops was in part due to great media coverage of the tour.

Kerry Bringhurst, News Director at Utah Public Radio used the messages developed by Tuddenham and Gibson to cover the tour and associated events. In fact, even though UPR broadcasts originate in Logan, the station covered events around the state starting the first day of the tour. Coverage included interviews of Road Respect organizers, stories about the tour and information on the website, including an interactive tour map.

Bringhurst believes covering the Road Respect tour was an important service to listeners “not just to help cyclists, but to help motorists.” Bringhurst says the information sent to the station about the tour were excellent.

The Road Respect Tour communication effort included carefully developed press releases, fact sheets and a list of myths about cycling meant to help media outlets educate the public and promote Road Respect events. Tour organizers “gave me what I needed so I could do accurate interviewing,” said Bringhurst.

Cars and bicycles together

Road Respect Tour cyclists were joined by motorists driving replica Shelby Cobras to demonstrate the importance of respect between drivers and riders. Some of the Rallies on the Road Respect Tour even featured mini car shows.

While the tour involves bikes and cars, there’s really one group – people. More and more Americans ride and drive for work and for fun. All people deserve to be shown respect, whatever the chosen transportation mode.  Salt Lake County Deputy Mayor Nichole Dunn, who spoke at a Rally in Draper, told the audience that when teaching safety, respect is the key.  “If you base an event around respect you really can’t go wrong.”

July 19th, 2012

SIGNALS AND DELAY

No Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

How do properly functioning signal systems help traffic flow?  

Besides reducing congestion, effective coordination of traffic signals, saves fuel, reduces vehicle emissions, and increases safety.

UDOT has recently put more resources into developing an aggressive preventative maintenance program for signal systems. “We want to go from a reactive to a proactive program,” says Mark Taylor, UDOT Traffic Signal Operations Engineer. Ultimately, the driving public will see better traffic flow.

Saturation

Sluggish traffic can be the result of saturation, or too many cars accessing the roadway. Building new roads or making existing roads wider is not always prudent or affordable.  “We just cannot build our way out of congestion,” says Taylor.

Utah’s high rate of population growth means mobility will be an ongoing challenge. Fortunately, improving signal function can help reduce delay.

Good coordination

An article on FHWA’s website reviews results from cities that have put time and resources into maintaining signal systems. A study in Virginia estimated that traffic signal improvements on a 1.5-mile of US- 17 save road users $65,000 a year in reduced delay. And a new signal system and improved signal timing in Texas produced a 13-percent reduction in travel time.

“Field studies conducted after 41 California cities re-timed 1,535 signals at a cost of $2 million in 1983 showed that vehicle stops and delays were cut by more than 14 percent, travel time was reduced by 6.5 percent, and fuel use declined by approximately 6.4 million gallons (24 million liters).”

In 2011, UDOT worked with its partners to time 164 signals and 22 corridors and realized the following benefits:

Improved Signal Timing
Travel Time Reduced – 5.5 percent
Stops Reduced – 11.4 percent
Intersection Delay Reduced – 14.7 percent
Estimated Savings to the Public in Reduced Delay – $6.2 million

Besides reducing congestion, effective coordination of traffic signals saves fuel, reduces vehicle emissions and increases safety. Because of the many benefits of well timed and well maintained signal systems, UDOT Director John Njord has charged the Traffic Operations Division with creating a world-class traffic signal system.

UDOT is committed to making even more improvements in 2012.

July 19th, 2012

SIGNAL REORGANIZATION

No Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

A reorganized Signal Team is helping UDOT engineers share best practices and improve traffic flow.

keeping signals working requires an investment of funding and staff to execute preventative maintenance strategies that keep signals working and traffic flowing.

UDOT is putting more resources into keeping signals working well by adding more resources and reorganizing the statewide signals team. The change is part of an aggressive preventative maintenance program that ultimately will help UDOT be more proactive and less reactive.

Well managed signal systems can have a cost benefit ratio as high as 40 to 1 – a much higher benefit than new construction. But keeping signals working requires an investment of funding and staff to execute preventative maintenance strategies.

“We want to be preventing the fires from occurring in the first place,” says Mark Taylor, UDOT Traffic Systems Operational Engineer. With the new organization changes, he says the public “will see reduced delay and smoother flow of traffic.”

Taylor works in the Traffic Management Division, which is responsible for traffic signal timing on all state roads at the Traffic Operations Center.  The UDOT TOC is the nerve center for managing traffic flow and the facility plays a key role in helping UDOT manage signal systems and reduce delay.

According to a recently completed UDOT Quality Improvement Team report and FHWA, departments of transportation need sufficient staff to manage and maintain the signal systems effectively and efficiently.  National best practice standards call for one traffic engineer to keep every 75 to 100 signals maintained and operational and one signal technician for every 40 to 50 signals.

Changes at UDOT reflect best practices

Now each of the four UDOT regions has a Region Traffic Engineer, with regions three and four sharing one position. Region Traffic Engineers report to the central Signal Operations Management Engineer at the Traffic Operations Division. Signal crews at the region level report to the Region Traffic Signal Engineer and to Traffic Operations Division.

The organizational change reflects a Matrix management structure that integrates the Traffic Management Division and operations engineers at the four UDOT Regions. The change is intended to aid organizational cohesion and uniformity, improve operations and maintenance practices, and facilitate increased knowledge transfer of best practices from one region to another.

With improved preventative maintenance, signal detection systems, for example, should fail less often. “We have a goal to keep signal detection operational – ninety-five percent is the goal,” says Taylor.

A photo contest is providing an opportunity to showcase the people who use and improve our state transportation system – but hurry, time is short!

Workers ready a Self-Propelled Modular Transporter for the Sam White Bridge Move

Face it, the UDOT family, including state employees and private sector partners, is full of dedicated people who enhance the quality of life in our state by improving mobility, maintaining infrastructure and building for the future. Do you have photos that showcase those people doing their important work? If so, the AASHTO Faces of Transportation photo contest may be a great way to share those images.

“Faces of Transportation” is a yearly contest that has a monetary prize attached. UDOT is heading a coordinated effort to submit photos for the contest, but the deadline is approaching quickly.

For the first time, contest organizers are asking for photos that fit into three themes:

  • Building the Future – showing people planning, designing and maintaining the transportation network.
  • On the Road – showing long distance travel opportunities afforded by the transportation network.
  • Taking a Ride—showing people using transportation networks to commute, run errands or to discover new places.

Please send digital photos to chiggins@utah.gov by Wednesday, July 25. Digital files must be a minimum of 600 dpi quality or better. All entries must be accompanied by a completed entry form. A text file with the information and caption should also be included. For assistance, contact Catherine Higgins at 801-803-9413 or by email.

Photos selected for the contest will be highlighted on the UDOT Blog and Flickr.

July 12th, 2012

WAY TO GO

No Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

Congratulations to the The Mountain View Corridor Right-of-way team for earning the Stewardship Award.

The Mountain View Corridor Right-of-Way Team

FHWA’s 2012 Excellence in Right of Way Awards recognize “outstanding work associated with acquiring real property” for transportation projects. One award is presented from each of the nine categories yearly at the FHWA/AASHTO Right-of-Way and Utilities Subcommittee meeting. “Our goal with the awards program is to spotlight and share great ideas from around the country that will benefit the right-of-way community and the public,” according to the award website.

The ROW team on the MVC project team includes members from UDOT, HDR and Parsons Brinckerhoff. FHWA has recognized the team for “outstanding innovations that enhance the right-of-way professional’s ability to meet the challenges” associated with acquiring property for the corridor while ensuring that the rights of property owners and tenants are protected.

UDOT’s Mountain View Corridor is a planned freeway in western Salt Lake County and northwestern Utah County, servicing 13 municipalities. Initial construction of MVC in Salt Lake County builds two lanes in each direction from 5400 South to Redwood Road and preserves the land in the middle for future expansion. Initial construction in Salt Lake County began in summer 2010 and will be complete by the end of 2012.

July 11th, 2012

CLASSICAL GAS

No Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

At work and at home, UDOT Fleet Manager Steve McCarthy is all about transportation.

The building was owned and operated as a gas station by a local refinery and once stood on Center Street in Provo. The truck is a 1929 Model A Roadster.

Steve McCarthy says he grew up in the transportation industry and has “always been tied to that gas and oil stuff.” At work, McCarthy is responsible to make sure UDOT’s fleet, valued at about $200 million, runs as safely and efficiently as possible. At home, the transportation theme continues with a vintage 1920’s gas station building in his back yard.

The building was owned and operated by a local refinery and once stood on Center Street in Provo. McCarthy has outfitted the exterior to resemble an old Texaco station. He started collecting gas station items, including gas pumps, a vending machine and an assortment of fan belts and hoses, in 1995. Eventually he’d like the building to a fully stocked service station that looks ready for business “like it would back in the day.”

The building “has a history here in this town,” says McCarthy. Before he acquired it, the building was the subject of a TV news story and and artist rendering  and also used as a backdrop for a ZCMI photo shoot.