The First Annual National Fleet Management Conference brought fleet managers together to share expertise.

Steve McCarthy, Fleet Manager at UDOT

Fleet managers at the nations departments of transportation are facing many of the same issues, including limited budgets, new emissions and mileage regulations and how to manage costs during the life-cycle of equipment. Those common concerns brought fleet managers and staff members from across the nation together to share best practices and “cross pollinate ideas,” says Larry Galehouse, Director of the National Center for Pavement Maintenance.

The effort to organize the conference was born out of AASHTO’s Sub Committee on Maintenance and sponsoring agencies included, AASHTO, TRB, American Association of State Transportation Highway Transportation Officials Research Board, AASHTO Equipment Management, Technical Services Program, Southeastern States Equipment Managers Conference, Inc.

UDOT Deputy Director Carlos Braceras gave one of the keynote addresses at the conference. As the chair of the AASHTO Subcommittee on Maintenance, it was “extremely important to have Carlos give them the vision of AASHTO,” according to Galehouse.

Feedback on the conference has been largely positive, says Galehouse. The next conference will be held in 2014.

Here is an excerpt from Braceras’ address:

At the Utah Department of Transportation, we are driven in all we do by a set of strategic goals known as the “Final Four.”  These strategic goals provide guidance in our department’s efforts to improve the quality of life and economic vitality of our state.  These goals help remind us of our responsibilities.  They are: preserve infrastructure, optimize mobility, improve safety, and strengthen the economy.

Our fleet helps us meet every one of those goals. By maintaining our roads and highways, not only is our equipment fleet preserving our infrastructure, it’s allowing us to provide a quality transportation system that helps bring industry to our state…therefore strengthening the economy.  By plowing our roads during frequent and often treacherous winter storms, keeping our roads free of debris, and making repairs that keep our roads functioning smoothly…our fleet allows us to optimize mobility and improve safety.

UDOT’s fleet is valued at about $200 million dollars.  Whether your DOTs have a larger fleet or a smaller fleet…it is a significant investment of taxpayer money and it is our responsibility to utilize it to the best of our ability and make it work as efficiently as possible.  That’s why we’re here today.  To learn from each other, to discuss what works and what doesn’t work, to find solutions to the challenges every one of our DOTs is facing in this changing economic time.

Download the entire speech here: Carlos Fleet Speech

 

July 4th, 2012

REBUILDING 14

2 Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

The SR-14 rebuilding project is progressing well despite slope movement that has required additional work.

This aerial photo was taken shortly after the landslide occurred.

Last October a massive landslide destroyed a half-mile section of SR-14. UDOT’s construction contractor, Kiewit Western Co., successfully opened the road by Memorial Day, ahead of schedule. But slope instability in the west end of the project area required UDOT and Kiewit to expand the scope and duration of the work.

The culprit: weak soils

“We’ve basically got weak layers that are hidden and very difficult to isolate,” says UDOT Senior Geologist David Fadling. An investigation of the slide area was completed during the design phase of the project. Hundreds of feet of six inch diameter borings were drilled, but the weak layers were still difficult to detect. “Unfortunately we were not able to find out where this weak layer was until we started to excavate for it.”

The steep terrain is causing other difficulty. Workers are excavating over 300 thousand cubic yards of dirt from the top of the slide area and placing it at the toe in order to stabilize the slope. “The terrain is extremely difficult to access,” says Fadling.

Exceptional work

UDOT project team members are pleased with Kiewit’s work. “The thing that stands out for me is their willingness to perform very difficult work,” says Fadling. “When asked to excavate back to the cliffs to remove more of the slide at milepost 7.5, they accepted the challenge.”

UDOT Resident Engineer Leif Condie is on the construction site often as work is occurring and likes Kiewit’s attention to safety. The company is very proactive at protecting workers and the traveling public. Kiewit workers continuously review “why and how to prevent incidents,” says Condie. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Collaboration between UDOT and Kiewit has allowed work to move forward quickly and efficiently. UDOT initiated a Construction Manager/General Contractor contract for the project. The innovative method allows the contractor to give input during the design phase. “It becomes a very efficient design by the time it reaches construction,” according to Michelle Page, UDOT Project Controls and Innovative Contracts Manager.

Besides efficient progression, collaboration has resulted in cost savings. For example, the initial cost estimate for Phase Three of the project which included repairing some minor slide areas was $3 million. “They did it for $1.7 million,” says Reuel Alder, CMGC Engineer. “It’s that interaction from looking at the problem from multiple perspectives” during design.

UDOT Project Manager Daryl Friant believes that collaboration with the contractor has “really helped us get a handle on constructability and cost.” Kiewit has submitted fewer change orders as compared to typical projects. Excessive change orders can push projects over the budgetary limit. “It really has been a true partnering effort.”
Safety dictates the maintenance of traffic

Workers are excavating earth from the slide area on very steep terrain. Because of the potential danger of rocks rolling down the slope, traffic is only allowed through at night from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. while work proceeds during the day.
“It comes down to safety and efficiency,” says Kevin Kitchen, Public Involvement Manager at UDOT Region Four.

“Amidst changing conditions, we’ve provided a consistent travel window for critical economic functions in the area while at the same time creating safe public passage and a safer work environment. The daytime closures significantly improve work flow, reduce project duration, and save taxpayers money, making it less likely that other infrastructure projects will be jeopardized or postponed.”

Good news

The road will be open from Tuesday, July 3 at 4 p.m. through Monday, July 9 at 7 a.m. “twenty four hours a day to facilitate the traffic on the national holiday – probably the busiest weekend we have,” reports Condie. “We’re trying to meet the public needs not just the contractor’s.”

July 3rd, 2012

NOW PLAYING

No Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

In a world where road users get I-15 CORE information on the big screen…

This summer, theater patrons in Utah and Salt Lake Counties will see a trailer with roads that appear, bridges that move and messages that inform viewers about Utah’s biggest-ever road construction project. It’s not a trailer for an actual movie, but a research-based video that delivers an important message – the end is near.

I-15 CORE Communications Director Dave Smith says the trailer pairs an entertaining presentation with a carefully crafted message. His team conducted market research to discover road-users’ perceptions before making the video.

Doing market research up front is important because of the nature of UDOT’s work. Road construction impacts people daily as they travel to work, to the store or to entertainment venues. “Not every company affects every day life – UDOT is one of those,” said Smith.

“We found out that people don’t have a good understanding of when the project ends,” continued Smith. He set out to find an amusing way to let road users know that the end is approaching with a prompt to encourage people to visit the I-15 CORE website to get more information. To accomplish that task, his communication team used a creative approach based on an ancient idea.

Archeological discoveries have identified Mayan calendars with the last date occurring in December 2012 – the same month and year I-15 CORE ends. Some believe the Mayans expected an apocalyptic end. Since the Mayan calendar has been in the news, “the end is near” message resonates with viewers.

The final product is a fast-paced video with the look and feel of a movie trailer– including a deep-voiced narrator who provides a stereotypical sound as well. People tend to like clever humor and Smith thinks the witty but informational message delivery will change public perceptions.

The video is running in the theaters, on UDOT’s Youtube Channel and links to the video have been tweeted.

July 2nd, 2012

SHOW ME THE MONEY

1 Comment, Optimize Mobility, Preserve Infrastructure, by Catherine Higgins.

A new UDOT website lets the public see how tax money is spent to build and improve state roads.

Nearly all UDOT projects designed and built during the last 5 years along with future STIP projects are included in UDOT Projects, a new website.

Three years in the making, the new UDOT Projects website provides easy access to information about projects, including location, purpose, status, total budget and funding source. UDOT Deputy Director Carlos Braceras had the original vision to create a site where the public could see project funding and costs in as close to real time as possible – not a small order explains UDOT Projects Project Manager Stan Burns.

Building UDOT Projects meant that databases containing project information needed to be automatically fed into the website. The Utah Department of Technology Services found a way to seamlessly link internal databases,which include hundreds of projects, to UDOT Projects. As project information is added to databases, those additions are automatically uploaded to UDOT Projects.

The website presents information  for everyone – from the general public to policy makers.

Tabs representing UDOT’s four strategic goals, including Preserve Infrastructure, Optimize Mobility, Improve Safety and Strengthen the Economy, categorize projects by main purpose. Projects in the design, construction or substantially complete phase are placed on a map so citizens can find projects close to home or along a commuter route. Clicking on a project produces pop ups with links to information about budget, costs and status.

Another tab labeled Information Warehouse lists nearly all UDOT projects designed and built during the last 5 years along with future STIP projects. UDOT projects are primarily funded by the Utah Legislature and gas tax revenues which are directed into four funds, and the Information Warehouse Tab gives the status of each fund. On the Project Map tab, an Interactive Project Report tool for queries and analysis lets users sort, view, print and export data.

Altogether, the map, query tool, budget and funding information provide a lot of utility for the public and those who work with UDOT.  End users can easily find and display what ever information is desired. “If you want to know how much we’ve spent on pavement preservation, you can see that,” says Burns.

June 29th, 2012

WILD APP

1 Comment, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

A new smart phone app is helping UDOT and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources work together to improve safety.

Mule deer pass under a bridge on U.S. 6. This photo was taken by an onsite motion activated camera placed by Wildlife Researcher Dr. Patricia Cramer with USU.

The new Utah Wildlife Vehicle Collision Reporter is a tool that helps track and categorize animals that are hit by vehicles on state routes. The app is for use on GPS enabled smart phones that are used by UDOT contractors who pick up carcasses from state roads. UDOT and DWR both need the information to identify where improvements, such as wildlife crossings and fencing, are needed.  “It’s the single most important data set we use,” says Ashley Green, UDWR Wildlife Coordinator for Statewide Projects.

Habitat Biologist Doug Sakaguchi with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has helped track high wildlife-vehicle hit areas since 2005. Data shows fewer hits have occurred in areas where new wildlife crossings and fences have been installed over the past seven years. Crossings and connected fencing work together to direct wildlife through crossings.

In the past, Green says that staff spent many hours entering data. Sometimes, important data was lost, forgotten or duplicated. Eventually, Green realized that a better system was needed so UDWR employees could spend less time entering data “and have more time to analyze data to make recommendations on making wildlife mitigations.”

The app was the idea of a graduate student at Utah State University who is conducting research at several locations around the state. He proposed the idea for the app to UDOT and UDWR –employees at both agencies thought the idea was worth pursuing. With funding from UDOT, AGRC programmers designed the app, which works on Android and iPhone systems.

Paul West, UDOT’s Wildlife Program Manager makes recommendations for improvements aimed at protecting wildlife or threatened or endangered species for every UDOT project. He analyzes the data for “hot spots,” which represent an increase in wildlife hits. Those kinds of data spikes indicate where new crossings or fences are needed “now or in the future to correct that situation,” says West. Installing crossings and fencing needs to be done strategically in order to provide help where it’s needed most. Better data means better decisions about wildlife crossings can be made.

UDOT Engineer for Maintenance Methods Lynn Bernhard put together the contracts that require vendors to use the app. “Wildlife data is captured immediately at the exact time and place that the carcass is picked up and automatically transferred into the Division of Wildlife Resources database,” says Bernhard.

Using the app eliminates a lot of errors and simplifies the work of UDOT’s contractors. Workers who use the app only need to enter a few bits of information about the animal. The app populates the rest of the information, including mile marker, state route, UDWR region and other details, based on the GPS location.

UDOT and  UDWR will continue to work together to make roads safer by reducing the number of vehicle-wildlife crashes, explains Bernhard, “and that’s what it’s all about, eliminating crashes.”

For more, view an AGRC presentation about the development of the app.

June 27th, 2012

INTERSECTION UPDATE

No Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

New safety features will get the attention of motorists.

An auto-activated warning tells motorists on SR 202 that SR 201 traffic does not stop.

The location where State Routes 201 and 202 meet near Rio Tinto has been the site of two recent fatal car crashes; the last one occurred in January. “Rio Tinto has been so concerned with this intersection that they prohibit all Rio Tinto employees from making through and left turn movements at this intersection,” according to Brandon Weight, Rotational Engineer with UDOT Central Traffic and Safety.  Weight designed the improvements to the intersection, which have now been installed.

After the last fatal crash, concern for the safety of motorists prompted UDOT Region Two Traffic Engineer Robert Miles to look for ways to improve safety at the location. He assigned to engineer Alex Fisher, an intern at UDOT, to research some options and propose changes.

The speed disparity on the two routes provided the challenge. SR 201 traffic tends to be fast and motorists have a long stretch of highway with few stops required between Tooele and Salt Lake. SR 202 is slower, and motorists entering SR 201 may not realize that oncoming traffic is traveling fast. Conversely, motorists traveling on SR 201 might not anticipate slower moving traffic entering the roadway.

Since the intersection does not meet all the criteria for a signalized intersection, Fisher proposed an auto-activated warning and stop signs. Read about her proposal in a previous blog post.

Weight found the designing the improvements very satisfying. He worked under the direction of UDOT Traffic and Safety Engineer Larry Montoya.

Design challenges

According to Weight, the most challenging part of the design was placing the radar detection and signs in a location that allows adequate stopping sight distance for semis. Other challenges included designing the raised island to allow adequate site distance for vehicles stopping on SR 202 and the minimum turning path for semis entering the refinery.

Very few changes to the design needed to be made during construction. “Once construction started, the conduit placement and wire call-outs needed to be adjusted,” according to Weight. “All changes were adjusted in the final as-built drawings.”

The procurement contractor was Cash Valley Electric under the direction of Eric Ward. The contractor provided a high quality finished product. The system was turned-on by David Mount of Region Two on Monday, June 18, 2012, “Rio Tinto has told me they are happy with our efforts to improve the safety at this intersection,” says Weight. UDOT will monitor the improvements to make sure the improvements function as intended by design.

Utah’s all-inclusive transportation plan for state and local roads and transit is one of a kind in the United States.

Bangerter Highway at 7800 South

The Unified Transportation Plan: 2011 to 2040 is a comprehensive project list that includes urban and rural transportation improvement projects from UDOT and Utah’s four Metropolitan Planning Organizations – Wasatch Front Regional Council, Mountainland Association of Governments, Dixie MPO and Cache MPO.

Engineers, elected officials, planners and citizens collaborate for years to produce the list that also includes “planning time horizons, funding and growth assumptions, and modeling approaches,” according to Andrew Gruber, Executive Director of WFRC.

The Unified Transportation Plan “allows us to speak with a unified voice to our legislature about our transportation priorities and needs” says UDOT Transportation Planner Walt Steinvorth. Having one plan means that transportation projects are prioritized and funded in a coordinated manor.

Transportation has a critical role to play in economic growth and mobility. “The significant investments that the Legislature, local governments, and voters have approved have not only created thousands of private-sector engineering and construction jobs, but they have also allowed us to keep pace with the rapid growth Utah has experienced,” according to Gruber.

“One of the reasons that Utah’s economy has been strong and has outperformed most other states is the solid investment we have made in transportation infrastructure – both roads and transit, and increasingly, bike and pedestrian infrastructure.”

And the fact that Utah is the only state with a Unified Transportation Plan has earned national attention and praise. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood visited Utah recently and called the plan a model for the nation. Janet Kavinoky, Director of Transportation Infrastructure for the United States Chamber of Commerce has called attention to the plan in an article for the Eno Center for Transportation.

June 25th, 2012

TRANS TECH INITIATIVES

No Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

From Kevin Griffin, UDOT Director of Maintenance and Rob Wight, UDOT Engineer for Construction: Over the past year our District Engineers have been working hard to address issues that had been identified with our Transportation Technician program.  The District Engineers have done a great job in addressing these issues and we felt it was important to identify what they have been working on.  Some of the issues with the Transportation Technician program that they have addressed are:

Better Communication/ Career Development

Training

Workload exceeds Resources

Project Specific Training

Geographic Challenges / Mentoring

Efficiency of using internal inspection

Identification of Cost Efficiencies

The District Engineers will be working closely with their staff at each region to explain the details of these initiatives and how the initiatives will improve the Transportation Technician program. We would personally like to thank all of the District Engineers for their efforts here.  The hard work they have done will have a lasting impact to the Transportation Technician program and to the department.

June 22nd, 2012

BACKPACK ADVENTURE

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

UDOT will use an innovative hybrid bridge system that combines the durability of concrete with the strength of Fiber Reinforced Polymer.

The system, called Bridge in a Backpack, uses stiffened FRP tubes that are shaped into aarches and filled with concrete. While design of the brides varies, the arches are typically attached to a concrete footing and covered with corrugated decking then covered with compacted soil. The new bridge, which is being designed, will be built in Ogden Canyon on SR 39 near Huntsville.

Hundreds of the tubular structures have built in the United States, although the building method is fairly new. The arches were developed by the University of Main. FHWA has developed an implementation strategy and is funding part of the construction costs of the new bridge.

Advantages of the Bridge in a Backpack system include:

  • Fast construction which benefits the driving public.
  • Light weight components that can be transported easily.
  • Potentially lower maintenance costs over the life of the bridge – FRP is not susceptible to road de-icing chemicals as is steel.

UDOT has used FRP in other structures. UDOT’s Beaver Creek Bridge on US-6 near Soldier Summit has a deck that is reinforced with FRP bars. The bridge is instrumented with sensors that measure strain. Researchers are collecting data that will show how the deck holds up under traffic.

UDOT will also build a bridge with hybrid-composite beams near Beaver. The design uses an FRP box to with a concrete arch inside that gives the beam compressive strength. More than just a covering, the box “provides shear strength and encapsulates the tension and compression elements,” according to the HCB Company website. The arch structure inside the beam is surrounded with low density foam core. A prestressing strand provides additional strength and steel shear connectors provide stiffness. Along with being very strong and durable, the beams are also light and easy to lift and place.

June 21st, 2012

SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?

No Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

It’s a decision that drivers face every day when approaching an intersection – to slow down and stop upon seeing a yellow signal or to maintain speed and risk running a red light.

Signal Systems Engineer Mark Taylor monitors dilemma zone detection online.

The dilemma zone is the space before entering an intersection where drivers make that sometimes tough call to stop or keep going. On a high-speed roadway, the decision needs to be made in seconds, and the wrong choice can be dangerous.

Intersections are complex configurations where two roadways intersect. Many of the most important driving skills – such as maintaining an appropriate speed, staying attentive and alert, and using good judgment – come into play all at once. The crash types that are common at intersections include rear-end and T-bone; both can cause serious injury or death.

To improve safety at intersections, UDOT has installed dilemma zone detectors. The detection equipment uses radar to see cars as they approach an intersection. Software used with the equipment is programmed to extend the signal phase to allow cars more time to get through the intersection.

Deciding when extra time is needed based on scientific studies that show how most drivers are likely to behave, explains UDOT Traffic Signal Operations Engineer Mark Taylor. Traffic signal engineers use those studies to define three fields drivers cross before entering an intersection. Drivers in the field closest to the signal usually always go through the light. In the field farthest from the intersection, most cars stop.

The middle section is the dilemma zone “where drivers realize ‘I’ve got a decision to make,’” says Taylor. Cars entering that dilemma zone at a pre-determined point in time trigger the system to extend the signal phase, eliminating the dilemma and also the potential for an un-wise decision. While the system is backed up by science, Taylor uses some engineering judgment as well. “I put logic in with that radar,” he says.

“UDOT’s policy is to install Dilemma Zone Detection on every approach that is 40 miles per hour or higher,” says Taylor. Over five hundred intersections in Utah have been equipped with Dilemma Zone Detection.

For more: Read this article about how Dilemma Zone Detection can show a twenty percent reduction of cars exposed to the yellow signal and 70% reduction in red light running.