August 9th, 2012

WAY TO GO, STEVE!

1 Comment, Preserve Infrastructure, by Catherine Higgins.

A UDOT Region Two employee received recognition from Governor Herbert for making a safety improvement.

Steve Poulsen

Some local motorcycle riders noticed some slick pavement on an on ramp and contacted UDOT Region Two engineer Steve Poulsen to ask for a remedy. His quick and effective action to improve safety got the governors attention. Poulsen was presented with a thank-you letter from the governor at a recent UDOT Senior Staff meeting.

Poulsen received a call from a motor cycle rider who uses the California Avenue on-ramp to southbound I-215 to go home from work each day.  “He, along with several of his friends ride motorcycles and they noticed a slippery condition on the onramp that concerned them because their motorcycles would slip as they entered the turning portion of the ramp,” according to Poulsen. The man went on to say he appreciates UDOT but had concerns about the potential safety hazard.

Poulsen asked motorcycle rider Ed Layton, a trainer at UDOT Region Two, to ride the ramp. “Ed verified back that it was a safety issue,” explains Poulsen.

The ramp was part of a recent improvement project, so Poulsen then contacted UDOT Resident Engineer Brian Chamberlain who oversaw construction on the project. Chamberlain suggested that the contractor take a look at the ramp surface. “The job was partial deck repair in various locations using a product that sets fast,” Poulsen explains. Poulsen and Chamberlain visited the site and confirmed that the patch area was slick and soft.

Project contractor Green’s Concrete came up with a solution. The surface of the pavement was reheated on-site and some rock was installed to provide additional friction. “And evidently it worked because I got feedback from Brian that once the stuff was re-heated with some topping rock, it set up much better.”

“It was nice to be recognized by John Njord, senior staff and the governor,” says Poulsen. He was surprised that the motorcycle rider took the time to contact the governor’s office. Poulsen is also grateful to Chamberlain, Layton and Green’s Concrete for their help.

August 8th, 2012

CONTROLLED SLIDE

No Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Crews unload parts of a new avalanche control system.

UDOT is installing new avalanche control systems that can be activated remotely.

Two of the new avalanche control systems are being installed in a known avalanche path called Valerie’s Slide in Little Cottonwood Canyon on the lower face of Mount Superior.

“It is unique in that it will allow us to initiate snow slides without artillery,” says Project Manager Steve Poulsen. The system is a better alternative than howitzer-fired or hand dropped shells since the slide area is adjacent to Snowbird Village and SR-210.

The visible part of the system is a downward-facing twelve foot long, two foot diameter tube. An underground oxygen and propane storage farm feeds the gases to exploders where the gases are mixed in preparation for firing. The units are then triggered by remote control producing a shock wave that moves through the tube. The resulting controlled slide prevents a bigger, potentially more destructive slide.

Two similar units have been in operation for two years. The new units are planned to be operable for this coming snow season. “Next year we plan to install 5 more units along other slide path starting zones in the Mt. Superior area that will further reduce the need to fire artillery over Snowbird village buildings,” says Poulsen.

August 7th, 2012

GOING GREEN

No Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

A new tool will improve the way UDOT monitors and optimizes traffic signal performance.

UDOT is using a new online tool for automated traffic signal performance measures.

To keep traffic moving, traffic engineers aim to create signal timing plans that allow most cars to reach an intersection on a green light, according to UDOT Traffic Signal Operations Engineer Mark Taylor.

When cars reach the intersection on green, concerns such as waiting and frustration, traffic delay, pollution from idling and wear and tear on vehicles and pavement are all reduced. And the dilemma zone, the point at which drivers decide to stop or proceed through the signal, is also reduced, which improves the safety at intersections.

But establishing and maintaining efficient signal plans typically costs thousands of dollars to develop. Engineers use resources, including equipment or people to monitor signal operations, collect traffic volume counts and then model and create a signal plan, explains Taylor. Since collection and modeling methods are time and resource intensive, updating the signal plan is usually only done every few years.

Plus, typical modeling and collection methods only providing a limited, snap-shot view that degrades over time as traffic patterns change. To really improve signal operation, “we need to know in real time where the problems are so we can make corrections to operations to improve traffic flow,” says Taylor.

UDOT is using a new online tool, called Signal Performance Metrics, originally developed by Indiana Department of Transportation and Purdue University. The system uses Dilemma Zone radar detection already in place along with reconfigured software provided at no charge to UDOT by developers at 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. “We’ve got over 500 sites where we already have Dilemma Zone detectors installed at intersections,” says Taylor.

Signal Performance Metrics has a potential benefit for signal operation everywhere but especially on weekends when signals operate with plans designed for week day off-peak hours. Taylor says the system “will help us be much more proactive with traffic signal timing seven days, twenty four hours a day.”

UDOT Director John Njord has charged traffic engineers with creating a world-class traffic signal system and employing Signal Performance Metrics is a step in that direction. Taylor is pleased about the ability to see in real time whether existing signal plans are good or bad so signal timing can be changed as needed, without using limited funding to monitor corridors or intersections. He thinks the traveling public will eventually see better traffic progression and less delay. “This is big for us.”

August 3rd, 2012

LEND A HAND

No Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Local residents recently helped UDOT ‘hand paint’ a bridge.

A pedestrian bridge that will be put into use over U-111 at 8200 South is decorated with the bright colored hand prints.

A pedestrian bridge that will be put into use over U-111 at 8200 South is decorated with the bright colored hand prints. The unusual adornment method was proposed by State Representative Jim Bird.

UDOT embraced the idea and extended an invitation to the public to participate. Many of the people who lent a hand to the project will also benefit from the structure once it’s put in place.

“It turned out to be a really great event,” says Andrea Gumm, Public Information Manager on the project. Initially, people who live in the area were targeted for participation. After a story about the upcoming event appeared in the media, word got out –“we got people from all over.” About one hundred people responded.

Gumm sees the hand prints as a way that people can feel some ownership of the structure. Those who showed up to “leave their mark” were really enthusiastic. She observed several children pointing out their hand prints and stating that they would remember and show their prints to friends once the bridge is in place.

The pedestrian-bridge was removed as part of work done on 7800 South and Bangerter Highway. Since the bridge still has some functional life, the structure will be put to good use on U-111 at 8200 South, a location that has been identified as needing a safer pedestrian crossing.

The bridge will be moved into place this fall.

Projects have been selected for funding from the 2012 UDOT Research Workshop held on May 10.

The Maintenance Group discusses development of a weather severity index during the 2012 Research Workshop.

Fifty-two projects were submitted this year to the UDOT Research Workshop. Of these, nine projects will be funded through the Research Division, one of which was combined from two submitted problem statements. Several other projects of those submitted will be funded directly by other divisions. Several other projects of those submitted may also be funded directly by other divisions.

The workshop serves as one step in the research project selection process which involves UDOT, FHWA, universities, private sector firms and other transportation agencies. UDOT Research Division solicited problem statements for six focus areas: Structures and Geo-technical, Environmental and Hydraulics, Construction and Materials, Maintenance, Traffic Management and Safety and Pre-construction.

At the workshop, transportation professionals met to prioritize problem statements in order to select the ones most suitable to become research projects. Three voting criteria were used: importance of research, relevance to UDOT, and likelihood of implementation. All UDOT staff voted during the prioritization process. After the workshop, UDOT Research Division staff reviewed prioritization and funding for each recommended problem statement with division and group leaders.

The selected projects include:

  • Development of a Utah Winter Severity Index
  • Additional research into sampling and testing protocols for cold in-place recycling of asphalt pavements
  • Development of mobile applications for use by UDOT Maintenance
  • Additional funding toward a multi-state pooled fund project to investigate lateral pile resistance near MSE walls
  • Additional funding toward a multi-state pooled fund to research passive force-displacement for skewed bridge abutments
  • Research into environmentally friendly and sustainable stream stability treatments in the vicinity of bridges
  • Evaluation of effective construction risk management through CMGC contracting

Projects presented at the Research Workshop to be funded by other divisions include:

  • The Aurora Project working to advance road weather information systems technology
  • Improving wet night visibility of pavement markings
  • Development of a culvert management plan
  • Implementing safety analysis tools in planning, programming, design and operations

Other projects are being considered and may yet be added.

A significant factor for success was the broad project support from various UDOT Divisions and university representatives. We were excited that a number of pro-jects may receive funding from other sources. Many UDOT divisions including Maintenance, Planning, Traffic and Safety and the TOC are considering contributing funding along with University Transportation Centers.

By: Kevin Nichol, P.E.
UDOT Research Division
Catherine Higgins
UDOT Communication Department

August 1st, 2012

NEW METERS

No Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

Ramp meters just put into service have helped I-15 traffic n Salt Lake County move more efficiently. 

Ramp meters help mainline I-15 move more efficiently.

UDOT has recently put some ramp meters into service on northbound I-15 between 12300 South and 9000 South. The average speed during the p.m. commute is faster now that new ramp meters have been deployed.

“What we’re seeing so far at 8600 South is that the average speed went up 10 miles-per-hour,” says John Haigwood, Traffic Engineer at the Traffic Operations Center. Before the meters were turned on, motorists experienced backups on the ramps and sluggish traffic on mainline I-15. “Traffic is now free-flowing or freer flowing,” says Haigwood.

Ramp meters work to even out traffic on the freeway by breaking up bottlenecks and smoothing out speed surges. Meters also improve safety; stop-and-go driving behavior is reduced resulting in fewer rear-end collisions and platoons are broken up, resulting in fewer side-swipe collisions.

Research shows that the most significant benefit of using ramp meters is reliability which is the measure of the expected range of travel times allowing for crashes or excessive congestion. A  Minnesota study showed a 91 percent decline in reliability when meters were turned off.

UDOT engineers continually evaluate ramp metering to make sure that commuters see a benefit.

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.