January 6th, 2012

HEBER’S SMART SIGNALS

No Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

Signals that communicate with each other and adapt in real time are improving travel time in Heber City.

Called ACS Lite, traffic signals in Heber City are optimized in real time as traffic patterns change. Travel times have improved by 7 percent.

Adaptive traffic signals were installed in Heber City, Utah this summer. While most signals are synchronized by time of day with an internal clock and operated through UDOT’s centralized Traffic Operations Center, the new computerized signals adjust automatically to real-time traffic demand. The sophisticated system is providing a corridor with less delay for road users.

Called ACS Lite, traffic signals on the system are optimized automatically as traffic patterns change. Signals at each intersection communicate with each other electronically to provide more green light time or other adjustments as needed. As the system detects more or less traffic, changes are made gradually so road users can benefit from improved travel time in the peak travel direction.

Before installation, traffic on the corridor was over capacity at peak times with waits of 7 to 10 seconds but those wait times have decreased. “It’s almost surprising” to get this degree of improvement in travel time, explains Jamie Mackey, Assistant Signals Engineer for UDOT.

The corridor was working fairly well before the system was installed – signals were adequately spaced and optimized. But data shows that travel time on Main Street (U.S. 40) “has benefited by about 7 percent in every time period” without drastically hurting the cross streets. “A 7 percent gain is pretty impressive,” says Mackey.

The project received funding from FHWA as part of a program to provide systems that improve signal operation and travel time. UDOT is learning from operating the system to gain experience to possibly use ACS Lite for other appropriate locations.

This is a follow-up to a previous post.

January 5th, 2012

TEAM SIGNALS SUCCESS

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

The hard working Signals Maintenance Team took on increased responsibilities and has delivered improved safety, efficiency and value to UDOT customers.

Region One Signals Team

WASHTO lends support to transportation agencies that have a quality improvement program. Each year, state agencies choose winners according to how those employees support the mission of the agency. UDOT has a committee that judges nominations and selects the team or employees that are most deserving.  UDOT’s program is called Achieving Great Performance. This week and next, blog posts will highlight award winners.

The four-person Signals Maintenance Team from UDOT Region one has responsibility for optimizing and maintaining 325 signals and traffic sensors in the northern part of the state. Keeping signals optimized and operational is demanding and important work. Signals that are not operating correctly can cause delay, inconvenience and sometimes confusion for road users.

Despite the important responsibility to take care of nearly 30 percent of all signals statewide, the Region One Signals Maintenance Team took on the additional responsibility of replacing or updating lighting on all Region One interstates. By performing both areas of responsibility expertly, the Region One Signals Team has earned a Quality Award.

A bright idea

Because of team only consists of four members, a strategic approach was necessary. Team members too stock of the talents and abilities of each group member and executed a divide-and-conquer approach. Two team members took on lighting and two tackled signals. Each service call was handled strategically as well. In order to provide the best use of time per call, team members took care of immediate needs first and then performed additional work if warranted and if time allowed. By taking thoughtful, deliberate approach, team members eliminated a backlog of signal and lighting work.

Darin Fristrup, Region One Traffic Operations Engineer nominated the team. Fristrup points out those team members “spent over 766 hours on the lighting issues, replaced or repaired 256 luminaires and other lighting hardware, and pulled nearly 15,000 feet of copper wire.”

“They did all this while continuing to be on call to repair, replace, or maintain Region One’s 325 traffic signals, and provided numerous hours of assistance to local government agencies in the maintenance of their signals, as needed,” said Fristrup. “There is no group more dedicated to their responsibilities than the Region One Signals Maintenance Team, who is highly deserving of this award.”

Congratulations to team members: Dale Lake, Scott Harris, David Townsend, Jereme Fullmer

 

January 4th, 2012

I-15 CORE FINAL STRETCH

2 Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

This post is based on a press release written Leigh Dethman, I-CORE Public Relations Manager.

UDOT’s I-15 Corridor Expansion Project will be completed in December.

This new Diverging Diamond Interchange near 500 East in American Fork is one of 10 interchanges being rebuilt or replaced as part of the I-15 CORE project.

I-15 CORE, the largest highway project in Utah history, has entered the final year of construction and is on schedule for completion.

“We’re delivering a complete reconstruction of the freeway that will meet traffic demand through the year 2030, while at the same time we’re using innovation to minimize delays for the traveling public,” according to Todd Jensen, UDOT I-15 CORE project director. The project adds two additional lanes in each direction from Lehi to Spanish Fork, extends the HOV lane from University Parkway to Spanish Fork, rebuilds or replaces 63 bridges and 10 freeway interchanges and places new 40-year concrete pavement throughout the project.

“Construction crews are out working hard every day in order to wrap this project up in an unprecedented 35 months,” said Todd Jensen, UDOT I-15 CORE project director. “Although the end is in sight, there is still a lot of work left to do and we appreciate everyone’s patience.”

Plenty of work has been done already. As of Nov. 30, I-15 CORE crews had:

  • Excavated and placed 6.3 million tons of fill dirt — enough to fill 12 BYU Marriott Centers
  • Erected 420,000 square feet (or 31,000 linear feet) of sound wall — enough to build a wall around The Gateway, Energy Solutions Arena, the Salt Lake Convention Center, Temple Square and City Creek Center — or 11 whole Salt Lake City blocks
  • Poured 249 lane miles of concrete pavement — enough to construct a two-lane highway from Provo to Logan.
    Painted more than 6 million feet of temporary striping and roadway markings (roughly 1,100 miles) — enough to paint a line all the way from Provo to Houston
  • Installed 40 miles of drainage pipeline — more than 1.5 times the length of Utah Lake

Crews will be busy in the coming months. The section of I-15 CORE between Lehi and Lindon is scheduled for completion in early June. Interchanges at 1600 North, 800 North and Center Street in Orem are being reconstructed. A new I-15 overpass at 500 West in Provo is nearing completion. A Continuous Flow Intersection is being constructed at University Parkway and Sandhill Road in Orem and two pedestrian undercrossings are being completed near Utah Valley University.

Drivers can stay informed about I-15 CORE construction activities by signing up for weekly email updates, following the project on facebook.com/i15core and twitter.com/i15core and receiving text updates by texting “i15core” to 53535.

January 4th, 2012

QUALITY RECOGNIZED

No Comments, Preserve Infrastructure, by Catherine Higgins.

Dedication, cooperation and hard work has earned the crew from UDOT Region Two Maintenance Shed 237  a Quality Award supported by the Western Association of State Highway Officials.

Each spring, Maintenance Station 237 has the job of clearing away snow on the Mirror Lake Highway. Even with the ominous amount of snowfall last season, the efficient crew buckled down and removed the snow quickly.

WASHTO lends support to transportation agencies that have a quality improvement program. Each year, state agencies choose winners according to how those employees support the mission of the agency. UDOT has a committee that judges nominations and selects the team or employees that are most deserving.  UDOT’s program is called Achieving Great Performance. This week and next, blog posts will highlight award winners.

UDOT Region Two winners: Maintenance Station 237

Lonnie Marchant, Region Two Materials Engineer nominated the crew from 237 “because they strive for and achieve high quality work.” Whether it’s partnering with local agencies, keeping roads clear from snow, completing important routine maintenance or participating in construction functions, crew members “quietly go about their work and consistently do a great job,” says Marchant.

Crew members take a personal interest in their work to maintain roads, bridges and drainage systems, and they grade their own performance by “how it will affect their own families and neighbors,” according to Marchant. The crew works with local agencies including the United States Forest Service, Summit County and Kamas City. Because the shed crew really cares about the local area, they work hard to keep strong positive relationships with other agencies and work with them to maintain the highways in the area.

Keeping traffic moving

Located in Kamas, Station 237 is a mountainous region that includes heavily traveled routes that connect to I-80 and provide access to popular recreation areas. Keeping the roads clear during the winter is important to keeping residents connected to I-80 and maintaining the safety and connectivity of local traffic. Even though the area typically receives high snow fall, “there is no doubt that the roadways will be cleared in time for the morning commute and the school buses to get to school,” says Marchant, who also lives in the area.

Each spring, the crew has the job of clearing away snow and opening the Mirror Lake Highway to traffic. Even with the ominous amount of snowfall last season, the efficient crew buckled down and removed the snow quickly.

With last winter’s heavy snowfall, the shed crew and local residents worried that flooding would wash out some roads. To avert problems, the crew installed an additional pipe crossing that helped avoid flooding. Crews also helped with sand bagging and were vigilant at removing debris from drainage systems.

Taking care of what we have

All members of the crew contribute to UDOT’s productivity and efficiency by participating in the Transportation Technician program. Trans-techs are trained to do double duty. Winter tasks, such as snow removal, take half of the year. During construction season, Trans-techs support construction by conducting inspections or taking samples for materials testing. Because of their training and knowledge about the transportation and safety issues specific to their area, crew members have been able to participate in the construction projects and give needed input to mitigate a variety of issues.

All of the equipment used by the shed crew during all seasons is maintained to high standards. Keeping equipment like trucks, plows or snow blowers, in good condition gives taxpayers added value since up-keep prolongs the life of the expensive assets.

Through their diligence, Marchant believes the team members “have definitely had a positive impact on the quality of the end products that are delivered to the public. “I believe this demonstrates that Shed 237 is committed to Achieving Great Performance.”

Congratulations to:

Tyler Page

Shane Bushell

Tim Mitchell

Tom Snyder

Ted McCormick

Earl Walsh

January 3rd, 2012

AASHTO APP

2 Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Guest Post.

AASHTO's smart-phone app provides access to real-time traffic conditions and news

An AASHTO  smart-phone app that provides access to real-time traffic conditions and news is now available on Android operating systems.

AASHTO introduced a smart phone app for iPhone in July of 2011.  The popular app provides easy access to the daily Transportation Update and weekly AASHTO Journal. Both versions of the app were developed by iENGINEERING of Chantilly Virginia.

December 30th, 2011

MOVING FORWARD

No Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

Ten stories from 2011:

UDOT’s biggest ever I-15 CORE project passed the halfway point in September. The project is on schedule to be completed by December of 2012. This photo shows construction of mechanically stabilized earth walls to support the a wider bridge at Orem Center Street.

1.  The Sam White Bridge was moved into place using Self Propelled Modular Transporters on March 26.  Part of UDOT’s I-15 Corridor Expansion Project, the football field long structure was built on the east of the freeway in a “bridge farm.”

2.  UDOT’s biggest ever I-15 CORE project passed the halfway to completion point in September. The project is on schedule to be completed by December of 2012. The corridor expansion adds 2 additional lanes in each direction from Lehi to Spanish Fork, extends the HOV lane from University Parkway to Spanish Fork, rebuilds or replaces 63 bridges and 10 freeway interchanges and places new 40-year concrete pavement throughout the project.

3.  Four statements that define UDOT’s responsibilities as custodian of the state transportation system were been re-tooled to meet the current technological, political and economic climate. The goals were introduced by Director John Njord at UDOT’s Annual Conference in November.

Preserve Infrastructure — Our primary goal is to take care of the transportation infrastructure. The most effective way to preserve the transportation system is to maintain a regular schedule of up-keep to prevent deterioration.

Optimize Mobility – UDOT will make improvements that reduce delay on freeways, at intersections and along major corridors and judiciously expand system capacity.

Improve Safety — Safety will always be a core responsibility, and includes improving safety on roads as well as work sites.

Strengthen the Economy — While prosperity is the role of the private sector, “government can however facilitate, enable and in some cases, stimulate and in the case of our business, we can actually strengthen economic prosperity,” said Njord.

4.  A major landslide that closed State Route 14 put a massive rebuilding effort in motion at UDOT. A team of UDOT engineers, along with local design and construction experts, is conducting preliminary investigations and use an innovative contracting method to accelerate the removal of the landslide material in a safe manner, re-establish the stream bed and construct a new road. UDOT has selected General Contractor Kiewit from proposals submitted by construction companies to bring private construction expertise to the design table.  Their services include determining risks and costs associated with this unique project as well as providing expedited construction solutions to the design team.

5.  The Mountain View Corridor project, a freeway, transit and trail system under construction in western Salt Lake County and northern Utah County earned the 2011 Excellence in Utility Relocation and Accommodation Award from FHWA. The construction area includes about 900 separate impacts to existing utility facilities and crosses 13 municipalities, difficult terrain and a 300-foot-wide power and gas corridor.

6.  UDOT completed Bangerter Highway 2.0 , an expansive mobility upgrade from the Salt Lake City Airport to 13400 South. The effort has reduced travel delay on Bangerter Highway by incorporating innovative intersections and improved pavement.

7.  The Black Ridge to Iron County project improved safety and traffic mobility on I-15 north of Cedar City. An extra lane was added to provide better mobility. Wildlife fencing was installed along both sides of I-15 from the lower part of the Black Ridge to the overpass west of Kanarraville, providing protection for over 12 miles of freeway. “This area has long been plagued with high numbers of collisions between vehicles and deer, particularly during the late fall to early spring period,” according to Randall Taylor, UDOT Resident Engineer.

8.  Utah’s first ThrU-Turn Intersection was built at 12300 South and State Street. UDOT has adapted a Michigan U-Turn, commonly built from scratch in the mid-west, in an innovative retrofit improvement to upgrade the safety and function of the busy intersection. The TTI provided significant relief from traffic delay on the first day of operation and well past 20 years, according to UDOT traffic studies. The budget for the project was relatively small at just under $5 million. During the first year of operation, road users will save almost $1 million–a lot of user-cost savings for the money spent.

9.  UDOT received a coveted national award for developing a cutting edge Geographic Information System based web application. uPlan, an online map that integrates data from many different sources, was recognized by Esri with a Special Achievement Award for as being in the top tier of web GIS applications in the United States. UDOT was one of only 100 to be recognized from a field of over 100,000 projects. “Getting this award indicates that UDOT is in-step with the world in employing the latest GIS technologies,” said John Thomas, Director of planning at UDOT.

10.  Visiweb is a new, easy to use web-based photo log that merges images and data to provide a better view of UDOT’s roads. Visiweb provides high resolution pictures of the road along with data such as  IRI,  GPS with elevation and cross-slope. The new view of state roads will help UDOT maintenance workers and engineers identify problem spots and plan for future improvements, all from the comfort of an office PC. While it has taken some time to develop, the new tool was worth the wait, says Russ Scovil, UDOT Pavement Condition Engineer. “It enhances what we had before,” says Scovil. The application allows users to configure the operation to meet their needs when it comes to accessing information about the road.

December 29th, 2011

OPTIMIZING MOBILITY

No Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

UDOT optimizes mobility by reducing reoccurring traffic delay.

Heavy directional commuter traffic is the primary source of reoccurring delay in Utah’s urban areas. Reoccurring delay can be minimized by strategies that help ease traffic flow. Here are some ways UDOT improves mobility:

Improved signal timing – UDOT Signal Operation Engineers are continually watching traffic and adjusting signals to work more efficiently.  Signals are equipped with detectors, computerized timing and variable phases. Modern signals include devices that have the ability to “see” traffic and change when needed. Signals that can change depending on traffic needs are called “actuated signals.”

Sometimes, timing needs to be adjusted to fit current traffic patterns. In urban areas, almost everyone encounters traffic signals on a daily basis. If signals are not operating correctly, it causes delay and frustration, and often minor, inexpensive improvements, such as providing more green light time in the peak travel direction, can reduce delay significantly.

Freeway ramp meters – UDOT uses ramp meters to even out traffic flow on the freeway. Metering works by breaking up bottlenecks, smoothing out surges and diverting some traffic to other ramps or nearby arterials. In other words, it keeps traffic on an even keel.

Travel times are posted on signs on I-15. In case of an emergency, TOC operators can indicate lane closures or anticipated delay.

Managing traffic flow – Traffic Using cameras and weather sensors, operators in the TOC can monitor traffic, detect incidents, and take action to return traffic flow to normal. UDOT’s CommuterLink website is the public face of the system, and road users depend on the website to steer clear of traffic delay by getting up to the minute information about weather, road construction and crashes. UDOT leaders have charged managers at the Traffic Operations Center with creating a world class Advanced Traffic Management System.

Travel Demand Management – UDOT encourages road users to make wise travel choices to avoid delay and reduce demand on busy roadways. Shifting a work schedule to avoid peak travel times, taking public transportation or trip chaining, for example, can make a difference to individuals and if enough people make wise travel choices, travel demand can be reduced.

AASHTO’s new President promotes innovation as a way to manage during lean times.

State Departments of Transportation will need to employ the latest technologies, innovation and smart management practices to save resources during lean economic times, according to an AASHTO press release detailing the top 10 transportation topics for 2012. New AASHTO President for 2012, Kirk T. Steudle, P.E. will focus on accelerating the implementation of innovative solutions during his one year term. In a new Presidential Profile video, Steudle discusses both his priorities and the challenges that lie ahead for AASHTO, the industry, and state departments of transportation.

December 27th, 2011

SAFE DRIVING

3 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Parents can help teen drivers stay safe.

Don't Drive Stupid is an education effort directed at teens.

Automobile crashes are the leading cause of death among teen drivers nationally and in Utah. According to Utah crash statistics posted on the Utah Department of Public Safety, Highway Safety Office website, teens age 15 to 19 were involved in more crashes than all other groups. Understanding why teens are at risk and then taking an active role as a driving gate keeper can help teens stay safe while driving.

UDOT engineers design roads to be safe as possible, but poor driving choices – like speeding or not using a seat belt – can’t be engineered away. The Center for Disease Control points to eight factors that show why teen drivers are at risk and gives parents advice on how to combat the risky behaviors:

  1. Driver inexperience. Help teens gain skills by making sure they get driving practice.
  2. Driving with teen passengers. Limit the number of teen passengers your child can have and maintain the rule for at least the first six months your teen drives.
  3. Nighttime driving. Limit or restrict night driving for at least the first six months of licensed driving.
  4. Not using seat belts. The most important way to reduce injuries from a crash is to buckle up. In Utah, over 96% of crash survivors were restrained compared to less than half of the persons killed.
  5. Distracted driving. Make sure your teen is focused on driving – cell phones, other passengers or listening to music can disrupt driving concentration.
  6. Drowsy driving. Teens driving in early or late hours can be at risk for driving drowsy.
  7. Reckless driving. Help teens avoid and understand the consequences for risky behaviors like speeding and tailgating.
  8. Impaired driving. Be a good example – don’t drink and drive.

Meeting of minds

As many parents know, getting a teenager to comply with family rules is not always easy. Steve Titensor, Clinical Director at the Salt Lake County Division of Youth Services has some suggestions for ways to foster compliance. First, parents and teens need to have serious discussions and “make some agreements” about expectations, rules and consequences. And start those discussions early – during pre-teen years – to avoid surprises.

Once those agreements are reached, follow-through for “both positive and negative” behavior is very important, explains Titensor. If a teen complies with requests to limit driving to daylight hours, for example, praise is in order. Conversely, breaking the rules should prompt the agreed upon consequence.

“Driving is a big responsibility,” not a right, Titensor points out. Parents “shouldn’t feel cornered” into allowing a teen to drive before he or she is ready. Parents need to carefully consider whether teens are mature enough, emotionally and socially, to make good decisions.

More teen driver resources for parents:

  • The Utah Safety Council’s Alive at 25 program offers a 4 hour course that teaches decision making skills.
  • UDOT partners with DPS to promote ways to reduce fatalities. The Zero Fatalities website has tips for all drivers, and links to the Don’t Drive Stupid campaign for teens.
  • The CDC suggests using a driving contract. Many insurance companies provide driving contracts for teens and parents to use as a tool to promote safe driving.
  • The CDC’s Parents are the Key website has crash facts and tips.
  • Parents Empowered offers proven strategies for preventing teen alcohol use.

December 23rd, 2011

HEART OF STONE

No Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Tough and resilient Stone Matrix Asphalt gets its anti-rutting properties primarily from aggregate, not binder.

A Region Four project used HMA topped with SMA

The aggregate for SMA is gap-graded, meaning there are fewer middle range particles used in the mix design. The size and shape of the aggregate creates a strong stone-on-stone skeleton for pavement. Since aggregate deforms less than asphalt, SMA holds up under heavy traffic.

SMA uses more oil in the mix along with fibers that reduce the bleeding of the oil. The higher oil content makes SMA more expensive than regular Hot Mix Asphalt pavement.

Since it’s a relatively new product, “it took some time for the issues with the materials to be understood,” explains Lonnie Marchant, UDOT Region Two Materials Manager. Several local contractors have experience with SMA, so more projects will make use of the tough stuff. And UDOT specifications for SMA “are in good shape.”

The first SMA project in UDOT Region Two was recently completed on I-80 between Black Rock and the Salt Lake City Airport. More SMA projects are planned for Region Two during the upcoming construction season.

SMA is not appropriate for every location. Marchant says that SMA “is much more difficult to place,” and so “the material doesn’t lend itself for use on roadways where there are numerous tie-ins, utility adjustments or intersections.”

Acceptance testing

UDOT’s central materials lab tests SMA for oil content, gradation of the aggregate and compaction of the final product. SMA does not allow use of recycled asphalt pavement.