February 23rd, 2012

PLEDGE TO STAY SAFE

No Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Two ZERO Fatalities displays, one serious and one fun, encourage kids and parents to always buckle up.


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

A Zero Fatalities display at the entrance to the Safe Kids Fair was the one exception to the fun-and-games booths at the otherwise festive event. The startling display that features a wrecked car stopped two teenage boys in their tracks. “It is sad, definitely,” said Cameron after reading a description of the crash; a young driver who fell asleep at the wheel was seriously injured, but nevertheless, probably would have died if he had not been wearing a seat belt. Both boys viewing the display agreed that it’s important to take safety seriously.

Taking safety seriously is the focus of another Zero Fatalities booth manned by Lora Hudson and Jeff Bleak.  Hudson encourages kids to buckle-up correctly every time they’re in the car. Putting seat belts on correctly helps the important safety feature to protect occupants in the event of a crash. Kids who pledge to buckle up get a back pack with a bold printed reminder. Bleak says giving kids a token of their pledge “helps the mom or dad say ‘hey, you signed saying you’ll wear your seat belt.’”

The Zero booth gives kids some leverage with parents too. Bleak hopes kids who make the seat belt pledge will encourage dads and grandpas to follow their good example. Men between the ages of 25 and 69 are the group that’s least likely to use seat belts.  Losing a dad, or any family member, is a huge loss to a family, explains Hudson.

Mom Shandy Burgon, who stopped by the Zero Fatalities booth, is teaching her young son how to make seat belt use a habit. “We just tell him that when we’re in the car, we always have the seat belt on until we come to a complete stop and turn the car off… if you start them young, you don’t have issues when they get older.”

UDOT booths for the Zero Fatalities programs will be at many events throughout the state this summer.

February 22nd, 2012

NEW CRASH DUMMY

3 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has adopted a 10-year old.

Sitting 28 inches high, the new crash test dummy is designed to be the best size to test restraint and other systems that protect older children in a crash.

In order to “keep pace with the latest scientific research and child restraint system technologies” the NHTSA has adopted a rule requiring manufacturers of car seats to use a child-sized crash test dummy. The NHTSA announced the new addition in an article on its website. The new dummy will allow researchers to test the effectiveness of new restraint systems that protect children weighing more than 65 pounds.

Children who exceed the size and weight limits of a car seat should be placed in a booster or other restraint device until the size and weight limits of that device are exceeded — usually sometime between age eight to 12. During a crash test, the dummy approximates the size and movement of a 77 pound human body, representing a child midway between ages eight to 12 years old.

Sitting 28 inches high, the dummy is designed to be the best size to test restraint and other systems that protect older children in a crash. Seat and belt fit of the dummy is very similar to a child. Children sit lower than adult, and therefore are not adequately protected by the cross-chest safety belt used by adults.

Manufacturers of child restraint devices were consulted and provided feedback during the development of the new dummy. According to the NHTSA, “Commenters were very supportive of the idea of incorporating an ATD representing children in the 8- to 12-year-old age range.”

Legislation to require children to be placed in booster seats was first passed in 2001 in Washington State. “Anton’s Law” is named after a four year old child who died in a crash. Anton had outgrown his car seat and was belted in without a booster in the front passenger seat of the car. He was thrown from the car and killed when the vehicle rolled over him. His mother, journalist Autumn Alexander Skeen, is credited with raising awareness of the need to investigate the effectiveness of adult seat belts used on children. Skeen also worked to promote laws to require booster seats for older children.

For more, read a post on Ray LaHood’s blog Fast Lane.

For information about Utah Law, contact the Utah Department of Public Safety, Highway Safety Office at 801-957-8570, or visit the Highway Safety Website.

February 21st, 2012

RESEARCH BASED SOLUTIONS

2 Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

Research helps UDOT improve safety and reduce travel delay for road users.

Click to enlarge this graphic: Through research, cable barrier has been shown to improve safety and save lives.

Transportation research is the basis for good decision making, and helps make departments of transportation across the nation good stewards of the transportation system. According to an article in the AASHTO Leading in Lean Times Newsletter, research helps DOTs solve problems and make good decisions. UDOT Executive Director John Njord explains: “Most DOTs today are facing significant funding constraints. We have to focus on making the most of what we have, and research plays an important role in finding effective and efficient solutions.”

Some research-based solutions UDOT has implemented have resulted in a safer, more efficient transportation system.

Safety: Through research, cable barrier has been shown to improve safety and save lives.  Since 2003, UDOT has installed 189 miles of median cable barrier constructed out of steel strong enough to prevent even large trucks from crossing the median.

Reduced construction related delay: UDOT leads the nation in developing Accelerated Bridge Construction techniques that reduce the duration of construction on the road and limit the amount of construction related inconvenience.  By building off-site, then moving those structures into place, bridges can be replaced in hours as opposed to months.

As part of the I-15 CORE project, UDOT built and moved the Sam White Lane Bridge into place. “At 354 feet the Sam White Lane Bridge was the largest ever moved in the western hemisphere using accelerated bridge construction techniques,” said Njord. “We have now moved almost 40 bridges into place using ABC. Why? Because research showed us that the technique was feasible and would result in much shorter delays for the travelling public. We value people’s time and our goal is to minimize the impacts on the public.”

Thousands of Utahns are saving travel time by using the Express Lanes. During peak traffic, users travel about 14 miles per hour faster than the general lanes.

Improved efficiency: Express Lanes on I-15 in Utah average 10-15 percent faster than regular lanes and help UDOT predict travel times. Thousands of Utahns are saving travel time by using the Express Lanes. During peak traffic, users travel about 14 miles per hour faster than the general lanes. The smart new system allows vehicles to take up available space in the Express Lanes so travel time on I-15 is better for everyone. UDOT manages Express Lane use by adjusting the price according to traffic conditions — so when traffic is heavy drivers will pay little more. The system allows maximum use of all lanes with the Express Lanes maintaining a speed of 55 mph during peak travel times.

Improved, state-of-the-art traffic signal timing, developed through research, has reduced travel delay on high-volume roadways.  In 2011, 10 detailed signal coordination projects took place involving 164 signals on 22 corridors, including the busy Salt Lake City business district.  Overall, the improved timing resulted in a 5.5 reduction in travel time, an 11.4 percent reduction in stops, a 14. 7 percent reduction in intersection delay and an estimated $6.2 million in savings to the public in reduced delay.

Utah is growing at an unprecedented rate. By 2015, travel will increase by 85 to 90 percent, population by 70 to 80 percent and new capacity by only seven percent. Facing increased demand on Utah’s transportation system will take careful, strategic planning. Transportation research provides a solid foundation for making informed, intelligent transportation improvements.

February 17th, 2012

LISTEN

No Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

Audio files for Utah Transportation Commission meetings are now available online.

Many people  need to be informed about commission decisions, including UDOT employees, elected officials and representatives from the Utah Transit Authority. Audio files of transportation meetings, which are held monthly, are now posted on UDOT’s website. Posting audio files is new addition to the website meant to help keep the transportation community and general public informed. Posted audio files are a great time saver for people who have busy schedules and can’t attend or travel to the meeting locations.

As defined by Utah Code 72-1-303, the seven members of the Utah Transportation Commission:

  • Determine priorities and funding levels of projects in the state transportation system considering a prioritization of needs provided by the Department
  • Determine additions and deletions to the state highway system
  • Take public comment about transportation matters at scheduled Commission meetings
  • Make policies and rules under the Rulemaking Act, §63-46a, necessary to perform the Commission’s duties
  • Approve establishment of tollways for new state highways or new capacity lanes under §72-6-118
  • Advise the Department on state transportation systems policy
  • Review administrative rules made, amended or repealed by the Department
  • Annually review public transit plans. In addition, one commissioner serves s as a non-voting member of the Board of Trustees for the Utah Transit Authority

Many people need to be informed about commission decisions, including UDOT employees, elected officials and representatives from the Utah Transit Authority.

February 16th, 2012

UTAH TRAVEL STUDY

4 Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

The Utah Travel study will collect information that will aid in planning highway and transit projects.

The Utah Travel Study is an effort to collect information about regional travel patterns. 

Planning appropriate highway improvements and public transportation programs that meet community needs starts with an accurate and current knowledge of travel patterns. This spring, transportation planners at the Wasatch Front Regional Council will survey area residents in Salt Lake, Weber and Davis Counties about how, when and where family members travel.

The information collected by the survey will help UDOT and other agencies plan and prioritize highway and transit projects.

The survey will collect basic demographic and vehicle information, including the number and characteristics of adults and children and number and type of vehicles available in the household. Participants will also be invited to report information about trips made in one 24-hour period. Survey respondents will also be asked about long distance travel and bicycle use.

Once gathered, the information will be put to good use. An understanding of daily travel patterns in the region “is vital to the officials responsible for planning future transportation projects. These plans set the priority for the 30-year long range transportation plan for the spending of billions of dollars on various highway and transit projects,” according to a press release sent by WFRC.

According to Andrew Jackson, Executive Director MAG, the survey will help make sure public monies are spent wisely and support economic development. “The Utah Household Travel Survey will allow our city planners, engineers and elected officials to make better decisions on multi-million dollar transportation projects.  It will provide insight on the transportation facilities needed in Utah Valley and when they will need to be constructed.  This will allow our economy to expand and continue to attract world class jobs from companies like Micron, Adobe, Intel, and the National Security Agency.”

To find out more:

Visit the website

Email: Utah@rsgsurvey.com

Phone number: 1-888-202-8995

February 15th, 2012

JOB WELL DONE

1 Comment, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

UDOT Region Two Incident Management Team members’ work is commendable!

IMT

The IMT program is a key element in the UDOT Traffic Operations Center’s ability to maintain safety and movement on urban freeways. IMTs work closely with Utah Highway Patrol Troopers to clear crashes or other incidents on state roads so traffic can return to normal. But the most important work team members do is to improve safety. IMT workers provide a safer crash scene stopping zone for UHP Troopers and motorists, and they help clear crashes or other incidents quickly, which prevents secondary crashes.

Troopers are vulnerable to passing traffic when stopped on the side of the road. IMT Trucks are equip with lights, signs and other equipment that can be set up to make crash scenes more visible to passing motorists so troopers have a safer place to do their important job. Although one goal of the IMT program is to provide assistance as quickly as possible, technicians stay on scene as long as troopers, motorists, emergency responders and tow truck operators need protection. “We don’t leave them” until safe conditions are restored, says Dave Stallworth, IMT Coordinator.

Getting traffic back to normal is also important to preventing secondary incidents. When traffic flow slows or stops suddenly because of a crash or other incident, rear-end or side swipe collisions are more likely to occur. UDOT engineers estimate that for every one minute saved by clearing an incident quickly, five minutes of traffic delay can be prevented. Those few minutes saved means that fewer secondary crashes occur and normal traffic flow is quickly restored.

The UHP has recently recognized the Region Two IMT for the great work they do. “It is always difficulty to quantify how many lives we save out there on the roads because it is not tangible and we do not see the results first hand.  I know that without a doubt that all of you have helped in one way or another to save one of our lives as police officers working on our freeways,” says a Letter of Commendation sent by Sergent Jeff Nigbur of the UHP.

Congratulations to Region Two IMTs: Dave Stallworth, Jeff Reynolds, Billy Frahsure, Mark Whittaker, Nick Jarrett and Ron Williams.

February 14th, 2012

ROTATIONAL PROGRAM

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

UDOT’s Rotational Engineer Program gives new graduates a career kick-start.

Candidates seeking a Professional Engineer license need to graduate from a qualified university engineering program, take a competency test, and complete four years of supervised work as an Engineer in Training before taking the PE and other exams.  The EIT experience at UDOT is designed to benefit both parties –the agency benefits from gaining well educated, hard working employees, and UDOT provides a varied and challenging work environment that helps engineers to gain valuable experience.

UDOT’s Rotational Program gives engineers a chance to “understand the overall role of the department,” says Rotational Program Manager Richard Murdock, who has managed the program for 7 years. The program has been around for over 20 years in a similar form with changes and updates being made as needed. UDOT also offers four summer internships that include full state benefits.

Daniele Dearinger worked full-time as a Design Tech at UDOT Region Two before being hired as a rotational engineer in UDOT Structures.

Engineers apply to the Rotational Engineer Program right out of college, and since UDOT has a reputation for providing a good EIT experience, more apply that the program can accommodate. Fifty-three engineers applied for a recent posting in Richfield. Murdock believes UDOT is getting “ the best of the best,” in the rotational and internship programs.

Murdock meets with engineers in training quarterly to discuss goals, then coordinates with supervisors to design a program that meshes agency and individual career goals. Job placements change about every six months. All engineers in training need to complete a mandatory placement in construction and design.

Daniele Dearinger, who recently graduated from the University of Utah, was hired as a Rotational Engineer in UDOT Structures two months ago.  Her first rotation was at the UDOT Traffic Operations Center. Dearinger worked full-time as a Design Tech at UDOT Region Two for over five years while attending school; doing both “was a lot of work,” she says.

Dearinger is enjoying meeting more people at UDOT and gaining more experience in different areas. When it comes to career goals, she has an open mind about where she’d like to end up, but is really enjoying work in structures – especially when it comes to doing calculations. “I just feel like I’m in heaven,” while doing calculations she says.

As a rotational engineer at the TOC, Deb Henry worked on an innovative variable speed project.

Deb Henry is on the other end of the rotational experience having just been hired as a permanent Design Engineer at Region Two. She enjoyed her time as a rotational engineer and says moving from placement to placement fills in knowledge gaps and builds professional competency.

For example, experience in the design and construction fields works together.  “it’s not a good design unless it can be built well and maintained easily, and you don’t know that unless you’ve been to construction.”

Henry also spent time in Governor Huntsman’s office in a fellowship program offered to a lucky few.  Government often operates in organizational silos “so it’s good to see what other parts of government do,” says Henry. A fellowship like the one she participated in help bridge the knowledge gap between offices and agencies.

Henry saw improvements put into action very quickly during her time at the UDOT Traffic Operation Center. She sees the TOC’s success as a function of being very technology-forward. “They’re doing a great job” at making the transportation system work more efficiently. Henry worked on an innovative project to possibly place variable speed signs at locations that experience a wide range of weather conditions.

UDOT currently has nineteen rotational engineers and “will welcome more soon,” says Murdock.  The promise of a great experience “draws people here and helps us retain our engineers as they move into permanent positions here at UDOT.”

February 9th, 2012

DEFLECTION

2 Comments, Preserve Infrastructure, by Catherine Higgins.

A falling weight deflectometer is a non-destructive method for testing the load capacity of pavement.

The FWD simulates traffic, and with data gathered from the tests, engineers can learn about the pavement characteristics.

A FWD is a machine with sensors that measures pavement deflection when a raised weight is dropped. The force of the dropped weight is transmitted to the pavement by a load plate.

The FWD simulates traffic and from the data gathered from the tests, engineers “can tell a lot about the pavement characteristics,” such as pavement thickness and load transfer properties according to Gary Kuhl, UDOT’s Statewide Pavement Management Engineer.

Pavement needs to be appropriately stiff and flexible to hold up to traffic loads – stiff enough to be durable and flexible to rebound from traffic.  The FWD measures pavement deflection at the drop point and extending five feet away. Layer thickness, pavement temperature, and deflection data are collected, and remaining life can be calculated when traffic volumes and weights are included.

UDOT has an FWD that can be used to collect data on project level roadways. The data is very useful for pavement maintenance and design engineers. While many engineers at UDOT are familiar with FWD and what it does, not all are familiar with how to make full use of the data.

A training to give pavement and maintenance engineers information about how the FDW can help with pavement design is planned for February 2 7 in Region Two.  Engineers from across the state will attend to learn more about the FWD and how to fully exploit data for pavement design.

For more about FWD testing, see this article on the Pavement Interactive website.

February 8th, 2012

GET A GRIP

1 Comment, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

UDOT will test a how high friction surface treatments increase skid resistance and improve safety.

UDOT and the Federal Highways Administration are working on a project to improve the skid resistance at key locations by applying a high friction surface treatment. This photo shows a roadway in Colorado.

Pavement-tire friction provides skid resistance and helps motorists break safely. Departments of transportation evaluate pavement friction by objectively scoring skid resistance – a score of 40 or more usually represents adequate friction while “35 or below is a trigger value,” says Barry Sharp. He and others at UDOT and the Federal Highways Administration are working on a project to improve the skid resistance at key locations by applying a high friction surface treatment – HFST – consisting of an epoxy binder and non-polishing aggregate.

FHWA is reaching out to UDOT and other states to promote the study and possible implementation of market ready products including HFSTs. Other states have used HFSTs and realized an immediate reduction in crashes. In Utah, using an HFST “could be huge in terms of saving lives,” says John Haynes, Research and Innovation Manager at FHWA.

Steep roadways, freeway ramps or sharp curves may benefit from a highly skid resistant surface. UDOT engineers work to keep roads as safe as possible by maintaining skid-resistance and setting appropriate speed limits. But, rain and speeds that are too high can combine to make for dangerous conditions, especially for semis or other very large vehicles.

UDOT Engineers will identify some locations that could benefit from HFST by checking crash data for run-off-the-road collisions. Before and after studies, including IRI measurements and crash data, will provide the basis of an evaluation, explains engineer Abdul Wakil, UDOT Research Project Manager. Engineers will also look at how the product holds up under traffic, weather and snow plows.

Brent Gaschler, UDOT Engineer for Technology and Support has taken a preliminary look at how improving skid-resistance is expected to help reduce crashes. “it’s a really wise investment even though it seems to have some up-front costs; we expect the long term benefits to outweigh initial expenditures.” Several HFST products are available, but the product UDOT will use for the study will be determined through a competitive bidding process.

“If this treatment is successful, we may draft a specification or special provision for UDOT,” says Wakil. Adding a UDOT Specification will make it easier for UDOT Project Managers to add HFST to projects, and for contractors to select an appropriate product.

February 7th, 2012

HIGH PERFORMANCE

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

A yearly publication outlines accomplishments and shows how UDOT plans to move forward.

bridges under construction in being built in the interchange infield near Provo Center Street.

UDOT publishes the Strategic Direction and Performance Measures yearly to set the state’s transportation stage, communicate how construction, maintenance and safety projects improve the system, and to chart the road ahead. Utah is facing unprecedented growth in population and Vehicle Miles Traveled. The combination of factors poses a challenge, but efforts to expand capacity and make the system more efficient are helping Utahns avoid transportation gridlock.

“We have stemmed the tide,” when it comes to travel delay, explained UDOT Director John Njord today at the Utah Transportation Commission Meeting. Njord reviewed pages from the Strategic Direction, which has recently been added to the UDOT website, and highlighted some key points for commission members.

Delay has been defeated by tactically executed capacity projects. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

A graph that tracks travel delay with and without recent and planned capacity projects illustrates Njord’s point. Delay has been defeated by tactically executed capacity projects without witch road users would experience three to five times the amount of delay. Njord hopes to continue to make system wide improvements and believes that planned projects, if funded, will leave a “legacy for the citizens that come after us.”

Other important themes in the new Strategic Direction include:

  • Increasing capacity—a look at major capacity projects, including the I-15 CORE project and the Mountain View Corridor. Both projects will be completed by the end of 2012
  • Employing Innovation – UDOT has long taken pride in the innovative techniques. Last year, UDOT used Accelerated Bridge Technology to build and move the Sam White Bridge into place on I-15 – the pioneering process holds the record in the Western Hemisphere for the longest structure to be moved into place.
  • Express Lanes success – Thousands of Utahns saving travel time by using the Express Lanes. During peak traffic, users travel about 14 miles per hour faster than the general lanes.
  • New technology – the best and most up-to-date information from UDOT’s Traffic Operation Center is available in a new smart phone app. Nearly 30,000 people downloaded the app in the first four weeks since its release.

The Strategic Direction, which has recently been added to UDOT’s website, can be viewed online or in PDF.