April 10th, 2012

NEW ENGINEERS

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

UDOT Engineers In Training are finding their work at UDOT challenging and rewarding.

Greg Merrill is an Engineer in Training in UDOT's Rotational Engineer Program

Short bios on the newest engineers at the agency describe some of the experiences and knowledge that are being gained by UDOT Rotational Engineers and Interns as they work to design, build and take care of the transportation system. The bios are a way to introduce the Engineers in Training to others at UDOT and associated private sector firms.

UDOT’s Rotational Program gives engineers a chance to “understand the overall role of the department,” says Richard Murdock, who has managed the program for 7 years. The program has existed for more than 20 years in a similar organizational form. UDOT gains by welcoming in enthusiastic, newly graduated engineers who view the world of transportation with new eyes. The Rotational Engineers come from diverse backgrounds and varied experiences.

Engineers apply to the program right out of college. Once at UDOT, EITs work under the supervision of Professional Engineers and rotate from one UDOT department to another about every six months. UDOT has a reputation for providing a good EIT experience, so more candidates apply that the program can accommodate. UDOT also offers a number of year-round internships that include full state benefits.

The EITs like the opportunity to work in the different specialty areas and gain broad experience. The rotations allow new engineers “to see how each [department] works and functions and how they each tie together,” says Greg Merrill who is assigned to Region One Construction. Rotations provide “a chance to find your niche” in preparation for later specialization.

Mandatory rotations include construction, design, maintenance and traffic and safety. Many of the EITs mention design as being particularly challenging. “I had no idea what went into a project from either the design or construction side, so I had to ask a lot of questions and do a lot of research,” writes Megan Leonard, “ Being able to actually design projects is an amazing process and learning how many little details go into each project was an eye opener.”

Many of the Rotational Engineers appreciate the chance to network and learn from others at UDOT. “I have had great supervisors that have provided plenty of guidance whenever I have needed assistance understanding a concept or completing a project,” writes Aaron Pinkerton.

Leonard appreciates the respect she is shown at work. “I recommend this program to everyone who can apply for it. I feel like I’m trusted and treated like an actual staff member and not just a glorified intern.”

Read the bios:

Brian Allen

Zack Andrus

Jeremy Bown

Eric Buell

Scott Esplin

Ryan Ferrin

Alex Fisher

Megan Leonard

Greg Merrill

Ryan Nuesmeyer

Phillip Peterson

Aaron Pinkerton

Kayde Roberts

Brandon Weight

April 9th, 2012

KWKW

No Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

Know Where Know Why is a communication effort that’s aimed at helping motorists avoid construction-related delay.

The KWKW website shows pop-up descriptions of projects that may cause delay to the traveling public.

A printed guide, interactive website, radio and TV spots and now, a traffic app – all are components of “the overall communication campaign for construction information for the general public,” according to UDOT Public Information Officer Nate McDonald.

Twenty high-impact projects are featured in UDOT’s new Know Where, Know Why 2012 Road Construction Guide. New this year, the guide has been distributed to auto repair and oil change shops along the I-15 corridor. UDOT is hoping that motorists who are preparing for a road trip will notice and pick up the guide. Guides have also shipped out to hotels, motels and truck stops across the state.

KWKW also includes television and radio spots that highlight the highest impact projects for weekend travelers.

UDOT Traffic is a new smart phone app available at the iTunes Store and Android Market and includes:
• A Google Maps display
• Traffic conditions
• Crashes, construction and hazards
• Special events
• Road weather and forecasts
• Seasonal road closures
• Traffic camera images
• Roadway sign messages

April 3rd, 2012

MORE GREEN

No Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

UDOT’s Continuous Flow Intersections have been used to enhance east-west traffic mobility in Salt Lake County.

CFI’s provide more green-light time by eliminating potential points of conflict. Watch this new video to see how the innovative configuration can increase the number of cars moving through an intersection by up to 70 percent.

April 3rd, 2012

NJORD ON RESEARCH

No Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

The role of transportation researchers is to be continually “scouring the river looking for those valuable gems of truth that will enable us to be even better.”

“Our business is dynamic and it’s changing all the time,” according to UDOT Director John Njord. In the constantly shifting world of transportation, it’s important for leaders to understand the leading edge. To set the stage for progress, Njord prefers taking a step forward to the “bleeding edge.” In a recent interview Njord explained the bleeding edge, how UDOT has benefited from research and what the future holds for transportation.

Conservatism dominates the world of civil engineering; transportation delivery has not changed radically over the last fifty years. Leading safely will produce a good transportation system, but “the bleeding edge is where you’re cutting new territory,” explained Njord. He believes that leaders need to be willing to say “ok, nobody has done this, we don’t know if it will be successful, but we’re going to try it anyway.”

To reach the bleeding edge, executives need to create an environment where failure is not punished. Njord hopes researchers and others at UDOT feel comfortable enough to “step out on the edge” while weighing risks against benefits and doing as much as possible to ensure success.

Recent success

Research has helped UDOT’s efforts to improve system mobility and reduce construction related delay. When many intersections along the Bangerter Highway in Salt Lake County were facing operational challenges, UDOT engineers “launched out to Juarez, Mexico” to investigate Continuous Flow Intersections. UDOT has since built many CFIs. With design changes that make operation better suited to Utah locations “they are tremendously efficient,” explains Njord.

The Sam White Bridge replacement was the longest bridge to be moved into place in the Western Hemisphere. UDOT has rolled more new bridges into place than all other states combined.

Bridge moves allow road users to collectively realize savings in the millions of dollars by avoiding construction related delay. Nearly a decade ago, Njord and others from UDOT traveled to Florida to learn about accelerated bridge construction.

Today, UDOT has rolled more new bridges into place than all other states combined, he explains. “The time savings we’ve been able to generate for people who travel on the highways is worth finding new ways to work; we’re on that bleeding edge,” said Njord.

Great expectations

Njord looks forward to seeing new research generate products that will make the transportation system safer and more reliable. SHRP 2, a Transportation Research Board effort, is focusing on developing ways to improve safety at intersections, rehabilitate highways and bridges without disrupting traffic, minimize unpredictable traffic congestion and expand highway capacity while also considering the natural and built environments.

As chair of the USDOT Executive Committee for the Connected Vehicle Program, Njord sees a day when “your children and grand children will be able to purchase a car that will never crash.” Connected vehicle technology will make use of smart roads integrated with other systems to anticipate and eliminate collisions. “That’s pretty awesome, said Njord. “ We don’t see the whole picture today but we will.”

April 2nd, 2012

GO GREEN, WEAR ORANGE.

2 Comments, Preserve Infrastructure, by Catherine Higgins.

Utah residents are invited to participate in UDOT’s first annual Adopt-a-Highway Earth Day clean-up.

UDOT's Adopt a Highway program will clean-up for Earth Day

Hundreds of groups in the state have committed to doing regular clean up along state routes. UDOT would like to welcome those groups and others to celebrate Earth Day a day early by participating in the first annual Adopt-a-Highway Earth Day event on Saturday, April 21 starting at 9 a.m.

Registered groups who want to participate should meet at the UDOT Maintenance Station nearest their assigned state route. All other groups or individuals who want to participate should contact the nearest Adopt-a-Highway coordinator by phone or email so UDOT can be provide orange bags and safety gear for the event.

Some areas in east Salt Lake or Summit County may still be too snowy for a clean-up. Groups that still want to participate should call and make arrangements to meet at another area nearby.

Adopt a Highway groups across the state of Utah have elected to celebrate Earth Day on Saturday April 21. UDOT Adopt-a-Highway coordinator Ashlee Parrish is promoting the statewide event as a way to help improve the community, the environment, and the aesthetics of state highways and “welcome this warm weather with a little spring cleaning!”

Lee Theobald, Business Analyst Supervisor in Systems Planning and Programming is UDOT’s 2011 Leader of the Year.

UDOT Leader of the Year Lee Theobald spoke to employees gathered to honor the nominees. He gave his co-workers all of the credit --"They make me look good," he said.

Eight UDOT leaders and their guests gathered for lunch, great conversation and to be honored for their service by UDOT Director John Njord and UDOT Deputy Director Carlos Braceras. “We do have some very talented people that work here here at the department of transportation — men and women that are leading this organization into new realms,” said Njord.

Kudos to all who were nominated for UDOT Leader of the Year:

Troy Esterholdt – Region One
Lee Nitchman – Region Two
Kurtis Park – Region Three
Ray Bentley – Region Four
Ron Butler – Operations
Stacy Frandsen – Project Development
Tim Rodriguez – Administration / Risk Management
Lee Theobold – Systems Planning and Programming

UDOT Leader of the Year, Lee Theobald: A highly respected leader and mentor, Theobald is famous at UDOT for his expertise, infectious and upbeat personality and his let’s-get-it-done attitude. Theobald’s leadership has helped transform his team into a model of efficiency and accuracy that has earned praise from UDOT leaders, team members and the Federal Highway Administration.

“Over the last thirty three years, Lee as worked his way up through the Planning ranks by being a leader who is dedicated to his work, staff, UDOT and is an inspiration to all those who know him,” according to nominator Stan Burns, UDOT Engineer for Asset Management who nominated Theobald. “Lee knows how to lead, manage and mentor multiple successful teams simultaneously.”

After a recent reorganization, Theobald took on new duties and staff and became responsible for collecting traffic statistics and road data, the Linear Referencing System and the uber important Highways Performance Monitoring System which is tied to more than half of UDOT’s Federal Funding. Theobald faced the challenge by inspiring employees and leading with vision. Within a few months, the disparate groups were transformed into a cohesive, collaborative team.

And, FHWA noticed, according to Burns. “Folks at the federal government said that HPMS report was some of the best they had seen from any state.”

Perhaps the best indicators of Theobald’s leadership ability are the statements made by those he leads. Here are a few statements made team members:

“Lee Theobald is one of those people who make it easy to come to work. Because of his even and pragmatic approach towards the execution of his responsibilities, Lee makes the challenges of work less burdensome, the problems less dramatic, and the successes more rewarding. Lee’s appreciation for his co-workers breeds cooperation, respect, and pride among his teams. Lee is one of those wonderful people that make a difference.” — Toni Butterfield

“Lee has given me the opportunity to use my skills and talent to do the job. He also provides me with plenty of assistance when the need arises. Also he is a very good boss and is there to help you keep focus on the job at hand.” — Doug Malone

“I have worked with Lee for seventeen years now. He is a leader that leads by example. He has always been the easiest going guy. He is always the one to go to for the answer to most questions. He is always willing to help and finds the best way to make the job less stressful. When I need advice he is the one I go to. He is one of those people that everyone has only good things to say about him. Lee will listen to your wants and needs and if he can help or make it happen he usually does. He is a leader that leads by example. Everyone that knows Lee knows that they can trust him and be confident in the answers and advise he gives.” — Pete Bigelow

March 28th, 2012

HIGH MARKS

1 Comment, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Pavement markings are a critical safety element on Utah roads and UDOT Central Maintenance is continually looking for ways to improve the way markings perform.

Retroreflective glass beads in pavement markings show up at night when headlights illuminate the pavement.

Pavement markings are divided into three categories:

  • Roadway striping, including lane and shoulder markings
  • Messages that provide information such as school zones
  • Islands or islands and parking lots

Most of UDOT’s efforts and costs are aimed at maintaining over 58 thousand centerline miles of lane markings. UDOT’s goal is to paint all lane markings ever year. Long distances and other maintenance duties make that effort a challenge. Region maintenance employees establish a visual quality level goal on each route, and then evaluate markings using an A through F grade against the goal. The worst markings are painted first.

Years of UDOT research has shown that recessing paint slightly below the pavement helps markings last three to five times longer because markings are less vulnerable to snow plows. UDOT Region Two Pavement Maintenance Coordinator Dan Betts has pioneered a method of cutting into the pavement slightly to recess the area slightly below the pavement surface.

Diagram

Betts and UDOT Maintenance Planning Engineer Ken Berg are trying different types of retroreflective glass beads added to the paint to find the best solution for improving visibility of markings at night and in the rain. The markings are made up of two elements – paint that acts as a binder and glass beads that are applied to the paint while wet. A variety of glass beads are available, all with slightly different properties. Berg and Betts are evaluating several types of beads to see which ones work best at night and in the rain.

“We are constantly looking for new products and technologies that are both cost effective and provide long term durability,” writes Berg in a new Pavement Marking White Paper on the topic. “We are asking pavement marking suppliers to apply a product of their choice and guarantee that it will perform for a 5 year period. Our intent is to eliminate yearly public impact from striping operations by providing the best pavement markings we can with minimal disruption to traffic.”

March 27th, 2012

EARTHQUAKE DRILL

No Comments, Preserve Infrastructure, by Catherine Higgins.

UDOT will participate in an earthquake preparedness drill and an extended exercise that will simulate what could happen to the transportation system during a real earthquake.

“We are one of the critical infrastructure owners,” says Chris Siavrakas, Emergency Management Coordinator at UDOT. Transportation, along with other critical systems, including energy, water and health care, is part of an interdependent system, and the aftermath of an earthquake, UDOT employees will be responsible to make sure the transportation system is safe.

UDOT bridges are designed and constructed to AASHTO national design standards which account for hazard events such as earthquakes.  Many of the bridges on I-15 through the Wasatch Front have been rebuilt in the last 15 years. While UDOT does not anticipate extensive damage to the transportation system, some damage will occur. And, uncertainty exists when it comes to events, such as crashes or power outages and how those events will affect the transportation system.

During the Shake Out, a SimCell participants will call UDOT and other agencies and report realistic incidents.

To test readiness for dealing with such events, UDOT will participate in a scripted simulation. The calls will be generated by a “SimCell,” a group of Shake Out participants based at a state government building who will call UDOT and other agencies and report realistic incidents. An Emergency Operations Center set up for the Shake Out at UDOT’s Traffic Operations Center will take calls all day.

After an actual earthquake, calls will be coming in from a variety of sources – motorists, UDOT Maintenance employees, other agencies or businesses – and having a test that simulates that process will be useful. During the exercise, EOC participants will collect and evaluate data and “roll it into a report,” says Siavrakas.

UDOT will partner with the United States Geological Survey Earthquake Hazards Program to obtain realistic data. The USGS has software called ShakeCast that is available for use by critical infrastructure owners. The software can generate estimated damage data for structures like buildings and bridges. In an actual seismic event, ShakeCast can be used to send notification “within minutes of an earthquake indicating the level of shaking and the likelihood of impact” to facilities chosen by the user according to the USGS website.

The exercise will help the EOC “test our procedure of collecting artificial but plausible bridge damage data,” says Siavrakas.

March 26th, 2012

SHAKE, RATTLE AND ROLL

1 Comment, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

UDOT is participating in the Shake Out, an earthquake preparedness event planned for April 17, 2012.

Over 700 thousand people in Utah have signed on to drop, cover and hold on during a one minute drill that’s part of the Shake Out. Utah is an active seismic region – that information is commonly known. What residents may not know is how to properly seek protection during the time an earthquake is occurring.

The designated time for the earthquake drill is 10:15 a.m. for the state of Utah. All Utah residents are being encouraged by organizers to participate in a drop, cover and hold on drill. Some organizations, UDOT included, will participate in extended earthquake preparedness exercises.

Drop, cover and hold on

Taking cover under a sturdy table or desk is the best strategy in an earthquake.

The primary threat from earthquakes is the intense shaking that can cause structures like office buildings and schools to partially or fully collapse. When that shaking occurs, the safest place to be is under a heavy object like a desk or table. Rescuers who respond to earthquakes find victims in “survivable voids” created when people duck under a sturdy object.

Participating in the drill “builds muscle memory” explains Chris Siavrakas, UDOT’s Emergency Management Coordinator. “Panic is not knowing what to do,” so doing the drill even once makes it more likely that a person will quickly drop, take cover and hold on when the earth really starts to shake.

Another part of the Shake Out drill is situational awareness that can occur before drill. Siavrakas hopes employees will ask themselves “what hazards are around me?” UDOT employees work all over the state in office buildings, on work sites, and many spend many hours each day driving for work. Each employee should think about various work locations and visualize what could happen during an earthquake, and then plan the safest place to drop, cover and hold on.

March 22nd, 2012

CROSSING SAFELY

2 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

At-grade crossings give trains and cars a place to meet up – and not in a good way. Vic Saunders, Public Involvement Manager at UDOT Region One is actively promoting rail safety by giving presentations at area schools.

Kent Brown, Vic Saunders Kent Jorgenson, Ahmad Jaber Andrew Glad, Philip Lavorgna and Walt Webster received awards from Operation Lifesaver. See the post below for more information about award recipients.

Saunders is a certified presenter for Operation Lifesaver, a rail safety organization that was formed in Idaho. After a successful short term public awareness campaign, state officials found that fatalities fell in Idaho by 43 percent. Other states adopted the program – Utah was third – and now the organization operates across the country. Saunders is one of several presenters from UDOT and other organizations, including the Utah Transit Authority.

Whether walking or driving, it’s imperative to maintain good situational awareness at train crossings. Young people can be prone to walk or drive distractedly by paying attention to friends, texting or listening to music. Saunders has spent hundreds of hours in drivers ed classes talking about why paying attention is so critical.

“You are forty percent more likely to die on a highway at a railroad crossing that at any other place,” says Saunders. He was recently honored as a Safety Partner of the Year by Operation Lifesaver for giving presentations. Last year, Saunders gave sixty-two presentations that reached nearly three thousand people, “most of them 16 year old kids getting ready to go out and drive.”

The videos for the presentations are shockingly straight forward and show images and video of actual crashes. Saunders believes that “it gets their attention” to see the real images. “They all think it’s going to be somebody else.”

Congratulations to Saunders and other award winners!

Persons in photo from left to right:

Kent Brown – Utah Central Railway, 2nd Runner-up Safety Partner Presenter of the Year, gave 24 presentations to 1,031 people

Vic Saunders – Utah Department of Transportation, 1st Runner-up Safety Partner Presenter of the Year, gave 62 presentations to 2,662 people

Kent Jorgenson – Utah Transit Authority, Safety Partner of the Year, gave 98 presentations to 3,255 people

Ahmad Jaber – Utah Department of Transportation, State Coordinator’s Award of Excellence, The state coordinator’s award of excellence is given to an individual or an organization that has demonstrated excellence in participating in or supporting the Operation Lifesaver program through activity, in-kind support, and/or financial contributions.

  • Managed the Operation Lifesaver Utah program since 1976 (year started in Utah) to 1996.
  • Provided a full-time person as the first state coordinator, who was Lillian Witkowski
  • Provides personnel to give Operation Lifesaver presentations to the public
  • Contributes financially to the Operation Lifesaver Utah program on an annual basis

Andrew Glad, Volunteer Presenter of the Year, gave 106 presentations to 3,408 people

Philip Lavorgna, 1st Runner-up Volunteer Presenter of the Year, gave 78 presentations to 2,195 people

Walt Webster, 2nd Runner-up Volunteer Presenter of the Year, gave 70 presentations to 2,363 people