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.

December 22nd, 2011

SMART ROADS

4 Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

UDOT’s smart roads “see” traffic.

Fiber optic cable is made up of fine strands of glass bundled together and wrapped with a reflective jacket. Hundreds of miles of fiber optic cable, buried along freeways and major surface streets, sends information to a sophisticated computerized system at the speed of light. The system lets UDOT monitor and manage traffic flow and communicate in real time.

UDOT leaders have charged managers at the Traffic Operations Center with creating a world class Advanced Traffic Management System. Reaching that goal depends on expanding the fiber optic system.

Fiber Optic Network Manager Lynne Yocom is up to the task. She has successfully expanded UDOT’s fiber optic network during 2011 to include the following connections:

  •        Utah State University connection
  •        SR-30, I-15 to Logan
  •        I-15, Perry to Idaho border
  •        I-80, 5600 West to Wendover
  •        SR-36, Tooele to I-80
  •        SR-248, Park City to US-40
  •        Heber City interconnect
  •        Vernal City interconnect
  •        US-191, Moab to I-70
  •        I-70, Cove Fort to Richfield
  •        Cedar City interconnect

Yocom has partnered with local telecommunications companies to expand fiber optic connectivity through trading access to UDOT right of way for use of excess fiber optic cable capacity.

New

UDOT will continue to acquire new fiber optic connections to improve ATMS capabilities.

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. And, smart phone users can have convenient access to the same information by using UDOT’s new smart phone app,  UDOT Traffic.

New fiber optic connections are helping employees in Region Four use work time more efficiently. Region Four serves rural and urban roads in the southern one third of the state and covers more area and has more road miles than the other three regions combined. Building and maintaining those roads takes a lot of travel and time. Video conferencing equipment is helping staff make fewer trips and improve productivity.

“We are extremely progressive with what we are doing compared with other states,” says Yocom. She gives credit to UDOT’s Director John Njord and Deputy Director Carlos Braceras for being very forward thinking when it comes to using available technology. UDOT will continue to press forward to acquire new fiber optic connections to improve ATMS capabilities.

December 21st, 2011

CABLE BARRIER

1 Comment, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Cable barrier reduces the occurrence of crossover collisions.

Vehicles in a head-on crash collide at a force that equals the combined speed of each car. When vehicles hit cable barrier, the steel cable absorbs the crash.

Cable barrier is tensioned steel cable held up by weak posts. When installed properly between opposing traffic lanes, cable barrier prevents crossover collisions, which are “the most horrific crashes we can have,” says John Leonard, UDOT Traffic and Safety Operations Engineer. Often fatal or disabling, crossover collisions occur when a car veers off the road, into the median and then crashes into opposing traffic.

The steel cables protect vehicle occupants, absorb energy from the crash and keep the vehicle moving in the same direction as traffic.

UDOT started installing cable barrier in the late 1990s (Click to enlarge)

Cable barrier saves lives

UDOT has seen a steady decline of crossover collisions since the late 1990s when installation of cable barrier began. Since 2004,UDOT has installed nearly 200 miles of cable barrier. During that time, crossover collisions resulting in fatalities or serious injuries have decreased from nearly 70 to 20 per year.

The benefits of cable barrier are well known, but sometimes people outside the transportation arena don’t understand the purpose of the important safety feature that is installed between opposing traffic lanes on many Utah highways and interstates.

Myth 1: Cable barrier creates a hazard for motorists.

According to Scott Jones, UDOT Safety Programs Engineer, “putting barrier on the roadside actually does give people more opportunity to hit something.” However, cable barrier prevents head-on crashes that can be severe or fatal to occupants.

Serious and fatal crashes have declined since UDOT began installing cable barrier. (Click to enlarge)

Vehicles in a head-on crash collide at a force that equals the combined speed of each car. When vehicles hit cable barrier, the steel cable is displaced as it absorbs the crash and occupants are usually not injured severely.

Despite UDOT’s ongoing effort to educate drivers about the hazards of driving drowsy, distracted or impaired, people do end up driving into the median and into oncoming traffic, often because of driver error. For those motorists, crashing into cable barrier is much safer than crashing into oncoming traffic.

Myth 2: Cable barrier slices up vehicles.

Installed correctly,cable barrier especially is very forgiving when you hit it,” compared to concrete barrier or guardrail, says Jones. “We know that a lot of people drive into the cable barrier and then drive away – they never even report a crash.”

Like everything UDOT installs along state routes, cable barrier is crash tested. “Crash testing is really important because we want to make sure it will work the way it’s supposed to – it’s not just a guess,” explains Jones.

Myth 3: Placement of cable barrier is done arbitrarily.

UDOT engineers are very careful to identify appropriate locations for cable barrier, and to install the barrier correctly at those locations. Jones uses crash data to identify appropriate locations for cable barrier.

When it comes to installation at each specific location, placement is “extremely engineered” he explains. Cable barrier is generally most appropriate when installed on “flat or moderately sloped terrain,” according to FHWA. Engineers consider many factors, including how an errant car will react while crossing a slope between travel lanes, the distance from traffic lanes and the quality of the soil.

December 20th, 2011

FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE

No Comments, Preserve Infrastructure, by Catherine Higgins.

Getting the bond right is critical when it comes to installing a protective bridge deck overlay.

Bridges are important assets to Utah’s transportation system. Prolonging the life of bridges gives taxpayers the best bang for the buck since premature replacement can be expensive and inconvenient for road users.

A strong bond between the overlay and bridge deck helps protect the entire bridge from deterioration.

“Bridge decks are the first line of defense for the whole bridge,” explains engineer Joshua Sletten,  Structures Design Manager at UDOT. Bridges are designed to last for 75 years but the life of the deck is much shorter – about 40 years. Utah’s weather and salt, used in the winter for deicing, tends to cause decks to deteriorate.

When a bridge deck overlay is sealed improperly, water carries salt and impurities from the road where it pools between the overlay and the concrete. The freeze-thaw cycle can crack the concrete, allowing salt water to seep in and corrode the steel reinforcement. “Salt basically speeds up deterioration and corrodes steel at a ratio of about 8 to 1,” meaning that one eight inch of steel will measure one full inch if rusted through, explains Sletten. “Just a little rust will start popping off the concrete.”

UDOT uses a variety of materials to seal and protect concrete bridge decks. Research conducted by University of Utah graduate student Erica Weber, P.E. shows the role of careful application in applying polymer overlay systems to full-depth pre-cast bridge decks.

Weber conducted tests to evaluate bonding strength in a laboratory and on actual bridge decks. In the lab, she used test decks with polymer overlay material, typical of the products UDOT uses, applied according to manufacturer’s directions. Weber simulated traffic by applying static and cyclical deflection to the test decks. To check for salt penetration, test decks were submerged in a chloride bath (chloride is the culprit chemical in salt).

Weber also conducted tests to simulate lifting and placement of precast panels to evaluate how deck overlays perform during Accelerated Bridge Construction methods. ABC methods can include constructing bridges off-site and moving structures into place or using pre-cast components trucked to the site.

ABC Bridges on I-84 served as the subjects of real-world tests. Weber tested the deck overlay for bonding strength by taking samples and pulling off the overlay. Since the tensile strength of the epoxy overlay bond is greater than the tensile strength of concrete, Weber was looking for concrete failure during the pull-off tests; failure in the concrete demonstrates that the epoxy bond is not the weak point, explains Sletten.

Weber found that bond strength of the overlay on the test decks was stronger than the I-84 bridge decks. Her test results show that installers need to strictly follow manufacturer’s guidelines for bridge deck application.

“It’s an ongoing challenge for us to figure out how to protect these decks because decks protect everything else,” says Sletten. He explains that if installers aren’t careful to get the bond right, a bridge deck won’t hold up to traffic and Mother Nature, making the entire bridge vulnerable.