July 23rd, 2012

MAP-21 RESOURCES

2 Comments, Optimize Mobility, Preserve Infrastructure, by Catherine Higgins.

AASHTO has created a website to consolidate information about MAP-21, Moving Ahead for Progress in the Twenty First Century, the federal transportation bill passed into law on July 6.

MAP-21 is intended to reduce project delivery time and save costs, improve safety and reduce traffic congestion.

UDOT and other transportation agencies will now start implementing provisions of MAP-21. To support the implementation effort, AASHTO has established work groups and introduced a website about the new law.

New features of the law are designed to reduce project delivery time and save costs by implementing early coordination between agencies to avoid delay in review processes. Core programs have been consolidated to include:

  • National Highway Performance Program, a new core program that consolidates Interstate Maintenance, National Highway System, and Highway Bridge programs. Provisions are intended to eliminate barriers that limit flexibility to using tax dollars efficiently when improving the national highway system.
  • Transportation Mobility Program, a new program that replaces the Surface Transportation Program. Provisions broaden the eligibility of surface transportation projects.
  • National Freight Network Program, a new core program aimed at reducing congestion in order to improve the movement of goods
  • Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program is a program that was retained. CMAQ provides funds to reduce congestion and improve air quality.
  • Highway Safety Improvement Program is a retained program that increases the amount of funding to develop and implement safety programs.
  • Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Program provides direct loans, loan guarantees, and lines of credit to surface transportation projects at favorable terms.

AASHTO President Kirk Steudle has established work groups to study the implementation process, including Project Delivery, Performance Measures, Planning, Asset Management, and Performance-Based Planning and Programming, Finance, Safety, Freight, Highways and Transit.

John Horsley, Executive Director of AASHTO is looking forward to implementing the changes. “We are also pleased that the legislation includes needed reforms to stretch taxpayer dollars with expanded innovative finance, improved efficiency with program consolidation, streamlined project delivery, and improved accountability with performance measures.”

For more information about MAP-21, visit the AASHTO MAP-21 website.

July 20th, 2012

RELY ON RESPECT

No Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

“Road Respect, Cars & Bikes Rules to Live By” is a safety campaign that encourages motorists and cyclists to know and abide by the rules of the road – laws and common sense practices that help keep all road users safe. 

Matt Sibul, Planning Director with the Utah Transit Authority speaks to the media at the Salt Lake Intermodal Center

The Utah Department of Public Safety and Utah Department of Transportation started a joint effort to encourage safe practices and good relationships between motorists and cyclists in 2011. The centerpiece of the communication effort is a statewide bicycle tour.

In June 2012, thirty cyclists representing law enforcement, public safety, transportation and bicycle advocacy participated in a six day 509 mile ride through Utah.  Along the way cyclists joined community leaders and citizens, including local cyclists at planned Rallies and Stops meant to promote the rules for sharing the road.

Rallies and Stops were organized by community volunteers. “It’s taken many, many hours to get to this point,” explained UDOT Deputy Director Carlos Braceras at a kick-off event in Salt Lake City.

Months before the tires hit pavement, tour co-organizers Evelyn Tuddenham with UDOT and Kari Gibson with the Utah Highway Safety Office networked with communities throughout the state to organize Road Respect events. Mike Loveland is an avid cyclist and a lieutenant with the Utah Highway Patrol. He participated as a cyclist and also helped plan the tour.

Loveland’s work life is spent enforcing the rules of the road. But after work, he spends a lot of time cycling. So, he is in a unique position to see safety issues from the perspective o f a cyclist and a motorist.  The Road Respect campaign and tour is a way to encourage a “get-along attitude” between cyclists and motorists, Loveland explains. Cooperation and consideration is necessary since both groups, according to Loveland “own a piece of the road.”

Local communities appreciate the effort

Activities at the Rallies and Stops drew families for fun activities, including include bike rodeos, helmet give-away items, street and trail rides and speakers, including elected officials who endorsed the Road Respect message. Mayor Bruce Burrows of Riverdale City praised the effort at a Stop on the Road Respect Tour.

Riverdale officials are working on a Complete Streets plan for the city that includes bike lanes and trails “that will interconnect every part of the city.”

According to the National Complete Streets Coalition website (http://www.completestreets.org), “Complete Streets policy ensures that transportation planners and engineers consistently design and operate the entire roadway with all users in mind – including bicyclists, public transportation vehicles and riders, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.”

Citizens in Riverdale want cycling, explained Burrows at a tour Stop. “We want to be ahead of the curve, to be very proactive in getting things done.” And with more cyclists on the streets of Riverdale, it’s even more important that when people ride or drive, they know the rules of the road.

Mayor Dennis Fife of Brigham City, Utah also sees the value in making his city bicycle friendly. He explained how he invited Jack Leavitt, a retired engineer from ATK to head the city’s bicycle committee at a Stop.

Both Fife and Leavitt are pleased with the progress the city has made. “We’ve got new bicycle lanes that go north and south through the whole city on both the west side and east side,” says Leavitt. “We’ve seen a great increase of families now that we have these bike lanes.” So, the Road Respect message is well timed!

Getting the message out

Road Respect events around the state were well attended by families, cycling club members, community groups and elected officials. And that great community support at official Rallies and Stops was in part due to great media coverage of the tour.

Kerry Bringhurst, News Director at Utah Public Radio used the messages developed by Tuddenham and Gibson to cover the tour and associated events. In fact, even though UPR broadcasts originate in Logan, the station covered events around the state starting the first day of the tour. Coverage included interviews of Road Respect organizers, stories about the tour and information on the website, including an interactive tour map.

Bringhurst believes covering the Road Respect tour was an important service to listeners “not just to help cyclists, but to help motorists.” Bringhurst says the information sent to the station about the tour were excellent.

The Road Respect Tour communication effort included carefully developed press releases, fact sheets and a list of myths about cycling meant to help media outlets educate the public and promote Road Respect events. Tour organizers “gave me what I needed so I could do accurate interviewing,” said Bringhurst.

Cars and bicycles together

Road Respect Tour cyclists were joined by motorists driving replica Shelby Cobras to demonstrate the importance of respect between drivers and riders. Some of the Rallies on the Road Respect Tour even featured mini car shows.

While the tour involves bikes and cars, there’s really one group – people. More and more Americans ride and drive for work and for fun. All people deserve to be shown respect, whatever the chosen transportation mode.  Salt Lake County Deputy Mayor Nichole Dunn, who spoke at a Rally in Draper, told the audience that when teaching safety, respect is the key.  “If you base an event around respect you really can’t go wrong.”

July 19th, 2012

SIGNALS AND DELAY

No Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

How do properly functioning signal systems help traffic flow?  

Besides reducing congestion, effective coordination of traffic signals, saves fuel, reduces vehicle emissions, and increases safety.

UDOT has recently put more resources into developing an aggressive preventative maintenance program for signal systems. “We want to go from a reactive to a proactive program,” says Mark Taylor, UDOT Traffic Signal Operations Engineer. Ultimately, the driving public will see better traffic flow.

Saturation

Sluggish traffic can be the result of saturation, or too many cars accessing the roadway. Building new roads or making existing roads wider is not always prudent or affordable.  “We just cannot build our way out of congestion,” says Taylor.

Utah’s high rate of population growth means mobility will be an ongoing challenge. Fortunately, improving signal function can help reduce delay.

Good coordination

An article on FHWA’s website reviews results from cities that have put time and resources into maintaining signal systems. A study in Virginia estimated that traffic signal improvements on a 1.5-mile of US- 17 save road users $65,000 a year in reduced delay. And a new signal system and improved signal timing in Texas produced a 13-percent reduction in travel time.

“Field studies conducted after 41 California cities re-timed 1,535 signals at a cost of $2 million in 1983 showed that vehicle stops and delays were cut by more than 14 percent, travel time was reduced by 6.5 percent, and fuel use declined by approximately 6.4 million gallons (24 million liters).”

In 2011, UDOT worked with its partners to time 164 signals and 22 corridors and realized the following benefits:

Improved Signal Timing
Travel Time Reduced – 5.5 percent
Stops Reduced – 11.4 percent
Intersection Delay Reduced – 14.7 percent
Estimated Savings to the Public in Reduced Delay – $6.2 million

Besides reducing congestion, effective coordination of traffic signals saves fuel, reduces vehicle emissions and increases safety. Because of the many benefits of well timed and well maintained signal systems, UDOT Director John Njord has charged the Traffic Operations Division with creating a world-class traffic signal system.

UDOT is committed to making even more improvements in 2012.

July 19th, 2012

SIGNAL REORGANIZATION

No Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

A reorganized Signal Team is helping UDOT engineers share best practices and improve traffic flow.

keeping signals working requires an investment of funding and staff to execute preventative maintenance strategies that keep signals working and traffic flowing.

UDOT is putting more resources into keeping signals working well by adding more resources and reorganizing the statewide signals team. The change is part of an aggressive preventative maintenance program that ultimately will help UDOT be more proactive and less reactive.

Well managed signal systems can have a cost benefit ratio as high as 40 to 1 – a much higher benefit than new construction. But keeping signals working requires an investment of funding and staff to execute preventative maintenance strategies.

“We want to be preventing the fires from occurring in the first place,” says Mark Taylor, UDOT Traffic Systems Operational Engineer. With the new organization changes, he says the public “will see reduced delay and smoother flow of traffic.”

Taylor works in the Traffic Management Division, which is responsible for traffic signal timing on all state roads at the Traffic Operations Center.  The UDOT TOC is the nerve center for managing traffic flow and the facility plays a key role in helping UDOT manage signal systems and reduce delay.

According to a recently completed UDOT Quality Improvement Team report and FHWA, departments of transportation need sufficient staff to manage and maintain the signal systems effectively and efficiently.  National best practice standards call for one traffic engineer to keep every 75 to 100 signals maintained and operational and one signal technician for every 40 to 50 signals.

Changes at UDOT reflect best practices

Now each of the four UDOT regions has a Region Traffic Engineer, with regions three and four sharing one position. Region Traffic Engineers report to the central Signal Operations Management Engineer at the Traffic Operations Division. Signal crews at the region level report to the Region Traffic Signal Engineer and to Traffic Operations Division.

The organizational change reflects a Matrix management structure that integrates the Traffic Management Division and operations engineers at the four UDOT Regions. The change is intended to aid organizational cohesion and uniformity, improve operations and maintenance practices, and facilitate increased knowledge transfer of best practices from one region to another.

With improved preventative maintenance, signal detection systems, for example, should fail less often. “We have a goal to keep signal detection operational – ninety-five percent is the goal,” says Taylor.

A photo contest is providing an opportunity to showcase the people who use and improve our state transportation system – but hurry, time is short!

Workers ready a Self-Propelled Modular Transporter for the Sam White Bridge Move

Face it, the UDOT family, including state employees and private sector partners, is full of dedicated people who enhance the quality of life in our state by improving mobility, maintaining infrastructure and building for the future. Do you have photos that showcase those people doing their important work? If so, the AASHTO Faces of Transportation photo contest may be a great way to share those images.

“Faces of Transportation” is a yearly contest that has a monetary prize attached. UDOT is heading a coordinated effort to submit photos for the contest, but the deadline is approaching quickly.

For the first time, contest organizers are asking for photos that fit into three themes:

  • Building the Future – showing people planning, designing and maintaining the transportation network.
  • On the Road – showing long distance travel opportunities afforded by the transportation network.
  • Taking a Ride—showing people using transportation networks to commute, run errands or to discover new places.

Please send digital photos to chiggins@utah.gov by Wednesday, July 25. Digital files must be a minimum of 600 dpi quality or better. All entries must be accompanied by a completed entry form. A text file with the information and caption should also be included. For assistance, contact Catherine Higgins at 801-803-9413 or by email.

Photos selected for the contest will be highlighted on the UDOT Blog and Flickr.

July 12th, 2012

WAY TO GO

No Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

Congratulations to the The Mountain View Corridor Right-of-way team for earning the Stewardship Award.

The Mountain View Corridor Right-of-Way Team

FHWA’s 2012 Excellence in Right of Way Awards recognize “outstanding work associated with acquiring real property” for transportation projects. One award is presented from each of the nine categories yearly at the FHWA/AASHTO Right-of-Way and Utilities Subcommittee meeting. “Our goal with the awards program is to spotlight and share great ideas from around the country that will benefit the right-of-way community and the public,” according to the award website.

The ROW team on the MVC project team includes members from UDOT, HDR and Parsons Brinckerhoff. FHWA has recognized the team for “outstanding innovations that enhance the right-of-way professional’s ability to meet the challenges” associated with acquiring property for the corridor while ensuring that the rights of property owners and tenants are protected.

UDOT’s Mountain View Corridor is a planned freeway in western Salt Lake County and northwestern Utah County, servicing 13 municipalities. Initial construction of MVC in Salt Lake County builds two lanes in each direction from 5400 South to Redwood Road and preserves the land in the middle for future expansion. Initial construction in Salt Lake County began in summer 2010 and will be complete by the end of 2012.

July 11th, 2012

CLASSICAL GAS

No Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

At work and at home, UDOT Fleet Manager Steve McCarthy is all about transportation.

The building was owned and operated as a gas station by a local refinery and once stood on Center Street in Provo. The truck is a 1929 Model A Roadster.

Steve McCarthy says he grew up in the transportation industry and has “always been tied to that gas and oil stuff.” At work, McCarthy is responsible to make sure UDOT’s fleet, valued at about $200 million, runs as safely and efficiently as possible. At home, the transportation theme continues with a vintage 1920’s gas station building in his back yard.

The building was owned and operated by a local refinery and once stood on Center Street in Provo. McCarthy has outfitted the exterior to resemble an old Texaco station. He started collecting gas station items, including gas pumps, a vending machine and an assortment of fan belts and hoses, in 1995. Eventually he’d like the building to a fully stocked service station that looks ready for business “like it would back in the day.”

The building “has a history here in this town,” says McCarthy. Before he acquired it, the building was the subject of a TV news story and and artist rendering  and also used as a backdrop for a ZCMI photo shoot.

The First Annual National Fleet Management Conference brought fleet managers together to share expertise.

Steve McCarthy, Fleet Manager at UDOT

Fleet managers at the nations departments of transportation are facing many of the same issues, including limited budgets, new emissions and mileage regulations and how to manage costs during the life-cycle of equipment. Those common concerns brought fleet managers and staff members from across the nation together to share best practices and “cross pollinate ideas,” says Larry Galehouse, Director of the National Center for Pavement Maintenance.

The effort to organize the conference was born out of AASHTO’s Sub Committee on Maintenance and sponsoring agencies included, AASHTO, TRB, American Association of State Transportation Highway Transportation Officials Research Board, AASHTO Equipment Management, Technical Services Program, Southeastern States Equipment Managers Conference, Inc.

UDOT Deputy Director Carlos Braceras gave one of the keynote addresses at the conference. As the chair of the AASHTO Subcommittee on Maintenance, it was “extremely important to have Carlos give them the vision of AASHTO,” according to Galehouse.

Feedback on the conference has been largely positive, says Galehouse. The next conference will be held in 2014.

Here is an excerpt from Braceras’ address:

At the Utah Department of Transportation, we are driven in all we do by a set of strategic goals known as the “Final Four.”  These strategic goals provide guidance in our department’s efforts to improve the quality of life and economic vitality of our state.  These goals help remind us of our responsibilities.  They are: preserve infrastructure, optimize mobility, improve safety, and strengthen the economy.

Our fleet helps us meet every one of those goals. By maintaining our roads and highways, not only is our equipment fleet preserving our infrastructure, it’s allowing us to provide a quality transportation system that helps bring industry to our state…therefore strengthening the economy.  By plowing our roads during frequent and often treacherous winter storms, keeping our roads free of debris, and making repairs that keep our roads functioning smoothly…our fleet allows us to optimize mobility and improve safety.

UDOT’s fleet is valued at about $200 million dollars.  Whether your DOTs have a larger fleet or a smaller fleet…it is a significant investment of taxpayer money and it is our responsibility to utilize it to the best of our ability and make it work as efficiently as possible.  That’s why we’re here today.  To learn from each other, to discuss what works and what doesn’t work, to find solutions to the challenges every one of our DOTs is facing in this changing economic time.

Download the entire speech here: Carlos Fleet Speech

 

July 4th, 2012

REBUILDING 14

2 Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

The SR-14 rebuilding project is progressing well despite slope movement that has required additional work.

This aerial photo was taken shortly after the landslide occurred.

Last October a massive landslide destroyed a half-mile section of SR-14. UDOT’s construction contractor, Kiewit Western Co., successfully opened the road by Memorial Day, ahead of schedule. But slope instability in the west end of the project area required UDOT and Kiewit to expand the scope and duration of the work.

The culprit: weak soils

“We’ve basically got weak layers that are hidden and very difficult to isolate,” says UDOT Senior Geologist David Fadling. An investigation of the slide area was completed during the design phase of the project. Hundreds of feet of six inch diameter borings were drilled, but the weak layers were still difficult to detect. “Unfortunately we were not able to find out where this weak layer was until we started to excavate for it.”

The steep terrain is causing other difficulty. Workers are excavating over 300 thousand cubic yards of dirt from the top of the slide area and placing it at the toe in order to stabilize the slope. “The terrain is extremely difficult to access,” says Fadling.

Exceptional work

UDOT project team members are pleased with Kiewit’s work. “The thing that stands out for me is their willingness to perform very difficult work,” says Fadling. “When asked to excavate back to the cliffs to remove more of the slide at milepost 7.5, they accepted the challenge.”

UDOT Resident Engineer Leif Condie is on the construction site often as work is occurring and likes Kiewit’s attention to safety. The company is very proactive at protecting workers and the traveling public. Kiewit workers continuously review “why and how to prevent incidents,” says Condie. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Collaboration between UDOT and Kiewit has allowed work to move forward quickly and efficiently. UDOT initiated a Construction Manager/General Contractor contract for the project. The innovative method allows the contractor to give input during the design phase. “It becomes a very efficient design by the time it reaches construction,” according to Michelle Page, UDOT Project Controls and Innovative Contracts Manager.

Besides efficient progression, collaboration has resulted in cost savings. For example, the initial cost estimate for Phase Three of the project which included repairing some minor slide areas was $3 million. “They did it for $1.7 million,” says Reuel Alder, CMGC Engineer. “It’s that interaction from looking at the problem from multiple perspectives” during design.

UDOT Project Manager Daryl Friant believes that collaboration with the contractor has “really helped us get a handle on constructability and cost.” Kiewit has submitted fewer change orders as compared to typical projects. Excessive change orders can push projects over the budgetary limit. “It really has been a true partnering effort.”
Safety dictates the maintenance of traffic

Workers are excavating earth from the slide area on very steep terrain. Because of the potential danger of rocks rolling down the slope, traffic is only allowed through at night from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. while work proceeds during the day.
“It comes down to safety and efficiency,” says Kevin Kitchen, Public Involvement Manager at UDOT Region Four.

“Amidst changing conditions, we’ve provided a consistent travel window for critical economic functions in the area while at the same time creating safe public passage and a safer work environment. The daytime closures significantly improve work flow, reduce project duration, and save taxpayers money, making it less likely that other infrastructure projects will be jeopardized or postponed.”

Good news

The road will be open from Tuesday, July 3 at 4 p.m. through Monday, July 9 at 7 a.m. “twenty four hours a day to facilitate the traffic on the national holiday – probably the busiest weekend we have,” reports Condie. “We’re trying to meet the public needs not just the contractor’s.”

July 3rd, 2012

NOW PLAYING

No Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

In a world where road users get I-15 CORE information on the big screen…

This summer, theater patrons in Utah and Salt Lake Counties will see a trailer with roads that appear, bridges that move and messages that inform viewers about Utah’s biggest-ever road construction project. It’s not a trailer for an actual movie, but a research-based video that delivers an important message – the end is near.

I-15 CORE Communications Director Dave Smith says the trailer pairs an entertaining presentation with a carefully crafted message. His team conducted market research to discover road-users’ perceptions before making the video.

Doing market research up front is important because of the nature of UDOT’s work. Road construction impacts people daily as they travel to work, to the store or to entertainment venues. “Not every company affects every day life – UDOT is one of those,” said Smith.

“We found out that people don’t have a good understanding of when the project ends,” continued Smith. He set out to find an amusing way to let road users know that the end is approaching with a prompt to encourage people to visit the I-15 CORE website to get more information. To accomplish that task, his communication team used a creative approach based on an ancient idea.

Archeological discoveries have identified Mayan calendars with the last date occurring in December 2012 – the same month and year I-15 CORE ends. Some believe the Mayans expected an apocalyptic end. Since the Mayan calendar has been in the news, “the end is near” message resonates with viewers.

The final product is a fast-paced video with the look and feel of a movie trailer– including a deep-voiced narrator who provides a stereotypical sound as well. People tend to like clever humor and Smith thinks the witty but informational message delivery will change public perceptions.

The video is running in the theaters, on UDOT’s Youtube Channel and links to the video have been tweeted.