May 17th, 2012

IMPROVED MOBILITY

No Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

Three projects in Riverton City will improve traffic mobility for residents and businesses.

Crews place asphalt base for new concrete pavement on 13400 South in Riverton, Utah.

 

A new section of the Mountain View Corridor will open soon between 12600 South to Rosecrest Drive at 14400 South. That road, along with other improvements made by UDOT and Riverton City, will help ease traffic flow in the busy, growing community. Nearby projects include a wider road on 13400 South between the Mountain View Corridor and Bangerter Highway and a Continuous Flow Intersection at Bangerter Highway and 13400 South.

The projects will improve mobility and support economic vitality. Riverton City officials believe that “unique proximity to existing or planned major transportation infrastructure, including the Bangerter Highway, Mountain View Corridor, and transit” position the city for future economic growth, according to the city’s website.

A recent KSL News article about the MVC opening quoted resident Matt Thompson who lives nearby as being hopeful that the new road will reduce traffic noise and improve safety in his neighborhood.  “I think a lot of people are looking forward to having the extra access to be able to get around at a little higher speed instead of having to cut through neighborhoods.”

Riverton City is widening 13400 South to include three travel lanes in each direction, a long-lasting concrete on asphalt driving surface, better drainage, a reconfigured intersection at 4150 West, better street lighting and traffic signals and sidewalks. Reconstruction started in mid-February and is expected to continue through late summer.

CFIs along Bangerter highway have helped enhance east-west travel from West Valley to Riverton. The innovative design was first introduced on 3500 South in 2007. CFI’s provide more green-light time by and can increase the number of cars moving through an intersection by up to 70 percent.

May 16th, 2012

UTAH COUNTY’S CFI

2 Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

Utah County’s first CFI is on the fast track.

UDOT has been busy converting a regular intersection to a Continuous Flow Intersection on University Parkway and Sandhill Road as part of the I-15 CORE Project. The intersection is used by nearly 70 thousand cars per day. Converting it to a CFI will improve the flow of traffic by 20 percent and improve safety for drivers turning left from University Parkway onto Sandhill Road.

The opening of the new intersection is another significant milestone as I-15 CORE progresses toward completion in December.The project is being built on an accelerated schedule and will be completed on Tuesday, May 22 after one month 0f construction.

“With a three-day closure scheduled to begin Friday night, construction on University Parkway will get worse before it gets better,” said UDOT spokesperson Mindy Nelson. “It will all be worth it when the new continuous flow intersection opens on Tuesday, and east/west drivers will see more green lights.”

UDOT encourages drivers to learn how to drive the intersection before it opens on Tuesday by viewing a new tutorial.

UDOT is working hard to reduce traffic delay by making the current system work more efficiently and by increasing capacity where appropriate. Individual drivers can also make choices that can help save time, use less energy and reduce traffic congestion. Visit the TravelWise website to investigate some effective strategies like trip-chaining and alternative work schedules.

May 15th, 2012

COMMENTS, PLEASE

2 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

UDOT is currently developing the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) goal for the next three Federal fiscal years. 

The purpose of the federal government’s DBE program is to increase the number of women and minority businesses active in the highway construction industry.

The proposed DBE goal can be found on the UDOT website. Comments may be provided to UDOT by following the directions on the website.   The document will be available for review from May 15th through June 20, 2012 and comments will be accepted through July 1, 2012.

Only comments related specifically to the DBE goal and the development of the goal will be accepted.  All other UDOT or DBE-program related comments should be directed to the appropriate contact provided on the main UDOT website.

The purpose of the federal government’s DBE program is to increase the number of women and minority businesses active in the highway construction industry. The UDOT DBE Program is funded in part by FHWA. By cooperating with community partners, UDOT can help open the door to growth of small businesses, and in turn, those businesses can contribute to the economic well-being of the state.

UDOT is actively seeking to promote stakeholder participation by seeking comments on the DBE goal so that continued success within the program is maintained.

May 11th, 2012

INNOVATION

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

Gilbert Chlewicki , known as the Father of the DDI, gave the keynote address at the UDOT Research Workshop.

Gilbert Chlewicki spoke about innovation at the UDOT Research Workshop. "Innovation does not have to be provocative or really out there, it can be very simple."

Chlewicki focused his remarks on innovation and some of the key ways creativity is fostered in engineering organizations. UDOT employees are familiar with many of his talking points – leaders at UDOT purposely create an environment where innovation is encouraged.

According to Chlewicki, barriers to innovation can include organizational disconnect between engineering specialties and a general disinclination on the part of members of the engineering profession to try new things combined with fear of failure.

Most departments of transportation are structured in ‘pillars’ with very little overlap between areas of specialty, such as design or traffic operations. For innovation to occur, engineers in transportation agencies need to understand how different specialties co-relate.

For example, “it’s good to understand how geo-metrics and traffic operation work together,” said Chlewicki. He also pointed out that engineering is a conservative profession and in a department of transportation – or any organization – fear of failure can subvert innovation.

Are the cards stacked against innovation? Chlewicki seemed optimistic that innovation can be fostered and encouraged and offered some suggestions for employees and organizations:

  • Don’t get bogged down by a standard, code or a process. Finding a solution may be outside of the commonplace approach.
  • Look for uncomplicated solutions. “Innovation does not have to be provocative or really out-there, it can be very simple.” Chlewicki pointed to the Diverging Diamond Interchange as an example of a simple solution. Named by by Popular Science magazine as one of the best innovations in 2009, the DDI switches traffic to the opposite side of the roadway in order to avoid left-turn conflicts.
  • “Hang out with other innovators.” Creativity can rub off!
  • Organizations should reward innovation if possible and try to provide an environment where failure is not punished.

It’s good to make room for an ‘ah ha!’ moment. While looking to innovation as a way to solve transportation challenges is necessary in the modern world, once in a while, innovation just happens. “It’s not always need based,” said Chlewicki. “…sometimes it comes out of nowhere.”

Dr. Kyle M. Rollins, researcher and Professor of Civil Engineering at BYU has won the UDOT Research Division’s annual Trail Blazer Award.

UDOT Director of Research Cameron Kergaye, Trailblazer award recipient Dr. Kyle Rollins and workshop organizer Kevin Nichol pose after the award ceremony. Rollins is known in Utah and around the country for research on pile foundations.

Rollins was honored at the annual Research Workshop lunch. Last year’s winner, Blaine Leonard praised Rollins for his contribution to a broad range of research topic areas and for the innovative and creative ways he has accomplished that research.

“The Trailblazer Award is recognition of long time contributions to transportation research in Utah,” said Leonard. The honor is given to people who “start new paths for the rest of us to follow.” Rollins is known in Utah and around the country for research on pile foundations and load testing and is one of the few researchers that “does a fair amount of full scale load testing on piles,” said Leonard. Some of Rollins’ resent research includes evaluating and predicting corrosion rates of piles, evaluating the interaction between soil-abutment-bridge structures for seismic performance based design and field testing of colloid silica grouting for mitigation of liquefaction risk.

A “creative guy,” Rollins does dynamic testing using a tool called a statnamic – it’s basically a rocket engine, explained Leonard. This means, not only is Rollins geotechnical engineer, “he’s also a rocket scientist,” joked Leonard.

Rollins also partners effectively with the private sector, said Leonard, and often finds funding and other resources needed to carry out testing thoroughly and cost effectively. He stays on the cutting edge of research and also has the ability to develop research projects that produce practical solutions for the real world – “stuff that has been really useful.”

Rollins gave credit to UDOT’s innovative and accepting culture and to smart, hardworking students at BYU. “I have had success “because of the situation I have been in… UDOT is a pretty innovative organization.” His colleagues around the country “don’t always have that situation.”

Rollins appreciates UDOT’s acceptance of innovative testing methods, such as using small explosive charges to liquefy soil and sand boxes on a table top, and notes that some of his testing methods have received international recognition.

May 9th, 2012

FRENCH CONNECTION

No Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

Engineers from Utah and Idaho recently took a close look at UDOT’s innovative interchanges during the Tour de DDI.

Engineer Gilbert Chlewicki, far right chats with Robert Miles, UDOT Region Two Area Engineer and David Stevens, UDOT Research Project Manager on the Tour de DDI.

A group of engineers gathered for a lessons-learned discussion and tour of UDOT Diverging Diamond Interchanges. Participants met at the Calvin Rampton Complex for review of the UDOT DDIs, then traveled to the SR 201, Pioneer Crossing and SR 92 DDIs stopping briefly at each location.

The event was held to coincide with a visit by Gilbert Chlewicki, a nationally known expert and proponent of the DDI. Chlewicki designed what he believed to be the first DDI in graduate school, then was surprised to find that a similar design was in operation in Versailles, France. Chlewicki spoke briefly about what circumstances make the DDI a better choice than a traditional Single Point Urban Interchange and about how to promote public knowledge and acceptance.

Though it’s “not a silver bullet” that will solve any traffic problem, Chlewicki believes the design is best used in an urban or suburban environment. In fact, Chlewicki predicts that the design should be considered first in an urban or suburban environment and will “make the SPUI extinct.”

Public perception of the DDI can be positive when communication stresses two messages, according to Chlewicki. Communicators need to explain how the DDI can reduce delay and make life better for road users and focus on how the design can actually improve safety. “As long as you explain it well” public acceptance is high.

Other presenters included:

  • Richard Miller, with Parsons Transportation Group lead designer of the Pioneer Crossing DDI
  • HG Kunzler with Lochner Engineering who designed the retrofit DDI at SR 201 and Bangerter Highway
  • Michael Lasko with CH2M Hill who designed the SR 92 DDI
  • Glenn Blackwelder, UDOT who discussed operations in Region Three
  • Marjorie Rasmussen, UDOT who discussed operations in Region Two

Designers gave an overview of the DDI design process and discussed lessons learned along the way, reviewed issues associated with “retrofit” DDIs, discussed “wrong way fear” and mitigations to help the driving public.  Glenn Blackwelder and Marjorie Rasmussen discussed current operations.

Blackwelder said the DDI is “the sportscar of interchanges,” because it’s fast, flexible and well-tuned. As a traffic engineer, he finds DDIs “fun to operate.” Although initial coordination can be tough and time consuming, operational changes make improvements and improve traffic flow.

Engineers from Idaho attended the event to prepare to design and construct a DDI in Chubbuck, Idaho. “We took some valuable information from the events of the day,” wrote Jesse Barrus in an email thank-you to UDOT following the event. “Being the engineer of record on this project I really appreciate the confidence I got from the operational standpoint of these innovative designs.”

May 8th, 2012

MAP IT

No Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

By Catherine Higgins and Daniel Kuhn

A small map is a big deal for commercial truckers who drive through Utah.

The New UDOT Truck Parking Map is a schematic showing the location of commercial truck stops and UDOT rest areas along I-15 as well as the other Interstate Highways in Utah. UDOT is not aware of any other state producing a similar map.

The schematic shows the number and location of parking spaces in Utah for commercial truckers. That information is important for two reasons:

First, Utah is strategically significant to North America’s commercial trucking industry, and it is easy to see why by just looking at a highway map of the United States. I-80 is the backbone of routes crossing the middle section of the nation, on which freight moves to, from, and through Utah en route to points all across the USA and Canada. Northern Utah is the junction of two of I-80’s most important feeder routes – I-84 from the Pacific Northwest, and I-15 from Las Vegas and southern California.

The UDOT Truck Parking schematic shows the location of truck stop and rest stop parking.

A large percentage of the trucks traveling through Utah, particularly in the summer and fall, are refrigerated “reefer” trucks carrying perishable, time and temperature-sensitive foodstuffs. A large portion of what America eats passes through Utah in reefer trucks every day. On I-80 east of the junction with I-84 in Echo, Utah, reefer trucks amount to more than 50% of total truck traffic, which averages about 5000 truck per day during the western growing season.

Because of Utah’s crossroads status, UDOT’s highways handle a disproportionately high amount of freight for the entire country as well as Canada. This result in a correspondingly high number of distribution warehouses being located in the Beehive State. Several refrigerated truck companies are headquartered along the Wasatch Front, including the world’s largest, C.R. England, Inc.

Utah’s crossroads status for highway freight is further reinforced by our having the highest percentage of truck traffic of all 50 United States. According to the latest federal highway data, 23% of total traffic on Utah highways is trucks, compared to a national average of only 12%. While Utah roads are used to move a myriad of products from all over the continent, only 10 to 12% of the freight moving on Utah highways is actually consumed here in Utah.

The second factor that makes the new Utah Truck Parking Map a useful tool has to do with federal rules that govern rest breaks for truck drivers. Hours of Service laws are meant to keep our highway system safe by preventing crashes caused by driver fatigue. Drivers of commercial motor vehicles such as trucks and buses are required to take mandatory rest and sleep breaks. However, there is currently a shortage of long-term parking for trucks across much of the nation, making it difficult for drivers to find places to park to get their required rest.

The UDOT Truck Parking Map provides truck drivers a compact source of information about the location of long-term truck parking, as well as what amenities are found at each truck stop or rest area. This allows drivers to better plan their rest stops and reduces the number of drivers who “park on off ramps or on the side of major freight highways,” explains Vern Keeslar, Senior Planner with InterPlan. Daniel Kuhn, UDOT’s Railroad & Freight Planner, and Keeslar worked together to develop this useful tool for commercial truckers.

Funded by a federal grant, this effort included interviews with more than 400 truck drivers, as well as the managers of commercial truck stops along the I-15 corridor.When truckers were asked what tool would be most helpful, a durable map or parking locations was number one on their list. The Utah Truck Parking Map was the result, which is printed on waterproof, tear-resistant paper, and allows drivers to avoid using electronic communication technology while driving which can create distractions, safety hazards, and is forbidden by law in many states.

The Utah Truck Parking Map is being placed at commercial truck stops, UDOT Ports of Entry, selected distribution warehouses, and 2000 copies will be distributed by the Utah Trucking Association through their in-house magazine.

Keeping freight moving safely and efficiently on Utah highways is a key element in supporting and maintaining robust economic activity here in Utah, at the Crossroads of the West.

May 4th, 2012

REST AREA CONFERENCE

No Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

UDOT is hosting the National Safety Rest Area Conference being held September 17 through 20 2012 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

One of UDOT’s newest SRAs is a tribute to Utah’s railroad past. Tie Fork is modeled after a railroad round house and interpretive panels have snippets of area history.

The conference provides a venue for planners, vendors, public welcome center managers and maintenance providers from across the United States and Canada. Attendees meet and share best practices for planning, constructing and maintaining the buildings and picnic and tourism information spots that serve people who travel along the Interstate Highway system.

The NSRA is part of AASHTO’s Maintenance Sub Committee, and responsibility for organizing the conference is accomplished by state transportation agencies. This year, UDOT takes the lead with support from the Kentucky Department of Transportation. Besides breakout sessions focusing on aspects of planning and maintenance, the conference will also include a day-long tour of some of the rest areas in Utah.

The primary purpose Safety Rest Areas is to provide a place to take a break while traveling long distances. Since the Interstate system offered limited access, SRAs are a way to replace roadway parks and stores as a stopping point for travelers.

The first SRAs were built along with the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s and 60s, according to Rest Area History.org. “SRA structures and the sites on whole were to be both functionally and aesthetically satisfying, creating environments that were at once relaxing and engaging” by offering travelers a view of the local culture through architecture or even art installations. More than just a place to stop, eat and rest, “…these sites illustrate an important aspect of the American travel experience and specifically articulate our experience of travel as it was shaped by the Interstate era beginning in the 1950s.”

Like most SRAs across the country, UDOT SRAs provide the basics – toilet facilities and drinking water, and many have picnic areas and a place for travelers to pick up information about or maps of the areas. One of UDOT’s newest SRAs is a tribute to Utah’s railroad past. Tie Fork is modeled after a railroad round house and interpretive panels have snippets of area history.

May 3rd, 2012

STOPPING SCOUR

No Comments, Preserve Infrastructure, by Catherine Higgins.

UDOT has recently surveyed bridges over waterways with unknown foundations and identified which is at risk for scour.

Montezuma Creek

Over time, water can excavate soil and rocks from around bridge piers, piles and abutments causing bridge scour and putting the structure at risk for premature failure. Scour can happen gradually on structures with constant slow moving water or quickly during a flood event.

This concrete wall provides a permanent fix for scour.

Bridge inspectors check for scour along with other structural features of bridges on regular inspections that occur within every 24 months. For bridges over waterways, inspectors look at the bridge structure, orientation, geomorphic conditions , the type of rock or soil near the abutments, the location of sediment carried by the water, and the angle, magnitude and duration of the flow. Inspectors also check piers or piles for evidence of scour holes (where water has excavated soil from around structures) or corrosion on structural elements.

Inspectors take detailed notes about the location of potential or actual problem areas. Close regular monitoring is a way to “keep our finger on the pulse of the bridge,” explains UDOT Central Hydraulics Engineer Denis Stuhff.

After inspection, a Plan of Action is developed for each bridge that includes management strategies and countermeasures for keeping the bridge safe for the traveling public before, during and after a flooding event. Sometimes permanent structural countermeasures are taken; however the most common countermeasure is the addition of strategically placed riprap.

Placing riprap is an economically sound and effective approach that allows UDOT to address the potential of scour at all bridges rather than just a few since pinpointing which bridges will be vulnerable from year to year is not an exact science. “At any time, any bridge over a waterway may have a flood,” says Stuhff who uses a gambling metaphor to explain.

“Catchment areas in Utah are like one big casino. We put our hydrology quarter in our hydrology slot machine once a year and we pull the handle… somewhere in the state, it’s paying off.”

John Njord received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Utah Department of Civil Engineering.

UDOT Director John Njord

Njord received the Distinguished Alumni Award and was inducted into the CE Academy. The award is given to an “alumnus that has been influential in education, industry, business, government, or construction,” according a Department of Civil Engineering newsletter.

Njord’s leadership has “made this transportation agency the envy of transportation agencies across the country and in fact, around the world,” says UDOT Deputy Director Carlos Braceras. “John is one of those exceptional leaders that allowed every employee in this agency to be their best.”

Njord joined the Utah Department of Transportation in 1988 after graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering degree from the University of Utah. He worked as a Field Engineer, Local Governments Liaison Engineer, Engineer for Urban Planning, Director of Olympic Transportation Planning and Deputy Director before becoming Executive Director in 2001.

Braceras credits Njord’s “natural leadership and his caring for the employees” for making UDOT “a productive place to make a difference.”

Njord said he was “shocked” and “obviously honored” on learning of his selection, especially in light of previous recipients and their accomplishments in this community. “I realize that in many ways I am the face of the department – I am the front guy,” he said. Njord believes that the  accomplishments made by department employees “has drawn recognition to me.”

Under his direction, Njord has led the effort to use innovative solutions to improve the transportation system in Utah. UDOT leads the nation in Accelerated Bridge Construction. Thirty-seven bridges associated with interstate highways have been built off-site and moved into place. The agency has pioneered the design and construction of innovative intersections and interchanges that have enhanced traffic mobility.

His role as he sees it is “to provide an environment where folks feel like they can solve problems.” Njord seeks to foster “a healthy environment where the best ideas can come forward.”

While some think of engineers as professionals who seek to work strictly by the book, Njord takes exception to that view. “True engineering begins as textbook engineering,” said Njord. “When you depart from ‘chug and plug’ engineering, all the innovation lights can turn on.”

Njord believes that any engineering problem can be solved when employees are willing to explore any idea. “And in the end, we are doing a great service for the citizens of our state.”

“I believe most of our employees go home and think ‘we’re doing good things.’”

The other CE Academy inductees are:

C. Ross Anderson
David Eckhoff
Paul Hirst
Jim Nordquist
Ron Reaveley