April 19th, 2012

PROJECT ROADWAY

3 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

A UDOT engineer with an eye for safety wants construction workers to wear his attention-getting shirts. 

Hexagons retro-reflect light and minimize a barrel chest.

Workers who build maintain roads and bridges are required to wear clothing that is brightly colored with retroreflective bars meant to make workers visible to drivers during the day and especially at night. Sam Grimshaw, a UDOT Field Engineer, has come up a new idea for clothing that he thinks will make workers even more conspicuous.

The issue as he sees it is that the commonly used clothing makes workers look similar to traffic control devices – the cones and barrels that delineate a construction zone. Instead of the typical horizontal and vertical stripes, Grimshaw placed retroreflective hexagons on bright orange fabric.

To prove his point about how workers can look barrel-chested, he took photos of workers wearing the typical shirts and his shirts at night.

Commonly worn clothing has bars and colors that make workers look similar to traffic control devices. Grimshaw's photos show the contrast between the typical and his design on the left.

He showed his prototype shirts to fabricators who said the new designs could be put into production without any trouble.

Grimshaw’s idea seems to have merit – however, the new clothing needs to have the appropriate review and approval before workers can make the switch.

April 18th, 2012

DIVIDE AND SPONSOR

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

The UDOT Research Workshop allows participants to prioritize research projects. Register by May 3 to participate.

Cameron Kergaye speaks at 2011 UTRAC

Usually held yearly, the Research Workshop is organized by the UDOT Research Division as a way to allow researchers and transportation experts from UDOT, FHWA, universities, private sector firms and other transportation agencies meet, network, share solutions and most importantly, prioritize research topics.

The May 10 2012 Research Workshop is approaching quickly and Kevin Nichol, Research Project Manager and workshop organizer hopes all who can be involved in the process will register  by May 3 to participate. Good participation – that is having a broad cross section of experts and a high number of participants makes for a healthy process – all involved can bring a different point of view or expertise to the table.

For researchers, that participation means presenting problem statements that detail proposed research. It’s a way for researchers to “engage their expertise,” says Nichol. This year, research problem statements are being accepted in six specialty areas:

  • Structures and Geotechnical
  • Environmental and Hydraulics
  • Construction and Materials
  • Maintenance
  • Traffic Management and Safety
  • Pre-construction

Problem statements need to be submitted by April 26.

A national expert on the Diverging Diamond Interchange will be the keynote speaker at the Research Workshop. Pioneer Crossing was UDOT's first DDI.

UDOT employees can participate in the workshop by registering for one of the specialty areas. At the conference, groups will meet separately to hear and prioritize problem statements.

It’s always exciting to see how the groups view and prioritize the research problem statements, according to Nichol. The Workshop draws a vibrant, intelligent community of transportation experts who take an important step in putting research in motion.

Ultimately, the knowledge and understanding gained by research will make for a better transportation system. For example, the 2011UTRAC Workshop produced studies that examined cost effective snow plow blade selection, sign management, and design of integrated abutment bridges.

General session

This year, workshop attendees will have a chance to hear from Gilbert Chlewicki — a national Diverging Diamond Intersection expert and advocate. Chlewicki is a leading expert on DDIs with respect to “geometric design, signal placements, traffic design, driver acceptability, pedestrian and bicycle issues, and locations for implementation,” according to his website.

April 17th, 2012

SHAKE OUT UDOT

1 Comment, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

To test readiness for dealing with damage from a quake, UDOT participated in a scripted simulation along with the state Emergency Operations Center at the State Capitol.

As simulated earthquake damage was reported, GIS experts at UDOT began building an online map showing the damage to the transportation system. Emergency Operations Center participants at the state capitol could view the map in real time as changes were made.

In the aftermath of an earthquake, UDOT employees will be responsible to make sure the transportation system is safe. The first step in that process is assessing damage to roads and bridges. As part of the Shake Out earthquake drill, UDOT used a United States Geological Survey Earthquake Hazards software program called ShakeCast to generate estimated damage information for roads and bridges.

GIS, Electronic Asset Management and communication experts gathered in one room to interact with the state EOC at the state capitol. Minutes after the quake drill at 10:15 today, scripted calls and email started arriving at the UDOT Traffic Operations Center. As simulated damage was reported, GIS experts began building a map showing the simulated damage to the transportation system. EOC participants at the state capitol could view the map in real time as changes were made. The UDOT participants used a color coded system to identify critical routes and the status of each route.

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.

“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. The simulation was good practice for what would occur in the first several hours after an earthquake.

April 12th, 2012

ROAD RESPECT 2012

2 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Cyclists and motorists will tour the state to spread good will, safety education and family fun.

Mike Loveland, pictured second from the left, is an avid cyclist and a lieutenant with the Utah Highway Patrol. He sees the Road Respect campaign as a way to promote a cooperation and consideration between cyclists and motorists.

For the second year, avid cyclists with the Road Respect Tour will travel through the state and stop for rallies that celebrate respect between cyclists and motorists.  “Road Respect, Cars & Bikes Rules to Live By” is a grassroots campaign that seeks to encourage safe practices and good relationships between motorists and cyclists. The centerpiece of the campaign is a six day 509 mile ride through the state that will take place June 4-9.

Mike Loveland

Thirty cyclists representing law enforcement, public safety, transportation and bicycle advocacy will stop along the tour route to join community rallies meant to educate the public about rules for sharing the road. Local cyclists are encouraged to join the cyclists on their route and ride with them into the rallies.

Activities at the rallies will include bike rodeos, helmet give-aways, street and trail rides and speakers. Some of the rallies will include mini car shows. Participants will be encouraged to sign a pledge to signify compliance with obeying rules of the road.

Mike Loveland is an avid cyclist and a lieutenant with the Utah Highway Patrol. He participated as a cyclist last year and is helping to plan this year’s tour. Because of his job and his pastime, Loveland sees both sides of the issue.

The Road Respect campaign and tour is a way to encourage a “get-along attitude” between cyclists and motorists, he explains. Cooperation and consideration is necessary since both groups, according to Loveland “own a piece of the road.”

For more, read an article in Cycling Utah Magazine.

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