July 29th, 2011

ROAD RESPECT FOR KIDS

12 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Teaching kids safe cycling rules was one common focus of the recent ROAD RESPECT Tour.

A princess learns to ride safely at a Road Respect bike rodeo

UDOT and the Department of Public Safety’s Highway Safety Office recently sponsored a cycling tour to spread the word about ROAD RESPECT, a new program to promote safe driving and cycling. Cyclists took breaks along the way to join local residents at rallies and stops. Teaching kids safety rules was a big part of many of those events.

Getting a proper fit

Children and teens ride bicycles at a higher rate than adults, according to an observational study completed by the Utah Department of Health. Unfortunately, young people make up the biggest percentage of cyclists hit by cars too. Teaching kids good riding habits can prevent injury and death among Utah’s most vulnerable cyclists.

Organizers of ROAD RESPECT events used a variety of activities to teach kids safe riding skills. In Salt Lake City, SLCPD conducted a bike rodeo at Sugar House Park. SLC residents can have an event of their own by contacting SLPD officers. The Utah Department of Public Safety, Highway Safety office also provides bike rodeos.

In addition to a rodeo, a skill-building course is a good way to help kids gain control on a bicycle. The one road respect event in featured a skills course that required kids to ride in figure 8 patterns, over bumps and lengthwise along a narrow board. The skills course was tough for some of the younger riders, but even the littlest ones showed improvement after a few tries.

Good riding skills were taught at a Road Respect event in Loa.

Family rides were a part of many Road Respect events and rallies. Riding as a family gives parents a chance to teach good safety habits by example.

If you are planning a summer event – like a family reunion or a block party – consider adding a cycling activity along with good food and fun. Teaching safety in a fun environment is a good way to show kids good cycling habits.

Bikes for Kids Utah

Utah Department of Health, Violence and Injury Prevention, Bicycle Safety

Central Utah Public Health Department, Bicycle Safety

Bike Provo

 

 

July 27th, 2011

NAVIGATING UDOT

No Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

UDOT has a centralized system for handling inquiries.

Want to talk to a real person? Customer Service Specialist Kitty Wright answers calls and directs inquiries to the right employee, division or region.

You can use the system to get answers to questions about UDOT, including current and upcoming construction and how it will affect your commute, location of bike routes, planned maintenance projects, permits for special events, and policies and procedures. There are two easy ways to access the inquiry system:

  1. Call UDOT, 801-965-4000
  2. Visit the UDOT Website and click on “contact UDOT” at the top right of the home page

The UDOT inquiry system helps to ensure that your communication will be sent to the proper division and person — this could include the bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, a specific maintenance shed, the correct project manager or another staff member who oversees the area of your concern in a specific region.

Eveylyn Tuddenham, Bicycle Pedestrian Coordinator for UDOT fields many calls from cyclists. She recommends that callers use the centralized system because “decisions regarding upcoming projects, permits, road construction and maintenance operations are handled by the UDOT Regions, so it’s essential that the Regions know of any concerns that fall within their jurisdiction. Using the UDOT inquiry system will keep the Regions informed and allow them to respond directly to you. ”

Will construction on Bangerter Highway impact your commute?

The centralized system is designed to be customer friendly. “Because online email inquiries are logged and assigned a due date, using the system results in a timely response and allows UDOT to track your concerns on a departmental level,” says Tuddenham. “This is especially important if your inquiry involves a critical issue.  Phone calls and email that are not submitted through the online system are not formally tracked.”

For general information about bicycling in Utah, visit the UDOT Walking and Biking page. Tuddenham  is also available to discuss concerns and answer questions about UDOT policies, procedures and resources with respect to cycling and pedestrian concerns.  Contact Tuddenham at 801-964-4564, or  etuddenham@utah.gov .

Construction concerns

Dez Warner Regan, PIM for UDOT, talks to a business owner along a construction corridor in Ogden.

UDOT maintains a website for each construction project. For questions about a specific construction project, the most direct way to find answers is by visiting the project website. UDOT’s Know Where Know Why service has an interactive map that helps you locate projects all over the state. Project websites are loaded with good information such as maps and construction updates. Most project offer an email update service and a project information line.

All construction projects have a Public Information Manager who is responsible for updating the project website, returning phone calls as quickly as possible and sending out updates via email. Project PIMs visit businesses along the corridor also to answer questions face to face when necessary.

Studies and future projects

While construction is the most noticeable UDOT activity, citizens can get informed and involved in early planning, study and designing processes for future projects before any road work starts. The Projects, Studies and Future Plans page on the UDOT website has many links that lead to information about upcoming projects. UDOT seeks public input during many stages of the planning process. Be sure to get informed and comment on projects in your area.

July 26th, 2011

INNOVATIVE MANAGEMENT

1 Comment, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

UDOT recently earned an innovative management award for a road-widening project in West Valley City, Utah.

This photo shows the moveable concrete barrier, right, that adjusts traffic lanes to accommodate peak flow.

The American Association of Highway Transportation Officials presented UDOT with an award for innovative management as part of the annual American Transportation Awards.

Judges for the award come from across the nation and represent business leaders, police and other emergency workers and transportation experts from University Transportation Centers. Winners are chosen in three categories for each of the four regions across the United States.

Thirty-five hundred South, a busy commercial and east-west commuter route, was widened between 2700 West and Bangerter Highway to include three lanes of travel in both directions and two center dedicated lanes for Utah Transit Authoritie’s first Bus Rapid Transit line. West Valley City also sponsored aesthetic and utility improvements. Granite Construction Company was the construction contractor.

The project was completed 7 months ahead of schedule and $6 million under budget. Early completion also saved the public $2.3 million in road user and safety costs.

During construction, UDOT took great care to keep traffic moving as efficiently as possible. The project was the first to use a moveable barrier in an urban setting. Moveable barriers provide a safe work space and help maintain traffic during construction by keeping more lanes open in the peak travel direction.

UDOT also required that local citizens be kept informed about the construction progress. Langdon Group, UDOT’s public involvement contractor, assembled a Community Coordination Team, made up of bushiness and community representatives from West Valley City. Monthly meetings were held to keep the CCT informed about construction decisions and safety issues. CCT members in turn conveyed that information to other area businesses and community organizations.

According to Aaron M. Crim, Director of Public Relations for West Valley City, the newly widened roadway is already benefiting residents and businesses by providing less delay and an inviting corridor for customers and commuters. In a letter submitted to the award selection committee, Crim states that  “The widened road, buried utilities, sidewalks and landscaping have improved the corridor vastly,
and made it much friendlier to businesses, drivers and pedestrians; traffic flows freely and lights are timed optimally. Additionally, the new center-running Bus Rapid Transit lanes make the corridor ideal for mass transit.”

Each year during the month of July, UDOT seeks comments on the Draft Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, a proposed six year work plan of  projects. 

The Sam White Bridge, part of the I-15 CORE Project currently under construction in Utah County. The Bridge was built off-site and moved spring 2011.

The Draft STIP includes current and planned projects and lists funding sources for each project.  Maintenance projects are shown individually in the STIP under a single Program line Item. The Draft STIP can be found online or by going to locations listed in this STIP Public Notice. The Draft STIP will be finalized on October 1, 2011. 

The purpose of the STIP is to “let the public know how their tax money is spent,” explains Robert Pelly, UDOT STIP Coordinator. The STIP is maintained on a transparent and real time database and provides a critical tool for UDOT to interface with Federal Highway Administration officials.

Although few comments are usually received,  each comment is directed to the appropriate agency or UDOT region and all comments requiring response are answered as soon as possible. “All comments are valuable to somebody somewhere within UDOT,” says Pelly.

“We live in this cycle.”

More than just a list of projects, the STIP development process is a massive effort that requires coordination with the public, transportation agencies and local government officials to identify projects and funding.  The yearly STIP cycle is an “open dialog with the public so UDOT can understand what’s important when it comes to transportation.” Steps in the process include workshops, public comment and approval from UDOT Regions, the Utah Transportation Commission, FHWA, and the Federal Transit Administration.  An active STIP is always maintained concurrently with the Draft STIP under development.

UDOT “works as one entity” with Utah Metropolitan Planning Organizations during the STIP Cycle, says Pelly. MPO’s throughout the state maintain a Transportation Improvement Plan, or TIP, that lists planned and current transportation and transit projects.

Best Practice

UDOT’s STIP document was recently recognized as a “best practice” from the Federal Highway Administration for the careful and thorough way the STIP is presented. FHWA designates a best practice to provide examples for other states to follow.

July 18th, 2011

I-15 CORE SPLIT

1 Comment, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

UDOT places top priority on the safety of road users and construction workers on I-15 CORE and every other project.

A Salt Lake Tribune letter to the editor printed last week addresses the new I-15 CORE project work zone configuration that splits directional traffic around the work zone and asks about the safety of workers. The letter is a good sign – it shows that people are paying attention to the news about how the work zone has changed. Letting drivers know about changes is an important safety precaution.

The I-15 CORE project team has planned for this unusual traffic configuration for many months now, and even though the split is atypical, UDOT has made the work zone as safe as possible for workers and road users.

The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices is the standard guidebook for temporary or permanent roadway features.

A work zone is a Temporary Traffic Control zone, according to the MUTCD, which states that “road user and worker safety and accessibility in TTC zones should be an integral and high-priority element of every project from planning through design and construction.”

Here are some ways I-15 CORE and other UDOT projects are planned and engineered for safety:

  • Before construction, traffic control plans are developed and given to all workers who have a safety role to play. The plan shows temporary features such as barriers and signs. Alternate routes are also identified. Comments, suggestions and changes are made until the final plan is agreed upon by all parties.
  • TTC zone features, such as signs, lane markings and barriers, must approximate permanent features as closely as possible. Many TTC zone elements are designed to give drivers visual cues that trigger an appropriate response – that way, driver expectancy is increased.
  • UDOT goes beyond the standards in the MUTCD by requiring signs with higher reflectivity, reflective flags on all temporary signs and adding high speed rated orange barrels in tapers (merging areas).
  • Adequate pre-warning signs are used to make road users aware of the change well ahead of the TTC zone.
  • Lane markings or other features that don’t apply to the TTC zone are covered or removed.
  • Work areas are separated from traffic by concrete barrier that is designed to withstand severe impact without failing. The shape of the barriers also redirect vehicles back into the traffic lanes.
  • TTC zones are inspected multiple times a day and once a night by trained professionals who are very familiar with MUTCD standards. During the inspection, features like damaged signs or worn pavement markings need are identified. Inspectors and other project workers also observe traffic behavior to assess how the TTC zone is working and changes are made if necessary.
  • UDOT encourages the voluntary use of TravelWise strategies that can significantly reduce traffic volume through the project corridor.
  • Good public relations practices are also stressed in the MUTCD. UDOT takes great care in identifying, notifying and updating all stakeholders, including commuters, emergency workers, business owners, employment centers and residents near the project. PR professionals use a variety of methods to update stakeholders, including contacting print and broadcast media, social media, project hotlines, videos like the one above, email up-dates and speaking face-to-face with groups or individuals.

Most crashes can be avoided

Most work zone crashes are caused by motorists who speed or drive distracted. Don’t put yourself, your passengers, other drivers or construction workers at risk by looking at construction activity, texting, eating or changing radio stations. Keep your attention on the roadway!

For more information about I-15 CORE or other UDOT projects in your area or on your commute, visit the customizable UDOT website.

July 13th, 2011

BORDER TO BORDER IN SANDY

1 Comment, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

A recently completed project in Sandy rebuilt 1300 East to accommodate pedestrians, equestrians, cyclists and motorists.

Let's get this party started! Celebrants gather at the Dimple Dell Crossing for the 1300 East project ribbon-cutting.

The ribbon-cutting party is over, but road users will be celebrating the reconstruction of 1300 East in Sandy for many years to come. The project exemplifies how Federal, State and local governments can partner to provide cost saving and safety features to improve area connectivity and enhance quality of life.

1300 East, the busiest north-south road in Sandy City, carries an estimated 45,000 trips per day.  Reducing traffic delay and idling and improving safety at intersections were major project objectives. These new features accomplish those worthy goals while providing new and improved amenities:

  • Cost efficient LED street lights provide more effective lighting while reducing energy consumption
  • New turn lanes at the lighted intersections help traffic move more efficiently and reduce idling
  • Sidewalks, trails and bicycle lanes give people more transportation and recreation options

Two crossing lets park users enjoy 680 acres of green space. (Click map to enlarge.)

A massive pedestrian tunnel at Dimple Dell Park opens the way to 680 acres of beautiful continuous green space.  Combined with the newly constructed bridge at 700 East, this crossing lets pedestrians, equestrians, motorists and cyclists move through the park from Bonneville Shoreline Trail on the east to the Sandy Civic Center on the west without having to cross a road.

The award winning crossing at Dimple Dell was was constructed using a massive 14’ x 14’ Megabox culvert.  The 13-piece precast tunnel was installed while keeping utilities lines intact and maintaining one lane of traffic in each direction.

The 1300 East project in Sandy is a prime example of how transportation projects enhance the quality of life for Utah citizens.

A crane lowers a section of the mega-box culvert.

July 11th, 2011

OH BEHAVE

1 Comment, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

A state of the art driving simulator combined with computerized traffic scenarios is helping U of U researchers better predict traffic behavior.

The simulator has the look and feel of a real car. Study participants can press the petals and steer the wheel while a computer-generates a realistic looking traffic scene.

A super-computer backed driving simulator at the University of Utah Traffic Lab is helping researchers see how traffic really behaves. “We can provide the state of the art,” says Devin Heaps, Administrative Manager at the Utah Traffic Lab. Heaps is confident that the lab can help researchers “push science forward” when it comes to the study of how to better manage traffic.

The U’s simulator is “the first of its kind to marry an individual physical person driving with a driving simulator,” according to Heaps. The simulator was originally developed to train soldiers on how to drive military vehicles through the streets of Bagdad. The traffic lab takes the system beyond driving practice and allows engineers to collect data on how individual drivers react to realistic computer generated scenarios.

Devin Heaps

Measuring the actions of individual drivers “builds a highly realistic picture of actual traffic flow,” says Professor Peter T. Martin, Director of the Traffic Lab. Traffic engineers commonly use macro simulation, which measures traffic flow and pressures in platoons of cars. Measuring in units, or micro simulation, is the key to getting a more realistic picture of traffic flow that can lead to better real world solutions.

The simple simulator made news a few years ago when psychology researcher David Strayer found that using a cell phone while driving is like being legally intoxicated. Today, the traffic lab is using data collected while subjects drive in realistic roadway scenarios to show how cell phone use impacts a roadway or an entire transportation network.

Researchers have also demonstrated some engineering solutions that make for a safer roadway. Wide roads with big signs and very few curves make drivers comfortable – and give them a bit of a lead foot on the gas pedal as well. Using micro simulation, researchers can show that narrower roads with curves can be safer because drivers are more cautious and not so inclined to speed. Researchers can also model upcoming transportation projects or new road features.  “We are planning to model Flex Lane use,” says Martin.

Micro simulation can also be used to predict driver behavior during a crash or other incident that blocks lanes on a freeway. Scenarios that reflect actual or potential incidents can be programmed into the simulator. Then, researchers can collect data from individual drivers and predict delay on the roadway and the rest of the network. The precise data can guide UDOT TOC operators, who control signals and overhead signs, to make better real-world decisions about how to manage traffic during actual incident.

“These tools enable traffic engineers to answer ‘what if’ questions about traffic behavior.  Millions of calculations and comparison to actual flow measurements enables these simulations to model traffic very realistically,” explains Martin.

July 7th, 2011

BOTOX FOR AGING CONCRETE

5 Comments, Preserve Infrastructure, by Catherine Higgins.

Here’s a post from guest poster Vic Saunders, UDOT Public Involvement Manager from Region One.

Is Placing Bars On The Interstate The Solution To Aging Concrete?

As Utahns drive down our interstate highways, they have probably noticed some funny lines on the roadway in some places and some really bumpy sections of pavement in other places.  While you might ask yourself, “What in the #&$%!@ was that,”  what you are probably observing are the telltale signs of a concrete roadway rehabilitation effort underway.  It’s something known in construction lingo as a ”dowel-bar retrofit.”

A worker places a steel dowel bar between concrete freeway panels.

Dowel Bars are made of steel, are 18 to 20 inches long, and weigh about five pounds.  And they’re part of a process designed to extend the life of aging concrete roadways. In many areas of Utah, some concrete portions of the interstate highway system were laid down in the late 1960′s and early `70′s, and are now nearing their design life of 50 years.  Over time, as vehicles travel on jointed concrete roadways, the weight of that vehicle passes from one concrete panel to the next.

As the vehicle crosses these joints its weight is placed on the edge of a panel, where it is least able to withstand the deflection force of the wheels.  This force can cause cracks as minute layers of pavement shear off the edge of the panel over the years.  And then, motorists feel a staccato “bump-bump-bump-bump” from panel to panel as they drive down the interstate.

On older concrete highways like portions of I-15 in northern and southern Utah, for example, UDOT maintenance crews have enlisted the aid of diamond grinding machines to remove this bumpiness in the past.  While grinding provides relief for eight to ten years, the bumps eventually return due to the forces noted previously, and riding those sections of interstate highway becomes a test of endurance for motorists, rather than the smooth ride engineers envisioned with the roadway was constructed.

Enter the ingenious dowel bar solution.

To repair this problem, dowel bars are placed across the joints in the concrete to help transfer the load of passing vehicles from one panel to the next.  The “retrofit” begins with the cutting of six slots (three in each wheel path) across all transverse joints or cracks, using ganged diamond saws that cut these slots in the concrete.  Then the concrete between the saw cuts is removed with lightweight jack hammers (heavyweight jack hammers cause damage to the slots).

The dowel bars are then prepared and placed in the slots so that equal portions of the bar are in each adjoining concrete panel, which ensures that the weight of passing vehicles is distributed evenly.  Finally, the slots are filled with a quick-drying cement-based grout.  To keep the steel bars from rusting due to moisture that works its way into the roadway, they’re coated with an epoxy that prevents corrosion.

After the dowel bars are installed, crews fill any remaining joints or cracks in the slots with waterproof caulk. Once the grout and caulk have cured sufficiently, the final step in the retrofit involves diamond-grinding the entire road surface to remove any bumps created in the grouting process. It also removes any dips that may have been caused by panel displacement.

Workers use cement and waterproof caulk to hold the dowel bars in place.

Smooth rides and smiles!

While this process is not a permanent fix, it extends the life of a section of highway another eight years or so until a complete reconstruction of that particular section is possible.  Dowel bar retrofits outlast an asphalt overlay by at least ten years, and significantly improve ride quality.  And if you’ve driven some portions of I-15 in Box Elder County recently, you would know that we’d all say “Hallelujah” to that!

While this process is not absolutely fool-proof, it has proven to be a relatively simple and consistent fix for many of the ride problems associated with older concrete highways in the state.  But it can help save millions of dollars in precious highway maintenance funds over the nearly decade-long life of the repair, and that will definitely put a smile on the faces of a UDOT region director or district maintenance engineers charged with keep our state’s roadways in top condition.

July 6th, 2011

DON’T ZONE OUT

2 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Four out of five work zone fatalities are motorists. UDOT transportation project work zones are set up to be as safe as possible – do your part as a motorist, cyclist or pedestrian by traveling with care.

Use care when driving through construction zones.

UDOT is committed to making construction zones as safe as possible as well as reducing travel delay for road users who travel through those zones. However, with the construction in full swing, some road users will inevitably face inconvenience or feel the need to speed or drive carelessly through a work zone. Please drive carefully!

UDOT uses the industry standard, FWHA’s Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, for configuring construction zones for traffic. UDOT also uses more stringent traffic control standards when necessary in an effort to further improve work zone safety.

Using the MUTCD as a standard ensures that work zone traffic control provides the safest possible environment and helps maintain consistency from zone to zone to help motorists know what to expect. From St. George to Salt Lake City, “motorists should know what to do where ever they drive,” says John Leonard, UDOT Traffic and Safety Operations Engineer.

While driving through work zones:

Expect the unexpected – Avoid distractions and place your full attention on the road. Because construction is an ongoing process, changes – like lane shifts or ramp closures – can happen often. Construction vehicles can enter or exit the roadway, and vehicles can slow down unexpectedly.

Don’t tailgate – Follow other vehicles at a safe distance.
Obey the posted speed limit – Fines for speeding double in work zones. Workers are performing complex tasks just a few feet away. Speeding puts those workers and you and your passengers at risk.

Before you go, get information about road work near your home or on your commute – UDOT provides information to road users about all projects in the form of web updates, emails updates and live traffic information. Getting the information you need is easy using the UDOT website to find projects or checking CommuterLink.

July 5th, 2011

SAFETY COMES FIRST

2 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

UDOT workers do all they can to make construction zones safe for workers and road users.

Dottie Weese, left, and Cheryll Benner, UDOT Risk Management, view the Juniper Canyon Bridge under construction on the Mountain View Corridor project.

A big part of Dottie Weese’s job is to inspect construction projects to make sure the proper safety protocols are being followed, protective gear is being worn and appropriate equipment is being used. “I am not here to beat anybody up…I’m just here to make sure workers are safe.”

Weese, Safety Inspector for UDOT Region Two, visits projects monthly and sometimes makes surprise visits. She looks at tours the sites, talks to workers and submits reports about what she observes. Safety is UDOT’s top priority on any project. Weese and her UDOT counterparts in Region One, Three and Four, work side by side with safety professionals who work for UDOT contractors.

Her job can be challenging because of the dynamic nature of construction – work zones change fast, and to stay safe, workers need to be focused on safety at all times. The Mountain View Corridor is an example of a work zone that changes rapidly. While many transportation projects are improvements to existing roads, MVC is being built from the ground up, and workers are using heavy equipment to dig large trenches for utility work and move earth for the new road.

MVC workers on the project are on top of their safety game, according to Weese. “With so much going on, including a lot of really deep excavation, this team has done an awesome job,” she reports.

Chelly Heninger with Granite Construction Company is part of the MVC safety team. Her role is to promote safety among workers and the public, including partnering with UDOT’s Zero Fatalities program to give “Think Safety” presentations to school children near the construction zone, and an conducting upcoming safety week for workers in August.

While construction workers have the needed equipment and understand important safety practices in construction zones, non-workers need to stay out.  Lee Young, General Foreman for Structures on the MVC project reports that people are using the construction zones for recreation. He sees the evidence – like motorcycle, three wheeler and horse tracks – in the morning when he returns to work.

What should road users do to stay safe near construction zones?

First of all, stay out of the construction zone, pay attention while driving and observe all posted signs,  says UDOT Traffic and Safety Operations Engineer John Leonard. His job is to make sure construction project workers maintain traffic control devices in line with standard industry practice. Whether working in or driving through the zone, “we want everybody to go home safely at the end of the day.”

Check back tomorrow to see how UDOT makes construction zones safe for road users.