August 16th, 2011

PRACTICAL GUIDANCE

No Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

A new guide will help UDOT project teams make prudent decisions that maximize system-wide benefits.

UDOT's Practical Design Guide helps team members work together to meet project objectives.

The Practical Design Guide effectively supports UDOT’s Final Four Strategic Goals to Take Care of What We Have, Make the System Work Better, Improve Safety and Increase Capacity.

The core purpose of the guide is to “optimize the money we’re spending,” according to Jesse Sweeten who managed development of the guide. “It’s not just a money saving method…it’s a concept to optimize the system.” Spending carefully means that UDOT can save funding and build more projects, resulting in system-wide benefits to traffic mobility, safety and connectivity.

People who are familiar with how UDOT works will recognize the concepts. “We’ve been doing this for a long time,” says Sweeten. The guide is an overview of best practices that breaks down the roles and responsibilities of project teams and managers from design through construction.

“Any investment above the point of diminishing returns is an inefficient use of resources that would yield higher returns if invested elsewhere” – UDOT Practical Design Guide

Allocating limited project resources is challenging but doable. Starting with a comprehensive, well defined objective statement is the first step. To be useful, the objective statement should be developed by the project sponsor and be concise using commonly understood terms and an accurately and carefully worded description of the intended outcome. The project team can then evaluate improvements against how they line up with the objective. Project improvements should be limited to those that meet the objectives without going over.

Success depends on cooperation among the Utah Transportation Commission, the project sponsor, multi-disciplinary project teams and the UDOT Operations group (responsible for long term maintenance). The guide lists the responsibilities of each group and stresses keeping lines of communication open, collaborating, using good engineering judgment and maintaining flexibility.

Keeping engineering standards high

Achieving project objectives can sometimes involve obtaining approval for exceptions, deviations or waivers when appropriate – UDOT grants exceptions only when safety and mobility are not harmed. Some common examples of exceptions include reduced shoulder paving, deck replacement instead of bridge replacement, pavement rehabilitation instead of full replacement, reduced pavement thickness and narrower lane width.

The new Design Guide promotes tried and true methods that can help UDOT teams meet project objectives, eliminate over-design costs and save project funding for other projects or additional improvements.

August 11th, 2011

THRU WITH DELAY

1 Comment, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

This post highlights UDOT’s ThrU-Turn intersection – want to know more about construction impacts? Attend the ThrU-Turn Open House on Monday, August 15 from 4 to 7 p.m. at Draper City Hall Council Chambers, 1020 East Pioneer Road (12400 South). Construction starts this week with completion scheduled for late 2011.  Project Hotline: 888-914-5454. Send an email to thrUturn@utah.gov for weekly updates.

An intersection type that’s new to Utah will soon reduce delay and improve safety through a busy Draper business district.

Utah’s first ThrU-Turn Intersection will be built at 12300 South and State Street. UDOT has adapted a Michigan U-Turn, commonly built from scratch in the mid-west, in an innovative retrofit improvement that will upgrade the safety and function of the busy intersection. The TTI will provide significant relief from traffic delay on the first day of operation and well past 20 years, according to UDOT traffic studies.

Wait-times at the intersection are causing congestion and concern. Future traffic demand projections show that by 2030, crippling delay will cause traffic to spill onto surrounding streets. Without improvement, motorists will eventually avoid the area altogether or just pass through as a commuter – not good news for an urban business center.

The TTI is an excellent solution to future congestion that comes with an impressive cost-benefit analysis. The budget is relatively small at just under $5 million. During the first year of operation, road users will save almost $1 million–a lot of user-cost savings for the money spent.*

The TTI re-routes left turns

Instead of turning left at the intersection, motorists will proceed through and make a U-turn at a designated turning point, wait briefly at a signal before going straight, then turn right. Turning areas are designed for commercial trucks, so vehicles will be able navigate easily. Even though left-turners will be traveling out-of-direction for a short distance, traffic modeling shows that left turn travel times will still be reduced. “People make U-turns all the time when intersections are too busy…here it’s engineered for safety, efficiency and convenience,” says Adan Carillo, Public Involvement Manager at UDOT Region Two.

More safety, less delay

Safety is top priority for UDOT. Moving left turns away from intersections will reduce the number and severity of crashes.

The TTI is close to freeway exits where traffic tends to weave, increasing the likelihood of crashes. Adding medians and improving traffic flow will also improve safety. The TTI design lets motorists move safely around medians to access business. Since traffic congestion will be reduced, motorists coming from the freeway will have more time and space to safely change lanes.

The TTI’s efficiency is all in the signal timing. Eliminating two protected left turn phases from the signal cycle improves efficiency by moving more traffic through the intersection. A two-phase signal cycle can easily be coordinated with signals, keeping traffic progressing through the rest of the corridor.

Driver friendly

UDOT has given a lot of time and thought to signs and lane markings in the area. The TTI logo shows the traffic path, and the signs are big enough to be seen easily but not so big as to be obtrusive. Lane markings also show the traffic path. Public information efforts will focus on teaching the public how to drive the TTI. Law enforcement is on board too – during the first few days of operation, police officers will hand out instructive flyers instead of citations when people break traffic rules.

The TTI is a cost effective solution that reduces delay while carefully considering the needs of the local community.

When investigating solutions, UDOT looked for a cost-effective way to improve traffic flow with minimal inconvenience to business owners. UDOT’s design team considered a CFI and some grade-separated alternatives; those options would have helped traffic but at a high cost to tax payers. The TTI effectively reduces delay, and the minimal widening areas needed are away from the intersection where utilities and signal poles won’t be disturbed.

One great way to reduce inconvenience to business and road users is to limit project duration. Construction for the TTI will be quick and easy because the project requires minor road widening, new signals and striping. Just a few months of minimal impacts will deliver better traffic flow by the end of the year.

*Savings to road users is calculated by identifying the average cost of delay to road users, then comparing delay reduction to a “do-nothing” scenario.

The Thru-Turn Project Team:

Peter Tang, Project Manager, UDOT

Marwan Farah, Resident Engineer, UDOT

Adan Carillo, Public Involvement Coordinator, UDOT

Mel Bodily, Traffic Engineer, Avenue Consultants

Dan Young, Project Manager, PEC

Marc Bennett, Design, PEC

April Gordon, Public Involvement Manager, Jacques and Associates

August 9th, 2011

STORMWATER MANAGEMENT IN ACTION

1 Comment, Preserve Infrastructure, by Catherine Higgins.

Guest post: Thank you, Andrew Johnson former employee of the UDOT Traffic Operation Center, for contributing this informative overview about how stormwater is managed. Great post! StormTrap provided the construction image below and information for this article.

How Stormwater Management Mitigates Flood Damage

With summer winding down, Utah’s flood control experts are indicating this year’s flood season may soon be coming to an end. That’s good news to hear, although officials will continue to monitor the snow pack on some of the highest elevations.

This is an example of stormwater infiltration, where a retention system recharges the water back into the soil as it filters the runoff.

At ground level, we all know rain travels down the gutter to disappear underground. To many, stormwater management is a term that doesn’t mean much, unless they’re seeing the consequences of heavy rain or increased melting snow.

During a storm, a number of things take place. In warmer months, rain will collect on roads and sidewalks, and be directed into gutters. In parking lots, as well as residential and commercial developments, the water will follow the grade of the pavement or landscaping, and be funneled into an underground basin.

There are two types of vessels commonly used: retention and detention basins. A retention basin takes the collected water and provides an infiltration surface to recharge the water into the soil. This limits the contaminants entering the ground below. A detention basin is similar, but simply collects the runoff and releases it in a controlled rate.

Utah certainly saw the destructive nature of water in action this year, especially during the spring and summer months of 2011. But how did the beehive state fare compared with 2010? Roland Steadham is the chief meteorologist for KTVX-TV, a television station based in Salt Lake City, and tells me that we pulled out of this year’s flood season fairly well thanks to mitigation and stormwater management. “Some may say that the state hydrologists and the media were ‘crying wolf’. This is a case where the wolf was there, we just put up a fence to keep him out.” That proverbial “fence” came in the form of sandbags, according to Steadham, but also the effective mitigation efforts of Utah’s emergency management plan. For any possible natural disaster, there’s a response plan in place, and part of that plan includes efforts to collect, detain and disperse water in a controlled manner. That’s stormwater management in action.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, flooding is the most frequent severe weather threat across the country, and 90% of America’s natural disasters involve flooding. One component of the Agency is The Flood Insurance and Mitigation Administration, designed to handle flood insurance, flood hazard mapping and floodplain management. By recognizing which areas of the state are prone to flooding, and effectively managing the geographic floodplains, mitigation takes place. But identifying needs is only a fraction of the complete mitigation effort. When designing Utah’s transportation systems, for example, civil engineers plan for the elements by incorporating specific materials into the pavement or concrete surface of the road, adjusting the grade, and collecting the rain and melting snow in an underground detention basin.

Cameras allow TOC operators and meteorologists to monitor roadways 24-7

The topography of the Wasatch Front poses a unique challenge for stormwater management. Since a majority of the population lives and works in the valley, collecting the water from melting snowpacks in the mountains, and releasing it in a controlled rate is key to preventing widespread flooding during the warmer months of the year. “…in one second, Little Cottonwood Creek at its peak transported approximately 60,000 pounds of water. Do the math; in one day one this creek transported over 5-Billion pounds of water. That’s a lot of wrecking balls,” Steadham points out.

Keeping the runoff away from the streets and highways is also important. That’s why many of Utah’s roads and freeways are equipped with cameras, which are monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from the Traffic Operations Center. There’s also a staff of meteorologists at the TOC, who develop specialized forecasts for UDOT’s road maintenance crews and snowplow operators. If a band of heavy rain moves through a particular area, UDOT can pinpoint the location, monitor the road surfaces for standing water, and dispatch a crew to the site if needed.

August 8th, 2011

UDOT PLANNING IS IN STEP

2 Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

UDOT has received a coveted national award for developing a cutting edge Geographic Information System based web application.

Frank Pisani, John Thomas, Jack Dangermond and Andrea Moser. Dangermond is the founder of the Environmental Systems Research Institute (Esri), and organization that focuses on developing web-GIS applications. Moser is a consultant with Bio-West, a environmental consulting firm. (See a list of team members below.)

UDOT has taken advantage of recent advances in web GIS and developed a user friendly, state of the art planning tool. uPlan, an online map that integrates data from many different sources, was recently recognized by Esri with a Special Achievement Award for as being in the top tier of web GIS applications in the United States. UDOT was one of only 100 to be recognized from a field of over 100,000 projects. “Getting this award indicates that UDOT is in-step with the world in employing the latest GIS technologies,” says John Thomas, Director of Planning at UDOT.

UDOT’s original goal was to build or find a data-sharing tool that could display information spatially. The project was started over four years ago after UDOT conducted an extensive review of available methods and tools. uPlan developers eventually combined two tools, the ArcGIS server and the Adobe Flex viewer.

Over the last two years, more data has been added and the application has been improved with customized widgets. The latest version includes live data from ePM, UDOT’s statewide online project tracking application. External agencies like planning organizations and utility companies have also contributed data. Soon, data owners will be able to upload data from a PC desktop.

The uPlan team was congratulated by UDOT Senior Team leaders in August 2011.

While providing access to data was the goal, better partnering has been an important outcome. “We are approaching the ability to display and eventually analyze nearly any type of business data,” says Thomas. uPlan encourages broad participation in the planning process by presenting data in an easy to  understand format and allowing and encouraging participants to bring their own information to the table.”

New advances in technology lets UDOT put information in the hands of many users where previously, only GIS analysts had access.  With about one hour of training, users can easily learn to “build a custom map in minutes,” says Thomas, by simply clicking boxes. And, data silos can be combined and viewed together to allow for better collaboration among agencies. For example, users can view future UDOT projects along with planned utility improvements to see potential conflicts. Automated functions within uPlan allow users to get detailed reports and fact sheets that pull and format data from different databases.

Congratulations, uPlan Development Team!

Frank Pisani, UDOT GIS Specialist

Tom Twedt, Bio-West, Consultant Project Manager

Andrea Moser, Bio-West, GIS Specialist/Technologist

April Brough, Bio-West, GIS Specialist

Stephen Lawe, RSG, System Architecture

Spencer Jenkins, AGRC, Governance

Bert Granberg, AGRC, GIS Specialist

Bryce Lovell, RSG, Developer

John Thomas, UDOT, Project Manager

August 4th, 2011

MOVING MORE PEOPLE

2 Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

Today’s post is second in a series about traffic signals. Missed the first post? See it here.

Did you know that the first traffic signal was invented in Salt Lake City?

The device looked like a bird house and was controlled by a police officer on the side of the road. Today’s signals are equipped with detectors, computerized timing and variable phases. And the signal controller is a computer or a live person watching from a Traffic Operations Center miles away.

A young man poses by Lester Wire's first traffic signal. (Used by permission, Utah State Historical Society, all rights reserved.)

Modern innovations have helped traffic engineers manage traffic flow and reduce delay. Still, there are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to achieving orderly progression from signal to signal:

Directional traffic volume – Most UDOT roads are not busy all the time. Very heavy traffic volume often occurs only during morning and evening commutes. The most efficient way to deal with high volume directional traffic is to provide more green light time for commuters.

For roads that are busy outside of the standard morning and evening commute, other solutions, such as a CFI, dual left turn lanes or a Thru-Turn may be a good option when signal timing alone won’t help. UDOT will implement Flex Lanes on 5400 South in Taylorsville this year. 5400 South experiences heavy traffic volume during the morning or evening commute with very little to no delay the rest of the time.

Traffic patterns change – A variety of detection devices are used to see traffic and adjust the signal phases to accommodate traffic flow. “Modern signals are capable of detecting vehicles and pedestrians and can change based on actual traffic demand,” says Luker. Devices are usually mounted on signal arms or buried under or in the pavement.

Sometimes, timing needs to be adjusted to fit current traffic patterns. Many people call UDOT to report signals that seem to need attention. “In the city, almost everyone encounters traffic signals on a daily basis. If signals are not operating correctly, it causes delay and frustration, and often minor, inexpensive improvements can have a big impact.”

Detection can help signals work efficiently, especially on major arterial streets. “By having detection, the signal may see that there are no cars at the intersection in a particular direction,” says Luker. During the next cycle, the green phase can be made longer. “This is more efficient overall, because green lights aren’t being wasted, but if you are on a minor street you’ll have to stop more often.”

Special event traffic – Sports events or concerts can cause delay on an otherwise efficient roadway. Fortunately, most such events happen outside of the rush hour on evenings or weekends. TOC signal operators can anticipate events, like college football games, adjust the signals to give more green light time at the start or end of the event. While the event traffic is occurring, signal operators can observe traffic and make real time adjustments to expedite traffic flow.

Dual right turn lanes on east bound 9000 South – road users who take I-15 to the game get some extra help getting through the intersection. During normal traffic, the dual lane designation is off.

At State Street and 9000 South in Sandy, just north of the Soccer Stadium, variable lanes allow dual right turns when needed.

Allowing for transit vehicles – Trax Lines in Salt Lake County and the BRT in West Valley City require traffic engineers to make adjustments to signals to make the transit vehicles move efficiently along with automobiles. Signals on transit corridors are often timed to give priority to transit so the fewest number of people possible are inconvenienced. When train cars or busses reach an intersection, the phase order is interrupted to allow the transit vehicle to progress through the signal. After the transit proceeds, the signal plays catch-up.

Moving more people

UDOT is working hard to reduce traffic delay by making the current system work more efficiently and by increasing capacity where appropriate. The goal when it comes to signal timing is to move more people, not just vehicles.  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.

August 1st, 2011

IT’S COMPLICATED

1 Comment, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

This post is first in a two-part series about signal timing. Read the second part here.

If incoming calls and email to UDOT are any indication, signal timing seems to generate a lot of public concern.

Signals at Pioneer Crossing in American Fork, UDOT's first Diverging Diamond Intersection

“It takes forever for the light to change,” laments Kay, a road user who recently contacted UDOT. Kitty Wright, Customer Service Specialist at UDOT, gets several calls or email a day about signals. Many customers are concerned about long wait times. She directs calls and email to the UDOT Traffic Operation Center where experts address questions one by one.

Matthew Luker, a UDOT Signal Systems Engineer, provides answers. “We appreciate these calls because we can’t be everywhere all the time, and they help us to know of problems–and correct them sooner.” Kay, who spotted some unusual traffic delay, alerted traffic engineers to a malfunction that was addressed within a day.

While UDOT signal operators are continually watching traffic and adjusting signals to work more efficiently, drivers shouldn’t expect to always breeze through successive intersections – signal systems are just not that simple. Traffic engineers have a lot of factors to consider when programming signals so traffic can move efficiently and safely from signal to signal.

First, here are a few key definitions to understand:

Cycle – one complete rotation through all signal colors; from green back to green.

Phase – one segment of the cycle allowing a unique movement. For example, a green light with a protected left turn arrow with the same movement on the facing leg of the intersection is an example of one phase of a cycle.

Signal Detection – Modern signals include devices that have the ability to “see” traffic and change when needed. Signals that can change depending on traffic needs are called “actuated signals.”

Progression – the movement of traffic through a corridor from one signal to the next.

Here are some reasons why signal timing is complicated:

Multiple jurisdictions – Not all signals wear the UDOT label. Like roads, some intersections are owned and maintained by cities or counties. UDOT works closely with local municipalities to time signals so there is congruity among UDOT and municipal intersections in close proximity. Most recently, UDOT has worked closely with Salt Lake City to evaluate and re-time signals in the downtown area.  Drivers should see less delay on city streets as a result of recent adjustments.

Cycle length – For traffic to progress efficiently from one signal to the next, the cycle length of all signals on a corridor must be the same. Signal operators try to make the cycle length just right – not too short, not too long. A too-short cycle can create delay when the too few cars can pass through. Long cycles reduce traffic speed and can make progression sluggish.

Phases within each cycle can vary to adjust to directional traffic flow. For example, signals can be programmed to give more green light time for commuters, but that adjustment robs other phases of time. Motorists traveling in the opposite direction may have long wait times at red lights.

Proximity to other signals – The ideal spacing of signals depends on cycle length. For commonly used cycle lengths in Utah, signal spacing should be about every half-mile. Signals in metropolitan areas often need to be closer.

The signal space-time continuum can be breached when signals are too close – especially if the traffic volume is high – because vehicles can’t clear the signal and motorists can end up waiting through multiple cycles.

Pedestrians – Signals must allow adequate time for pedestrians to cross the street safely. In downtown Salt Lake City, streets are wide – about twice as wide as other cities – and the time it takes pedestrians to cross determines cycle length. Consequently, cycle length downtown is long to allow for pedestrians to cross.

Multiple phases – Because of heavy traffic in modern cities, signals need phases that accommodate traffic movements, especially left turns. Without protected left-turn phases, no one would be able to turn left on some busy city streets. But adding more phases, like protected left turns, “makes the cycle length longer,” explains Luker. “Without moving the signals farther apart, you don’t get good progression in both directions or the speed goes down to a point where it is too slow for most drivers.”

Check back Thursday to see more reasons why signal timing is complicated.

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.