Next week (March 17th-21st) state employees are encouraged to use public transportation to travel to and from work. This ‘Ride Public Transportation to Work Week’ represents a concerted effort by the state to increase transit ridership as a means of improving air quality and reducing congestion.

Photo of two representative of ride public transportation to work week at a Trax StationBy participating in this effort, employees have an opportunity to lead by example in using our innovative, accessible and efficient public transportation system to make Utah an even better place to live and work.

Representatives from UDOT’s TravelWise program and the Utah Transit Authority will be available at the North Temple and Salt Lake Central TRAX Stations on Monday, March 17th and Wednesday, March 19th from 7:00-9:00am to answer questions and distribute materials for participating employees.

In addition to public transportation, employees have been asked to use a combination of proven strategies that promote alternatives to driving alone. The UDOT TravelWise program strategies are aimed at optimizing mobility, reducing energy consumption and improving air quality. They include:

  • Carpooling and vanpooling
  • Taking public transit
  • Active transportation (walking or biking)
  • Teleworking (conference calling, video conferencing or working from an off-site location)
  • Trip chaining
  • Skip the trip (planning ahead to bring a lunch or grocery shop once each week rather than a few times for a few items)
  • Alternative and flexible work schedules

Many Utahn’s are already using TravelWise strategies such as trip chaining, they just don’t realize it. Research has shown that 87 percent of Utahns support a program that promotes these kinds of strategies. State employees can be part of the solution by incorporating these strategies into our daily lives.

For more information about TravelWise, visit travelwise.utah.gov and for more information about the Utah Transit Authority’s services, visit rideuta.com.

Recently Alta Mayor Tom Pollard reached out to Executive Director Carlos Braceras to express his appreciation for the Little Cottonwood Communication Tool. This tool was developed by the Traffic Operations Center and allows the Alta Marshal and other designated individuals to deliver impact and closure details regarding the road through Little Cottonwood Canyon.

“Our Marshal’s department has initiated over 160 alerts using this technology and has experienced a marked and meaningful improvement in the delivery of information related to the safety and efficient traffic flow for motorists using S.R. 210,” Mayor Pollard explained in a letter to Carlos.

UDOT leadership expressed their gratitude by presenting silver barrel awards to those involved with the project. Award recipients included:

Rob Clayton
Chuck Felice
Liam Fitzgerald
Paul Jencks
Robert Miles
Lisa Miller
Lee Nitchman
Brady Roberts

What does the future hold? That question is nearly impossible to answer unless we’re talking about ways to optimize mobility and reach zero fatalities. Then, we do have a few ideas. The U.S. Department of Transportation, state DOTs and automakers have been working on connected vehicles for several years and Google and some universities have been working on autonomous vehicles. Both of these efforts will allow for the safest and most efficient transportation system we’ve ever imagined.

Photo of an intersection

Connected vehicles can improve safety at busy intersections

So, what are autonomous and connected vehicles? Autonomous vehicles use sensors and photo imagery to drive themselves. Connected vehicles would assist the driver by providing information and resources. Blaine Leonard, Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Program Manager, explained it to me this way. When an autonomous vehicle approaches a signal it sees that it is green and that it can proceed. In comparison, a connected vehicle would have information from the signal including how long it will remain green as well as what the next signal phase is. It would even know what another unseen connected vehicle is doing down the road.

Recently the U.S. DOT National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced a rulemaking process which will ultimately mandate vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication as standard equipment in the future. This will allow these vehicles to share information and alert a driver in order to avoid a crash. This is just the first step though. As Blaine mentioned, the next step will enable transportation infrastructure to also communicate with vehicles. The Volpe National Transportation Systems Center estimates that these technologies could save over 5 million crashes a year.

There are concerns that transportation officials and automakers haven’t forgotten about, including privacy and security. For these technologies to work correctly they must be accurate and impenetrable to common problems we face such as hackers and viruses. There is also the question of privacy which is a sensitive and personal subject for each individual. At this time vehicle communication would be anonymous.

In Utah we have technology in place that makes us well suited for these advancements. One is the LiDAR data that includes a complete picture of roadway assets along state Routes and interstates. We also have an extensive fiber optic network that allows for statewide communication.

March 4th, 2014

IMT Receives Silver Barrels

No Comments, Employee Focus, by Becky Parker.

Group photo of IMT with CarlosIf you’re a long time reader of our blog you already know about our Incident Management Team (IMT) and how valuable they are. You especially understand this if you’ve ever been stranded on the side of the road and they came to your rescue. Yesterday Executive Director Carlos Braceras presented IMT with silver barrel awards. Award recipients included:

Todd Abbot
Brent Beach
Bill Frashure
Nick Jarrett
David Jean
Steve Johnson
Alan Peterson
Jeff Reynolds
Curtis Sanchez
Dave Stallworth (recently retired)
Dave Tuttle
Travis White
Mark Whittaker
Ron Williams
Robert Woolsey
Matt Zwemke

Thank you to these very deserving individuals and be sure to check out the reasons why we appreciate them so much:

Job Well Done
Managing Nicely
Incident Management Teams: UDOT’s angels in white trucks provide assistance to stranded motorists

February 6th, 2014

Region 4 Silver Barrel Awards

No Comments, Employee Focus, by Becky Parker.

We have great employees statewide but today we want to highlight a few from the southern part of our state, Region 4. Last week region director, Rick Torgerson, presented Silver Barrel Awards to six deserving recipients.

Dale Sellers from the Hanksville Maintenance Station has always been an excellent employee but last September while covering for his ill supervisor Dale excelled. A major flooding event closed S.R. 95 and caused unsafe conditions on S.R. 24 north and west of Hanksville. Dale mobilized the crew and was able to reopen most of the areas very quickly. Dale continued to work on the clean-up for the next two weeks as well as monitored work performed by a contractor brought in to repair S.R. 95.

Kim Manwill was the project manager on the recently completed Diverging Diamond Interchange (DDI) at milepost 8 (St. George Boulevard) on I-15. The project presented him with a new opportunity for involvement with a Design Build project. Prior to the project beginning Kim took advantage of opportunities to learn from other project managers in Region 3 in order to assure success on his project. The project included an aggressive schedule with a goal to have the interchange functioning prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. Kim not only met the goal but was able to beat it by opening a week early.

Monte Aldridge, Chet Johnson and Randall Taylor assisted researches from Utah State University with their study of wildlife use of various bridges and culverts. The result of the study includes design recommendations such as culvert length and fencing that will reduce wildlife collisions. Because of their assistance the State of Utah will see substantial cost savings due to the reduced number of collisions.

Nancy Jerome is project manager for a project on U.S. 89 from Kanab to Kanab Creek. There have been many obstacles up to this point including environmental, right-of-way, public, local and business concerns as well as roadway closures and difficult constructibility issues. Nancy has been able to rise above all of these issues to meet the needs of the Department as well as the needs of the affected entities.

Congratulations to all these well deserving employees!

January 27th, 2014

UDOT’s STEM Education Initiative

1 Comment, Employee Focus, by Kris Peterson.

In an effort to promote greater support for Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics (STEM) education, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) has adopted a STEM Education Initiative to encourage more Utah students to consider careers in these fields.

STEM education generally supports the broadening of the study of engineering within each of the other subjects, and beginning engineering at younger grades, even elementary school. It also brings STEM education to all students rather than only those in so-called “gifted” programs. In recent years, education leaders in Utah and throughout the West have become concerned over the lack of growth in the STEM education fields. As an end-user of STEM graduates from the state’s universities and colleges and Governor Herbert’s emphasis on education as one of his “cornerstones,” UDOT is looking for ways to promote and encourage more people to consider this education path.

What are the STEM disciplines? They consist of natural science fields such as Astrophysics, Atmospheric Sciences, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Nuclear Physics, and Physics. The Computer industry is represented with fields such as Computational Science, Computer Engineering, Computer Science and Software Engineering. Traditional Engineering fields are represented by Aerospace Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Industrial Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Nuclear Engineering. There are potential careers in the technology sector, such as Biomechanics, Mathematical Biology, Nanotechnology, Neurobiology, Operations Research, Optics Mathematics, and Robotics. And Scientific Education is represented by opportunities in Applied Mathematics, Geographic Information Systems, Information Science, Instructional Technology, Psychology, and Statistics.

Employment projected through 2018 shows the computing industry (71%) making up the largest sector of STEM-related careers, with traditional engineering fields (16%) comprising the second largest career group. Mathematics-related careers (2%) are presently the smallest STEM sector.

Pie Charts showing Percentage of New STEM Jobs by Area Through 2018

UDOT presently has several efforts underway that are associated with its STEM Education Initiative. For example:

  • UDOT Engineers Dave Schwartz and Lisa Wilson have teamed up to participate in an afterschool program at Bennion Elementary in Taylorsville, Salt Lake County. They are teaching STEM based topics twice a week to 10-12 students with over 50 interested in becoming part of the program. Their lesson plans come from The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Roadways into Developing Elementary Students (RIDES) education outreach curriculum support program. UDOT also provides the materials to support this local after-school program, in conjunction with funding from the private sector.
  • The Weber School District has five teams participating in AASHTO’s National Bridge and Structure building competition. Part of AASHTO’s Transportation and Civil Engineering Program (TRAC), the student teams design and build balsa wood bridges based on the competition guidelines. The students prepare portfolios detailing their team’s efforts to design the bridges and build them. The portfolios are judged by a team of national experts. The top teams from across the country are selected to travel to the AASHTO Spring Conference (2014’s is in Louisville, Kentucky). Visit mmsd.transportation.org/trac_rides/awards.aspx for more information about this competition. UDOT sends our best wishes in this competition to our Utah bridge builders.
  • UDOT is partnering with the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) to facilitate a one day workshop on May 22, 2014 at the Region 2 Headquarters. The workshop will focus on helping grade school age girls on becoming excited about a career in Transportation related STEM fields.
  • UDOT employees are also participating in Career fairs throughout the state, encouraging all students to pursue careers in STEM related professions. UDOT engineers and staff are also spending time in classrooms to help students understand the excitement and satisfaction which comes from serving our community in STEM related fields of expertise.
  • STEM students from local high schools and higher-ed institutions have been participating in internships with various UDOT departments and regions. These internships give students opportunities to apply what they’ve learned, and demonstrate their potential in the various STEM career fields.

UDOT is looking to expand its experiences in STEM education and hopes you will consider how you can be a part of this initiative. Look for future blog entries about the experiences your colleagues are having, and how you might become involved in this important effort.

January 23rd, 2014

WASHTO Quality Award Winners

No Comments, Employee Focus, by Carlos Braceras.

I am pleased to announce that the WASHTO Quality Award winners for 2013 are the Ogden Canyon Fiber Project and Traffic Signal Operations teams. It became evident as our selection committee reviewed the nominations that these two groups distinguished themselves as leaders who have made significant contributions to the Department while simultaneously improving the quality of life in our communities.

Photo of Carlos Braceras and the Ogden Canyon Fiber Project Team

UDOT Executive Director and the Ogden Canyon Fiber Project Team

The Ogden Canyon Fiber Project Team members were Jesse Glidden, Lynne Yocom, Blaine Leonard, Brent DeYoung, Rex Harris, Matthew Smith, and Dave Moss.

As many of you know, Ogden Canyon (S.R. 39) is a narrow, winding 5-mile canyon road connecting the Ogden Valley with the metropolitan area. It is a critical transportation link but a difficult location for constructing projects due to its mountainous terrain.

Our Region 1 folks initially had asked our Traffic Management Division to install a VMS sign in the canyon that would warn motorists of frequent winter canyon closures. Lynn, Blaine and Matt were more than happy to do that but while they were visiting the site they noticed construction already happening in the Canyon.

Ogden City had recently started the installation of a waterline. The team knew that underground construction of this magnitude in the canyon rarely occurred. They successfully seized upon this opportunity to partner with the city and get a fiber communications line installed along the entire canyon corridor.

This vital link to Ogden Valley now provides fiber optic communications for traffic monitoring and public communications. In addition, Ogden City enjoys a fiber connection to their water treatment plant and residents have improved cell and broadband service.

Because our team members took the time to think beyond the limited scope of their own individual duties, they were able to see the bigger picture. This synergistic approach to finding a solution will benefit thousands of people for decades to come.

I commend them for their great work.

Photo of Carlos Braceras and the Automatic Signal Performance Measures Team

UDOT Executive Director and the Automatic Signal Performance Measures Team

The first place winning team is our Traffic Signal Operations group, consisting of Mark Taylor, Jamie Mackey, Matt Luker, Shane Johnson, Derek Lowe, Peter Jager, Eric Rasband, Adam Lough and Carrie Jacobson.

Tasked with providing “World-Class” signals operations and maintenance, our folks have risen to the occasion. Adopting best practices from our partners at Indiana DOT, they have developed eight different performance measures currently available for 750 intersections. The measures provide both real-time and historical data, with all of the information housed on the UDOT Traffic website.

The program works via FTP connections located throughout the network that provide information to our traffic signal controllers. Every 15 minutes TOC servers retrieve and store “packets” of time-stamped data. This process is overseen by software engineers Shane Johnson and Derek Lowe. Anyone can access this data, which is an approach that fosters transparency and information sharing. Because of their efforts, UDOT is now the national leader in real-time traffic signal performance measures.

It’s not hard to see why in June of this year UDOT received the AASHTO Technology Implementation Group (TIG) award for their efforts in this area. But this team isn’t stopping there. By the end of the year they plan to have additional performance measures to track elements such as historical travel times for arterials and overall operations system improvements.

Both teams’ efforts have served to further our Department’s Strategic Direction.

Our Ogden Canyon Fiber Team has strengthened the economy by providing fiber optic service to Ogden City’s water treatment plant and improved cell and broadband service to residents. They have optimized mobility via a vital communications link that will facilitate traffic management and public information. They have improved safety with the capability to more effectively manage traffic, thus keeping drivers safer and getting us one step closer to our goal of Zero Fatalities.

Our Traffic Signal Operations team has strengthened the economy by improving the efficiency of the signal system. This has made a huge impact on alleviating traffic congestion and consequently the movement of goods and services throughout the state. In addition, they have implemented signal timing plans to accommodate large events such as college football games and community parades.

The signals team has optimized mobility by closely monitoring and adjusting red and green time to allow for better progression along corridors. They have improved safety by partnering with our radar vendor to track approaching vehicle speeds at intersections. To preserve our infrastructure, they have devised a way to quickly find and replace deficient vehicle detectors.

These efforts do not go unnoticed. Congratulations to both teams for their exemplary work and dedication. Please join me in thanking them for their great work as they are well-deserving of the 2013 WASHTO Quality Awards.

Information about all of the WASHTO Quality Awards nominees is available in a previous post.

January 22nd, 2014

WASHTO Award Nominees

No Comments, Employee Focus, by Carlos Braceras.

Every year the Western Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (WASHTO) awards individuals or groups in their member states that have shown exemplary work in improving the quality of their respective organizations.

We received a record number of nominations from UDOT teams this year and the submittals were truly impressive. Their talents and ingenuity are a testament to the high caliber of employees we have here at UDOT. I wanted to take the time to highlight this year’s nominees and briefly outline their submissions.

Our maintenance folks do a remarkable job. For example, our maintenance team in Parley’s Canyon has worked to upgrade lights to LEDs and efficiently used the fill dirt from an area construction project in parts of the Canyon that need it most. When this summer’s flooding had the potential to cause road damage, our Huntington Canyon maintenance crews went above and beyond to create a rebar/riprap fix that prevented additional damage from occurring.

When a better data collection process was needed for the Maintenance Management Quality Assurance Program, our Region Two folks helped to support it. When we had to think creatively about how to best maintain our assets, Region Four’s asset management group adopted the motto, “Take Care of What we Have” and implemented a three year plan for Level II road maintenance that focuses on crack sealing and lane leveling.

I am constantly amazed at how dedicated our maintenance folks are at ensuring our transportation system investments are well cared for and our shop employees are no different.

The Region Three Mechanic shop employees collectively have over 200 years of experience between them. This has given them the skills and expertise needed to repair state-owned equipment using best practices and the latest technology. Their experience has helped the region to successfully meet the Department’s goals.

In Region One, the equipment shop team retrofitted five older snow plows with saddle tanks to give them the same pre-wetting capabilities that newer vehicles have. This ingenuity is essential to maintaining UDOT’s reputation as a national leader.

Our Signals Operations folks have made significant strides in innovation and national leadership. They have been tasked with creating a World-Class Signals system and are well on their way to making it happen. We now have over 750 intersections bringing real-time data to the Traffic Operations Center.

Managing data can be a significant undertaking- something our GIS group knows very well. Working closely with other divisions, they have helped to create an inventory system with real-time information regarding outdoor advertising along state routes. In addition, they have been an asset in producing interactive maps for Transportation Commission meetings, mapping bike routes, and creating a UPLAN Safety Index.

Another group that understands management is our Project Management team. Now with just a few clicks of the mouse a project can be set up, tracked, updated and the status communicated. ePM has been improved in the way it handles financial information for our project managers, and our Program Finance folks have developed a way to release excess funds earlier in the project process to allow for timely reprogramming on new projects.

Communicating information is key, not only in project management, but also when it impacts the public.

We now have a Little Cottonwood Canyon Communications Tool (LCCCT) for communicating information to the traveling public and our Travelwise program has improved our air quality messaging on overhead VMS boards to encourage motorists to drive less or carpool.

Our employees coordinated a partnership with Ogden City to install fiber in Ogden Canyon. They took the time to go beyond their normal responsibilities, finding a synergistic solution to an otherwise seemingly insurmountable task. They showed that proactive planning really makes a difference.

Our structures planning team has adopted “Plan for Every Structure” as their goal. The Treatment Matrix and overhaul of The Critical Bridge List are two examples of how they’ve done exactly that. Not only are we at the forefront of thoughtful structures planning but also of innovative bridge construction.

Representatives from around the country descended on Echo Junction this past summer as our project team pioneered the combination of Geosynthetic Reinforced Soil (GRS) and Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC).

At UDOT, quality work happens not only on the roads but off them as well.

For example, the Seeley Burn Scar left quite a mark. Our folks worked collaboratively with the Utah Geological Survey to install a Road Weather Information System in the scar’s watershed that helped anticipate flooding before it happened.

Our avalanche team successfully installed a release system near avalanche slide paths. This system can be operated remotely to set off snow slides in a controlled environment that reduces the likelihood of larger, more destructive avalanches.

The central materials group proactively reached out to precast suppliers and revised the current specifications to allow limited amounts of specific items to be saved ahead of time. As a result, we now have high-demand items when an unexpected need arises.

Our research team initiated a new transportation innovation breakout group this year that generated new ideas about special types of concrete pavements for urban areas and laser striping for more accurate lane delineation.

UDOT University has made literally hundreds of courses available to UDOT employees, trained approximately 850 individual participants, and provided approximately 1500 hours of training to department personnel.

As you can see, the selection pool for this year’s WASHTO Quality Award was very competitive. All of these groups’ accomplishments are impressive in their own right and collectively represent the quality work we do here at the Department. I want to express my appreciation to all of the nominees for their hard work and dedication.

219 lives were lost in car crashes on Utah’s roads in 2013, up two from 2012. Although Utah only experienced a slight increase in fatalities from last year, any climb in fatality numbers is troubling.

Graphic demonstrating 219 live losts on Utah highways

Even more alarming is the number of Utahns killed in crashes because they were not buckled up. Excluding pedestrian, bicyclist and motorcyclist fatalities, nearly half (46.7%) of people killed on Utah’s roads in 2013 were not wearing a seat belt.

Chart showing the significant increase in fatalitiy numbers of Improper Restraint compaired to other factors.

Wearing a seat belt is one of the simplest things you can do to prevent death or serious injury when involved in a crash. In fact, people who aren’t properly buckled up are 40 times more likely to die in a car crash than those who are.

Buckling up only takes moments to do, and could mean the difference between life or death. Commit now to always wear your seat belt, and let your passengers know that your car won’t move until everyone is buckled up.

Here is a snapshot of the top five deadly driving behaviors killing people on Utah’s roads:

Graphic showing the top five deadly driving behaviros and how many people were killed by each.

Utah is making progress toward our goal of Zero Fatalities, but we still have work to do. UDOT reminds drivers and passengers to always wear your seat belt, slow down, put down phone and never drive drowsy or impaired. If we work together, we can each our goal of Zero Fatalities.

Join us as we continue the conversation about Zero Fatalities on Twitter and Facebook. You can also review the full 2013 Fatalities Data Analysis report by visiting the Zero Fatalities website.

This guest post was written by Zero Fatalities team member Mary Rice.

January 21st, 2014

Pavement Marking Check-up

No Comments, Preserve Infrastructure, by Catherine Higgins.

Photo of right side white lineRetroreflectivity, which makes pavement markings visible at night, happens when the light from vehicle headlights bounces back toward the driver’s eyes. Visible markings help prevent lane departure crashes. But markings degrade over time due to weather and wear from traffic, so departments of transportation need to keep on top of pavement marking maintenance through regular inspections and replacement of sub-par markings.

Until recently, markings were measured subjectively by just taking a look and rating the condition of the marking. For the past year, however, retroreflectivity has been measured objectively, and data from those measurements is available on UDOT’s Data Portal.

Each spring and fall, employees from UDOT’s Maintenance Planning Division measure the retroreflectivity of markings on a randomly chosen selection of roadway segments, including dashed lane markings and solid lines that mark the edge of the road.

Photo of the van that is used to measure pavement markingMeasurements are taken using a mobile retroreflectometer mounted in a van. The retroreflectometer, shoots a high intensity Laser in a sweeping motion over marked pavement and measures the light that reflects back in milli-candelas per lux per meter squared – a measure of light per unit area.

The data gathered by the measuring effort is compiled and graded from A+ to F – this spring, UDOT got a B. This year’s fall data is in the process of being compiled. The data on UDOT’s Data Portal can be viewed on a map alone or along with other data sets.

Over time, having an objective measurements of pavement retroreflectivity will help support safety by helping to direct funding where improvement is needed.