May 12th, 2011

PRAISING INNOVATION

2 Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

A federal innovation initiative is helping state departments of transportation employ proven technologies.

The FHWA Every Day Counts Innovation Initiative is aimed at encouraging state transportation agencies to be faster, greener and safer. According to the EDC website, “taking proven, and market ready technologies and getting them into widespread use” can help DOTs to be more efficient and effective when doing business.

FHWA Administrator for Utah James Christian talks to Pavement Engineer Travis Ackerman about Safety Edge, an EDC initiative.

UDOT uses and even leads the nation in many technologies promoted by EDC – for example, many Utahns are familiar with Accelerated Bridge Construction, which involves building a bridge off site, then moving it into place. ABC reduces project duration and saves money and time for road users. UDOT has moved more bridges than other state transportation agency.

Now through June, blog posts on four EDC areas of focus – prefabricated bridge elements, Adaptive Signal Control Technology, Warm Mix Asphalt and Geosynthetic Reinforced Soil – will show ways UDOT is making every construction day count and improving Utah’s transportation system for road users.

Prefabricated “LEGO” bridges

UDOT has constructed many bridges out of prefabricated elements. “Lego” type ABC construction is another way UDOT saves road users time and money, since very short road closures are necessary

Tucker Bridge

Tucker Bridge

The Tucker Bridge is located on U.S. – 6 at Mile Post 204 in Spanish Fork Canyon. With a 120 foot span and a 25 degree skew, the bridge is “a simple bridge” by design, says Ray Cook, Structural Designer for UDOT. Precast elements were designed to simplify the fabrication and construction as much as possible.

Though the bridge is on a curved alignment, the deck edges were designed to be straight and parallel to simplify the fabrication and construction of the precast deck and approach slab elements and to minimize the number of unique precast panels. The uniform pieces also saved the precast yard crew time and money during set-up.

The Tucker Bridge is UDOT’s second fully precast bridge supported on drilled shafts, required to support the wing walls as well as abutments. Each abutment consists of four precast segments, which were placed over the reinforcing steel cage extending from the drilled shafts. Each abutment was placed in less than a day, with the second abutment being placed in less than four hours.

Mile Post 200 Bridge

Mile Post 200 Bridge on U.S. 6

Mountainous geography and a geometrically complex Union Pacific Railroad crossing made the Mile Post 200 Bridge on U.S. – 6 a challenge to design. The old structure, a three span steel girder bridge, needed to be replaced on a new alignment. UDOT’s new bridge, which resembles a giant box culvert is “definitely different,” says Design Engineer Michael Romero.  “There are not a lot of structures like this around.” Romero liked the complexity of the project which involved “doing things that haven’t been done before.”

U.S 6 and Union Pacific Railroad cross at a sharp angle with a skew of approximately 60 degrees.  Additionally, the roadway superelevation is reversed in the middle of the bridge.

Taking all potentially conflicting conditions into account, Romero designed an extra wide, single span bridge with the U.S 6 traffic alignment running skewed across the deck.  Granular borrow was placed on the structure to achieve the changes in superelevation.  Asphalt is used as the pavement surface.

Because the structure is large, with a 107 foot long span and 303 foot width, over 480 total precast parts were required by the design.

Benefits of ABC

Through using ABC methods UDOT and road users have benefited from reduced project duration resulting in:

  • Saved user costs – Reducing the duration of construction also reduces the duration of traffic delay, which has a real measurable cost to road users because of increased time spent in traffic.
  • Improved safety – fewer accidents related to construction occur because project duration is reduced and construction is limited to off-peak travel times. Road users and construction crews have less exposure to risk.
  • High quality – Construction of structures or superstructures in a controlled environment off-site gives workers “time to build these elements correctly,” says Doehring.  Better workmanship can happen when construction takes place out of the pressure of working in live traffic.

For more:

Beaver Creek Bridge was built with prefabricated elements and also as a deck made out of Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete. See HEAVY TRAFFIC CAUSING STRESS?

UDOT used oscillation-drilled shafts on the EXPRESSLink project on I-15.

 

May 10th, 2011

YOU’RE SO COLD

2 Comments, Preserve Infrastructure, by Catherine Higgins.

A cold process that grinds up and re-uses old asphalt is restoring some UDOT roads.

Cold In-place Recycling was used on U.S. 491 near Monticello, Utah.

Old asphalt roads have basically the same content as new asphalt roads – aggregate and bonding agents. The difference between the old and new is that Mother Nature and traffic loads have taken their toll, and the old roads can become cracked and rutted. One budget-smart way UDOT rejuvenates old asphalt is by using a Cold In-place Recycling process to give new life to what was purchased long ago. Where appropriate, CIR can be used to re-surface roads or create a new road base.

The CIR process is accomplished on-site with a long train of equipment and a multi-step process. The exact process can vary from contractor to contractor and from project to project, but the core steps are:

  • Removing and pulverizing – The old asphalt is milled off and pulverized. New aggregate can also be added if needed.
  • Adding binder – Depending on the mix design, an emulsion or Portland cement binder is added to the mix.
  • Spreading asphalt — The rejuvenated asphalt is placed on the road where the old material was just removed.
  • Compacting – The newly placed material is compacted to the right density with a roller or other machine.  CIR can also be used to create a road base for a new wearing course.

Advantages and disadvantages

The CIR process was recently used on S.R.-191 near Bluff, Utah. This photo was take by Steven Anderson, UDOT Pavement Design Engineer.

The main advantage of CIR is the cost savings. Compared to a typical roto-mill and overlay process, CIR is about one-third the cost, according to UDOT’s Engineer for Asphalt Materials Kevin VanFrank. Since the process takes place on-site, the old material does not need to be hauled off and “all of that trucking is saved,” says VanFrank.

CIR is a cold process, so the energy used to heat Hot Mix Asphalt is also saved. There are also many CIR processes and uses, which gives contractors and engineers at UDOT options for bidding and designing good solutions for maintaining roads.

But, “it’s not HMA,” says Van Frank about the disadvantages of using CIR. HMA is stronger than a CIR asphalt road. CIR is more susceptible to the freeze-thaw cycle, and not a good wearing-course choice in cold climates. CIR is also not the best choice on high volume roads or roads used by trucks carrying very heavy loads.

HMA, a familiar and often used product,  is also more predictable than CIR, which is subject to many variables, such as original mix design and aggregate size. Those variables make the characteristics of the final product a challenge to predict.

Maintenance of Traffic is also a problem with CIR since the process requires a long train of machines that can stop traffic. UDOT places a premium on keeping traffic moving during construction, so CIR is not used in high traffic urban areas.

UDOT will continue to use CIR. “It’s an effective way to grind up a surface that has no value and make use of it,” says VanFrank. CIR will continue to be an option when it comes to keeping UDOT roads in good shape.

For more information:

Contact an expert: UDOT Engineer for Asphalt, bituminous buff Kevin Van Frank

For a post about FDR, another way to re-use old asphalt, see URBAN UPGRADE.

Pavement Interactive is an online wiki for the pavement community that is loaded with good information that is fun to read, and includes this article about Cold In-place Recycling. Pavement professionals can also interact with each other online and collaborate to solve problems, seek more information or share knowledge by contributing to articles.

About the project in the photo above:

The project was 9 miles of 6” deep cut to remove the wide transverse cracking existing on the before recycle.  The cracks were 14’ to 16’ spacing for the length of the project.  The work operation consisted of numerous milling machines to cut the first 3” of recycle and haul to station mixing point for the top 3” of CIR.  Behind the first cut of 3” a second 3” cut was performed and recycled with the mixing train of sizer, lime slurry tanker, solvent-less emulsion tanker, asphalt pickup machine and asphalt paver. — From a construction report written by Barry Sharp.

May 5th, 2011

GOOD ROADS COST LESS

1 Comment, Preserve Infrastructure, by Catherine Higgins.

UDOT’s “good roads” strategy is a budget savvy, holistic approach that also helps road users save money.

Interstate 70

UDOT maintains nearly 6,000 centerline miles of roadway, an investment worth tens of billions of dollars. And while UDOT only has responsibility for 13 percent of all roads in the state, those roads carry a lot of traffic. Using Vehicle Miles Traveled – the measure of the total number of vehicles that travel a specific road segment over a given period of time – sixty-eight percent of the state’s traffic is on roads maintained by UDOT.

Ralph Hilsman of UDOT seals cracks on an asphalt road

Once built, roads and bridges need regular up-keep in order to serve road user’s needs for the intended length of time. For example, a concrete road is designed to last approximately forty years. Some of the planned maintenance activities for concrete roads include joint sealing, grinding the surface to restore smoothness and repairs to chipped areas.

Asphalt roads are designed to last up to twenty five years. During the life of asphalt roads, thin surface treatments and pothole and crack repair can keep the top in good shape and less susceptible to weather. “Temperature changes from hot to cold really stress the material and break it down,” says UDOT Pavement Maintenance Engineer Gary Kuhl. As asphalt roads reach get older, thicker and more aggressive maintenance surface treatments will be needed.

By applying surface treatments to roads before major damage occurs, UDOT can maintain and preserve our roads at a comparatively low cost.

For each road segment, UDOT engineers develop a pavement preservation plan that takes into account the type of road, the amount of traffic and the expected life of the roadway.  Each surface maintenance treatment is tracked, and the next optimal treatment is planned. When it comes to road maintenance, timing is everything. Applying the right treatment at the right time prevents serious damage. A seriously damaged road will need costly major rehabilitation or full reconstruction sooner than anticipated.

The right maintenance surface treatment now can extend the life of the roadway. This graph shows how dollar for dollar, preservation costs less than rehab or reconstruction.

Good roads cost you less too.

A long term pavement performance study shows the benefits of good roads to road users. Based on a ten percent improvement in ride quality, when roads are smoother, road users consume less gas, produce less air pollution, and sustain less vehicle damage.

New processes in construction and maintenance, such as improving the chemistry of asphalt to make it more durable, are being used. But, keeping pavement in good condition in the first place is still the most effective and least costly way to prevent deterioration and extend pavement life. Over the long haul, good roads cost less for UDOT and taxpayers and road users.

For more:

DELAY DEFEATED — Capacity projects reduce delay and save road user costs.

FILLING POTHOLES — UDOT is using new ways to repair potholes.

FIRST, DESIGN TO LAST — Your newborn may have teenagers by the time I-15 CORE concrete needs to be replaced.

 

May 3rd, 2011

TAKING IT TO THE STREETS

2 Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

Public transit can make a big difference in small communities.

Citizens, public officials and UDOT Transit Team members open the new BTA line.

It doesn’t always take a big program to make a big difference. Case in point: UDOT’s Public Transit Team – a staff of five, who assist with planning and obtaining federal funding for small, locally operated transit providers in Utah. “The programs, for as small as they are, do a lot for the state,” says Leone Gibson, Director of Transit Plans and Programs at UDOT.

The citizens in the Uintah Basin are the latest recipients to benefit from the team’s efforts. The Basin Transit Association’s new fixed-route line circulates around Vernal, between Vernal and Duchesne and connects to an existing route operated by the Ute Indian Tribe. BTA hosting agency, the Uintah Basin Association of Governments, recently joined with the UDOT Transit Team, local residents and elected officials to celebrate the start of the new line.

Busses on display at the open house in April

UDOT’s Transit Team has been involved in the efforts to bring transit to the area for four years. “To see it come to fruition is wonderful,” says Tracy Young, Rural Public Transit Program Manager for UDOT. “Local officials have been supportive and involved from day one.” Planning for the new BTA line started with a public feed-back process including a feasibility study showing that citizens would use and benefit from a fixed-route transit line.

Transit systems are often taken for granted in metropolitan areas. But small towns often grow into the need for transit. As rural communities get bigger, new employment centers, higher education facilities, medical services and a larger and more diverse population converge to increase the need for more transportation choices. Transit systems can offer a good solution for that need, especially for the elderly, persons with disabilities and low income populations who don’t have access to other transportation modes.

“For a lot of people, it’s the only way they have to get around,” says Richard Wallace, the Mobility Manager for the Uintah Association of Local Governments. Wallace wears many transit hats — he is also the BTA Director, part-time dispatcher and substitute bus driver. Because the route circulates among three communities with Vernal as the hub, many people will have an easier time shopping, going to the doctor or to work, he explains. And persons with disabilities and the  elderly can maintain independence instead of always relying on friends or relatives.

The challenge in adding a new transit program is to make it sustainable. The new BTA has been awarded Federal Transit Administration funds and has a high degree of community support so it’s getting off to a great start!

For more about the new BTA line and the UDOT Transit Team:

April 28th, 2011

PUSHING INNOVATION

2 Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

The Utah Transportation Research Advisory Council Workshop is an important step in selecting  research projects that help UDOT stay innovative.

The Construction and Materials Group discusses proposed research topics at the UTRAC Workshop

Research helps UDOT adopt innovations — many new technologies and practices at UDOT have an origin in research. UDOT’s Research Division’s UTRAC Workshop is aimed at narrowing the field of potential research topics that will ultimately help UDOT improve standard practices and incorporate innovations. “UTRAC’s purpose is to prioritize needs for the department,” says David Stevens, Research Project Manager who coordinated the event. “Most of the research we do comes out of the workshop.”

Cameron Kergaye

In April, UTRAC gave experts from UDOT, FHWA, university researchers, private sector partners and other transportation agencies a chance to meet, network, share solutions and most importantly, prioritize research topics. Having a broad range of participants makes a strong process – each brings a different point of view or expertise to contribute.

The Research Division is working hard to make the product of research “responsible, relevant and accessible,” says Director of Research Cameron Kergaye in introductory remarks he gave at the event.  Kergaye and his division are looking for new ways to present that information about research to end users – the people who will benefit from the knowledge gained by researchers.

FHWA Administrator for Utah James Christian (left) and UDOT Director of Systems Planning and Programming, Cory Pope

The event also features a keynote address – this year James Christian,  FHWA Administrator of the Utah Division, spoke about the Every Day Counts initiative, a USDOT effort to prompt departments of transportation to adopt practices that contribute to safe, quick project delivery. UDOT is a leader in many forward-looking transportation practices.

The Research Division solicits topics by inviting participants to submit well thought-out problem statements each year the UTRAC Workshop is held.  Problem statements are grouped into similar topic areas and posted online for participants to read before the event.

Participants divided into groups to consider problem statements and then vote on priorities for each topic area. 2011 topic areas included Construction/Materials, Maintenance, Traffic Management/Safety, Geotechnical, and Structures. Each group had a leader to direct discussion. The next step in the research selection process is to present the prioritized list to the UTRAC Council, a five member board representing groups and regions at UDOT.

To learn more:

About UTRAC, see the UDOT Research Division website.

Blog posts that give information about 2009 research topics:

HISTORY MAKERS

BURIED SECRETS

April 28th, 2011

RESEARCH TRAILBLAZER BLAINE LEONARD

1 Comment, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

Once a year, the UDOT Research Division presents a Trailblazer award to someone who makes a long-time contribution to the success of research. Blaine Leonard has been both face and voice of the Utah Transportation Research Advisory Council Workshop and the research selection process at UDOT.  His expertise as an engineer, communicator, motivator and leader has benefited the research process at UDOT for nine years.

Leonard is a “practical engineer with a very curious mind,” says Cameron Kergaye, UDOT’s Director of Research. Leonard sees the value in trying a new approach to solve problems.

Blaine Leonard and David Stevens at the UTRAC Workshop

Along with his problem solving expertise, Leonard is a great communicator. His ability to communicate results goes to the heart of what makes research successful: transmitting knowledge to others.

Motivating others to keep making incremental advancements in technical knowledge is a Leonard strong suit. He inspires people to keep trying and sees the value in making continual progress. “That kind of discovery process helps us,” says Kergaye, who presented the award at the 2011 UTRAC Workshop in April.

Leonard has led at UDOT and nationally as the past president of the American Society of Civil Engineers. “He has worked beyond the bounds for our engineering profession,” says Kergaye. As the former Program Manager in the Research Division, he contributed to the UTRAC process by improving the workshop format, providing workshop instructions, and program overviews for participants, and he has helped frame research for workshop breakout sessions.

According to Leonard, research fuels innovation. “All the new things we do have a research component.” He truly deserves thanks and recognition for his role as a Trailblazer.

Leonard is the Intelligent Transportation System Deployment Engineer at the Traffic Operations Center in Salt Lake County.

Area specific, accurate and timely weather forecasts make UDOT more efficient thanks to the weather team forecasters and Road Weather Information Stations.

Roger Frantz stands near an RWIS

 

For the average weather watcher, TV or internet news does a good job – knowing the expected temperature or probability of rain or snow means leaving earlier for work, wearing a jacket or taking an umbrella. UDOT Maintenance crews need more detailed information, such as road temperature, air temperature, and the exact hour a storm will hit a specific area of the state. That detailed information helps workers make better use of equipment, manpower and chemicals (including salt water, other anti-ice compounds and buffering agents that minimize corrosion) that prevent ice formation on roads.

RWIS provides that information to weather UDOT forecasters who email information to maintenance crews. “We totally rely on weather reports to do our job, that’s for sure,” says Roger Frantz, Parley’s Canyon Maintenance Station Supervisor for UDOT. Knowing the weather is the first step in scheduling shifts during winter months,  spring storms and also during summer. “The weather people understand the elevations and where our station boundaries are located,” and that specific knowledge is paramount to Frantz and his crew who plow and maintain roads from 700 East through Parley’s Canyon, and from the U of U campus to 3300 South. Crews work round-the-clock shifts during winter to keep roads open and extended hours as needed during the rest of the year.

Time and temperature

RWIS stations spread around the state record air temperature, road temperature, solar radiation, humidity and some detect chemicals on the road. Some RWIS stations have remote controlled cameras to view the surrounding areas. If needed, mobile stations can be placed at a location near a maintenance or construction project.

“The further out the forecast and the more accurate that forecast is, the better I can plan,” says Frantz. Knowing that a storm is coming a week in advance helps managers schedule time so a minimum amount of overtime is used.

During a storm, knowing the air and road temperature determines how much chemical is needed. Chemicals can bring the freezing point down to 6 degrees below zero, but Frantz aims at using just enough chemical to keep the precipitation from freezing. And, if the road temperature is warm enough, chemicals may not need to be used at all – Frantz estimates that his crew now uses one-third to one-half of what was used before detailed weather information was available.

Parley's looking east on a not-so-clear day

Using too much chemical can be bad because of the endothermic reaction, explains Frantz. Salt reacts with the energy in the road to prevent ice from forming. Too much chemical can drop the temperature of the road so “you’re better off to use the bare minimum…you just want to keep the road from freezing.”

Area specific

Knowing where and when a storm will arrives helps Frantz get work done ahead of time. If valley locations stay snow-free during a storm, he may be able to borrow equipment to get more work done in a limited window of time. During summer months “we’re working and they’re watching the weather,” so crews can finish paving or doing other work before a summer storm arrives. Frantz remembers a paving project at the U of U two years ago –“we finished paving at 1:00 and it rained at two.”

Frantz also likes to check the history of a specific location to compare how crews handled a weather event. Reports from plow operators record conditions, temperature and how much chemical was used. Knowing that history means “we can tweak our program” to save time and money, says Frantz.

For more information:

Motorists can make use of weather information from the RWIS system on the CommuterLink Website. RWIS stations are indicated on a map – click on the “Road Weather” tab at the top (in the green stripe). Move the cursor over each station to see specific information.

Internal UDOT staff can request a mobile RWIS station by contacting Leigh Jones, UDOT Road Information Systems Manager.

See a previous blog post: STILL RAINING

April 21st, 2011

HISTORY MAKERS

16 Comments, Preserve Infrastructure, by Catherine Higgins.

A recent study provides an inventory of post-war bridges and identifies bridges that are historically significant.

Rare and beautiful: This bridge at 600 North Main in Logan is eligible to be included on the National Register because of it's high artistic value and rare type.

 

Many transportation projects require a state or federal environmental study process before construction. Part of that process requires the UDOT study team to consider the significance of the built environment. Bridges are often part of that built environment, along with other structures or properties such as homes, public buildings or sometimes the road itself.

One step in the environmental study process is to determine whether or not a bridge is eligible to be listed o the National Register of Historic Places.  The survey of post-war bridges will help UDOT during environmental study processes by providing a reference of National Register eligible existing post-war bridges.

The SR 95 Bridge over Dirty Devil River is historically significant and eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places because it represents "important bridge building practices of an uncommon bridge type in Utah after 1945."

Elizabeth Giraud, Architectural Historian in the UDOT Environmental Services Division had the responsibility of guiding the study process which was conducted by Mead and Hunt. A report of the study is posted on the UDOT Environmental Services website in three parts.

Volume l details the study methodology and purpose of the study along with a history of bridge construction that provides historical context for Utah’s bridges. The history section is interesting and very informative and well worth reading for anyone interested in bridge construction.

Volume ll contains a list of bridges along with criteria used for evaluation and a recommended list of bridges to be included on the National Register. Inventory forms for each bridge are also posted.

“People don’t often know what makes a property historically significant,” says Giraud. Just being “old” or “pretty” does not qualify a bridge for NRHP inclusion — three areas of importance must be considered and evaluated.

First, a bridge must be 50 years old. UDOT uses 45 years as the determining age to account for time between the end of an environmental study and beginning of construction.

Second, the bridge must be historically significant, “meaning that the features that render the bridge historically significant are still intact,” says Giraud. To have historical significance, a bridge must have examples of structural or aesthetic elements that show bridge construction trends or standards in place at the time of construction.

This railroad bridge south of Magna "is significant for its direct role in the transport and processing of natural resources by the Kennecott Utah Copper rail line."

Third, a bridge must have significance in relationship to historic trends, events or people or “be noteworthy for its type of construction or design,” according to Giraud.

Out of the 409 bridges evaluated, Mead and Hunt determined that only 32 were eligible for inclusion on the National Register. Next, UDOT’s Central Environmental staff will work with the Utah State Historic Preservation Office to formulate a Programmatic Agreement that will “further streamline the environmental process for bridges,” explains Giraud.

The following is guest post written by John Njord, Executive Director of the Utah Department of Transportation.

As many of you are aware, an audit of the I-15 CORE procurement process was released last week. I believe the auditors did an admirable job of analyzing a very complex process and identifying potential improvements.  The difficulty of their job is compounded by their limited expertise in the area of innovative contracting practice.  They admitted to me that the audit was very difficult and challenging.

Auditors are prone to use the terms “might have” “could have” “should have” and “may be.” This was certainly the case in many of their findings in this audit.  Unfortunately, some interpret these terms not as they were intended.  The auditors were quick to point out to me that just because they said something “might have” happened does not mean they think it actually happened.  In their findings, they attempted to merely point out what they considered potential weaknesses.

Before I discuss the actual findings, I want to step back for a moment and recall when we first launched the effort to procure a contractor for the I-15 CORE project. We launched in a direction of innovation and created new processes that extended our ability to stretch precious and limited tax dollars for the benefit of our customers and to deliver as much project as we possibly could. We essentially adopted a new, unique solution to a complex and difficult problem, answering the question of: How do we put a $1.7 billion patch on a $5 billion hole and make it last for 40 plus years?

The approach we used is called Fixed-Price, Best-Design; a process that takes traditional Design-Build to the next level. This approach, and our overall philosophy to quickly adapt and be an innovative agency, exposes our flank to unwarranted criticism and second guessing by those who desire us to be more “traditional.”

Each of you knows how much we push ourselves as an agency to be innovative at every level of a project.  When we decided to be innovative with the I-15 CORE project, we decided to subject ourselves to criticism.  We could have been “traditional” in our approach, but, I am thoroughly convinced the project would not look anything like what we obtained without using innovative techniques.  Lest anyone has forgotten, when we launched this project, we hoped for 14 to 15 miles of new freeway within the budget we had available. Today, 24 miles are being constructed in just 35 months with minimal impact to ongoing traffic.

This mantra of innovation has enabled us to do many incredible things, like moving bridges overnight, or delivering projects in half the time they take in other states.

I doubt the eventual users of this facility will remember or care about the interpretations of the auditors or the subsequent misinterpretations of the audit in the media. I believe this will be a mere footnote in history as our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren enjoy the benefits of this project for the next 40 years.  The bridges will be designed to last nearly into the next century.  Nobody will remember the discomfort we as an agency have endured to deliver this critically important project; they will however enjoy the economic opportunities and improved quality of life as a result of our work.  In my mind, that makes it all worth it.

Now let us discuss the actual audit. Looking back to last fall, it was during a particularly contentious political campaign that charges of undue influence and score tampering occurred. In response to this, the Governor called for an independent audit of our processes in procuring the I-15 CORE project. The resulting audit documented no evidence of either allegation, a fact that seems conveniently overlooked by many and one that affirms our position from the onset. I can tell you that is because (as we have said for months) neither of those accusations occurred.

What the audit did find was 13 technical areas of suggested improvements. These included ideas like blinding more procurement processes, improving the security of some of the software used as part of the contract procurement, having more rigorous conflict of interest documentation and using manuals that more clearly defined the roles of the people involved in selection. We are in the process of implementing these suggestions.

Another area it pointed to was that we did not have full documentation in hand justifying the settlement amount that was paid to the FSZ team. What we had was their certification, which is the standard practice in the industry. They provided certification that their costs were in excess of the amount paid. Subsequent documentation proves that they actually expended $14.5 million, $1.5 million more than settlement amount.

Going through a months-long audit is never an easy thing for those being audited. We did take from this process some valuable lessons-learned and appreciate the work our team did in providing open access to the auditors. In every project and process we do, we strive to learn as much as we can so that we can do it better next time.

In this situation, while we can make tweaks to our processes that can improve them, I don’t believe the end result to taxpayers would have been better: a 24-mile, 35-month reconstruction project with minimal impacts to the public and delivering 40-year pavement and 75-year bridges.

The project itself stands as a testament to the quality and integrity of our people and our process.

April 19th, 2011

STILL RAINING

2 Comments, Optimize Mobility, Preserve Infrastructure, by Catherine Higgins.

UDOT is monitoring roads and bridges and taking preventative measures as accumulated mountain snow melts and more spring storms hit Utah.

Traffic control devices warn motorists and sand bags keep water off roads.

UDOT roads and bridges are designed and built to accommodate most heavy spring run-off. This year, with higher than usual snow accumulation and more storms coming, Transportation Technicians and engineers are doing as much as possible to prevent flooding on state roads. For the last six to eight weeks, crews have been busily taking the following precautions:

Checking bridges and drainage systems daily. Crews watch for debris that could cause water to spill over bridges or drainage systems and onto roads.

Cleaning out drainage ditches, inlets, pipes and culverts. Keeping drainage systems clear of  debris can help keep water off of the road. “Debris can severely limit the amount of flow that can pass through and cause flooding to occur,” says Jeff Erdman, Region One Hydraulogic Roadway Design Engineer.

“Taking a proactive approach at inspecting pipes helps mitigate any potential of flooding.  By the time a flood stage level occurs it is too late to prevent flooding but only to react to the problem to minimize it. ”

UDOT Region One has a remote controlled inspection device that can spot blockages in pipes and culverts. The camera-on-wheels has been put to good use this spring, says Erdman, to identify debris that can prevent proper drainage and cause flooding.

Filling sandbags. Over four-hundred thousand sand bags have been purchased and deployed statewide.

Getting heavy equipment ready. Back-hoes and front-loaders, used to clear away debris from the road, have been filled with fuel and “placed in strategic locations so they’re ready to go,” says Rich Clarke, UDOT’s Director of Maintenance.

Preparing traffic control devices. Orange barrels and other safety devices are used to warn motorists to steer clear of water on state roads.

Readying trucks for carrying riprap. Very large rocks and riprap can be used to re-direct water off roads. Truck bed liners are installed to prevent damage while hauling rocks.

Weather or not

Monitoring forecasts plays a very important role in almost everything UDOT does, from maintenance to construction.

Scot Chipman (background) and Jeff Williams, both Meteorologists, watch weather and make forecasts for UDOT.

Weather forecasters are playing a part in predicting where and when run-off may threaten a state road. Data collected from Road Weather Information Stations placed throughout the state, snow measurement sites and stream flow sites is  monitored and analyzed to predict run-off levels. When streams near state roads run high, UDOT maintenance crews get a warning call or email.

“There’s really no way to predict exactly what’s going to happen with flooding on the roads” says Leigh Jones, UDOT Road Information Systems Manager. “But we can give a general sense of what to expect so crews can prepare for what might come their way.”

Leigh Jones

A sudden rise in temperature may cause snow in the mountains to melt quickly, while slow warming may cause a more gradual run-off to occur. “A lot of it will have to do with how the spring weather pans out,” says Jones.

Motorists, be advised: Please use caution, avoid flooded areas and obey all warning and closure signs.

For weather information related to UDOT roads, see the CommuterLink Website and click “Road Weather” (in the green bar at the top) to get current road conditions, forecasts and emergency alerts.

The CommuterLink site has current weather and forecasts — very helpful information for motorists, especially those who travel through a flood-prone area.