March 3rd, 2011

ANIMATED ROADWAYS

2 Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

Helpful animations let road users take a virtual look at new road features.

UDOT seeks to be innovative in finding solutions to reduce congestion. But along with innovation comes unfamiliarity, so traffic animations are used to inform the public about new configurations. That way,  road users can get to know the new feature before construction is complete.

One great example of how an animation helped inform road users was UDOT’s 3500 South Continuous Flow Intersection. Since the CFI was Utah’s first, Public Information Managers used the animation  in presentations to community groups and Drivers’ Education classes. When the first CFI opened, drivers seemed to understand its operation right away.

UDOT will debut two first-in-Utah, congestion-busting traffic solutions in 2011: The Reversible Lanes on 5400 South in Taylorsville and the Thru-Turn in Draper. If either of these locations are on one of your commonly driven routes, check out the animations below.


Advantages of animations:

  • Better than just a diagram, animations let you see the roadway and observe traffic moving in real or close to real-time motion.
  • Animations can be shared using social media or added to websites.
  • Public Information Managers can use animations in presentations where audiences can see the project and ask questions.
  • An animation can be a resource after the project for new drivers or a similar project in another location.


February 28th, 2011

SCIENCE AND SAFETY MERGE

No Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

A new manual presents a science-based approach to selecting the right highway safety improvements.

Southbound I-15

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) has compiled crash data collected through a decade of research to take “the guesswork out of safety analysis.” The new approach provides a road map to help transportation professionals make the best safety choices during design, construction and maintenance of roadways.

Robert Hull shows copies of a new manual that outlines a science-based approach to highway safety.

Data collection started with a Transportation Research Board project. As that process concluded, ASSHTO took over the effort to develop a manual by assembling a joint task force with members from many states. Those experts worked together to present findings in a way “practitioners could use and understand,” says Robert Hull, UDOT’s top Traffic and Safety Engineer.

An award-winning seasoned practitioner himself, Hull contributed to development of the manual as a member of that joint task force. Collectively, task force members represented the specialized work areas of safety, traffic engineering and design.

“The key outcome is the ability to quantify from a crash number perspective,” says Hull. He is now heading development of UDOT-specific training and working to integrate the new method to “improve existing processes.”

By using crash data collected from before and after studies, engineers have more effective ways to:

  • Evaluate the features of a roadway
  • Identify locations that could benefit from safety improvements.
  • Compare safety improvements and select the best solution for a specific location.
Rumble stripes, a safety feature on U.S. 6: Noise produced when car tires hit the stripe alerts the driver that the vehicle is crossing into oncoming traffic.

For more about UDOT’s focus on safety, visit the Zero Fatalities website.

February 24th, 2011

SIGNALS WHERE WARRANTED

1 Comment, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

“Warrants were issued after an investigation” is a phrase you may hear on CSI or at UDOT.

Bus going through green light in Sandy

Safety concerns, vehicular traffic volume, pedestrian traffic volume and roadway features are few things engineers evaluate carefully during the signal warranting process.

UDOT follows the criteria outlined in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices –MUTCD — that lists eight aspects of a roadway that need to be studied and individually warranted before the decision to install a traffic signal is made. Here’s the list straight from the source:

  1. Eight-Hour Vehicular Volume
  2. Four-Hour Vehicular Volume,  Peak Hour
  3. Pedestrian Volume
  4. School Crossing
  5. Coordinated Signal System
  6. Crash Experience
  7. Roadway Network
  8. Intersection Near a Grade Crossing

Traffic engineers conduct studies according to the requirements outlined in the MUTCD, crunch the data and make a decision.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

It’s important to follow the MUTCD to ensure that a signal is really needed at the location. ” You want that device to get the respect of road users, ” says Mark Taylor, UDOT Signal Systems Engineer. “Otherwise, you get safety problems,” like excessive rear-end crashes, if drivers disobey the signal.

But the engineers also use good judgement when placing signals, too. “Just because it meets the requirements, we don’t need to put it there,” says Taylor.  Another approach, such as signs or flashing warning lights may provide the needed improvement.

To find out more about the warranting process, and how to request a signal in your area, see this traffic signals brochure produced by the UDOT Traffic and Safety Division.

A related post explains flashing yellow arrows: UDOT GETS FLASHY

February 23rd, 2011

CROSSING LINES

5 Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

UDOT’s system for helping to optimize travel on I-15 is working, but some bad driving behaviors really cross the double white lines.

 

Crossing the double white lines can also land you a hefty fine -- $82.

The good news about UDOT’s new Express Lane system is that it’s working.

Travel time on I-15 is improved when drivers use the Express Lanes. Vehicles with more than one passenger can use the Express Lanes for free. Solo drivers can purchase a pass and pay to use Express Lanes. UDOT manages travel time in the Express Lane by charging pass users a variable rate base on travel speed on I-15.

The smart new system allows vehicles to take up available space in the Express Lanes so travel time on I-15 is better for everyone.  But when drivers  cross the double white lines,  they risk causing a crash. Crossing the double white lines is un-safe practice and illegal for that reason.  Why?

Catherine Cutler is the engineer in charge of letting you know that crossing the double white lines is unsafe and illegal.

“There’s a speed differential between the Express Lanes and the general purpose lanes,” says Catherine Cutler, UDOT Express Lanes Project Manager. “My job is to make sure drivers are aware of how dangerous that practice is. Weaving in and out of the lanes by crossing the double white lines can cause drivers to break suddenly or swerve and cause a crash. ”

The Express Lanes on I-15 have been engineered to be as safe as possible. Double white lines provide a buffer to separate traffic traveling at different speeds from merging unexpectedly while dotted white lines provide an expected point for vehicles to move in and out of the Express Lanes.

Cutler hopes more drivers will be aware of Express Lane safety issues as they see some new billboards along I-15 at 1550 North and 12645 South. If everybody follows the law, drivers can enjoy Express Lane benefits without the risks caused by crossing the double white lines.

February 15th, 2011

WEB 2.0-RAMA

7 Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

Lots of available social media tools make it easy for state DOTs to tell their story.

UDOT is among many state DOTs using social media tools like Facebook, Twitter and blogs primarily to communicate with the public.  A report posted online by the TRB‘s Volpe Center shows how social media tools are being used effectively to share information with the public and also internal audiences.

The report is full of great information and worth a read for anyone interested in using web 2.0 to talk to the public or find ways to collaborate online. An overview of all states shows who’s using what. Selected case studies offer valuable lessons learned for other agencies.

Do you like us?

Debbie DeLaMare, IT Programmer/Analyst with the Utah Department of Technology Services, views Utah DOT's Twitter page.

Before social media, UDOT and other agencies relied on print or T.V. media outlets to report issues. Now, social media tools let agencies send messages straight to the public.

Here are some of the tools UDOT uses:

Utah DOT on Facebook posts about transportation news from blogs or traditional media, or events such as public meeting announcements.

Utah DOT on Twitterbrief text messages on traffic delay, dates or events. Some individual projects also use Twitter or other text messaging services.

Commuterlink.utah.gov – a mashup that integrates Google Maps with UDOT traffic cameras. Users can click on a camera icon and see real time traffic views.

ProjectWise — an application that allows project team members to store and share documents in-the-cloud.

Online meeting — UDOT Region One recently held an online and in-person official public meeting simultaneously.

Other blogs — some programs use blogs to stay in touch with members of a work group or to tell a specific story about UDOT. For example, the UDOT Energy Team Blog posts about how UDOT saves energy and resources.

The advantages of being a social butterfly

In addition to disseminating information quickly, social media tools work together to:

  • Facilitate quick information exchange. Blog viewers or Twitter followers can ask or answer questions from a PC or smartphone.  Tweets to Utah DOT abut traffic delay can be re-tweeted so other drivers can choose an alternate route.
  • Offer the same messages in a different format. Sometimes, short Tweets are not as sweet — Tweets to Utah DOT about road conditions recently prompted UDOT Blog posts with long format answers about pavement markings and potholes.

What do you think?

Comment on this post, post on Facebook, or send us a Tweet!

February 10th, 2011

A PATRIOT SUPERVISOR

No Comments, Preserve Infrastructure, by Catherine Higgins.

A UDOT supervisor recently got a high-five for supporting a Utah National Guard employee.

The Employer Support of Guard and Reserve Patriot Award was presented to Shane Williamson, a UDOT Maintenance Supervisor in Parowan. Trans-Tech Scott Mackelprang nominated Williamson, his supervisor, for the award. Employers that practice personnel policies that support employee participation in the National Guard and Reserve are eligible for the award.

Scott Mackelprang and Shane Williamson

Williamson is proud to have received the a award. ”It was cool. It made me feel good, like I am making a contribution to a bigger cause.”

Mackelprang serves one weekend a month and two weeks once per year in the 222 Field Artillery Unit of the Utah National Guard, also known as the “Southern Utah Pride”  and “The Triple Duce.”  The unit is scheduled to deploy soon.

For Williamson, scheduling manpower around Mackelprang’s absence is a bit of a challenge but worth the effort.  Guard participation “makes employees better people…more prompt and disciplined. It helps the department,” he adds.

February 8th, 2011

SOLID SUCCESS

1 Comment, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

UDOT project teams use innovative solutions to reduce the inconvenience and traffic delay caused by road construction.

Examples of innovation in construction methods, phasing or delivery can be seen in several UDOT projects that recently received awards from the Utah Chapter of the American Concrete Pavement Association. The annual event provides a forum for transportation professionals to keep up with news about the concrete pavement industry.

Projects were chosen based on innovation and how team members worked to minimize inconvenience to road users while maintaining schedule, scope and budget. The judging committee looks for “innovative, unique projects with challenges,” says Mitzi McIntyre, Executive Director of the Utah Chapter.

The team from the 3500 South widening and BRT addition project show off a national award.

The awards were presented at ACPA’s Concrete Workshop in Salt Lake City. Here’s a list of the winning projects along with a few of the innovative solutions that were employed:

3500 South, Bangerter Highway to 2700 West widening – This busy travel and business corridor was widened from two to three lanes in each direction with a dedicated center-running BRT lane for the Utah Transit Authority.  A moveable concrete barrier was used to maintain traffic flow through the construction zone – a first for a UDOT urban/non-freeway project. Work was completed 8 months ahead of schedule.

The 3500 South project won Gold in the National Excellence in Concrete Paving Awards.

I-15 EXPRESSLink – This Design-Build project added an Express Lane, rebuilt general purpose lanes, replaced bridges and added ramp improvements between Salt Lake and Davis Counties.

To limit travel delay, traffic was shifted to one side of the freeway

New concrete on the EXPRESSLink, better known at UDOT as the Beck Street project.

while the other side was constructed, and a movable barrier was used to keep three lanes of traffic moving in the peak direction. EXPRESSLink was completed three months ahead of schedule.

Riverdale Road widening – A five lane roadway was expanded into a seven lane arterial that connects four cities with I-15 and I-84. More than 47,000 vehicles travel this busy corridor daily to access freeways and a business district.

Project success hinged on keeping business owners informed and keeping the project on schedule. To accommodate busy winter road use, a construction hiatus took place between mid December and January 1. Even with the break, the project was completed 24 days ahead of schedule.

Bangerter Highway CFI at4700 South and 5400 South – Two  innovative intersections were added to help traffic flow more efficiently.

To minimize construction impacts, crews worked in confined areas and reconfigured traffic control several times a day to not impede peak traffic flow.  Precast concrete panels were used in some locations to avoid long lane closures.

CFI team members

I-80 Airport ramp Concrete pavement restoration – Most work was completed at night to limit inconvenience to road users. Access to the airport was maintained at all hours.  The project was completed in 32 days, eight days ahead of schedule.

Syracuse Road widening – The original project scope called for using asphalt pavement. Using CMGC, an innovative contracting and delivery approach, UDOT determined that using Portland cement concrete pavement would not only provide longer design life, but also save over $1 million.

ALL AWARDS: See this presentation for a description of all award winners, including non-UDOT projects and contractors for each project.

February 4th, 2011

WHAT SAY YOU?

No Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

Transportation planning takes many factors into account — population growth, traffic congestion, funding projections — and your comments.

UDOT’s Long Range Transportation Plan is a list of recommended projects that will address the needs of rural and small urban areas through 2040. Gathering comments from citizens about the LRP is an important part of the planning process.

U.S. 6 near the new Milepost 200 Bridge in Spanish Fork Canyon. UDOT's LRP lists two widening projects near this location.

Please comment by March 10

The LRP can be viewed in an PDF document with links that identify project locations.

UDOT is requesting that citizens review the LRP and comment by email or by using an online comment form.

More information:

Google Earth Map showing project locations


February 2nd, 2011

UDOT GETS FLASHY

No Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

Have you noticed? UDOT is installing  safer, driver friendly, and energy saving flashing yellow arrow left-turn signals in many intersections.

Flashing yellow arrows are easier to understand for most drivers.

A seven year study done by TRB‘s National Cooperative Highway Research Program shows that flashing yellow arrow left turn signals (FYA) offer operational flexibility for traffic engineers. And because FYA are more easily understood, drivers make fewer mistakes.

Improved flexibility equals more turn time: FYA allows traffic engineers to change the order of the signal phases to allow green time to be staggered to accommodate vehicles arriving at intersections.

Flexibility allows “more options to handle variable traffic volumes, including the ability to change by time-of-day between protected only, protected/permissive only and permissive only indications,” according to Mark Taylor, Signal Systems Engineer at UDOT’s Traffic Operations Center.

Flashing yellow arrow signals were recently installed at 9620 South State Street in Sandy, Utah.

Improved safety: The FYA was shown to be more intuitively understood, resulting in  fewer crashes during heavy traffic.

The traditional signal box houses five signals, three of which are indications for both through traffic and left turns. ”The FYA separates the signals out from the through vehicles and left turn vehicles to keep it more simple,” explains Taylor.

For road users, FYA use results in reduced delay, fewer crashes, less pollution from vehicle emissions and decreased fuel consumption.

It’s official: A new updated UDOT policy incorporates flashing yellow arrows and establishes warrant criteria required for signalized intersections.

UDOT will switch to FYA where funds allow.  For new construction, FYI will be installed where warranted, according to the new policy.

In existing intersections, FYA left turn signals will be installed depending on conditions. For example, the mast arm must be long enough to accommodated the signal head. Replacing a mast arm and possibly installing a new support column can be prohibitively expensive.

January 31st, 2011

SAFE STUDENTS WIN

No Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Some Utah students were awarded bikes and scooters for walking safely to school during a month-long challenge last fall.

Students earned the prizes for being among the more than 1,000 participants in the second annual “Walk More in Four” challenge in September.

A Fairview Elementary student

UDOT’s Safe Routes to School encouragement campaign and the Student Neighborhood Access Program (SNAP)™, awarded 49 donated helmets, bikes and scooters in classrooms and assemblies statewide.

Students from 25 school districts and 66 schools charted their progress for a chance to win prizes, including bikes, scooters and helmets, with support from Walmart. Utah’s SRTS Coordinator, Cherissa Wood, presented the prizes to the surprised students in classrooms and assemblies with the entire student body.

Walk More in Four encouraged K-8 students to safely walk or bike to and from school at least three times each week during the four weeks in September leading up to International Walk to School Day, October 6.

Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert joined UDOT, parents and students at Rosecrest Elementary School in Salt Lake City, one of five kickoff events throughout the state. The Governor greeted and walked with students to school to encourage healthy and safe walking habits.