September 14th, 2010

DON’T DRIVE DISTRACTED

No Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Online communication tools will help get the word out about distracted driving.

Even if you’re not traveling to Washington D.C to attend the U.S. Department of Transportation’s  Distracted Driving Summit on September 21, you can still hear, see, read about and comment on the event as it occurs. The summit will offer live webcasts, blogging and tweets to carry the important message to more people and ”make an even bigger dent in the deadly epidemic of distraction,” says U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a recent blog post.

Experts from the transportation, law enforcement and communications industries will present information and participate in panel discussions.  Event organizers are inviting the public to submit questions to panelists before the event by emailing DDSummit@dot.gov by close of business on September 20. Before emailing, check out the agenda and list of speakers so you can indicate who should answer your question.

To take advantage of the online access to the summit, visit www.distraction.gov on the day of the event.

Traffic deaths have fallen to an all time low in Utah and across the nation. Eliminating distracted driving can help promote that downward trend. Utah’s goal is to eliminate all fatalities.

UDOT Director talks to reporters at a Zero Fatalities media event. Preventing distracted driving is part of the Zero effort.

September 8th, 2010

HOT SHOTS ON THE ROAD

3 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

UDOT has has great success in partnering with the Department of Workforce Services to provide opportunities for workers to develop job skills.

A recent UDOT Blog post and an article written by Station 230 Lead Maintenance Technician Jake Brown details the new program, called Road to a Better Future, and the achievements of the participants. UDOT is building on the success of the WFS partnership by starting a Hot Shot team that will travel throughout Region Two and complete pressing maintenance tasks.

An experienced UDOT maintenance worker will accompany the Hot Shot crew in a refurbished trailer loaded with all the necessary equipment. The used trailer was rebuilt by UDOT Heavy Equipment Shop workers.

Jake Brown shows off some equipment in the Hot Shot trailer as Bob Giolas, Hot Shot Crew Foreman, looks on.

The Hot Shot crew will be able to respond quickly to fix signs, repair guardrail barriers, respond to customer requests, remove over grown trees, and other jobs that need special equipment or a more advanced skill level.

The Hot Shot crew evolved because “many of the workers did more than we expected,” says Jake.  He and others at UDOT wanted to give the WFS  clients opportunity to use their skills. The new Hot Shot crew will benefit UDOT too, by supplying “another tool in our arsenal,” to stay on top of maintenance tasks, says Jake.

Left to right: Jake Brown, Robert Smith, Road Maintenance Crew Foreman and Bob Giolas show off the Road to a Better Future trailer.

September 8th, 2010

OVER THE LIMIT

2 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Getting drunk drivers off the road is the aim of the nation wide “Over the Limit, Under Arrest” campaign.

The T.V. spots aren’t new, but some newly published data shows compelling evidence why the message is needed: nationwide, more people may be driving drunk.

According to results of a survey conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one out of five people who consume alcohol get behind the wheel of a car within two hours.

The survey also showed that young people may put them selves and others at risk when drinking. Eight percent of the population 16 or older reported that they had driven after drinking or ridden in the car of an impaired driver.

This message aired on T.V. more frequently during the recent Labor Day weekend:

The NHTSA also announced that law enforcement efforts would be stepped up across the country during the holiday weekend.

In Utah, troopers were out in full force over Labor Day weekend, says Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Todd Johnson. “During holidays we try to have every available trooper working.” Troopers target aggressive and impaired drivers by observing driving patterns and investigating crash scenes, then making arrests when necessary.

UDOT partners with the Utah Department of Public Safety on the Zero Fatalities safety campaign that aims at eliminating all crashes, not just those caused by alcohol consumption. Statistics tracked by Zero Fatalities show that crashes caused by driving under the influence of alcohol are still a big problem.

Some good news: Utah enjoys the lowest rate of alcohol related crashes in the nation. And, Utah is also seeing a favorable downward trend in all crashes, not just those related to alcohol. UDOT and the Department of Public Safety will continue to use proven strategies to help Utah reach zero.

September 2nd, 2010

AIMING FOR ZERO ON U.S. 6

No Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Safety on a heavily traveled commercial and tourism route in Utah has improved significantly.

A truck crosses Beaver Creek Bridge on U.S. 6. In 2007 (the last year data is available) 32 percent of vehicles traveling U.S. 6 at Soldier Summit were trucks.

U.S. 6 between Spanish Fork and Price, Utah includes 130 miles of highway and is a primary transportation artery for energy, commerce and tourism. UDOT has improved safety on the important route by adding new lanes, better signs, rumble strips and by changing the roadway alignment.

Over the past 10 years, the Utah Transportation Commission and UDOT have demonstrated their commitment to improving the U.S. 6 corridor by completing construction on 56 projects with a total project value of $239 million.

This photo shows a rumble stripe -- bumps in the center of the road make a noise so drivers know when their tires cross the center line. Rumble stripes are an effective way to prevent cross-over collisions.

As a result of safety improvements, the average number of fatal or serious accidents has declined. Between 2000 and 2005, an average of 27 fatal or serious injury crashes occurred per year.  Between 2006 and 2009, average dropped to 14 fatal and serious injury crashes per year.

While improvement in the average accident numbers is good, UDOT remains committed to eliminating all accidents on U.S. 6 and all other State and Federal roads in Utah. Visit the Zero Fatalities website for more information, including ways you can join UDOT in preventing crashes.

August 31st, 2010

SINGLE DRIVER SEEKS FASTER COMMUTE

No Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Signs show drivers who have an Express Pass the price to use the Express Lanes

UDOT’s new system of charging solo drivers for I-15 Express Lane use is live!

For motorists who travel alone and want to reach Wasatch Front destinations more quickly, using the Express Lanes may be a good solution. Express Lanes on I-15 are still free for carpools, motorcycles and C-plate vehicles.  Solo drivers can use the lanes with an Express Pass.

Over 6,000 drivers are benefitting by having an Express Pass. What about you? In case you’re trying to decide whether or not to commit, here are a few answers to the most common questions and some links to more information.

Q: How do Express Lanes work?

A: The Express Lanes are divided into four payment zones. Electronic overhead signs show the current price to use each zone. Readers along I-15 detect in-vehicle Express Passes, and a pre-paid account is debited.

UDOT will manage Express Lane use by adjusting the price according to traffic conditions — so when traffic is heavy drivers will pay little more. The new system will allow maximum use of all lanes with the Express Lanes maintaining a speed of 55 mph during peak travel times.

Q: What if I have a pass but decide to carpool now and then?

A: When car pooling, the Express Pass can be easily turned off to prevent a charge for Express Lane use.

Q: If I enter the Express Lanes at the last access point before the next zone begins, will I be charged for two zones?

A: No, drivers will only be charged for the next zone entered.

For more information or to enroll, visit the Express Lanes website.

See UDOT’s video about the Express Pass system:

For news about the new Express Lanes system, read UDOT’s press release about Express Lanes or watch a recent KSL story:

Video Courtesy of KSL.com

August 25th, 2010

SAFE, HEALTHY KIDS

No Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Need a winning way to encourage your kids to stay safe and develop healthy habits? Utah Governor Gary Herbert has a suggestion: participate in Walk More in Four 2010.

Photographers snap away as Governor Herbert presses the flesh at Rosecrest Elementary.

Elementary, middle and junior high students who walk or bike to school safely three days per week during four weeks in September can enter to win prizes including a bike, scooter or helmet. To participate, students should chart their progress using a downloadable form, then mail in the form by October 5.

A SNAP Map shows the safest ways to get to and from school.

The Governor introduced the Walk More in Four 2010 to students of Rosecrest Elementary this morning.  The iniatiative is sponsored by UDOT’s  Student Neighborhood Access Program, which helps schools map the safest routes for students to travel to and from school.

For more information about Walk More in Four 2010, and some helpful resources for parents and school administrators, see SNAP program information on UDOT’s website.

And, the U.S. Department of Transportation blog recently included a post about a stay-safe strategy called “Walking School Buses.”

August 24th, 2010

PIONEER CROSSING OPENS

1 Comment, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

Six miles of much-needed roadway in Utah County opened on Monday morning, August 23.

 

Looking west at Utah's first DDI -- a new interchange that's more efficient than traditional designs.

About one hundred people, including government officials, residents, news media and business and industry leaders gathered for a brief ceremony marking the completion of Pioneer Crossing, an east-west highway connecting Redwood Road and I-15.  After remarks from Utah Representative Ken Sumsion, Utah Transportation Commissioner J. Kent Millington, U.S. Congressman Jim Matheson and Utah Governor Gary Herbert, three giant message signs were changed to read “Pioneer Crossing Open” prompting cheering from the crowd.

Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love and Councilman Michael McOmber at the Pioneer Crossing event. When asked about the number of businesses in their city, both said "more to come."

Pioneer Crossing “will make life easier” for residents of her city, says Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love. “Roads breath life into a city, says Love. “It’s more than just a commute.” Love is looking forward to new development.

Saratoga Springs City Councilman Michael McOmber is also ready to embrace development, and welcomes improved east-west mobility. At a recent gathering of residents, McOmber says his neighbors cheered and clapped when he announced that the road was almost ready to open.

Mayor Heather Jackson of Eagle Mountain considers Pioneer Crossing a tremendous asset appreciates the help to “get where we need to go.” To UDOT she says “thank you so much.”

Pioneer Crossing is a four-lane, limited access east-west alternative to Lehi’s over-burdened Main Street. Local communities with the Mountainland Association of Governments planned the new roadway. The opening has been anxiously anticipated by citizens who have struggled with infrastructure unable to keep pace with northern Utah County’s startling growth.

Eva Magdeleno and Greg Leitzke, manager and general manager of a

Eva Magdeleno and Greg Leitzke

local restaurant are glad the struggle has eased up a bit. Both expect increased traffic near the business area at the east end of the project in Lehi.

Utah’s first Diverging Diamond Interchange is located at the east end. The innovative design of the DDI is a safer, more efficient and more economical alternative to a traditional interchange.

For more about the opening, see a great blog post by Heidi Rodeback and stories in the Salt Lake TribuneDaily Herald and KSL TV.

Governor Gary Herbert addresses the crowd

Miss American Fork Outstanding Teen Chloe Johnson, left, and Miss American Fork Lauren Tucker. "We came to represent our amazing city," said Tucker.

Michael Olsen, Administrator and CEO of American Fork Hospital says access to the hospital has improved with the completion of Pioneer Crossing.

August 20th, 2010

DREAM BIG

3 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

A chalk drawing at Pioneer Park

Car pooling is the clear strategy for the winning UDOT team

Region of Dreams, UDOT’s best Clear the Air Challenge team, relied heavily on car pooling to win big at UDOT. Car pooling to work is a convenient and effective way to save money and fuel — but car pool on vacation? Region of Dreams team members car pooled on a rafting trip to Wyoming!

Other strategies played a part

Paul Egbert

Paul Egbert, who saved 2,640 miles during the challenge, car pools every day and even walks to catch the car pool. Brett Slater who organized the Dream effort saved a total of 1907 miles. Brett says the challenge motivated him to trip-chain by clumping errands together on the same day. David Alger saved the most miles — an impressive 2968. He and his wife take public transportation in his home town of Logan and they are looking forward to a bus trip to the state fair.

Just rewards

Saving money on gas is a big reward for car pooling. Region of Dreams team members will also get another gas-related reward: Director Jason Davis is cooking his famous elk chili for the winners on August 25!

Keep the challenge alive!

Brett Slater

There are lots of strategies that save money, fuel and keep the air cleaner. Don’t wait for next years challenge; visit the TravelWise website to find options that fit your life today.

Total saved by the Region of Dreams

There are other team members who contributed. Total savings included the following impressive sums.

Miles: 16,478
Emissions: 27,667
Energy: 749
Money: 9,261

David Alger

August 18th, 2010

CLEAN LIVING

2 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

What started as a search to find a way to remove litter from state highways has turned into training program for workers who need job skills.

A UDOT van with a fully-equip trailer stops along westbound S.R.-201. Crews pick up litter, fix guardrail, install sign bases and complete other tasks under the supervision of Robert Smith, UDOT Road Maintenance Crew Foreman.

Clean-up along state roads is often a low priority in lean budget times.  Since litter can cause safety and environmental problems in addition to being ugly, UDOT Maintenance Methods Engineer Lynn Bernhard went looking for a solution by calling other state agencies.

Workforce Services needed places for legal residents who are recent refugees to work in exchange for benefits. But just having workers pick up trash was not good enough. WFS clients needed mentors who could teach them the basics of getting and keeping a job. Both WFS and UDOT personnel were not sure a partnership would work. UDOT put uncertainty aside began to build an employment program based on road maintenance tasks.

Getting started

Region Two in Salt Lake City was chosen as the location for the new program. Jake Brown, Lead Maintenance Technician at Station 230, was given the job of developing the program. Soon, Jake had identified forty separate skill-based tasks that WFS clients could do without a computer or a commercial drivers license. The first fifteen-person crew started training then working in July, 2009.

There were early challenges. Teaching skills to workers who are not yet English proficient was difficult but UDOT employees developed effective ways to demonstrate how to change a snow-plow blade, maintain landscaping equipment or stay safe while working.

Bob Giolas, left and Jake Brown at UDOT Maintenance Station 230

During an eight week assignment, the WFS crew members learn entry level roadway maintenance skills under the supervision of UDOT employees.  Crew members are expected to show up on time, notify the supervisor in advance of absences, complete assigned tasks and perform quality work. At the end of the program, crew members are given a certificate listing the skills gained and contacts to use as references in future job searches.

Success feels good

The year-old training program has enjoyed success.  Many of the workers have found jobs.  Not all of the WFS sites have a waiting list but UDOT’s program does. “The waiting list is a good success meter,” says Jake.

Lynn and Jake both recognize the intrinsic value of helping people.  Lynn says the program is “sure something that feels good.” Jake is pleased that UDOT is teaching skills that can help these newcomers get long term work.  “They just want a better life too.”

Because of the success of the partnership, WFS and UDOT are talking about expanding to other cities. And, UDOT has found a way to benefit workers who have previous maintenance experience or a higher aptitude as a fixer.

Check back next week for an update!

August 11th, 2010

Don’t pass this up!

4 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Enrollment in UDOT’s new Express Pass System is enjoying a strong start.

Nearly 6000 new Express Passes will soon be attached to the windshields of Utah motorists. An Express Pass will let drivers pay to use Express Lanes when car-pooling is not an option. UDOT kicks off the new system on August 23.

Catherine Cutler, Express Lanes Project Manager, shows her Express Pass

Why is the new system such a hit?

“This option has not been available before,” Says Catherine Cutler, the UDOT Express Lanes Manager. Catherine thinks that motorists see good value in the new pay-as-you-go approach.

A flood of new users begs the question; will the Express Lanes get too  crowded slow down too much?

“No,” says Catherine.  When traffic gets sluggish, “we will increase the price to discourage solo driver use of the lane, but maintain the benefit for carpoolers, who can always use the lane for free. The new system will allow UDOT to maximize the use of all lanes.”

Visit the Express Lanes website to enroll or see how the new system works.