July 13th, 2011

BORDER TO BORDER IN SANDY

1 Comment, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

A recently completed project in Sandy rebuilt 1300 East to accommodate pedestrians, equestrians, cyclists and motorists.

Let's get this party started! Celebrants gather at the Dimple Dell Crossing for the 1300 East project ribbon-cutting.

The ribbon-cutting party is over, but road users will be celebrating the reconstruction of 1300 East in Sandy for many years to come. The project exemplifies how Federal, State and local governments can partner to provide cost saving and safety features to improve area connectivity and enhance quality of life.

1300 East, the busiest north-south road in Sandy City, carries an estimated 45,000 trips per day.  Reducing traffic delay and idling and improving safety at intersections were major project objectives. These new features accomplish those worthy goals while providing new and improved amenities:

  • Cost efficient LED street lights provide more effective lighting while reducing energy consumption
  • New turn lanes at the lighted intersections help traffic move more efficiently and reduce idling
  • Sidewalks, trails and bicycle lanes give people more transportation and recreation options

Two crossing lets park users enjoy 680 acres of green space. (Click map to enlarge.)

A massive pedestrian tunnel at Dimple Dell Park opens the way to 680 acres of beautiful continuous green space.  Combined with the newly constructed bridge at 700 East, this crossing lets pedestrians, equestrians, motorists and cyclists move through the park from Bonneville Shoreline Trail on the east to the Sandy Civic Center on the west without having to cross a road.

The award winning crossing at Dimple Dell was was constructed using a massive 14’ x 14’ Megabox culvert.  The 13-piece precast tunnel was installed while keeping utilities lines intact and maintaining one lane of traffic in each direction.

The 1300 East project in Sandy is a prime example of how transportation projects enhance the quality of life for Utah citizens.

A crane lowers a section of the mega-box culvert.

July 11th, 2011

OH BEHAVE

1 Comment, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

A state of the art driving simulator combined with computerized traffic scenarios is helping U of U researchers better predict traffic behavior.

The simulator has the look and feel of a real car. Study participants can press the petals and steer the wheel while a computer-generates a realistic looking traffic scene.

A super-computer backed driving simulator at the University of Utah Traffic Lab is helping researchers see how traffic really behaves. “We can provide the state of the art,” says Devin Heaps, Administrative Manager at the Utah Traffic Lab. Heaps is confident that the lab can help researchers “push science forward” when it comes to the study of how to better manage traffic.

The U’s simulator is “the first of its kind to marry an individual physical person driving with a driving simulator,” according to Heaps. The simulator was originally developed to train soldiers on how to drive military vehicles through the streets of Bagdad. The traffic lab takes the system beyond driving practice and allows engineers to collect data on how individual drivers react to realistic computer generated scenarios.

Devin Heaps

Measuring the actions of individual drivers “builds a highly realistic picture of actual traffic flow,” says Professor Peter T. Martin, Director of the Traffic Lab. Traffic engineers commonly use macro simulation, which measures traffic flow and pressures in platoons of cars. Measuring in units, or micro simulation, is the key to getting a more realistic picture of traffic flow that can lead to better real world solutions.

The simple simulator made news a few years ago when psychology researcher David Strayer found that using a cell phone while driving is like being legally intoxicated. Today, the traffic lab is using data collected while subjects drive in realistic roadway scenarios to show how cell phone use impacts a roadway or an entire transportation network.

Researchers have also demonstrated some engineering solutions that make for a safer roadway. Wide roads with big signs and very few curves make drivers comfortable – and give them a bit of a lead foot on the gas pedal as well. Using micro simulation, researchers can show that narrower roads with curves can be safer because drivers are more cautious and not so inclined to speed. Researchers can also model upcoming transportation projects or new road features.  “We are planning to model Flex Lane use,” says Martin.

Micro simulation can also be used to predict driver behavior during a crash or other incident that blocks lanes on a freeway. Scenarios that reflect actual or potential incidents can be programmed into the simulator. Then, researchers can collect data from individual drivers and predict delay on the roadway and the rest of the network. The precise data can guide UDOT TOC operators, who control signals and overhead signs, to make better real-world decisions about how to manage traffic during actual incident.

“These tools enable traffic engineers to answer ‘what if’ questions about traffic behavior.  Millions of calculations and comparison to actual flow measurements enables these simulations to model traffic very realistically,” explains Martin.

July 7th, 2011

BOTOX FOR AGING CONCRETE

5 Comments, Preserve Infrastructure, by Catherine Higgins.

Here’s a post from guest poster Vic Saunders, UDOT Public Involvement Manager from Region One.

Is Placing Bars On The Interstate The Solution To Aging Concrete?

As Utahns drive down our interstate highways, they have probably noticed some funny lines on the roadway in some places and some really bumpy sections of pavement in other places.  While you might ask yourself, “What in the #&$%!@ was that,”  what you are probably observing are the telltale signs of a concrete roadway rehabilitation effort underway.  It’s something known in construction lingo as a ”dowel-bar retrofit.”

A worker places a steel dowel bar between concrete freeway panels.

Dowel Bars are made of steel, are 18 to 20 inches long, and weigh about five pounds.  And they’re part of a process designed to extend the life of aging concrete roadways. In many areas of Utah, some concrete portions of the interstate highway system were laid down in the late 1960′s and early `70′s, and are now nearing their design life of 50 years.  Over time, as vehicles travel on jointed concrete roadways, the weight of that vehicle passes from one concrete panel to the next.

As the vehicle crosses these joints its weight is placed on the edge of a panel, where it is least able to withstand the deflection force of the wheels.  This force can cause cracks as minute layers of pavement shear off the edge of the panel over the years.  And then, motorists feel a staccato “bump-bump-bump-bump” from panel to panel as they drive down the interstate.

On older concrete highways like portions of I-15 in northern and southern Utah, for example, UDOT maintenance crews have enlisted the aid of diamond grinding machines to remove this bumpiness in the past.  While grinding provides relief for eight to ten years, the bumps eventually return due to the forces noted previously, and riding those sections of interstate highway becomes a test of endurance for motorists, rather than the smooth ride engineers envisioned with the roadway was constructed.

Enter the ingenious dowel bar solution.

To repair this problem, dowel bars are placed across the joints in the concrete to help transfer the load of passing vehicles from one panel to the next.  The “retrofit” begins with the cutting of six slots (three in each wheel path) across all transverse joints or cracks, using ganged diamond saws that cut these slots in the concrete.  Then the concrete between the saw cuts is removed with lightweight jack hammers (heavyweight jack hammers cause damage to the slots).

The dowel bars are then prepared and placed in the slots so that equal portions of the bar are in each adjoining concrete panel, which ensures that the weight of passing vehicles is distributed evenly.  Finally, the slots are filled with a quick-drying cement-based grout.  To keep the steel bars from rusting due to moisture that works its way into the roadway, they’re coated with an epoxy that prevents corrosion.

After the dowel bars are installed, crews fill any remaining joints or cracks in the slots with waterproof caulk. Once the grout and caulk have cured sufficiently, the final step in the retrofit involves diamond-grinding the entire road surface to remove any bumps created in the grouting process. It also removes any dips that may have been caused by panel displacement.

Workers use cement and waterproof caulk to hold the dowel bars in place.

Smooth rides and smiles!

While this process is not a permanent fix, it extends the life of a section of highway another eight years or so until a complete reconstruction of that particular section is possible.  Dowel bar retrofits outlast an asphalt overlay by at least ten years, and significantly improve ride quality.  And if you’ve driven some portions of I-15 in Box Elder County recently, you would know that we’d all say “Hallelujah” to that!

While this process is not absolutely fool-proof, it has proven to be a relatively simple and consistent fix for many of the ride problems associated with older concrete highways in the state.  But it can help save millions of dollars in precious highway maintenance funds over the nearly decade-long life of the repair, and that will definitely put a smile on the faces of a UDOT region director or district maintenance engineers charged with keep our state’s roadways in top condition.

July 6th, 2011

DON’T ZONE OUT

2 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Four out of five work zone fatalities are motorists. UDOT transportation project work zones are set up to be as safe as possible – do your part as a motorist, cyclist or pedestrian by traveling with care.

Use care when driving through construction zones.

UDOT is committed to making construction zones as safe as possible as well as reducing travel delay for road users who travel through those zones. However, with the construction in full swing, some road users will inevitably face inconvenience or feel the need to speed or drive carelessly through a work zone. Please drive carefully!

UDOT uses the industry standard, FWHA’s Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, for configuring construction zones for traffic. UDOT also uses more stringent traffic control standards when necessary in an effort to further improve work zone safety.

Using the MUTCD as a standard ensures that work zone traffic control provides the safest possible environment and helps maintain consistency from zone to zone to help motorists know what to expect. From St. George to Salt Lake City, “motorists should know what to do where ever they drive,” says John Leonard, UDOT Traffic and Safety Operations Engineer.

While driving through work zones:

Expect the unexpected – Avoid distractions and place your full attention on the road. Because construction is an ongoing process, changes – like lane shifts or ramp closures – can happen often. Construction vehicles can enter or exit the roadway, and vehicles can slow down unexpectedly.

Don’t tailgate – Follow other vehicles at a safe distance.
Obey the posted speed limit – Fines for speeding double in work zones. Workers are performing complex tasks just a few feet away. Speeding puts those workers and you and your passengers at risk.

Before you go, get information about road work near your home or on your commute – UDOT provides information to road users about all projects in the form of web updates, emails updates and live traffic information. Getting the information you need is easy using the UDOT website to find projects or checking CommuterLink.

July 5th, 2011

SAFETY COMES FIRST

2 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

UDOT workers do all they can to make construction zones safe for workers and road users.

Dottie Weese, left, and Cheryll Benner, UDOT Risk Management, view the Juniper Canyon Bridge under construction on the Mountain View Corridor project.

A big part of Dottie Weese’s job is to inspect construction projects to make sure the proper safety protocols are being followed, protective gear is being worn and appropriate equipment is being used. “I am not here to beat anybody up…I’m just here to make sure workers are safe.”

Weese, Safety Inspector for UDOT Region Two, visits projects monthly and sometimes makes surprise visits. She looks at tours the sites, talks to workers and submits reports about what she observes. Safety is UDOT’s top priority on any project. Weese and her UDOT counterparts in Region One, Three and Four, work side by side with safety professionals who work for UDOT contractors.

Her job can be challenging because of the dynamic nature of construction – work zones change fast, and to stay safe, workers need to be focused on safety at all times. The Mountain View Corridor is an example of a work zone that changes rapidly. While many transportation projects are improvements to existing roads, MVC is being built from the ground up, and workers are using heavy equipment to dig large trenches for utility work and move earth for the new road.

MVC workers on the project are on top of their safety game, according to Weese. “With so much going on, including a lot of really deep excavation, this team has done an awesome job,” she reports.

Chelly Heninger with Granite Construction Company is part of the MVC safety team. Her role is to promote safety among workers and the public, including partnering with UDOT’s Zero Fatalities program to give “Think Safety” presentations to school children near the construction zone, and an conducting upcoming safety week for workers in August.

While construction workers have the needed equipment and understand important safety practices in construction zones, non-workers need to stay out.  Lee Young, General Foreman for Structures on the MVC project reports that people are using the construction zones for recreation. He sees the evidence – like motorcycle, three wheeler and horse tracks – in the morning when he returns to work.

What should road users do to stay safe near construction zones?

First of all, stay out of the construction zone, pay attention while driving and observe all posted signs,  says UDOT Traffic and Safety Operations Engineer John Leonard. His job is to make sure construction project workers maintain traffic control devices in line with standard industry practice. Whether working in or driving through the zone, “we want everybody to go home safely at the end of the day.”

Check back tomorrow to see how UDOT makes construction zones safe for road users.

June 29th, 2011

DETECTING A DISTURBANCE IN THE FORCE

4 Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

Traffic signal detection devices help optimize traffic flow and reduce delay.

A camera type detector, perched on the signal mast arm, senses changes in pixels when cars enter the intersection.

Nationwide and here in Utah, increased population has given rise to more traffic volume on our roads. While UDOT has been successful at holding the line on traffic delay through new construction, roads are expensive to build. Making our current system work more efficiently is more important now than ever. Using signal detectors helps move traffic efficiently.

Most intersections in Utah have vehicle sensors installed in, under, or above the pavement. UDOT uses variations of four technologies:

Inductive loops are circular wires installed in or under the pavement that generate an electromagnetic field when a small amount of electricity passes through the wires. When a car, truck or motorcycle passes over the loop, the field is disrupted which tells the traffic signal to change.

Magnetometers detect the presence of cars, trucks or motorcycles, by sensing metal.

Video detection “sees” vehicles by using cameras to detect changes in pixels. Some people believe that the cameras, which are usually placed on signal arms, take actual video, catalog images or provide real-time images — this is not the case!

Radar detectors see cars within 500 feet of the intersection.  The radar extends the green light to keep vehicles, especially trucks, out of the decision making zone created when the signal changes from green to yellow — that’s when motorist decide “should I go or stop?”

Each of the technologies have certain advantages and disadvantages; however, all will detect the presence of motorcycles, cars and trucks at intersections.

The signal detection devices are placed at the stop bar and 15 feet back from the stop bar for the through-movements.  The radar zones are larger than inductive loops, magnetometers or video detection and are typically in the range of 65 feet and 500 feet from the intersection.  For lanes that switch from protected turn (a green arrow) to permissive turn (a green ball) detection is placed roughly 50 feet back from the stop bar.

In some cases, UDOT has “Prepare to Stop” signs along high-speed roads where vehicles have not seen a traffic signal within the last mile.  These signs come on a few seconds before the green light changes to yellow to give drivers additional time to stop.

If you see a traffic signal that isn’t working correctly, please call UDOT at 801-887-3700.

 

 

June 28th, 2011

EXCELLENT VIEW

1 Comment, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Utility trench on the Mountain View Corridor

The Mountain View Corridor team recently earned the 2011 Excellence in Utility Relocation and Accommodation Award from FHWA.

Relocation of utilities in preparation for road construction can be very challenging. The process involves a lot of time and expense for businesses on top of day-to-day maintenance. Sometimes, utility companies and transportation agencies can be at odds.

The Mountain View Corridor project, a freeway, transit and trail system under construction in western Salt Lake County and northern Utah County has had its share of potential utility challenges. The alignment crosses 13 municipalities, includes difficult terrain and encroaches or crosses a 300-foot-wide power and gas corridor. All together, the construction area includes about 900 separate impacts to existing utility facilities. With so many potential utility conflicts, the cost estimate to address these conflicts was $30 Million.

To meet these challenges, the MVC project team laid out a strategy to work hand-in-hand with utility companies to hold down costs, find workable solutions and keep on schedule. Partnering, master agreements, project-funded engineering, cost sharing, collaborative engineering, and acquisition of rights-of-way on behalf of the utilities all played a part in a cooperative problem-solving among UDOT, the construction contractor and the utility companies.

Team building

Wanting to better understand objections, constraints, internal processes and politics, the MVC team hired former Rocyk Mountain Power and Kearns River Gas employees. Knowing the needs of utility companies helped strengthen existing relationships, and opened doors at the senior management level so UDOT, the construction contractor and utility companies could work together to reach viable solutions.

Cost and schedule savings

The MVC team used master agreements, allowed by state code, and evenly split relocation costs between the state and private utilities. The local natural gas company agreed to use a time and cost-saving design-build contract to accommodate the MVC schedule. Qwest Communications agreed to MVC hiring an approved designer to work directly with the team to accommodate MVC’s schedule. The team collaborated with KRG and RMP to develop protect-in-place strategies for several conflicts that otherwise would have required replacement.

Success and rewarding relationships

Acquiring property for the corridor, accommodating or relocating existing utilities, phased construction and difficult terrain are factors that have posed challenges. But careful partnering and hard work has helped the project team and utility companies come to a meeting of the minds while saving time and money for the state and utility companies too.  As a result, the major utility budget was reduced $11.6 Million and the construction schedule for utility work was shortened one full year, making the project deserving of national attention.

June 23rd, 2011

CLOSED MEANS CLOSED!

1 Comment, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Drive with care this spring on Utah’s high mountain roads.

Monte Cristo Highway -- This photo, taken June 22, 2011, shows that crews needed to remove a whole lot of snow before the road opened.

High alpine pass roads in Utah, used primarily to gain access to recreation areas, are closed during the winter months. UDOT crews aim to have those roads open by Memorial Day for people who take advantage of the long holiday weekend. But with the high snowfall this winter and spring, some roads have opened late and some are still closed.

SR-39 in Monte Cristo east of Ogden has just opened but the area is still snowy. Most roads will be open by late June. Until then then, don’t jump the gun!

It's illegal and dangerous to go around a "ROAD CLOSED" sign.

What people don’t realize is that crews may have a lot of work to do in order to get the road ready for motorists. For example, SR-39 was  snow packed, and deep, unstable snow drifts blocked the road. Crews needed time to clear the snow.

It’s also common for snowfall to cause landslides so that trees, rocks and dirt block the road. Crews need time to repair damage to roads and bridges, remove snow and debris and clear drainage systems so water and debris won’t back up on the road before the route can be opened.

Motorists who ignore road signs put themselves and others at risk. “Some people just blatantly disregard the ROAD CLOSED signs and stumble into the middle of our efforts to repair landslides and frankly, startle the crews running heavy equipment at these sites,” says Vic Saunders, Public Information Manager at UDOT Region One. He urges motorists to stay off of closed roads. “Following this advice can keep road openings happy events not marred by an accident involving overeager alpine enthusiasts.”

Even though flowers are blooming in valleys below, motorists should be ready for some snowy patches on some open mountain roads. And always obey all signs. Before traveling on high mountain roads, check  CommuterLink. UDOT’s TOC maintains a Seasonal State Route Closure List. Another information source is UDOT’s Road Conditions page online or call toll-free 866-511-UTAH (8824).

For more:

  • Read a Deseret News story about the Monte Cristo Highway.
  • See this KSL story which includes some beautiful photos of UDOT’s great maintenance workers clearing snow.

June 22nd, 2011

TAKE THE HIGHWAY

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

Enjoy a view of transportation past on Utah State History’s website.

Ogden Canyon was open to traffic during construction while workers placed asphalt on the dirt road. This photo, taken May 26, 1921, is part of a transportation themed slide show. (Photo used by permission, Utah State Historical Society, all rights reserved. )

A new slide show available through the  Utah State History website shows images in black and white — but the photos are still colorful. Men working on a bridge with no safety gear, steam powered equipment and construction of a road in front of the newly-built Utah State Capitol all attest to Utah’s fascinating transportation past. The slide show is a cooperative effort between UDOT and the Utah Division of History.

Lynn Bernhard, Maintenance Methods Engineer for UDOT

The images were chosen from over 40,000 historic photographs available online. Lynn Bernhard, Maintenance Methods Engineer for UDOT looked at the photos, reviewed the captions.

It only took Lynn a few minutes to spot features that a non-engineer (like yours-truly) might not see. For instance, Lynn knew that the asphalt being placed in front of the Utah State Capitol is hot mix because “you have to roll it right away,” and the equipment used to move a bridge girder is called a stiff-leg derrick.

Alycia Aldrich, Webmaster for the Division of State History, developed the slide show “as part of State History’s commitment to connect people with stories and images of Utah’s past.”

Aldrich noticed that the old machines looks quite different that what’s used to build roads and bridges today. “The images used in the slideshow are very interesting, the equipment they had available for their use was very primitive.  Its amazing that they were able to get the job done with such limited resources.”

But get the job done they did, while trying to reduce inconvenience to motorists. A caption on a photo of workers placing asphalt in Ogden Canyon (above) reads in part “traffic open during construction.” Today, UDOT places a high priority on reducing delay caused by construction projects.

“In addition to these online images, our Research Center has thousands of additional photographs that are available,” says Aldrich. She hopes the slideshow will encourage people to search and use the images for use at work, historical research or personal enjoyment.

June 16th, 2011

ROAD RESPECT IS A TWO WAY STREET

2 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

The Road Respect program encourages riders and drivers to know the laws and to drive with respect for others.

Manti Mayor Natasha Madsen, left, with Road Respect rider Mary Margaret Williams

Both riders and drivers need to know the rules of the road. “When cyclist and motorists both take responsibility to show respect, that makes the most difference,” says Evelyn Tuddenham, UDOT’s Statewide Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator. Tuddenham has responded to numerous calls and email messages from motorists and cyclists who are concerned about road safety. Those calls and messages led Tuddenham to develop the Road Respect program.

Logan Mayor Randy Watts, left, and UDOT Bicycle Pedestrian Coordinator Evelyn Tuddenham, spoke at the Road Respect Rally in Logan.

The Road Respect tour is the first effort to bring public awareness to the importance of driving and riding together safely. As Road Respect cyclists have traveled across Utah, speakers at events and rallies along the way have emphasized the importance mutual respect. Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker summed it up by saying “Everyone on the road needs to have a safe environment.”

Logan Mayor Randy Watts said drivers and riders need to “mellow-out.” Sometimes cyclists and motorists have negative attitudes about sharing the road. Both groups need to realize there should be safe space for all to ride or drive.

Provo Mayor John Curtis pointed out that many people assume that Road Respect means motorists need to mend their ways. He reminded the audience that respect goes both ways – cyclists need to be conscientious about safety too.

Manti Mayor Natasha Madsen cycles “nearly every day” for recreation and exercise. She has observed more people taking up cycling in the last few years. She and Council Member Alan Justesen signed the Road Respect Pledge. Justesen is concerned that motorists are not informed about the rules of the road. “How many automobile drivers know the rules — that’s the question.”

Know the rules — visit the Road Respect website.