SNOW SCHOOL

Men and women who work to keep state roads clear of snow and ice during winter months meet to yearly to share ideas and hear about new technologies.

Ralph Hilsman, Jeff Walker, Lloyd Muhlestein and Travis Jeppsen work at Station 1423. “They care,” says Muhlestein about Snow School presenters. He appreciates the chance to learn from other employees and also share what he has learned during his extensive 23 years of experience at UDOT.

UDOT Central Maintenance conducts yearly training meetings for snow removal crews. While some informally call it “Snow School,” the meeting is an information exchange rather than just instruction from the top down.

Equipment Safety Training Manager and former “shed guy” Curtis Sanchez coordinates the one-day training in all UDOT regions. About 700 employees attend to get reminders, updates and new information about winter operations.

UDOT crews need to be proficient at using weather information and a variety of snow removal equipment and road anti-icing agents specific to a location within Utah. When a new winter operations approach is added to the mix, the weather team and Central Maintenance counts on getting good feedback from the crews who use the new approach on the snow removal front lines.

The day-long event is “shop to shop communications,” says Maintenance Supervisor Lloyd Muhlestein. “It’s all about equipment, the weather and what worked last year.”

Talking weather

“We’re here to support you,” says UDOT Weather Information Systems Manager Leigh Sturges, who works with a team of seven meteorologists on duty 24-7 to gather, report and forecast weather conditions. UDOT uses the Road Weather Information System to collect weather data on state roads, air temperature, road temperature, solar radiation and humidity. Some RWIS stations detect anti-icing agents on the road and some have remote controlled cameras to view the surrounding areas.

Sturges uses regular email updates and the RWIS website to monitor conditions and the progression of storms. If a conditions change unexpectedly, supervisors get a phone call from a meteorologist – even if conditions change late at night or early in the morning.

The weather team is working on expanding and improving weather gathering equipment, and works directly with maintenance station personnel to identify places for new or mobile RWIS stations or other devices that detect road conditions.

Equipment

UDOT has over 500 trucks that are used to plow roads during winter. Trucks are expected to have a useful life of least 14 years. UDOT Central Maintenance puts a lot of emphasis on taking care of equipment.

New tankers mix water and salt into a slurry that's less likely to bounce or blow off of the road.

New tow plows and “first responder” tanks have been added to UDOT’s snow arsenal. Tow plows attach to the side of a truckand double the road area that can be plowed. The tanks combine salt and water before depositing the slurry-like mix on the road in front of a storm. Wetting the salt is a much more effective approach for keeping roads clear since dry salt can bounce or blow off the road.

This year, the Provo Canyon crew will use a triple blade plow equipped with an ice breaker, a squeegee and a standard blade. Each blade can be adjusted independently from the truck cab, and the blades can be used alone or in any combination. Along with new anti-icing agents, crews in Provo Canyon should be able to improve snow removal operations where some areas “never see the sun in winter,” says Sanchez.

Keeping it real

Sanchez and staff from UDOT Central Maintenance keep the topics current and relevant in order to provide the most help and support possible to UDOT road maintenance crews.

“They care,” says Muhlestein about Snow School presenters. “There are a lot of things we forget about during the summer.” He appreciates the chance to learn from other employees and also share what he has learned during his extensive 23 years of experience at UDOT.

 

WALKERS WIN

The “Walk More in Four” competition gives students a great incentive to walk and bike to school – prizes and improved safety around schools.

Cherissa Wood presents a Taylor Canyon Elementary Student with a helmet and scooter in the Walk More in Four competition

Nearly 4,000 Utah students from 76 schools kept track of the days they walked or biked to school for a chance to win donated prizes for the UDOT Student Neighborhood Access Program’s (SNAP)™ annual “Walk More in Four” statewide competition. To be eligible, students were required to walk or bike to school at least three days each week in September leading up to International Walk to School Day on Wednesday, October 5. Thirty children from around the state won donated bikes, helmets and scooters.

Nationwide, the number of students walking and biking to school has decreased in recent decades. Approximately 50 percent of children in 1969 walked or biked to school. Today, that number has dropped below 15 percent.

UDOT’s SNAP team is dedicated to encouraging kids to “build the habit of walking and biking to school,” says Cherissa Wood, UDOT SNAP Coordinator. Walking or biking reduces traffic around schools and improves safety. Health benefits are also a good reason to go self-propelled.

The competition is a fun way to encourage kids to walk or bike to school. The excitement over the annual event is catching on – over four times as many students participated this year over last year.

Parents can help their children practice safe walking and biking habits by discussing the following safety tips:

• Follow the safest route to school using the school’s SNAP Map (contact the school for a copy).

• Walk with a buddy or group.

• Walk on sidewalks where possible.

• Look left, then right, then left again when crossing a street.

• Cross only at crosswalks. Obey directions from school crossing guards, and walk bikes and scooters across crosswalks.

• Always wear a helmet when riding a bike or scooter. Make sure the helmet has a safety certification and fits properly.

• Wear bright clothing, especially when riding a bicycle or scooter, to make it easier for traffic to see you — or tie a bright handkerchief around your backpack.

• Never walk or ride with headphones. They are distracting and keep you from hearing traffic.

More tips and resources are available to parents and school administrators on the SNAP website.

About SNAP

The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) Student Neighborhood Access Program (SNAP)™ is a fun and comprehensive program for walking and biking safely to school that engages and educates students, parents, school administrators, crossing guards and communities. As part of the federal Safe Routes to School program administered by UDOT, SNAP focuses on student safety as its first priority. SNAP provides free resources, including mapping software, a 35-minute musical assembly and DVD, student activity booklets and teacher lesson plans, to assist in getting more students walking and biking safely to school. More information about SNAP is available at udot.utah.gov/snap or by contacting Utah’s Safe Routes to School Coordinator, Cherissa Wood, at 801-965-4486 or cwood@utah.gov.

WINTER SAFETY

Utah storms are on the weather horizon and road users need to be prepared for driving on icy, snowy roads.  

An Incident Management Truck worker warns motorists of a crash in Provo Canyon

UDOT keeps state roads as safe as possible during storms. Do your part by driving the appropriate speed, monitoring traffic conditions, driving with care around snow plows and adjusting trip plans whenever possible.

Drive for Zero Fatalities

In any weather, drowsy, distracted, aggressive or impaired driving is unsafe. Icy or snow packed roads are especially unforgiving, so a heightened level of attention is required. Sometimes drivers don’t adjust speed to conditions. According to the Utah Department of Public Safety, Highway Safety office crash data report “speed is the leading unsafe driving behavior that contributes to deaths.”

High speeds extend the distance necessary to stop, reduce a drivers’ ability to steer safely around curves or objects in the road and reduce vehicle stability. Mix high speed with ice and snow and tragedy can quickly result.

CommuterLink

UDOT’s CommuterLink website is a great resource for road users. It’s a good idea to bookmark the site and check road conditions before you leave on your commute or errand. The site integrates camera views and information about accidents and traffic delay on an interactive map. Users can take a virtual look at the ride through the storm to anticipate conditions like ice or snow on the road or crashes that slow traffic.  Better yet – avoid delay altogether by taking an alternate route or adjusting travel time.

Stay safe around snow plows

  • Motorists should always slow down and travel about a football field’s length behind snowplows to increase highway safety for all drivers.
  • Following a snowplow too closely often results in broken windshields or damaged paint caused by salt or abrasives being distributed on highways.
  • Drivers should use extreme caution when passing a snowplow and never pass on the right side or use the shoulder to pass. Drivers should watch for snowplows equipped with wing plows, which can extend several feet off either side.

Other things to remember:

  • Bridges freeze first. Ambient air temperature cools the bridge from both sides. On the road itself, “the ground holds the heat,” says Rich Clarke, UDOT Maintenance Operations Engineer. So, pavement on a bridge can be icy while road pavement on either side can be wet.
  • Ice can be very difficult to detect.  A thin layer of water on pavement “can change from wet to ice in a moment,” says Clarke. Visually distinguishing unfrozen water from black ice while driving is extremely difficult if not impossible.
  • If you can, stay home during the first part of a storm. Plow operators clear the road as quickly as possible. “The first hour of a storm can be the most treacherous,” since a vigorous storm can cover roads quickly, explains Lynn Burnhard, UDOT Maintenance Methods Engineer. Delaying your departure gives UDOT a chance to clear the roads.
  • Don’t make weather assumptions.  “Be careful not to generalize,” when it comes to storms cautions meteorologist Joel Dreessen who works with UDOT. Since the storms vary greatly in temperature and duration in Utah, it’s very difficult to know what kind of winter conditions to expect. Utah can get hit with a heavy snow storm followed by sun. While the roads may look clear after such a weather event, a quick drop in temperature can turn melted snow to ice.  A very cold storm can cause road water and snow to glaze quickly.  So, even a storm that appears to be light can in reality can create very hazardous conditions.

Be careful out there!

SNAP AWARD

AASHTO praises UDOT for encouraging kids to walk and bike safely to and from school.

The AASHTO President’s Transportation Award for Highway Traffic Safety has been given to UDOT’s Student Neighborhood Access Program team.

UDOT’s  SNAP  team has been helping elementary and junior high schools identify safe routes to schools for four years. The program provides free web-based software that produces area specific printable maps that identify safe routes. Encouraging kids to safely walk or bike to school helps reduce automobile traffic around schools and improves safety. Walking and biking also provides great health benefits for kids. Seventy four percent of schools in Utah use SNAP software.

Not all schools are surrounded by sidewalks. When funding is available, the SNAP team helps schools identify and obtain funding to build sidewalks in critical areas.

The SNAP team sponsors a fun assembly with catchy music and dancing. The program has been so popular that the team made a video of the assembly so the safe walking and biking message could get to more students in Utah.

SNAP also sponsors an annual event called “Walk More in Four” that encourages kids to bike or walk to school at least 60 percent of the time in a four week period. Schools and students are awarded prizes for participation.

 

SAFE THINKING

UDOT grade school assemblies encourage safety around heavy equipment and construction zones.

Kids learn about hazards associated with road work in a mock construction zone

Mammoth earth movers, diggers or pavers are intriguing to kids but not safe as jungle gyms. The construction zones where road work takes place can be full of hazards too. UDOT has developed a fun way to communicate with children about how important it is to stay away from construction equipment and work zones. School assemblies that mix activities with a serious message are teaching kids to “Think Safety.”

“We coordinated with the Think Safety campaign, which is part of the Zero Fatalities effort, to do an assembly at several schools for the Bangerter 2.0 project,” says Justin Smart who works with UDOT.  Four large elementary schools are near the project.

Lora Hudson helped develop the assembly. She and others have presented about 20 assemblies associated with Bangerter 2.0 and other construction projects near schools. Hudson takes a kid-friendly approach that prompts interest and awe. For example, a giant banner with a true-to-size truck tire and measuring tape shows how big construction equipment can really be. Sometimes Hudson invites a tiny kindergartner or a very tall student to step up to the measuring tape. The students and teachers are surprised to see how miniature a young child looks, and that an older child “is not so tall compared to a truck.”

Tag team with construction workers

Hudson makes sure children learn about specific dangers. A project worker attends the assembly too, and describes real, hazards like trenches, steel bars, nails and debris. Hudson says kids often react with surprise when hearing the real reasons zones are dangerous.

To bring the message home, a few kids get to navigate a mock construction zone relay race dressed in safety gear while classmates cheer on. All draw on newly acquired “Think Safety” knowledge. “They love it,” says Hudson. At the end of the assembly, students get a coloring page to take home as a reminder.

Columbia Elementary Principal Kathe Riding thought the assembly was very informative for students. “Our students enjoyed the competitions and activities as they learned to watch out for dangers and how to be safe near construction.” Riding is grateful to UDOT for being proactive in keeping kids safe.

UDOT CONFERENCE

People who work for and with UDOT will enjoy the variety of topics offered at an annual conference.


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Once a year, UDOT sponsors a three-day conference with general and breakout sessions and a display area filled with vendors. The UDOT conference is information rich and a great chance to network with people who design, build and take care of Utah’s transportation infrastructure.

Every year, the conference offers new information to keep people up to speed on current issues, studies and events. Here are four examples:

UDOT Research Poster Session

For the first time, UDOT research will host a poster session that focuses on individual research projects on. The session will give attendees a chance to talk with university professors and students about present transportation challenges and solutions in an informal setting.

Ride Aware Tour Review

A team of elite cyclists traveled through Utah last summer to raise awareness about how motorists and cyclists need to share the road. Cyclists also attended community events along the tour route. The effort prompted a lot of great media coverage. UDOT and the Department of Public Safety, Highway Safety Office co-sponsored the tour. The communication effort for the tour focused on traditional and social media to get the word out about safe driving and cycling.

UDOT Standard Drawings

Presenters will show an overview of major changes to the standard drawings that have been approved for new 2012 Standard Drawing Book.

Reducing Wildlife Vehicle Collisions

Reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions improves safety for people and animals. Researcher Patricia Cramer has worked with UDOT and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and will have information about evolving solutions to reduce wildlife collisions in Utah and in the nation.

TEAM EFFORT

UDOT teams up with local communities to coordinate access and safety issues during road work.

Paving on 11400 South -- UDOT used a CCT process during construction of a road extension and new freeway interchange.

On some road projects, especially those that pass through business corridors, UDOT uses a Community Coordination Team to collaborate with local stakeholders during construction. While the name of the group may change from project to project, the purpose is essentially the same – to provide a mechanism for hearing concerns of the local community so UDOT can make adjustments or accommodations whenever possible.

CCTs are managed by communication experts who are part of the construction team. While not necessarily handy with heavy equipment, CCT coordinators do understand construction and how that work can impact stakeholder groups. Members of the CCT are people who live or work along the corridor who commit to serve as communication conduits with the important function of hearing the concerns of the local community, then taking those concerns back to the construction team.

Taking a wide view of the construction zone

Putting together an effective CCT starts with taking a look at the community around the construction project area and taking note of intersections, shopping centers, employment centers, schools, emergency and transportation services, and other entities or service providers that have a travel or business interest connected to the corridor. After an assessment of the community, CCT coordinators assemble a group of stakeholders with representatives from each group.

CCT members must be committed to attend monthly meetings, and then take construction information back to other stakeholders in each respective group. People who know the long term history of the area or project during the planning phase are especially helpful as “at large” members on a CCT. Priorities for the project, which include but are not limited to safety and access issues, are set by the CCT members, not UDOT. Members even sometimes determine the name of the committee.

CCT meetings usually take part once a month. The agenda includes an overview of planned construction activities. CCT members then comment on how they see construction proceeding from a stakeholder point of view. For instance, trenching for utility work may be interfering with access – contractors can maintain businesses access by safely covering trenches or adjusting construction activities to keep access through an adjacent ingress and parking lot.

Teamwork pays goodwill dividends

Here are some real examples of ways UDOT, the CCT process and construction contractors have worked together to help businesses during recent construction:

  • Parents were worried about children who needed to negotiate a construction area on foot on the way to school. Hearing those concerns, UDOT’s contractor suggested a shuttle and UDOT paid for that expense until full pedestrian access was restored.
  • A UDOT contractor provided a resident with a generator – not at taxpayers’ expense – to keep her tropical fish alive during several planned power outages.
  • UDOT and UTA provided a Para-Transit pass to a young man who used a wheel chair so he could avoid using travel lanes to access his bus stop during construction.
  • A UDOT contractor paid – not at taxpayers’ expense – for a hotel room for four nights for someone with physical disabilities while curing concrete made access to his home difficult.
  • A UDOT contractor responded to needs of the Park City Marathon and adjusted the construction schedule so runners would not encounter construction workers arriving on site during the race.  

Construction is inconvenient for residents, businesses and road users. UDOT strives to reduce that inconvenience by using the CCTs to keep communication lines open during construction.

INNOVATIVE INTEGRATION

Combining two safety countermeasures is preventing cross-over crashes and keeping cable barrier up to do its important job.

Cable barrier and guardrail on I-84

Cable barrier and guard rail are ubiquitous on interstates and highways across the nation. But, UDOT’s innovative integration of those two safety countermeasures is only being used in Utah.

Cable barrier is tensioned steel cable held up by break-away posts. When installed properly between opposing traffic lanes, cable barrier prevents crossover collisions and saves lives, so keeping cable barrier up and functional is critical. If a vehicle hits the break-away posts or the anchor point where cable is tensioned, the posts can fall and lower the cable or the cable can lose tension. After such a hit, fully repairing the cable barrier can be an extensive and expensive effort.

UDOT Safety Specialist Glenn Schulte has conducted cable barrier and guard rail installation and repair training for contractors and maintenance workers for seventeen years. The “one-bad-hit” issue has been effectively addressed by Schulte, an engineer FHWA and cable barrier vendor from Washington state.

Rough sketch

Schulte and his two associates came up with an idea – why not integrate guardrail with the cable barrier system at the point where a vehicle hit can make the cable lose tension? Schulte and friends discussed the idea and did some initial problems solving. A quick sketch on paper, and the idea took flight.

Schulte took on the responsibility for developing standard drawings at UDOT and getting FHWA approval. The Cable W-Beam Anchor System uses guardrail, crash cushion or end treatments and a secondary anchor. The system protects the area where cable is tensioned and anchored from being damaged by a crash. UDOT contractors can choose from proprietary and non-proprietary components commonly available and crash tested for safety to assemble a system that’s appropriate for a specific location.

The system was first used on Bangerter Highway. Since inception and first use, many changes and improvements have been made. Now the innovative system that was first a rough pencil sketch is a common and significant safety feature all over Utah. Schulte has sent standard drawings to other states for use, and he expects the system to be more widely used as transportation officials see the value of the system.

These slides show how the Cable W-Beam System protected cable barrier during a crash.


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

REGION FOUR BUILDING

A former warehouse is seeing new life as UDOT Region Four headquarters.


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

A UDOT owned building that once stored road maintenance supplies and equipment has been remodeled inside and out to serve as a state-of-the-art office building. The facility, located at 210 West 800 South in Richfield, was carefully planned to provide modern solutions and consolidate staff to help Region Four employees take care of their share of the state transportation system more efficiently and effectively.

Region Four, which serves rural and urban roads in the southern one third of the state, covers more area and has more road miles than the other three regions combined. Building and maintaining those roads takes a lot of travel and time. Video conferencing equipment, available in the new conference rooms, is helping staff make fewer trips and improve productivity. “It’s pretty neat to see how it’s being used,” says Ivan Hartle, Region Four Administrative Services Manager, who sees the video conferencing equipment working for employees many times each day.

Trips and money saved

Cindy Wright, Project Management Technician says the new building is awesome. She can confirm the value of the video conferencing equipment when it comes to saving travel time and money. Wright uses UDOT’s TravelWise Tracker to calculate the miles and money saved by videoconferencing for Project Manager Rick Torgerson. Since move-in day on July 1, Cindy’s records show that over 35 thousand miles and nearly $20 thousand have been saved.

Short trips as well as long trips have been saved. It’s been helpful to now be linked by sidewalk rather than be separated by almost a mile,  explains Hartle, who used to go back and forth daily between Region Four buildings. Jami Gentry, Assistant to Region Four Director Nathan Lee, likes being close to the shop. She manages several state cars, and getting quick assistance when there’s a mechanical problem has been helpful for keeping the cars available for state business.

Another feature in the conference rooms – smart boards – allows any kind of presentation to be shown and gives staff new tools for understanding projects. Online services, Google Earth or Google Maps, can be displayed to help employees view a planned or current project area. PDBS, UDOT’s online project management system can also be viewed.

Taking a whole-project approach

Principal Architect Ralph Stanislaw and Technical Manager Kathy Phillips with Archiplex Group, a Salt Lake City based architecture firm, took a “whole project approach,” considering sound, space, light and the internal environment in converting the warehouse into an efficient and pleasing work space.

One early challenge was a noisy roof that popped with changing external temperatures that Phillips says “sounded like a hail storm.” By working with a sound engineer, Stanislaw and Phillips came up with a quiet roof solution.

Managing work and storage space involved adjusting wall and ceiling height so the work and conference areas feel roomy, not closed-in. The main conference room has a slightly vaulted ceiling and ceilings over cubicles are as high as possible. Work space for some employees was reduced, but Phillips worked with Stanislaw to make the space work with efficient office furniture selections.

Existing windows provide natural light for the space. Phillips says she and Stanislaw needed to “get creative” by cutting back or angling walls to preserve that light.

Two large fans, each measuring 10 feet in diameter, are improving energy efficiency and keeping internal temperatures pleasant. The fans change direction to either draw warm air up or push cool air down as needed.

Stanislaw also designed the building to be attractive and “not look like an addition.” Since juxtaposed old and new brick is telltale sign of an addition, external material placement was aimed at making design look cohesive. Colored glass on exterior windows provides a mosaic theme, and those colors are carried through the interior and exterior of the building.

“We think it turned out really well,” says Phillips. Gentry agrees, and says that nearly every day, someone from an outside agency, the general public or UDOT comments to her about how the new building is a great new work space.

Follow this link to see other UDOT buildings designed by Archiplex Group.

AWARD OF MERIT

UDOT’S Deputy Director has won an award for contributing to AASHTO’s mission to provide technical assistance to state departments of transportation.  

Carlos Braceras

Carlos Braceras, Utah Department of Transportation Deputy Director has earned the President’s Special Award of Merit for serving as AASHTO secretary/treasurer and working on several committees, all while maintaining excellence throughout his career at UDOT. The award, established in 1979, is given each year to recognize contributions made to the work of the association.

Since joining UDOT in 1986, Braceras has served as the chief geotechnical engineer, the chief value engineer, and the Region 2 roadway design engineer. He also was UDOT’s Region 3 director, and he worked on the Legacy Parkway/Interstate 15 North Project, where he was responsible for development of the environmental documents, design/build contracts, and construction management.

Braceras currently serves as chairman of the Subcommittee on Maintenance and is a member of four other committees. He leads the Advisory Board for the AASHTO Center of Environmental Excellence and is a member of its Steering Committee on Context-Sensitive Design.

In 1998, he was named “State of Utah Governor’s Manager of the Year” and received the “UDOT Leader of the Year” award.

A “catalyst for organizational and technical excellence,” AASHTO’s goals are to support transportation as a national priority, advocate and communicate with policy makers and the public, to provide world-class technical services and to assist state DOT’s in achieving excellent leadership and high performance.