March 10th, 2011

GET THE FACTS:

No Comments, Optimize Mobility, Preserve Infrastructure, by Catherine Higgins.

FINAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS, CHALLENGES & TACTICS SUMMARY

The following is a guest post written by Heather Johnson, Project Support Technician in UDOT’s Region Two.

Recently, senior leaders at Region Two compiled a document called the 2010 FACTS – Final Accomplishments, Challenges and Tactics Summary.

This report details the goals that each Region Two department has set for itself, and how those goals have been measured.

Each goal is set with the Utah Department of Transportation’s Strategic Goals, or Final Four, in mind:

  • Take care of what we have
  • Make the system work better
  • Improve safety
  • Increase capacity

The FACTS is a way for us at Region Two to track our progress on the goals we’ve set, as well as recognize our challenges, accomplishments and the areas in which we can improve.

Some of the goals and measures you will find in the FACTS include the following:

  • Safety: Reduce fatalities on state highways by 10% each year
  • Hydraulics: Complete work on time and under budget within 10%
  • Project Management: Advertise at least 85% of projects within seven days of the committed advertisement date
  • Administration: Process each invoice within 30 days of the invoice date.

Region Two is comprised of Tooele, Salt Lake and Summit counties, which have some of the fastest growing populations in Utah.  In order to keep delays to a reasonable level, Region Two will face the challenge of budgetary needs for new construction, capacity and maintenance.

The challenge to fund innovative solutions such as Accelerated Bridge Construction, Continuous Flow and ThrUturn Intersections is another that Region Two and the Department will have to face.

While every project UDOT completes is valuable to the traveling public, the following projects, which have each had a significant impact in Region Two, are highlighted in the FACTS:

  • 6200 South and Redwood Road Continuous Flow Intersection
  • I-15 Widening, 500 north to I-215
  • 11400 South; State Street to Bangerter, New I-15 Interchange

Concrete paving on I-15 -- a wider freeway has reduced delay for commuters that travel between Salt Lake and Davis County.

To learn more about Region Two’s 2010 FACTS check out the entire document, UDOT Region Two 2010 FACTS.

March 9th, 2011

HIGH ARCH GETS HIGH PRAISE

1 Comment, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Utah wildlife management experts love this new structure under I-70.

 

High arch-crossing gets high marks for safety, and good looks.

Speaking for herself and other wildlife management experts, USU Assistant Professor Patricia Cramer calls this underpass crossing “our pride and joy.”  The new structure looks great and has good functionality as a wildlife crossing too.

Cramer is especially pleased that it’s been used by elk, who are difficult customers when it comes to crossings.  Read about elk using this crossing in a previous post: Appealing to Elk.

Randall Taylor, UDOT Design and Environmental Engineer is happy with the crossing too. He was involved with developing specifications for the high arch structure — the contractor designated the construction method and products used by Contech, a construction products company.

The crossing was built under I-70. Work was staged to allow traffic to be maintained during construction.

Here are some construction photos courtesy of Contech:

Workers place wire mesh that will reinforce concrete footings. The retaining wall on the right was built in five supported lifts.

A crane places a pre-formed concrete arch section on the footings.

Wing walls add structural support and also channel animals into the arch crossing.

According to an I-70 Wildlife Crossing summary of the project produced by Contech, “The CON/SPAN used on our I-70 Wildlife Crossing was great for this application,” said Lyndon Friant, UDOT Resident Engineer.  “It was installed quickly and effectively, allowing for minimal impact to the traveling public…”

Drill Lines

The following is a guest post written by Vic Saunders. Vic is the Public Involvement Manager for all of Northern Utah including Box Elder, Cache, Davis, Morgan, Rich and Weber Counties.

Throughout the fall, winter and spring we get asked regularly at UDOT, “What are these lines on the highway?” Some people wonder if they were caused when some kind of machinery was dragged down the road and left these lines in the pavement. Others wonder if it is some new kind of lane striping.

The truth is, these lines are known as “Drill Lines.” They are evidence that your local UDOT maintenance team has been out on the roadway preparing for an approaching winter storm. When UDOT weather forecasters tell us that a winter storm approaching the Beehive State is about 72 hours away, our maintenance crews hit the roads and spray a brine solution on the roadway. This solution helps prevent the snow from forming ice and sticking to the asphalt or concrete road surface like glue. If that happens, it is very difficult to remove and can be a factor in traffic movement and other incidents during and after the storm.

As the snow begins to fall, the moisture in it interacts with the brine solution sprayed on the road, and a liquid barrier is formed. This saline barrier helps prevent ice formation until our snow plows can get out there and plow it all away.

And what about those Drill Lines? The lines are sprayed on the roadway by the trucks laying down this brine solution. They are an indicator to the driver of the spraying vehicle that the spraying process is going well, and that the spray nozzles are working properly.

So, now you know! Those lines on the road are just further evidence that UDOT is working hard to make sure the roads are safe for Utah drivers.

March 7th, 2011

APPEALING TO ELK

3 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Crossings protect wildlife and people, too.

 

Elk are usually universal refusers when it comes to underpass crossings. But a few elk have ventured through this wildlife crossing on I-70.

UDOT employees understand that accommodating Utah’s beautiful earth-bound migrating creatures helps keep people safe too. Effective wildlife crossings can reduce the number of auto-wildlife crash incidents on state roads.

Deciding where to place and build structures that work for mule deer, elk, moose and other animals is a studied, multi-step process. UDOT partners with wildlife experts and uses knowledge gained by research in order to plan and build the right crossing at the right location.

This moose is not faked-out by a painted-on cattle guard. Painted crossings are not included in UDOT's standards but some old ones are maintained.

Some common UDOT crossing types include fenced bridges, corrugated pipes, box culverts, underpass structures and even lines painted on the road meant to mimic an actual cattle guard. Fencing around crossing structures is also used to deter animals from using the road.

Fickle Elk

One of the main concerns wildlife experts share is about elk, who typically “refuse to go through anything,”  says USU Associate Professor Dr. Patricia Cramer. A report on research conducted by Cramer in 2008 through 2010 documents some good news.

Cramer posted 35 motion-activated cameras near wildlife crossings in Utah.  Out of 200,000 photos, about 20 images of elk using the crossings were captured at two locations: a pair of bridges near Beaver and a new high-arch underpass on I-70. In a phone interview, Cramer called this new information “very, very significant.”

A mule deer investigates a culvert type crossing before turning away.

Besides documenting elk use, Cramer’s crossing study shows some interesting trends. First,  ungulates rarely use long box culvert crossing structures where exclusion fencing is absent.

Second, the mule deer repellency rate is related to the length of the crossing. Cramer explains the repellancy rate in her study as “the number of observations where mule deer attempted to enter a crossing and have turned around and left, divided by the total number of mule deer observations at the site.”

Mule deer cross a bridge over I-15.

Cramer’s findings underscore the importance of studying all crossing types and features and her data will be used by UDOT to plan and build crossings to accomplish UDOT’s premier goal to improve safety. Her study will be posted on the UDOT website in the the Research Division’s section for Environmental research.

Check back this week to see a post about construction of the high-arch crossing on I-70.

For more information, see:

USU Ecologist Leading Efforts to Stop Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions

Wildlife and Roads

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.