Today, UDOT introduced the public to three significant design changes on the mega-project I-15 CORE in Utah County.  The changes will make the project better for road users during construction and after project completion.

Director John Njord spoke to reporters today at the I-CORE construction office in Lehi, Utah.

UDOT Director John Njord talks to a reporter before the press conference

UDOT Director John Njord, center, talks to a reporter about design changes that will make the massive project better for road users during and after construction

Better flow through the S-Curves: UDOT worked with contractors to modify the work zone near the S-Curves located between University Parkway and Provo Center Street Interchanges. This change allows all lanes — three in each direction — to be open during construction. The result means less delay for commuters.

Improved connectivity: The interchange design at Provo Center Street has been modified to allow integration with existing streets. This new design is a better blend with the Provo City’s plans for the area and will also be a more intuitive road-scape for drivers to navigate.

A safer walk: A planned pedestrian walkway near Utah Valley University has been switched to an under-the-road structure. This change is safer for pedestrians and better for traffic flow.  The new design will give pedestrians, mostly UVU students, exclusive use of the crossing.  And the crossing won’t require pedestrian signals which interfere with traffic flow.

See a map: I-15 CORE Project Area Map

As part of Public Service Recognition Week, Utah State Government Executives were asked by Governor Herbert to spend part of the day with state workers who provide direct help to the public. UDOT’s Incident Management Teams are trained to work with Highway Patrol officers at accident scenes, come to the aid of stranded motorists and remove dangerous debris from the freeways.

Like guardian angels of motorists on state roadways, IMT workers spend most of the day looking for people who need help. Director John Njord spent a few hours patrolling I-15 in an IMT truck with Jeff Reynolds.

IMT worker Jeff Reynolds, left, and Director John Njord, far right, look on as a motorists calls for assistance. Jeff first makes sure the motorist is not hurt and is safely away from traffic.

The red car had a punctured gas tank. A large jagged piece of steel was the culprit.

The red car had a punctured gas tank. A jagged piece of steel, bottom right, is the culprit.

Jeff and John discuss the scene and determine that the very small amount of spilled gas and stopped car do not pose a hazard.

Jeff and John discuss the scene with IMT Coordinator Dave Stallworth. Luckily, the amount of gas spilled is very minimal, and does not pose a hazard to the public.

Soon confirmation is received that a tow truck is on the way, so the IMT truck is back on the road. Most stranded motorists who get IMT help see resolution within 30 minutes.

John thanks IMT Coordinator Dave Stallworth. IMT workers are work long days and are on call 24/7.

John thanks IMT Coordinator Dave Stallworth. Dave and his team work from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day, but are on call 24/7.

Jeff and Dave talk about truck mileage and maintenance briefly before going back on patrol.

Jeff and Dave briefly discuss truck mileage and maintenance issues before going back on patrol.

The Utah Department of Public Safety (DPS) is a partner with UDOT in keeping state roads as safe as possible. Last week, the DPS Highway Safety Office held an event focusing on motorcycle safety with a “Drive Aware. Ride Aware.” message.

Unified in name and purpose: Jason Smith, Jason Gavin and Jason Ackerman, officers with the Salt Lake County Unified Police Department, hold a sign urging bikers to “Ride Aware.”

Accident survivor Annie Wise's colorful head scarf hides a scar that serves as a permanent reminder to wear protective equipment while riding.

Eighty-five percent of motorcycle crashes result in injury or death to the rider, says Colonel Danny Fuhr, Superintendant of the Utah Highway Patrol. “Our crash bubble is our helmet or protective gear.” Protective gear includes a helmet, goggles, jacket, gloves, leather chaps, boots, etc.

Accident survivor Annie Wise was only going a short distance on her motorcycle, so she didn’t think it was necessary to put on all of her protective gear.  While driving up Weber Canyon, a car forced her off the road. She tumbled off her bike and suffered a broken ankle, broken face bones and other injuries. “My injuries were preventable,” says Annie, noting she was not wearing a helmet or boots.

The driver of the car that hit Annie did not even stop. “Also, drivers, be aware,” says Annie. “There are blind spots, and motorcycles have a tendency to hide in those little tiny blind spots.”

Brian Hepworth, of Weber County’s chapter of American Bikers Aiming Toward Education (ABATE), also believes riders and drivers need to be educated about motorcycle safety practices. He participates in Share the Road, a state and federal-funded rider

Brian Hepworth of Weber County ABATE shows his "Share the Road" patch.

education program for high school students.  “I call it preventative medicine,” says Brian, because many students are made aware of safety practices before they start driving cars or riding motorcycles. He thinks the program is far-reaching since each child potentially takes the message to friends and family members.

“We’re out there and we’ll be out there in numbers,” says Tim “Eye” Gronwald. Eye thinks more people will choose to ride motorcycles this summer because of high gas prices. He suggests that new riders take a safety course before they hit the road. For information on Utah’s rider training courses call 1-800-532-7691.

Utah’s DRIVE AWARE. RIDE AWARE. Safety campaign focuses on reducing rate of motorcycle crashes resulting in injuries and fatalities by increasing the awareness of both motorists and motorcyclists. In its third year, the campaign has featured slogans such as “Asphalt. World’s Fastest Tattoo Remover.”, “Bugs Wash Off. SUVs Don’t.” and the newest message “Cars have Bumpers. Bikers have Bones.”

April 21st, 2010

Introducing The UDOT Blog

3 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

News about UDOT for employees, partners and friends

Send in project images for use on the blog. This image shows work on I-15 between Davis and Salt Lake Counties.

Welcome! Our blog is designed to let you share ideas, discuss events, programs, projects and practices at the Utah Department of Transportation. The format is based in part on a recent survey of UDOT employees. A total of 803 employees answered and gave lots of great feedback. One thing was clear from the survey: People who answered prefer short articles . So, most posts will be short.

Please take a minute to notice the tabs at the top of the blog

“News” posts will be listed newest first. To find older posts, scroll down or search using the Category box or Search box at the right. “About” has information on the purpose of the blog and comment policy. “ Events” has a link to some UDOT calendars.

For our first posts, please see a message from John Njord, images from a recent girder placement, and a profile of Jason Davis, new director of Region One. To comment, move your cursor over the word “Comment,” located under the post heading, and click.

Please share your ideas, images, comments and questions on this blog or email Catherine Higgins at chiggins@utah.gov.

April 20th, 2010

Utah’s Transportation Challenge

1 Comment, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Utah is facing increased volume of freight moving through the state, unprecedented population growth and even faster growth of the volume of vehicles on our roads. These factors along with budget constraints pose a challenge to the Department of Transportation.

The presentation below shows our UDOT wide shift in the way we do business.  We will be taking a tactical, surgical approach to enhance mobility and improve safety.

While this approach is a shift in tactics, one thing has not changed: we want to reduce delay as efficiently and effectively as possible. Unreasonable delay has real implications for road users when it comes to traveling to and from work, visiting friends and family or going on vacation.  UDOT is ultimately in the business of improving quality of life.

Please view this short presentation and respond with your questions or comments.

– UDOT Executive Director John Njord

April 20th, 2010

Hinckley Drive: All girded-up

No Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

UDOT is extending Hinckley Drive (SR-79) west from 1900 West (SR-126) to Midland Drive (SR-108) to provide a direct connection to I-15 for southwest Weber County, Utah residents. The project comprises a bridge that extends  more that 300 feet across the Union Pacific Railroad and UTA FrontRunner tracks.

During a recent girder placement, Dave Asay of Frontline Public Involvement was on-hand to see the operation.  Please enjoy the following narrative and images from Dave:

The largest steel girders ever placed on a Utah non-freeway project began the arduous task of moving to their final resting place the third weekend in April.

In carefully orchestrated movements, the beams were first lifted by two giant cranes on the east side of the new structure on the new Hinckley Drive extension and extended over the UPRR and UTA railroad tracks.  A third crane then gracefully attaches to the end of the protruding beam while the largest crane is repositioned to the east end of the large girder.  Adding to the complexity of the operation is the necessity to add and remove huge counter-weights from the various cranes for each movement.

The operation used five cranes. This image shows two cranes holding and moving a girder.

Finally a fourth and fifth crane latch onto the beam and in careful tandem the 301’ x 13’ girder is gently placed on the large steel and rubber pads it will call home for many decades to come.

Girder moving into place at night

Note from Catherine: Dave’s description made this girder move seem as graceful as ballet!

April 17th, 2010

Jason Davis: Amiable Aggie now at Region One

2 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Jason wears red but bleeds blue

New Region One Director Jason Davis enjoys being where “the blue air smells so much better.”  A notorious Aggie, Jason likes to brag about all the Aggie blue that decorates the offices of his employees. He recently moved from Region Two where he served as Deputy Director with former Region Two Director Randy Park.

Jason was raised in Price, Utah where “there’s lots of coal dust and lots of diversity.”  He graduated from Utah State in 1994 and started his career at UDOT where he has remained ever since.

A great place to work

Jason loves working for UDOT.  He believes the organization is geared for success because of the talented, resourceful and bright people employed all over the state.   No matter where you work, “there are lots of great people.” Jason named some of the people at UDOT who have mentored him during his career.

More than anyone else, Jason credits Randy Park, and explained how Randy allowed him to progress and develop on his own terms by giving advice and allowing him to take the lead in a project or assignment. Jason also credits Jim McMinimee, a past leader and innovative thinker who would “plant a seed and let you develop it.”

Teamwork and recognition: where the rubber hits the pavement

Jason knows team work is always worthy of celebration. He has seen UDOT grow in celebrating team success. “We’ve done a lot better job at the end, and that’s been really fun,” says Jason.  “People need to know they are appreciated.”

Jason also believes it’s important to recognize people as individuals, and illustrated that point with a story about a UDOT Project Manager who was interviewed on the radio.  Deputy Executive Director Carlos Braceras heard the interview and immediately sent a text message praising the PM. “A simple effort like a text message from Carlos or John just means the world to people because they’re being recognized as individuals.”

The training wheels are off!

When asked how his role has changed from Region Two Deputy to Region One Director, he said his old job was like “a director with training wheels.”  Deputy Directors are “more approachable, more visible, and that’s an advantage…You get to walk the halls and talk to the people and also be exposed to the tasks. But when the wheels come off, all of your success depends on the people you’re riding with.”  Having no deputy at Region One, Jason relies on the Program Manager, Traffic Engineer, Pre-Construction Engineer, among others, who all “essentially become deputies.”

Jason also knows that he is riding on the success of past director Cory Pope. “I am stepping into a good spot…there’s nothing broke up here.”

Another difference Jason cites is “more intense involvement with elected officials.”   Introductory meetings with legislators, mayors, council members and commissioners are in full swing.

“Then it’s ‘the buck stops here’ difference as well.” Now Jason has more responsibility with personnel matters, budget matters, etc. He is not afraid to ask for advice and relies on Randy and Cory when needed.

Challenges ahead

When asked about his biggest challenge, Jason replies “budget, absolutely. UDOT is a very efficient machine, and we’ve made a lot of cuts in the last five years or so, and we’re about as lean and mean as we can get… Any cuts are hurting.”

His second greatest challenge is to maintain a high level of project delivery. “ARRA set the bar high and UDOT was successful.”  Jason paraphrases some advice he got from Randy: “You’ll be successful as a Region Director because of the people in the region, but your success will be measured by project delivery.”

Approachable leaders

Jason sees UDOT as an “open organization” where it’s possible to speak honestly with executive directors John Njord and Carlos Braceras who are “approachable and easy to communicate with.” UDOT is a place where the top brass are aware of day to day work at the region level, he explains.

When asked how he sees himself, Jason replies, “I hope that I am approachable as well.” He is aware that his new job comes with the perception that he is “not just Jason Davis but the Region Director.”  He is working to remain approachable by getting to know employees but admits that the task will take some time.

As employees get to know him he hopes they also realize that he likes to laugh and have fun. He will temper his sarcasm and joking for now but after people get to know him, “all bets are off!”