Determining the strength of concrete is critical when it comes to getting traffic back on the road.

A concrete cylinder is checked for compressive strength.

Concrete pavement starts out looking like a muddy jumble of rocks and dirt. The mix contains water, cement, aggregate, fly ash and additives. When combined, a chemical reaction occurs, and concrete matures as water hydrates the cement. It’s the job of UDOT engineers, contractors, transportation technicians and lab workers to verify when the compressive strength of concrete has been reached so a road can be put in service or the next construction process can be started.

Determining the strength of concrete takes expertise, time and effort. Concrete can be damaged if the wrong assessment is made so before freeway traffic hits new pavement, or back fill is placed against a retaining wall, workers systematically test the concrete to make sure adequate strength is reached.

Traditionally, transportation technicians first take field measurements to check for consistency, air and content of the mix. Then, the concrete is poured into cylinders using the same mix used for the project. Cylinders are tested in pairs at set time intervals using a mechanized press that measures compressive strength.

The traditional testing method is time and labor intensive. Costs for the process can add up, especially if the predetermined testing interval falls on weekends or after normal work hours – technicians need to retrieve and transport the cylinders from the field to the lab and lab workers need to be on hand to run the test.

The UDOT Region One Materials Lab is using technology to predict compressive strength of concrete while saving up to eighty percent of testing costs.

A maturity meter and sensor

The method uses sensors placed in concrete and a maturity meter to measure time and temperature. The data, along with a math formula, can be used to chart a maturity curve specific to a concrete mix. The curve can be created using sample cylinders before the concrete is placed in the field. Or, meter readings can be done concurrent with construction. The maturity curve allows workers to predict when compressive strength is reached.

The cost for testing one batch of concrete multiple times using traditional methods can easily add up to a few hundred dollars. One sensor can be read multiple times and costs less than $50 for the same information.

“A maturity curve shows the progress of the chemical reaction,” says Scott Nussbaum, Region One Materials Engineer. “Using maturity meters helps reduce risk, save money and open to traffic as soon as possible.”

A maturity curve helps predict when compressive strength is reached.


A handful of innovative up-grades will improve safety and winter travel through Provo Canyon.

Station Supervisor Neil Lundell stands by new crash cushions in Provo Canyon.

US-189 through Provo Canyon is part of a Scenic Byway that follows the Provo River, crosses the Uinta National Forest and provides access to Sundance Resort, Timpanogos National Monument, and the Deer Creek Reservoir. The steep, winding road requires drivers to use caution year around. But during winter, Mother Nature ups the ante; deep canyon walls, weather conditions, and the Provo River make clearing ice and snow a challenge.

Sun angle is much lower in the winter, explains UDOT Meteorologist Scott Patterson. “The canyon is so steep that some sections of the road will see little if any sunlight to help melt the snow and ice.”  And the Provo River running along the road adds moisture that can lead to frost on these shaded sections of the road. Due to the orientation of the canyon, “in southwest winds, heavy snow can fall in the canyon” while nearby areas see much less snowfall.

A look at three years of crash data averages comparing the road to statewide crash averages shows that Provo Canyon’s conditions are atypical in Utah. Contributing factors for crashes are more likely to include conditions related to weather and visibility. “Drivers in Provo Canyon need to realize that this is a unique place…you can’t treat it like an average roadway,” says Scott Jones, UDOT Safety Programs Engineer.

Provo Canyon crash data compared with statewide data shows that weather conditions have played a greater than average role in crashes.

UDOT works hard to make all roads as safe as possible. As new technologies become available, UDOT can make changes and improvements. Some new road features and equipment in Provo Canyon will enhance safety year around and improve winter snow and ice removal. “We have a big bag of effective new tools and we’re pulling out the right ones out for this location,” says Lynn Bernhard, Maintenance Methods Engineer for UDOT.

Rebounding delineators survive vehicle hits: Delineators are devices with retroreflectors that give guidance to drivers at night and when visibility is low. Pole mounted delineators help drivers see the edge of the road when snow is deep. Provo Canyon will have a new type of pole mounted delineator that’s designed to rebound after a vehicle hit. The delineators stay in service longer and require fewer repairs – good news for motorists and UDOT crews.

Collapsible, easy to fix crash cushions: Attenuators, sometimes called crash cushions, are placed on fixed structures or gore areas on freeways to minimize injuries to motorists, absorb kinetic energy during a crash, redirect automobiles in a path parallel to the attenuator and minimize property damage to vehicles and the roadway. Most attenuators are one-hit wonders; they do their job well but need extensive repair or full replacement after a crash.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Attenuators with a very smart new design have been installed in Provo Canyon. The system is made of separate connected chambers that collapse when hit head on. When hit from the side, damage is limited to the impacted sections.  A hydraulic cylinder inside the chambers absorbs the crash. Repair is simple; maintenance workers simply re-expand and re-bolt the attenuator sections or replace the damaged sections.

“Two quarter-inch bolts and it’s back in service,” says UDOT Station Supervisor Neil Lundell. He estimates that repairs will usually take about an hour. The cost for repairing the new crash cushions is much less – from thousands of dollars to hundreds per crash when a section of the system needs to be replaced. When just the bolts need to be replaced, cost per crash is about .25.

Simple to switch triple-blade plow: Three culprits of winter road calamity – snow, slush and ice – each require a different plow blade. Provo Canyon’s weather system delivers spotty conditions along the roadway. In the past, plow operators had to go back to the maintenance station to switch blades. A new triple blade plow will let operators switch among blades while on the road.

The triple blade plow was developed by the Clear Roads organization, a group of public and private entities that study ways to maintain mobility and safety during the winter months. The triple blade plow is a non-propriety design that any manufacturer can produce.

An under-road system to combat winter frost: A de-icing system will be installed where moisture from the river causes frost to form. Sensors embedded under the pavement trigger the release of de-icing liquid before ice forms on the road. Many high mountain bridge decks have de-icing systems, but this pavement segment is the first road to get the special help.

A new solution for pre-wetting: Lundell says his crew will use “a different cocktail,” for wetting the road before a storm. The brine solution has ingredients that freeze at a lower temperature and help prevent ice from forming.

Safe driving in Provo Canyon

All together, the changes will help preserve mobility and safety. Motorists also need to do their part by driving safely. Jones stresses that “drivers need to be actively engaged in driving” not just in Provo Canyon, but on all roadways.

Lundell sees many crashes that happen when motorists drive too fast for conditions and the crash data above backs up his observations. Even when message boards warn drivers “they still just keep going too fast.” He urges motorists to always use caution. “Just because the snow is off, don’t speed up.”


Air quality as it relates to transportation is an important concern among citizens and policy makers in Utah’s metropolitan areas where population growth has placed an increased demand on our transportation system.  

A construction zone on Bangerter Highway

Utah is one of the fastest growing states in the nation.  Our transportation system will need to be made as efficient as possible to support that growth. Projects planned through year 2030 will improve mobility – will building those projects necessarily contribute to a decline in air quality?

UDOT works with other state agencies in “a continual consultation process to make sure we’re in compliance with federal air quality standards,” according to Elden Bingham, Air Quality Programs Coordinator for UDOT. Bingham participates in the compliance conformity process along with representatives from federal and state regulatory agencies and local Metropolitan Planning Organizations.

The federal government requires states to monitor and comply with National Ambient Air Quality Standards, and the Utah Division of Air Quality monitors air quality in Utah.  The EPA has designated six pollutants that are monitored by DAQ throughout the state – the pollutant of concern to transportation planners are ozone and its precursors hydrocarbons (HC) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxides (CO), and particulates (PM-10 or PM-2.5). These pollutants cannot exceed specified levels. When air quality does not meet federal standards, a non-attainment area can be designated. States with non-attainment areas are required to develop a Statewide Improvement Plan.

SIPs, which are approved by the federal government, must contain air quality goals and strategies to meet those goals. UDOT works with the DAQ to develop transportation strategies that meet the air quality improvement goals in the SIP. All transportation projects must conform to the SIP in order to receive federal funding.

Conformity to Utah SIP goals takes place on the regional and project level. Metropolitan Planning Agencies manage regional transportation conformity of projects on the Transportation Improvement Plan, a list of proposed projects. After modeling future traffic demand and determining the level of emissions expected to be produced, the MPOs issue an Air Quality Memorandum that confirms that the projects in the TIP won’t exceed goals of the SIP.

Project level conformity is the responsibility of sponsors, like UDOT, who build transportation projects.  Projects that receive federal funding or those that are regionally significant (including primary arterial roads, freeways or fixed guide-ways) must conform to goals in the SIP. On the project level,  sponsors conduct a Hot Spot Analysis to show that transportation projects don’t contribute adversely to the air quality in the area.

Planning studies done by the Wasatch Front Regional Council show that improved mobility can actually have a beneficial impact on local air quality. Idling and excessive stop and go traffic puts strain on automobile engines causing increased emissions. WFRC compared future transportation conditions in 2030 with and without planned projects. By eliminating traffic delay, vehicle emissions will be reduced by 285,000 vehicle hours per day – that equals 1.2 tons of the precursor pollutant nitrogen oxide.

Precursor pollutants contribute to the formation of other pollutants; nitrogen oxide produces ozone along with light and heat. Air quality standards are expected to be reconsidered in 2013.


Utah’s emissions inspection program and cleaner running cars have also helped improve air quality.

To learn more about air quality conformity, visit the Air Quality Planning page on the UDOT website.

UDOT’s TravelWise website suggests option for drivers who want to save energy and help roadways operate more efficiently.

The Hot Spot Manual gives project managers air quality analysis guidance.

WFRC has posted the 2012-2014 TIP and and Air Quality Memorandum.

The Federal Highways Administration produces a brochure that summarizes the air quality conformity process.
The Utah Division of Air Quality website shows current conditions.

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality lists tips for individuals:  What You Can Do.

Tribune story: Salt Lake City and County officials ask parents to cut back on idling.


UDOT launched the annual statewide “Walk More in Four” challenge today.

UDOT's Student Neighborhood Access Program is a comprehensive safe walking and biking to school program that engages and educates students, parents, school administrators, crossing guards and communities.

During September, students can practice safe walking and biking for a chance to earn money for their school and bikes and scooters for themselves. This year, the school with the highest percentage of students participating will win $500 to be used by its safety committee.

Walk More in Four encourages all Utah K-8 students to walk or bike to school at least three days each week during the four weeks in September leading up to International Walk to School Day, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011. Schools must register for the competition by September 7.

The Walk More in Four Challenge is part of the Student Neighborhood Access Program. To encourage safe walking and biking, 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. For more information about the Walk More in Four Challenge or SNAP, visit the website or call Utah’s Safe Routes to School Coordinator, Cherissa Wood, at (801) 965-4486.


New guidance devices are popping up on the side of state roads.

Steel post delineators are difficult to repair and usually need to be replaced. The white delineator in the background has a post that rebounds, even after several vehicle hits.

Delineators are devices with retroreflectors that are installed along roadways to provide guidance to drivers at night and during other low visibility conditions. “On dark and stormy nights, sometimes all you can see are those delineators,” says Lynn Bernhard, Maintenance Methods Engineer for UDOT.  It’s important to keep the devices in good working condition, he explains.

Traditional post-mounted delineators, made of galvanized steel with attached retroreflectors, are ubiquitous in Utah.  The delineators are prone to frequent vehicle hits on some state roads, so up-keep can be a challenge. When a post is badly bent, workers sometimes try to use brute strength to put it upright again, but usually, the post needs to be replaced. A few types of flexible posts have been tried without good success – some tend to shatter when hit in cold weather.

In those high-hit areas, UDOT is transitioning to using a new type of post that can withstand nearly ten times as many vehicle hits as traditional steel posts. The new posts are made of durable recycled plastic with a joint at the base that allows the post to rebound after a vehicle hit.

State Route 68 north of Eureka served as one of the test areas for the new posts. The narrow stretch of road serves vehicles towing trailers heading to nearby the Little Sahara recreation area. With a total of about 300 posts, workers were replacing about 800 a year. Test results show that the new posts will save material and man hour costs over the long run, even at three-times the cost of steel posts. The new devices also improve work-place risk, since fewer service calls are required. The amount of waste requiring disposal is also reduced.

“I think they’re very worth while,” says Chad Allinson, Eureka Maintenance Station Supervisor. He is quick to thank Bernhard for helping obtain the new devices. Allinson has found that the posts usually rebound after a hit, but the ones that get pushed over are easier to fix than the steel post delineators.

Another high-hit area, Provo Canyon, will get the new posts soon. Check back next week to read about how the new delineators, along with several other safety measures will improve winter operations on the winding, high mountain road.


Transportation officials and stakeholders from four western states will collaborate to improve mobility on I-15.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

I-15 Mobility Alliance: a combined effort to keep people, goods, services and information moving along the crucial interstate corridor.

A crucial interstate corridor for trade and travel

The I-15 Mobility Alliance is one of several groups that have formed across the nation to collaborate on regional transportation goals. A similar group, the I-95 Corridor Coalition, formed in the 1990s to cooperate to clear freeway incidents that slow traffic flow then later broadened its mission to include mobility goals.

Corridor coalitions enjoy “success not otherwise available,” according to an article on the FHWA website.  Joining forces “builds a strong, authoritative institutional framework” that can successfully secure funding for ambitious projects.  I-15 Mobility Alliance members are seeking a similar path. “We’re looking at something fairly significant,” John Thomas, UDOT Director of Planning. He cites the I-95 Corridor Coalition as an example of how to build consensus, credibility and political clout.

One region, one corridor, one vision

The Nevada Department of Transportation started the effort in July to form a regional vision and then take action. Thomas believes it’s a very forward-thinking approach. NDOT officials “have a good understanding of how things outside their border can influence their system.”

“Critical connectivity is the foundation of the discussion,” says Dan Andersen, a Transportation Planner with CH2M HILL. The alliance includes mega-regions with separate identities but “we’re joined at the hip.” Since each state has issues that impact other states, “we really depend on each other.”

Even Arizona, with just a small portion of the freeway, plays a key role.  I-15 crosses the Virgin River Gorge in the north-west corner of the state, and soon, aging bridges will need to be replaced. Without those bridges, the detour is huge with a delay cost to match.

UDOT is contributing an important tool to the effort: uPlan – a user-friendly, online, GIS based application that displays data spatially and allows users to build customized maps. More than just a repository of information, uPlan is a great medium for collaboration.

Seeing the big picture

Alliance members are taking an expansive view that includes the whole transportation environment, not just the roadway.  Ports, rail, aviation, trucking, multimodal transportation and even information flow will be considered in the mix of options for improving mobility. The holistic approach will require participation from a wide range of stakeholders, so group membership is open-ended.

The group is working on an assessment of needs and setting preliminary priorities. Leaders of the alliance met this week to work on a master plan that articulates the need for solutions and defines the group’s mission. The document will be presented for endorsement at the AASHTO Annual Meeting in October.


Some Utah bridges built before World War II are eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.

UDOT recently completed a survey of pre-war bridges. The survey report will be combined with a previous survey of post-war bridges completed last year to provide an important resource that UDOT project teams can use during environmental, planning, design and construction phases of transportation projects.  The complete report is on   UDOT’s website and will be available at the Lester Wire Library soon.

This bridge at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon is recommended as eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places based on its rare type and artistic value. See images of the other bridges below.

Along with an inventory of bridges and their features and locations, the report also includes a rich and interesting historical context.  Themes and trends in bridge design and roadway development “and how those trends were manifest in Utah,” is detailed in the report, explains Elizabeth Giraud, Architectural Historian at UDOT.  Examples of some pre-war themes include detailing how new technologies and materials were adopted into design and how federal legislation and economic conditions, like the Great Depression, affected the development of the transportation system.

Pre-war statewide priorities were promoted by the Utah State Road Commission, UDOT’s predecessor.  Formed in 1909, the USRC “focused on adding more grade separated roads, improving road surfaces, connecting to state boundaries and providing access to state scenic resources in the southern part of the state,” says Giraud.

The historical review draws on a variety of sources including Utah State Road Commission meeting notes and design manuals, planning studies, the UDOT bridge inspection inventory, historic state maps,  and the book that should always be within arm’s reach here at UDOT – Knowlton’s History of Highway Development in Utah. The historical background in the survey is really worth reading for anyone in the transportation industry. Knowing about past trends and innovations can foster a better understanding of present construction and design.

A detailed inventory form for each bridge was completed during the survey process. Inventory forms list bridge location and UDOT Region, dimensions, distinctive features such as variation on a given bridge type, and whether or not the bridge qualifies for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.

The bridges were determined to be NRHP eligible under criterion A and C of the rules for the National Register. To qualify under criterion A requires details about how the property functioned during an historic event or time period. To qualify under criterion C requires information about the distinctive type or aesthetic value of the property.  Bridges that are “works of the master” also qualify under criterion C.

UDOT will now partner with the Utah State Historic Preservation Office to establish a programmatic agreement concerning the findings. Eventually, the information can be added to the in the bridge so it can be easily accessed.


  • 210 Pre war bridges were surveyed, 42 were determined to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places
  • 409 Post war bridges were surveyed, 34 were determined to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places
  • Only non-interstate UDOT bridges were inventoried
  • No bridges built prior to 1909 were found
  • Elizabeth Giraud is the Project Manager for the study which was conducted by Mead and Hunt.

The slideshow below shows some of the bridges that were identified by Mead and Hunt as eligible for the NRHP. Click on the large images to see captions.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.


UDOT is looking for ways to improve the visibility of pavement markings at night during rain storms.

Small glass beads applied to paint make pavement markings shine at night. As vehicle headlights illuminate the road, each bead acts as a tiny retro-reflector that bounces light back to the source. Collectively, the beads make pavement markings highly visible for drivers. That is, until rain covers the road, creating a shiny surface that interferes with the retro-reflective quality of the beads.

A double drop system applies paint and two different bead types.

Maintenance Planning Engineer Ken Berg and Region 2 Pavement Marking Coordinator Dan Betts are testing three different wet-night beads to see which one is the best retro-reflector. The test is a follow-up to work Betts has done to improve wet-night visibility and durability of pavement markings.

Betts’ method uses two different bead types – UDOT’s standard plain bead and a wet-reflective bead applied in equal proportion. Both are retro-reflective above and under water, but the wet-reflective bead is larger and has a “higher reflective index,” says Betts, making it better at reflecting light through water. Using two bead types “gives us the best of both worlds,” with good dry and wet retro-reflectivity.

To improve durability, the markings are placed in grooved pavement. Grooving the pavement slightly, about the thickness of a quarter, keeps the lane markings from being scraped off by snowplows and significantly improves life of the markings by six to eight times.

Soon, Berg and Betts will test three wet-reflective beads, all with different compositions, to see which one performs best during storms at night. Testing will be conducted on three contiguous 3500 foot sections on eastbound Bangerter Highway (SR 154) between Redwood Road and I-15. The close proximity of the test areas provides “a good comparison under similar if not exact conditions,” says Berg.

Pavement markings for the test were placed last week. On each test section, a different wet-night bead was applied in equal proportion with UDOT’s standard bead. All markings were applied on grooved pavement using the same method.

Next step: data collection

Both subjective and objective data will be collected. During storms, Berg or Betts will drive the sections, video tape and record field notes about any observable, subjective differences among the test sections. Collecting objective data is a two-person operation. A van with an attached retroreflectometer will be used to measure and quantify the reflectivity of the markings. Data sent to a lap-top inside the van will let testers see and compare measurements immediately.

The retroreflectometer measures by scanning across the marking, taking in some pavement on either side. A variety of information is produced, including a graph that provides a quick visual interpretation of the measurements. The software integrated with the retroreflectometer allows the user to choose from a variety of collection options. For example, upper and lower retro-reflectivity threshold values can be set for a pass-fail test.

By fall of this year, Berg and Betts expect to have preliminary results to share with others at UDOT and the larger transportation community. Testing will continue for two to three years, and the results will be used to select a cost effective safety improvement for road users.

More about UDOT’s pavement marking operations:

  • The retroreflectometer measures light in millicandelas per lux per meter squared.
  • Markings are applied using a double drop system that allows two types of beads to be dropped simultaneously on newly applied paint.
  • For maintenance operations, UDOT uses water-based paint for pavement markings, which is 5 to 10 percent the cost of durable pavement markings, such as tape. Recessing the paint stripes below the surface of the pavement can help the markings last up to eight times longer than surface applied paint.
  • UDOT Maintenance technitions can operate the pavement marking equipment, which saves time and conserves funding.



A new guide will help UDOT project teams make prudent decisions that maximize system-wide benefits.

UDOT's Practical Design Guide helps team members work together to meet project objectives.

The Practical Design Guide effectively supports UDOT’s Final Four Strategic Goals to Take Care of What We Have, Make the System Work Better, Improve Safety and Increase Capacity.

The core purpose of the guide is to “optimize the money we’re spending,” according to Jesse Sweeten who managed development of the guide. “It’s not just a money saving method…it’s a concept to optimize the system.” Spending carefully means that UDOT can save funding and build more projects, resulting in system-wide benefits to traffic mobility, safety and connectivity.

People who are familiar with how UDOT works will recognize the concepts. “We’ve been doing this for a long time,” says Sweeten. The guide is an overview of best practices that breaks down the roles and responsibilities of project teams and managers from design through construction.

“Any investment above the point of diminishing returns is an inefficient use of resources that would yield higher returns if invested elsewhere” – UDOT Practical Design Guide

Allocating limited project resources is challenging but doable. Starting with a comprehensive, well defined objective statement is the first step. To be useful, the objective statement should be developed by the project sponsor and be concise using commonly understood terms and an accurately and carefully worded description of the intended outcome. The project team can then evaluate improvements against how they line up with the objective. Project improvements should be limited to those that meet the objectives without going over.

Success depends on cooperation among the Utah Transportation Commission, the project sponsor, multi-disciplinary project teams and the UDOT Operations group (responsible for long term maintenance). The guide lists the responsibilities of each group and stresses keeping lines of communication open, collaborating, using good engineering judgment and maintaining flexibility.

Keeping engineering standards high

Achieving project objectives can sometimes involve obtaining approval for exceptions, deviations or waivers when appropriate – UDOT grants exceptions only when safety and mobility are not harmed. Some common examples of exceptions include reduced shoulder paving, deck replacement instead of bridge replacement, pavement rehabilitation instead of full replacement, reduced pavement thickness and narrower lane width.

The new Design Guide promotes tried and true methods that can help UDOT teams meet project objectives, eliminate over-design costs and save project funding for other projects or additional improvements.