July 12th, 2010

MAINTAIN THOSE ASSETS

3 Comments, Preserve Infrastructure, by Catherine Higgins.
The Utah Department of Transportation uses a sophisticated asset management process to prioritize road preservation projects.

How does UDOT decide where, when and how to spend money on preservation projects?   Answer: UDOT uses a scientific management system to evaluate and plan how to preserve pavement.

“Every engineer has been weaned on the idea that ‘good roads cost less,’” says Stan Burns, UDOT Director of Asset Management.  If the appropriate road maintenance action is taken at the right time, less public money will be spent in the long run.

Know what you have

Once a year, UDOT takes inventory of the entire state highway system to measure road conditions and catalog that information.  ”This includes measuring the surface roughness, wheel path rutting, surface cracking and other surface defects,” says Gary Kuhl, Pavement Management Engineer for UDOT.

Next, the condition data is loaded into a computer application called Deighton Total Management System (dTIMS), which forecasts the ultimate decline of the pavement condition if no action is taken, showing a downward trending “deterioration curve.” Information about preservation projects is added, and a new deterioration curve is produced.  The difference between the two curves shows the how a potential preservation project can extend the life of the road feature.

UDOT then determines a preservation strategy for every section of pavement based on the two curves and the available funding. For example, maintenance processes for roads include resurfacing projects like roto-mill and overlay for asphalt pavement or grinding and panel replacement for concrete pavement.

Chart

chart

More precision means better decisions

Having the advantage of a scientifically-based process is important, especially during lean funding times. The asset management process shows that UDOT is accountable to the public and “not just winging it,” says Stan.

“Our system allows us to optimize when projects are constructed to maximize the pavement life,” says Gary.

In the future, UDOT plans to evaluate other assets, including bridges, culverts, retaining walls and other components of Utah’s transportation system, using a similar system.

July 6th, 2010

I-15 travel options in a box

3 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

The Express Pass, a transponder that attaches to your windshield, will be available July 20.

Soon, a new pay-as-you-go system will allow drivers to use I-15 Express Lanes only as needed.

Traveling to an important event or getting to work on time is about to get easier.  UDOT is introducing an new electronic system that will allow drivers to pay for Express Lane Use on an as-needed basis.

Here’s how to participate:

Single drivers who wish to drive in the Express Lanes need to obtain a small transponder box called an Express Pass. Electronic equipment on I-15 will work with the Express Pass to charge drivers for Express Lane Use.

Early adapters of the new system will be rewarded; the first 2000 Express Passes are free!

Only single drivers need to pay for Express Lane use. “If you’re carpooling, you don’t need to buy a transponder,” says Catherine

The Express Lanes website has an instructive video shows how the new Express Pass works.

Cutler, UDOT Express Lanes Project Manager. “Carpoolers, buses, C plate vehicles and motorcycles will still be allowed free use of Express Lanes. ”

The Express Lanes website has more information about the new system.

Keep your options open

The Express Pass approach is “all about getting people where they need to go,” says Catherine.  Road users who choose to get an Express Pass will have more travel options, Catherine explains, because “you only pay for what you use.”

System wide benefits

“Better use of all lanes is the goal of the project,” says Catherine. When more people use the Express Lanes, travel delay is reduced in the other lanes, improving travel for everyone on I-15 along the Wasatch Front.

July 1st, 2010

Low-carbon lifestyle

10 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

A Salt Lake City Bicycle Collective banner decorates bicycle parking at the Salt Lake Library during the annual 2010 Bicycle Summit held this spring

Travis Jensen, a Utah engineer who works in the transportation industry, is on a permanent carbon-reduced diet.

He lives near a Utah Transit Authority TRAX station, uses a car-share service, teleworks and walks, bikes or uses public transportation to get to meetings or run personal errands.

He’s quick to point out the advantages of his lifestyle choices. “People think it’s a sacrifice,” says Travis.  “For me, it’s really not.” He believes his choices make him freer. “I enjoy walking and riding a bike,” says Travis, and he lists other advantages like saving money and doing his part for the environment.

While Travis makes a big effort to save energy, he does not believe in an “all or nothing” approach. Making a few changes can help save energy.

For instance, using public transportation could mean a productive commute if you take along a laptop or book.  And, commuting on a bicycle is great for personal fitness and could replace a trip to the gym a few times a week.

Challenge yourself

The Clear the Air Challenge is an effort encourage Utahns to make energy saving TravelWise choices that help clear the air in Utah.  It’s easy and fun to participate.

The easy part is signing up online as part of a team or as an individual. The fun part is seeing the energy, dollars and emissions you save on the online tracking system.

There are so many TravelWise solutions (like teleworking or trip chaining) for reducing energy consumption – you may be surprised by the difference you can make. Seeing your daily progress on the tracker is a great motivator to keep up the good work and maybe find some other TravelWise options to boost your weekly goal.

Don’t miss your chance to participate!

June 30th, 2010

Hot cars, cool employees

32 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Director John Njord talks to Frank Pisani from UDOT Planning

Today, Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) employees were treated to an appreciation picnic and car show at the Calvin Rampton Complex.

It was very warm outside but the food was delicious and the company was even better! As a bonus, employees brought cars to show during the lunch. Director John Njord and Deputy Director Carlos Braceras welcomed and thanked all employees one by one.

Deputy Director Carlos Braceras was part of the welcome team

Food cooked outside always seems to taste better!

UDOT employees enjoy lunch. Notice a few cars in the background.

Brothers Chuck and Nile Easton stand by a '69 Triumph TR 6.

Barry Sharp removes the top from his 1973 Porche 911 Targa. He considers the car part of his family. Barry rebuilt the engine..."THAT was an experience!" he said.

Craig Sorensen owns this 1971 Chevy pickup. Four years of work went into making the truck great for going "outcatn" (see the license plate).

Steve and Denice McCarthy stand between their 1969 Chevrolet Camero and 1929 Ford Model A.

Aaron Mentzer, Community Involvement Specialist with the Utah Transit Authority sent in a post about new light-rail vehicles:

Utah Transit Authority Debuts New Low-Floor Light Rail Vehicles

The most obvious difference between the new vehicles and the existing TRAX fleet is their aerodynamic shape: rounded edges, large windows and a streamlined fiberglass front end. The vehicles all feature the new UTA paint scheme, similar to that seen on FrontRunner, MAX, and UTA express buses.

On Friday morning, June 18, over 200 people took part in the inaugural ride aboard UTA’s new S70 light rail vehicles. Elected officials, members of the public, and UTA employees gathered at the future 5600 West TRAX Station in West Jordan (just east of the future Mountain View Corridor), and after a brief introduction by UTA general manager Mike Allegra, a two-car train of the new vehicles pulled into the station platform.

The key new feature is the low floor of the vehicle – it is only a few inches higher than the station platform, instead of several feet (as with the current UTA TRAX fleet). Passengers simply press a button and a ramp deploys from below the door, allowing them to pass directly from the platform to the train.

UTA has purchased a total of 77 new light rail vehicles that will be used on the Mid-Jordan, West Valley, Airport and Draper TRAX lines. Manufactured by Siemens in Sacramento, California, the vehicles are being delivered at a rate of approximately one per week.UTA has already taken delivery of 10 new vehicles and is testing them on a segment of the future Mid-Jordan TRAX line near Daybreak in South Jordan.

June 30th, 2010

Interim report

5 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

 

Lion guarding Utah’s Capitol

Called Interim Session, monthly legislative committee meetings on Utah’s Capitol Hill allow time for Utah Legislators to study issues and gather information.

The Utah Legislature meets once per month (with the exception of July or August) outside of the regular legislative session that starts in January. Unlike regular or special sessions, no official bills are passed during Interim Session. Instead, committees meet to explore issues.

On Wednesday, June 23, Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) representatives testified at the Transportation Interim Committee  to present information and answer questions about delayed projects and road transfers. A recording of the interim committee meeting can be found on the legislature’s website.

Here is a synopsis of those issues from Linda Toy Hull, Director of Legislative and Government Affairs:

Delayed projects:

During the last regular legislative session, House Bill (H.B.) 438 reduced sales and use tax revenue dedicated to the Centennial Highway Fund/Transportation Investment Fund from 8.3% to 1.93%  for Funding Year (FY) FY2010-2011, equivalent to a $113 million reduction in the state’s construction budget for new highway capacity projects.  The Transportation Commission and UDOT were tasked with the responsibility of balancing the state’s highway construction program based on the new budget.

Three limiting factors drove which projects in the construction program were considered for delay:

  1. UDOT identified all projects that weren’t yet under a construction contract, these are the projects considered for delay by the Transportation Commission.  Note: Projects that were already under a construction contract weren’t considered for delay because of the cost of delaying projects already under contract.
  2. Since funding cuts had to be made for FY2010-2011, only projects with funding programmed for those years could be considered.
  3. Since General Funds were cut, only projects funded with General Funds could be considered.

Utah Code requires the Utah Transportation Commission and UDOT to use a written, weighted project prioritization process (§72-1-304) for highway capacity projects.  Accordingly, the commission previously developed a process and weighted criterion that uses extensive traffic and safety data collected by UDOT.  The prioritization process was subject to public input through Rulemaking and was reviewed by the legislative Transportation Interim Committee prior to finalization of the commission rule in 2006.

Under that process, the factors used to prioritize highway projects are:

  • Total traffic volume on a daily basis
  • Truck traffic volumes to account for important freight routes
  • A roadway’s level of congestion
  • The “functional classification” of a road, which measures a road’s importance (high volume roads versus low volume roads)
  • Safety (the rate of crashes on a road and the severity of injuries in those crashes)
  • Projected growth in traffic

Based on data, a score is developed for each factor with a final total score on each highway project.  That score is used by the commission and UDOT to prioritize projects. From the list of prioritized projects, the commission selected which projects would be affected by the budget reduction and the amount of funding to cut from each project to bring the program in balance with the reduced construction budget.

Based on current anticipated revenues and cash flow, funding will not be available until 2015 for those projects affected by the budget cut.

To minimize the impact to projects, UDOT identified more than $28 million in savings from other projects statewide mitigating the $113 million budget reduction, which enabled the Transportation Commission to reduce the total amount of funds that had to be cut from projects.

The Transportation Commission and UDOT are still committed to the delayed projects.  However, under the current budget and revenue projections, funds will not be available until 2015.  If economic conditions improve over time, a future legislature can consider restoring the $113 million budget reduction, which would allow funding to be restored to affected projects and begin construction earlier than currently projected.

Route Transfers:

 

Utah law requires that UDOT report to the legislature in June 30 and November 1 about ongoing and completed discussions of state roads that are being transferred to local governments. During the regular legislative session, a bill that reflects all transfer agreements is passed making those transfers part of the Utah State Code.  Discussions with local government on possible transfer of state roads are underway.  These discussions may or may not result in transfer agreements involving the following routes:

Transfers from state to local control:

  1. SR-107 (from SR-108 to State Street)
  2. US-89 in Ogden (Washington Blvd.)
  3. SR-48, realigned portion in West Jordan
  4. SR-73 and SR-197 in Utah County
  5. SR-212 Telegraph Road, St. George
  6. SR-8, in St. George

Transfer from local to state control:

North County Boulevard in Utah County

NOTE: In an ongoing effort to provide legislators with information about how to take care of Utah’s State Roads, an upcoming interim committee meeting yet to be determined, UDOT representatives will present and discuss maintenance and preservation needs.

June 28th, 2010

Beauty marries function

2 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

The elegant Colorado River Bridge, under construction in Southern Utah, is designed to improve the transportation system as well as blend into the red-rock desert landscape.

The Colorado River Bridge is located near Canyonlands on U.S. 191 in Southern Utah

Stan Johnson, Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) Bridge Planning and Studies Engineer visited the project last year and sent this great narrative about his visit. Be sure to click on the links in the text to see images of the bridge. Thanks, Stan!

A visit to the Colorado River Bridge construction site:

There I was in the doghouse, two hundred miles from home, and more than a stone’s throw off the ground. As I climb up the small, wooden ladder leading deeper into the structure—into what could be a claustrophobe’s nightmare— however, I’m actually rather excited: I’ve been invited to see the progress being made on the new SR-191 bridges over the Colorado River in Moab.

I’d seen the artist’s vision on paper—the calm, flowing curves designed to match the famous Landscape Arch; the rich earth toned skin of the structure groomed to naturally mesh with a world-famous milieu that includes the nearby Arches National Park.  But right now, I’m in the hard, gray guts of what amounts to a concrete stick in the mud; and it’s no more beautiful than the old bridge it’s meant to replace (which, perhaps ironically, had won an “honorable mention” in a competition for “most beautiful bridges built in 1955.”)

A view from inside the "dog house"

The nerd in me didn’t care about that. In fact, the long, green fingers of rebar jabbing out at the pale Moab horizon practically scream “photo op!” Being inside the large, concrete box set on the center pier (known colloquially as “the doghouse,” and built specifically to allow inspectors access to the bridge’s interior) makes me feel more as though I am being let in on some great secret rather than just being caged by reinforced concrete. Besides, it affords very real shelter from the August sun.

As I move around the manmade cave, I listen to the chatter from the other engineers, inspectors, and contractors as they talk about how they will raise this behemoth over the river. It will be done the same way you eat an elephant: piece by piece.

The contractors needed to purchase a pair of large, million-dollar chunks of equipment known as “form travelers” in order to get the job done. The form travelers would carefully “see-saw” their ways out from the central pier, slowly crawling towards other supports that aren’t yet more than a few steel piles still being hammered into the river bed from what I can see, carefully adding new segments to the bridge. It’s going to take a while.

Suddenly, nearly a year has passed, and I’m sitting safely in my office, my Moab confinement only a pleasant memory. I click a link, and in an instant (or at least what passes for an “instant” with my computer), I can see the naked-but-complete first structure on my screen. Another click, and I watch months fly by in time-lapse. One moment, the old structure is there, the next moment, it’s gone, revealing its sleek, new replacement. And I think it looks fantastic.

Not everyone shares my “inner geek,” but the folks at FIGG really know how to design a bridge that’s worth looking at; and there will be two of them over the river by the time it’s all said and done.

The new structures aren’t just pretty faces, however. They’ll better serve the public by doubling the number of traffic lanes (and for those who know Moab, you’ll know what a bottleneck the old bridge was), and adding safety features for motorists and pedestrians. Beyond the bridge improvements, upgrades to trails will enhance an already “adventurer-friendly” environment.

To top it all off, the whole job is being done in as “eco-friendly” a manner as possible, ensuring a minimal impact to the Colorado River and the surrounding world-class scenery.

I may not be a jeep nut, but now I’ve got one more reason to go to Moab. How fitting that the reason would be a few new arches.

June 23rd, 2010

Adding lanes, one direction at a time

4 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

5400 South Flex Lanes will reduce rush-hour delay for west-east drivers

Adding lanes to a busy road can be cost prohibitive, especially during lean economic times. Nevertheless, traffic delay is frustrating and expensive for commuters and drivers who move goods and services.

The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) has an innovative solution that will ease the commute on 5400 South between Redwood Road and Bangerter Highway.  Rather than building more lanes, UDOT will change the direction of some lanes to benefit commuters during peak travel times.

Change is good

Clearly marked lanes and overhead traffic lights will make the road simple to navigate. See UDOT’s Flex Lane video for a preview of what 5400 South will be like after the project:

Flex Lanes are part of  a coordinated effort by UDOT to improve west-east travel in and around the Taylorsville, Utah area.  See other innovative projects on the WE GO! website.

WE GO! Project representatives will be at Taylorsville Dayzz this weekend. Be sure and drop by to ask questions or get more information.

June 22nd, 2010

Planning made simpler

No Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

A new tool that combines layers of information  in a web-based application makes planning  transportation options much easier.

Director of Asset Management Stan Burns, seated, asks GIS Analyst Frank Pisani some questions about UPlan. "We show our assets on this thing," says Stan.

Called UPlan, the new system allows users to “see so much information at the touch of a button,” says Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) Planning Director John Thomas.

UPlan is a web based map that allows the user to choose individual elements in the natural and built environment. Features, such as parks, utilities, and wetlands, pop into view on the map as the user checks a box.

“It took a huge effort to get it to this point, ” says John. UPlan has been in development for about three years.  Now, the system is providing a lot of utility to UDOT planners who use UPlan to see the potential impacts for projects including future or expanded transportation facilities.

Many agencies have contributed to UPlan, which is an “open architecture” system where no one entity owns or controls the information, says John.

Advantages

Before UPlan, UDOT planners would have to get information from other agencies, and then view that information in many different forms. It was problematic to see, for example, if a planned road crossed wetlands, utilities or archeological areas by viewing many different maps or descriptions.

While using UPlan does not eliminate the need to do on-site investigation, it does reduce a lot of guess work which can save time.

UPlan is also easy to use, so its use is growing among people in other specialties areas at UDOT and at other state agencies.

John does not consider UPlan to be “the” system, but it’s certainly a great start to “building a library and knowledge base of what our needs are.”

June 21st, 2010

Spiffying up the Alpine Loop

4 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

The Alpine Loop is a road with a view. Here, Mt.Timpanogos is seen snow covered on a crisp, clear afternoon in June.

UDOT Maintenance workers, left to right: Mike Cole, Brian Allen and Ron Prestwich

At over 8,000 feet, the Alpine Loop is too high in Utah’s Wasatch Mountain range to stay open all winter. Snow, ice and wind cause crews to shut gates on either end of the popular scenic route between fall and spring.

To close the road, Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) crews check the area and lock the gates. Opening the Alpine Loop requires some housekeeping, even though it’s one of the easier of the high country roads to maintain.

Most of the work consists of clearing rocks and fallen trees from the road. But a few years ago, crews quickly replaced a failed culvert.

SR-92, or the Alpine Loop which connects American Fork Canyon and Provo Canyon. The road is a popular scenic route in Utah.

Neil Lundell, Provo Canyon Station Supervisor for UDOT, stands by a culvert that keeps water off the road. This culvert had to be replaced two years ago. UDOT maintenance workers completed the job, which included re-directing the creek, in less than a week.

Lots of trees, broken from the weight of the snow, are found on the road in the spring. UDOT workers remove the trees before the road opens.

Forest Service buildings are pictured above. The U.S. Forest Service workers often help with the clean-up work to open the road. UDOT also coordinates when to open the road with the Forest Service.

A stunning view of Mount Timpanogos is a good reason to take this scenic route.