December 13th, 2010

HARK! THE HERALD STUDENTS SING

3 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Kitty Wright loves the sounds of the season, so she invites young performers from schools and community groups to stop at the Calvin Rampton Complex Atrium to sing and play.

Trooper Dan Huber a.k.a. "Santa Baby" gets asked for expensive gifts like jewelry and cars

Kitty Wright

State employees have been treated to performances by children and teens during the last two weeks thanks to the work of Kitty Wright, long time employee and customer service expert at UDOT.

Kitty used to work at the Utah State Capitol building where performing groups visit during the holiday season. When her job location changed, she brought the idea with her.

“I used to send out invitations about mid-October, but after so many years doing this, the directors call me,” says Kitty.

The violinists all had great posture and playing technique. Not a sour note was heard!

The Calvin Rampton Complex works well for performers since the center of the building is an atrium that is open on each floor. Employees on break can watch from above and others can listen from work areas since the sound carries through the building.

Balcony patrons view the events from on high

To the performers, the floor levels above look balconies in a theater. ”They feel like they’re performing in an opera,” says Kitty.

“These young people are so talented and willing to perform their best numbers, and all for a smile and a clap of hands.  The employees really look forward to each performance.”

Those of us who enjoyed the performances are grateful for Kitty’s efforts!

Students from St. George acted out the Twelve days of Christmas with a partridge in a pear tree.

December 7th, 2010

INATTENTIVE TEENS

2 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

“Too many young people are driving without their seat belts, under the influence, or with cell phones in hand,” says National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator David Strickland.

He has the numbers to back up the statement: ”16-to-20-year olds are twice as likely to be killed in a crash involving alcohol, two and a half times more likely to die while driving or riding unbuckled, and three times as likely as the average American to die in a speed-related crash.” Strickland presented the information in recent Fast Lane blog post.

Utah citizens have been touched by tragedy recently — just check the news to see stories about teen drivers involved in serious or fatal crashes. Parents of teens, teachers and teen drivers need to find ways to encourage teens to make safe driving choices and citizens need to support effective public policy changes.

NHTSA advocates a “a diversified safety approach that supports good laws, strong enforcement, education, and parental involvement to reduce the number of young driver fatalities on our roadways.”

The State of Utah is following suit with its own programs. Zero Fatalities is actively involved in teaching the dangers of inattentive driving in Utah schools with presentations in drivers education classes. The presentations address four areas: drowsy, distracted, impaired, and aggressive driving and not buckling up.

Now through January 1, one blog post per week with emphasize safe driving. Check back to read tips and get resources for helping the teens in your life make safe driving choices.

December 7th, 2010

TAG, YOU’RE NOT HIT

8 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Some cattle in southern Utah’s open range area are sporting an accessory that helps motorists avoid cow vs. car crashes — reflective ear tags.

Reflective tags help motorists see cattle

Motorists who drive through open range area often need to slow or stop for cattle crossing the road. In the daytime, the big bovines are easy to spot. At night, it’s more likely that a Lexus will hit a longhorn.

Three Station Supervisors in UDOT Region Four have taken initiative to reduce cow hits by giving cowboys scrapped or expired reflective material to attach to ear tags on cattle. This high praise came from Utah Highway Patrol Officer Rick Eldredge, in an email thanking the three supervisors:

“Over the last couple of years our cow versus car accidents have been greatly reduced on our ‘Open Range Highways’ in San Juan County. I want to tell you how thankful myself and the citizens that travel these highways are to your UDOT supervisors in Monticello, Blanding and Bluff.”

“Chet Johnson, David Laws and Lee Meyers are more than willing to assist the UHP and local ranchers in saving lives and property…This has decreased the number of cow strikes dramatically.Your district supervisors have played a huge role in making this possible. They are truly on board with the State’s mission of ‘Zero Fatalities’”

December 1st, 2010

SAVINGS TIMES THREE

6 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Quick work done by UDOT employees saved millions of project dollars and gave Utah taxpayers an extra transportation bang for the buck.

Crews are hard at work on I-215 near 3500 South

One-time funding, unusual economic circumstances and the option to take advantage of additional federal money converged to create a triple challenge for UDOT Project Development employees: work fast and efficiently to obligate project dollars or miss out on an ideal bidding environment and additional funding opportunities.

Employees met the challenge head on, and Utah’s road users will see the benefit.

Onetime funding: The ARRA program was almost double to UDOT’s regular annual federal program, however no additional staff or resources were used or even available to assist in the additional workload.  Additional transparency requirements also added to the workload.

The $213 million in ARRA was first made available in February of 2009 but the projects required an expedited delivery schedule in order to use the funding. The UDOT teams selected, programmed, designed and advertised these projects exceeding the required schedule.

The transparency requirements included monitoring each project at a level not yet experienced at UDOT but the effort ensured accountability as well as increased visibility in government spending.

Economic conditions: UDOT estimates bid prices well in advance of construction. Lower levels of inflation and unpredictably low bid prices for construction contracts meant that fund were balances left on projects. To be used efficiently, these funds were obligated quickly onto additional projects helping meet programming needs and allowing projects to be programmed earlier then were originally anticipated.

Program Finance pro-actively provided information to Project Development and Region Project Management in order to effectively obligate these funds resulting in $100 million  additional projects being delivered.

Additional federal distribution: Not all states are as efficient as UDOT. Those states that don’t obligate funds as required by the federal government forfeit money to states that do.  To ensure UDOT met its obligation requirements, Project Development Team members developed a specific obligation performance measure that allowed the team and others to monitor the obligation progress and goal.

This action ensured that UDOT qualified for the redistributed funding to the tune of almost $13 million which would have been lost without the collaborative efforts of this team.

November 30th, 2010

TAKE IT SLOW

6 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Many people still don’t take conditions into account when driving in ice and snow.

With two storms past and more on the way as the season progresses, drivers need to be prepared for winter weather.

Slow down

“Driving slowly in snowy weather, or cold and icy conditions is probably the best advice,” says Derek Miller, Program Specialist with the Highway Safety office in the Department of Public Safety.

Driving too fast caused the tragic loss of a single mother of three young boys on Sunday.

Video Courtesy of KSL.com

Derek Miller checks wiper blades for wear

Buy your car a present

Derek also suggests preparing your car. “Things like worn wiper blades and tires may be overlooked to save a couple dollars.” Drivers may be scrimping on the family car to buy gifts during the holiday season .  ”But it’s not worth it.”

All systems should be working too.  ”Also the heater (defroster) and rear-window defogger should work well. Washer fluid tanks should be maintained and kept full of ‘winter’ anti-freeze washer fluid.”

CommuterLink — it’s not just a great place to check traffic conditions

For more information, including how to prepare your car and how to stay safe around snow plows, visit the CommuterLink website for a list of tips to help drivers navigate through snow and ice.

November 30th, 2010

THE PEOPLE LOVE TIE FORK!

12 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

UDOT’s Tie Fork Rest Area is the People’s Choice in the American Institute of Architects annual recognition of beautiful buildings.

Tie Fork

With over 400 votes, Tie Fork won in an online competition hosted by the Salt Lake Tribune that let readers vote for their favorite building.

Thanks all who voted for Tie Fork!

For more information about the building, see two previous blog posts, one about online voting and one about the community effort behind the project.

KSL coverd the story about the award too:

Video Courtesy of KSL.com

November 29th, 2010

A METERED APPROACH

No Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Ramp metering has been used during commute times for years, but not all drivers understand why traffic flow is helped when cars stop before getting on the freeway.

Cars stop at 500 South in Davis County, Utah

To non engineers, the concept seems counter-intuitive…UDOT helps traffic mobility by making cars stop briefly before getting on the freeway?

Metering works by breaking up bottlenecks, smoothing out surges and diverting some traffic to other ramps or nearby arterials. In other words, it keeps traffic on an even keel.

In a recent metering study done in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region, the most significant benefit was shown to be travel reliability. Traffic engineers Mark Taylor and John Haigwood explained the results of the study at UDOT’s Engineering Conference.

Some Minnesota law makers decided that ramp metering should be discontinued because of perceived public discontent. The situation provided a good chance to conduct a before and after study of metering.

Reliability is the measure of the expected range of travel times allowing for crashes or excessive congestion. The Minnesota study showed a 91 percent decline in reliability.

Freeway speeds were also much slower. And, traffic volumes were reduced, probably as a result of declined efficiency. ”It was not very long before the public said ‘turn the meters back on,’” said Taylor.

John Haigwood

The study also showed that metering improves safety. Haigwood explained:

– Stop and go driving behavior is reduced, resulting in fewer rear-end collisions.

– Platoons are broken up, resulting in fewer side-swipe collisions.

Metering worked in Minnesota, and it works along the Wasatch Front, too. ”We hear about it when they go off,” says Haigwood. UDOT has studied data to evaluate metering, but has not done a complete before-after study resembling Minnesota’s.

UDOT engineers continually evaluate ramp metering to make sure that commuters see a benefit. “We are trying to help the public the best we can,” said Haigwood.

November 23rd, 2010

HELICOPTER NEEDED LIFT

6 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

An AirMed helicopter needed a lift after a wind gust caused a tailspin.

From UDOT Region One’s man on the street, the one and only Vic Saunders:

An injured rotor grounded an AirMed helicopter on Monday.

On Monday, November 22, an AirMed helicopter from a Salt Lake City hospital responding to a run-off-the-road crash on westbound I-84 near Riverdale, got a big surprise when, just as it landed, a wind gust blew its tail rotor into a roadside delineator post. That collision shattered the carbon-fiber tail rotor and instantly grounded the helicopter, sending the crash victim it was to transport to Salt Lake to an Ogden hospital by ambulance instead.

Meanwhile, a flat-bed semi truck and crane were dispatched on Tuesday, November 23, to transport the chopper from the scene back to a repair facility in Salt Lake.

A crane and flatbed truck were dispatched to the scene.

Once the crane arrived, it took on a few minutes to get the air ambulance “airborne” again, before setting it down gently on the back of the tractor-trailer, for a quick trip to the repair facility.

The helicopter needed help to get airborne again.

Strapped in, the copter soon headed for the helo-hospital.

November 23rd, 2010

GOOD FOR YOU

No Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

A good public meeting facilitates information flow between UDOT and stakeholders.

Does this bug you? Evelyn Tuddenham organized a training on how to avoid holding a bad public meeting. The boards were bad on purpose, especially this one featuring the Mormon Cricket.

Showing how not to receive public comments, Angela Linford of Wilkinson Ferrari holds a bowl full of torn pieces of paper.

In a calculated attempt to show what not to do, a team of UDOT communicators took a cue from a 90′s rock and roll song and decided to be “Cruel to be Kind” with a training that imitated a bad public meeting.

Attendees stood in a long line, saw vague and confusing project posters, and then were ignored or given incomplete or conflicting answers to questions by fake project staff.

After the fun but frustrating demonstration, a panel discussion and question and answer session set everyone straight about how to avoid a public meeting fiasco.

The outcome of the training is a list,Public Meeting Dos and Don’ts, with tips from attendees and panel members who are experts at organizing public meetings the right way.

November 17th, 2010

IT’S THE YOU-DOT WEBSITE

4 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

New tools gives users a custom fit!

UDOT Deputy director Carlos Braceras introduced the new site at the Engineering Conference Wednesday. Website users “don’t want a sales pitch,” says Braceras. They want information that’s cold, factual and timely. The new website give users “better tools for savvy consumers” who want quick, customized information.

Two Quick Links buttons, one in the upper left-hand corner and one on the bottom of the home page, allow users to choose which links appear each time the site is opened. The traffic camera views on the right side of the home page show the areas with the most congestion. By clicking on the “options” tool, users can sort camera views by traffic speed or zip code.

Building the new UDOT website started with asking customers what they want. Some asked for lots of traffic and a little weather. Some wanted calendaring information and project updates. Almost everybody requested traffic camera views that show where delay is occurring. With so much information available, and lots of users with different needs, a one-size-fits-all approach would have been UDOT’s old site dressed in pretty colors.

The new website is beautiful, but it’s the “guts” behind the site that make it work well. “We really are all things to all people,” says Programmer Monty King who, along with Programmer Amy Young, did to code work to make the site function. “My Quick Links allows you to prioritize pages. Basically, users can customize the homepage to fit individual needs.”

Try it out!

 

Amy Young and Monty King get the credit for making the new site function as a customizable tool for getting traffic, weather and road construction information.