November 17th, 2010

BEFRIENDING BICYCLISTS

4 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Recent federal policy changes prompt transportation agencies to give bike advocates equal access to the transportation playing field.

According to UDOT’s last annual transportation survey, two percent of commuters ride a bicycle daily. “That’s huge,” says Evelyn Tuddenham, UDOT’s new Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator. She presented informationat the UDOT Engineering Conference on Tuesday about changes that favor enhancing transportation facilities for cyclists.

To some automobile commuters, cyclist seem rare because the total number is spread over the entire state system. But clearly, “we’ve got a lot more people on bicycles,” says Tuddenham. And that number will probably continue grow as more people choose cycling to save resources, get fit or just enjoy the ride.

National policy is moving in the direction of supporting cyclist-commuters in the planning process. Transportation Secretary Ray La Hood recently enacted a new Complete Streets Policy that is intended to give people who value bicycling equal footing when it comes to transportation planning. Two local agencies, the Utah Department of Health and Utah Transit Authority agree and officials are currently studying ways to make the transportation system more accommodating to skinny wheels.

UDOT, Utah’s premier transportation agency, is in a great position to lead this effort. And with thirty years of experience as a communicator and a well-earned reputation as an innovator, Tuddenham is a great person to point in the right direction. As a start, she suggests:

  • Linking systems to transit so cycleists can ride to a bus stop
  • Improving communication between UDOT and the cycling community
  • Integrating planning with construction projects at each of UDOT’s four regions
  • Coordinating with other transportation agencies
  • Educating cyclists and drivers about how to safely share the road

Giving cycling advocates equal consideration does not mean that all roads need to be immediately painted with bike lanes; clearly some facilities are not safe or appropriate for cyclists. But, building a system where goods and services can be reached by pedestrians, cyclists and transit would be a great benefit to many Utah citizens.

“This is a new way of looking at things,” says Tuddenham.

When road construction and ancient ruins coincide, much care is taken to locate and preserve artifacts.

Archeologist Sonia Hutmacher holds a recovered artifact. UDOT preserved thirty ancient structures and over 3,000 artifacts at the Dixie Drive Interchange construction site. She gave a presentation today at UDOT's annual Engineering Conference.

The Puebloan Ancestral People lived in the Four Corners area of Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona. Elegant examples of their adobe homes draw tourists to sites like Hovenweep National Monument on the border between Utah and Coloradoor Mesa Verde National Monument in Colorado.

Remnants of that ancient civilization were recently found near the UDOT’s Dixie Drive Interchange construction site in an isolated spot near the confluence of the Virgin and Santa Clara Rivers. UDOT Region Four Archeologist Eric Hansen and AMEC Archeologist Sonia Hutmacher executed a recovery effort as part of the construction team.

Hansen and Hutmacher initially thought that the recovery effort would be minimal. The site had been leveled by heavy equipment and two giant billboards had been constructed nearby. Accumulated modern trash was also evidence of human activity. At first glance, it seemed like no cultural deposits would be found.

It only took a couple of days to find out that the “entire surface was covered in artifacts” and had 30 residential structures. Most of the structures were rectangular, similar toLost City dwellings which have been reconstructed in Nevada. Sadly, many had also been looted and partially destroyed. UDOT archeologists pushed forward in recovery mode.

Working in the area was hot, dusty and time consuming. The recovery team screened dirt bucket by bucket and eventually recovered approximately 3,000 artifacts and was successful at preserving the structures located by Hansen, Hutmacher and team in the UDOT right of way.

Success was due to having a “people oriented project team,” says Hutmacher who stressed that cooperation among team members and with other agencies was paramount during the effort.

Another reason for success was the way the archeologists were completely integrated as members of the construction team. Hutmacher advised that to provide the most help, archeologists need to “get on board right away” and be involved in the project planning stage to “keep on schedule and help hold costs down.”

Hutmacher is glad that the recovered artifacts have been preserved by “UDOT’s Right of Way caretakers” so the objects can help archeologists understand how pit structures were formed and shaped.

November 15th, 2010

GOOD, BAD AND UGLY PUBLIC MEETINGS

1 Comment, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Providing the public with reliable, accurate information about road construction is a key function of a UDOT project team.

With good information, road users and affected property or business owners can make decisions about travel options or how to maintain a customer base during construction. The public meeting is a standard tool in the project team’s bag of communication resources.

Good public meetings allow stakeholders get important and relevant information, a chance to ask questions or make comments, and a resource for ongoing information as the project unfolds.

What happens when meeting organizers are not adequately prepared? Things could get ugly!

UDOT will show an example of what not to do at a training offered at the Engineering Conference on Wednesday, November 17 at 8 a.m. in room 200D.

Evelyn shows a name tag for the fake public meeting. Nothing says credibility like hand-drawn hearts.

Why the round-about approach? Says trainer Evelyn Tuddenham: “We’ll be bad so you don’t have to!” Evelyn and her team have invented a fake project to drive home the point.

Because a bad public meeting should never happen in the real world, the end result of this exercise will be a list of real guidelines so project team members will know how to plan and execute a beneficial public meeting.

It may be unrealistic to turn a public meeting into a stairway to heaven, but UDOT can always avoid a highway to heck when it comes to providing good reliable public information.

November 10th, 2010

UDOT LIFESAVER GETS A SWEET AWARD

7 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Robert Hull has Zero tolerance for traffic fatalities.

As UDOT’s Engineer for Traffic and Safety, Hull has spearheaded many ambitious and successful programs to improve roadway safety in Utah. For working hard to save lives, the American Association of State Highway Officials has given Hull its top honor: the Alfred E. Johnson Achievement Award.

Robert Hull stands in front of the plaque given to him for winning the Alfred E. Johnson Achievement Award

The recognition is intended for middle management leaders who make an “outstanding contribution to his/her department in engineering or management.”

Brent Wilhite with Penna Powers Brian Haynes has worked closely with Hull. “Robert is skilled at getting other people to catch his vision of creating a culture of safety, ” says Wilhite.

“His efforts to promote traffic safety have set Utah as the model for other states. Members of AASHTO, FHWA and individual states have sought his counsel and guidance in their safety programs. Utah drivers are fortunate to have Robert as UDOT’s Engineer for Traffic Safety.”

Buckle-up for safety

Chief among those efforts is the Zero Fatalities public information campaign that aims to eliminate the five top behaviors that kill people on Utah roads: drowsy distracted, aggressive and impaired driving and not buckling up.

Media coverage has helped increase public awareness of safety issues

Zero unites the efforts of law enforcement, safety educators, engineers and emergency responders and has received numerous local and national awards.

A team approach

Hull also formed the Safety Leadership Team with leaders from UDOT, Utah Department of Public Safety’s Highway Safety Office, Federal Highways Administration, Utah Highway Patrol and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

In 2004, these cross agency experts joined forces to develop Utah’s Comprehensive Safety Plan before such a plan was even required. The massive effort caught the attention of FHWA and led to Utah’s designation as a model state.

Safety for kids is the focus of SNAP

Safe routes for kids

SNAP is UDOT’s effort to coordinate safe routes to school for elementary and junior high students. Hull pioneered development of software that uses Google Maps to take inventory of features like sidewalks, traffic signs, and roads to determine the safest route to walk to school. Over 300 Utah schools have participated in the SNAP program, and 64 percent of schools use the software.

Spend and save

Knowing that Federally funded Highway Safety Improvement Program monies save lives when well spent, under Hull’s direction, those improvements, like cable barrier or rumble strips, are programmed as quickly and as systematically as possible.

And, Hull makes sure every safety project is evaluated using an evidence based approach to get the most benefit for each precious taxpayer dollar. UDOT’s focus on efficient project delivery ensures traffic safety funding results in projects that help reduce fatalities.

Congratulations to UDOT’s safety guru, Robert Hull!

November 1st, 2010

FLYING STEEL AND FREEWAYS: NOT A GOOD MIX

1 Comment, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

A UDOT sponsored press event aimed at reminding motorists to prevent freeway litter featured a story about a flying chunk of steel and a demonstration of the right way to tie down loads.

Litter Hurts: Alema Harrington was hit and injured by flying debris on the freeway. His story is a good reminder to properly tie down loads before transporting on Utah roads.

Wearing a sling from an injury caused by debris on I-15, Utah Jazz Broadcaster Alema Harrington warned motorists about what can happen when loads are not secured properly. “You could be a participant” in an accident that could have tragic consequences.

Harrington knows he could have been killed. On his way to work, he saw an airborne object heading straight for his vehicle. What turned out to be a chunk of steel flew through his windshield, hit his arm and punctured his back seat.

A jagged piece of steel flew through Alema Harrington's windshield.

“You don’t have time to be scared. It’s just one of those things. You just go into survival mode.”

To raise public awareness about freeway litter, Harrington recorded a public service announcement to warn motorists about how debris can cause injury or other incidents. (Scroll down to view the PSA.)

His story shows why motorists need to be very careful to properly secure transported items. UDOT maintenance workers Jake Brown and CJ Connor were on hand to give how-to demonstrations.

Litter is not just soda cans or old newspaper; it's anything that does not belong on Utah's roads. According to UDOT maintenance workers, ladders are an often retrieved item. CJ Connor, left, and Jake Brown demonstrated how to secure a ladder in the bed of a pick-up.

Securing items on a trailer or in a pick-up bed can be done using items commonly available at a home improvement store. For example, wrapping up lawn debris in a tarp can prevent leaves from “flying out like a bunch of confetti,” said Jake.  For a list safety tips for securing items, visit the Litter Hurts website and see “Are You Secure?” at the top.

UDOT provided media with a CD video of  Harrington’s PSA:

October 27th, 2010

VOTE EARLY AND OFTEN

2 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Candidates and architectural firms are vying for your vote.

UDOT’s Tie Fork Rest Area is up for a People’s Choice Award from the American Institute of Architects, Salt Lake Chapter. Voting is taking place online on the Salt Lake Tribune website.

Tie Fork Rest Area has a replica of a round-house with interpretive panels that explain the significance of the region to early railroad history.

“Of course we believe that it is the People Choice but to make it official we need to make sure that it has the most votes,” says Bill Jusczak, Facilities Coordinator at UDOT.

“I am encouraging everyone that I know to cast a vote,” says Bill.

What a patriot!

October 26th, 2010

BLACK RIDGE PROJECT

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

UDOT Region Four’s first design-build project will improve traffic mobility and safety.

Region Four Project Manager Scott Goodwin

UDOT’ s upcoming Black Ridge to Iron County project on I-15 will build and extra northbound lane and install wildlife fencing for improved mobility and safety for road users.

The project is Region Four’s first Design-Build Project. DB offers a way to accelerate projects through design and construction, since both phases progress simultaneously. Sometimes, DB projects can be completed in half the time as a design-bid build project. Minimizing the duration of projects is one way UDOT helps reduce inconvenience to road users.

In addition to being faster, Region Four’s first DB project will also be paper-free. All documentation will be uploaded online. “There won’t be any heavy boxes to cart around,” says Project Manager Scott Goodwin.  Because Design Build overlaps design and construction phases, the process can

The  Black Ridge to Iron County Line DB project will use a stone matrix asphalt process to rehabilitate pavement, and add a truck acceleration lane, ATMS components and wild-life fencing. The new features will improve safety, extend pavement life, enhance UDOT’s ability to measure and manage traffic and improve mobility through the important travel and commerce corridor.

The project will reduce delay to trucks and cars using the route. Travel delay has a measurable economic cost to road users, and UDOT is dedicated to reducing travel delay as much as possible on this and all projects.

Looking north on I-15 in the Black Ridge to Iron County Line project area.

The project will be Region Four’s first opportunity to use cloud technology — all Black Ridge project documents will be stored in the online storage system ProjectWise. Bryan Adams, Access Utah County Director is helping set up a filing system using ProjectWise as the “backbone.”

Pioneer Crossing, one of five Access Utah County projects, also kept project document in ProjectWise. While saving paper is an advantage of the system, “the biggest savings is in time and resources to file, scan and save documents,” says Bryan. “We don’t have to do that any more.”

More DB projects will be in Region Four’s future. This first DB project will provide experience necessary to add “another tool in the box,” says Project Manager Scott Goodwin. “The lessons we learn on this project we can take with us and apply to future projects.”

Update: The project reached substantial completion at the end of September, 2011. Read about the completed project in this post which has more details about construction and project features.

Vic Saunders, Public Involvement Manager in Region One sent this great story about Leona Dalley, supervisor at the Perry Port of Entry. I want to meet this wonder woman. She works hard at her job, understands her important role and takes on challenges with enthusiasm and a smile. But, where’s her cape? You go, Leona! CH

Ports Of Entry: Keeping Watch Over State’s Highways

 

 

 

A big rig at the UDOT Port of Entry in Perry

 

Leona Dalley’s eyes brightened as she told me the nature of her job.

“Sure I’ll tell you what my responsibilities are,” she beamed.  “I protect the state’s highways.”

“I protect the state’s highways.”  That’s quite the personal manifesto, and I’ve thought about it many times since I spoke with her.  But you can tell by spending any time with Dalley that she means exactly what she says.

Leona Dalley protects state highways by making sure trucks play by the rules.

An 18 year veteran of the Utah Motor Carrier (UMC) Division of the Utah Department of Transportation, Dalley’s nomadic career path has taken her from the bottom of the state to the top, down to the middle and back to the top again.  She served at Ports of Entry in Kanab and Echo, before moving to the UMC headquarters in Salt Lake City.  Finally, she snagged her present post as Supervisor of the Perry Port of Entry, a spot she has very ably filled for the past 11 years, and you can tell by the twinkle in her eyes that it’s a job she really believes in.

“We protect the physical capabilities of our state’s highways to facilitate commerce,” she explained one afternoon this past summer, as we watched a steady parade of interstate and local commercial trucks stream across Perry’s scales.  “Transportation, these highways, is really important to the economy of this state and this country.

“And, I just don’t see that changing any time soon.”

A lot is being written these days about railroads taking back the millions of gross tons of freight lost to trucks in the 1950s with the advent of the Interstate Highway System, which continued right on into the 1960s and `70s.  The Staggers Rail Act, passed by Congress in 1980, deregulated the American railroad industry and opened the way for all that freight to begin moving back to the rails.  But, with the railroads needing major rebuilding of their infrastructure before such a shift could ever occur, trucks have continued, for the time being, as the primary hauler of America’s goods.

This makes Ports of Entry, like the one on I-15 in Perry, all the more important in making sure those trucks play by the rules as they roll down the highway.   But doesn’t the sheer crush of truck after truck seem overwhelming to Dalley and her staff?  “Oh, there are challenges, no doubt about it,” she said.

“We have budgetary challenges and the challenges of the constant change in the trucking industry.  We are challenged to maintain the manpower we need to efficiently operate this facility,” she reflected.  “I have a great crew who work very hard, and every one of them cares so much about the job they perform and the things they do each day.”

Like making thousands of snap judgments on the fly.  All day long, as the trucks roll by their glass-encased control room, the Port of Entry staffers make snap judgments again and again regarding the “look” of the loads they see.  Trained eyes notice something amiss here, a little “heavier than should be” weight there.  A push of a button and the dreaded red light flicks on the status board over the roadway, along with a message to the driver to park and come in for a chat.

Some of these trucks have been on the road a while, and drivers can

Truck drivers and UDOT staff inside Perry’s Port of Entry

get a little chapped when they’re asked to park and shut down their rig, and lose valuable time.  Emotions may run high at times like this, but Dalley says she and her staff are committed to handling each situation as honestly and straight-forwardly as they can.

“One bad experience by a trucker or shipper at this port affects driver interactions with every other port in the state,” she explained. “So, at this Port of Entry, we have made it our policy to conduct ourselves professionally, no matter what, or how something may be said to us.”

“That can be very hard to do sometimes, especially with those operators we see on a regular basis.  They don’t always understand why we won’t just ‘give ‘em a pass this time.”

As the non-stop river of trucks flowed by, I asked Dalley how the Ports of Entry can possibly keep up the pace.  She said new technologies, such as “PrePass,” certainly streamline the flow of trucks.

PrePass is an electronic system that automatically verifies safety, credentials, and weight of commercial vehicles at participating Ports of Entry, weigh stations, vehicle inspection and agricultural interdiction facilities.  Cleared vehicles are able to roll past these facilities at highway speeds without stopping.  Dalley said this means greater efficiency for shippers, improved safety for motorists, and survival for her.

“We process over 10,000 trucks per day here, and without technology like PrePass, there is just no way we could get all of the trucks on the highway through,” she explained.  “It’s really a great sorting tool, allowing qualifying carriers to proceed down the highway.  Then we can spend our time on those that need a closer look.”

When she must take a driver “out of service” for any reason, Dalley says it’s always a big decision.  “We understand the difference between being ‘carrier-friendly’ and being professional,” she noted.  “Sometimes drivers don’t like this decision and they get a little put out by it.

“My staff and I have been trained well and we know what to do,” she continued.  “We take care of each other, we back each other up. But above everything else, we stay professional about it and do our job.

“We always do our job.”

As I wrapped up the interview, I thanked her for her time and headed for the door.  But she wasn’t finished with me yet.  Leona Dalley just could not resist taking one more opportunity to remind me about the importance of her job.

“We work very hard to protect the safety, protect the infrastructure, and facilitate commerce on our state’s highways,” she said.  “We say that to ourselves everyday when we report to work, and we really believe it.”

“I go home from this job knowing that I’ve done something really good today,” she said positively.

And you know what?  I really believe her. — Vic Saunders

October 20th, 2010

A ROAD BY ANY OTHER NAME

3 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

UDOT asks local residents to name State Route 92.

SR-92 needs a new name

SR-92 is not a completely new road but the heavily-used arterial is getting enough of a face lift that a new identity seems to be in order.

From Scott Thompson, Region Three Public Involvement Manager: Utah Department of Transportation officials are looking to find a new alternative name for state Route 92 (S.R. 92) in northern Utah County as it launches an online contest this week.

“Technically, S.R. 92 already has an alternative name: the Highland Highway,” said Bryan Adams, director for UDOT’s Access Utah County program.  “But that designation has never really been embraced by the road’s users.  I’ve heard it called everything from ‘the Alpine Highway’ to simply ‘the road to American Fork Canyon.’”

With the road currently under reconstruction between I-15 and S.R. 74, Adams said it seemed like a good time to give S.R. 92 a new and lasting alternative name.

“With the new commuter lanes we are building along with the road-widening we are doing, S.R. 92 is going to be a new and exciting roadway, and we thought it should have a new and exciting name,” Adams said.  “We’ll have the opportunity to put this new name on the road signs we are building as part of the project, and to brand it in all of our press releases and construction updates during the last year of construction.”

UDOT is asking the public to help them come up with the new name for S.R. 92.  Now through Friday, November 19, name submission forms will be available on the S.R. 92 construction website.  Rules and guidelines for the contest can be found on the website as well.

“This is a chance for people to leave a lasting mark on their community,” Adams said.  “We’re excited to give people this unique opportunity.”

The S.R. 92 reconstruction project is being built through a joint venture of the Flatiron and Harper construction companies.  It is scheduled for completion by the fall of 2011. For more information about S.R. 92 please visit the project website or call the project information hotline at 1-877-222-3757.

October 13th, 2010

CO-OPT OUR CAMERAS

2 Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

Utah’s traffic authority is lending you their cameras.

I-80 in Parley's Canyon

The interactive map on the UDOT Traffic website is a great tool for travelers who want to choose the most delay-free route.  Site users can click on a map icon and see a camera view, like the one at the right, that shows real-time traffic conditions.

Now, the new Traffic Dashboard allows free use of those cameras on other websites.

Setting up the dashboard only takes a few minutes.

Accessing the dashboard tools starts with a simple online registration process. The dashboard can be customized with colors, logos and quick-links, and allows users to choose sight-specific camera views. Users also get a button that can be used as link to the dashboard from another web page.

Dashboards will be put to good use at UDOT; all project websites will have dashboards with cameras soon. Businesses and entertainment venues can use dashboards to help customers avoid delay when traveling to their site.

Here’s a demo and some examples of dashboards in use:

Dashboard Demo

Access Utah County