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.


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.

June 16th, 2010

Rate this blog

No Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

A skyward view from inside a steel cage used to reinforce concrete drilled-shafts

How do you like the UDOT Transportation Blog so far? If you have not done so already, please read through a few posts and check out the images. Then, take a survey and tell us what you think.

Thank you!

June 15th, 2010

UDOT’s not distracted

7 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

A new report shows that Utah is among states that are increasing efforts to stop distracted driving

Distracted driving includes many dangerous practices, including texting behind the wheel

Today the Governor’s Highway Safety Association released the first comprehensive study showing how states are enacting laws, developing public education programs and tracking accidents in order to halt distracted driving.

The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), in partnership with other agencies, has been fighting distracted driving using a variety of efforts, many of which are mentioned in the report.

“The furor over distracted driving as we know it came about with the availability and widespread use of cell phones in America. Ten years ago, if you were behind someone on the road who had trouble staying in their lane or swerving, you assumed they were driving drunk. Today, many people assume they are driving distracted,” states the report.

UDOT has collaborated with many agencies to fight distracted driving. Some of UDOT’s partners in the effort include the Utah Department of Public Safety, Utah Department of Health, local law enforcement, Utah Safety Council, AAA of Utah, Penna Powers Brian Haynes and others.  Some key Utah efforts mentioned in the report:

  • Distracted driving has been included in Utah’s  Strategic Highway Safety Plan since 2007
  • Utah has collected data on the number of crashes involving distraction of any kind as a contributing factor since 2002
  • Traditional media (television and print) and Social media (Twitter and Facebook) are used  by UDOT to educate the public about distracted driving
  • Educational efforts directed at teens, who are most likely to drive distracted, has been developed and presented in Utah schools

Additionally, the Utah Legislature recently enacted a law banning texting for all drivers.

Links and video:

Curbing Distracted Driving: 2010 Survey of State Safety Programs

Zero Fatalities

June 14th, 2010


No Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Have you recently driven along a familiar stretch of freeway that seemed to become smoother over night?

Concrete, not pixie dust: damaged pieces of I-15 are removed and replaced with new pre-cast panels.

If so, your now less-bumpy ride may not be a figment of your imagination. UDOT is improving sections of freeway while commuters sleep using new pre-cast concrete panels.

Damaged sections of freeway are cut out and replaced by new concrete.  The process is fast, produces great results and prolongs the life of the roadway.

First, the damaged area is measured and a slab is manufactured. Workers cut out the damaged area of pavement and prepare the base.

Holes for steel rebar are drilled in the existing concrete freeway. The new slab is placed, and grout is poured through holes in the top of the slab to hold the new piece of freeway in place. After only three hours, the new surface is ready for traffic.

Workers place a scrim as part of the process to prepare the base. Making sure the base is level is important. Any rocking or shifting could break the new panel.

This week, UDOT is placing pre-cast panels between Bountiful and Farmington, Utah. Hundreds of panels will be placed this summer.

A worker checks to make sure the base is the correct depth. The new panel is shown in the background. Slots in the new panel fit over steel rebar that reinforces the concrete panel through the tire path. Once the new panel is placed, grout is poured through the holes in the top.

June 14th, 2010

Attention, walkers!

3 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

United States Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood recency blogged about distracted walkers who text, listen to music or talk on cell phones while crossing streets.   There’s no doubt, pedestrians who don’t pay attention pose a safety risk to themselves and others.

“And, it’s not just cars and trucks that pedestrians are ignoring,” writes LaHood. ” …Pedestrians distracted by cell phone calls and text messages also risk deadly encounters with the transit buses and commuter trains around them.”

The Federal Transit Administration is promoting Operation Lifesaver, a safety campaign that shows the dangers of distracted walking around trains.

Maybe we should have payed more attention in kindergarten. Remember the song “Stop, Look and Listen?”  Here’s a video to share with little walkers:

The Census collects information about population, which plays a fundamental part in predicting road use

Walt Steinvorth works in Transportation Planning at the Utah Department of Transportation. He doesn't wear a turban like the Great Carnack, but he does have an "all knowing" look about him, don't you think?

Walt Steinvorth calls himself  “the firm’s fortune teller” but he doesn’t use Tarot Cards or a crystal ball. Steinvorth depends on “a lot of science” to predict the number of vehicles expected to use an existing or future transportation facility using a traffic demand model or TDM. Census information is a fundamental ingredient of a TDM.

UDOT gets population numbers from demographers at the Governor’s office of Planning and Budget who look at historical trends, employment, birth and death rates to predict future population. Transportation planners use these population forecasts as inputs to the TDM to predict future highway and transit demand.

The Federal Government requires the departments of transportation and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) to develop long range multi-modal transportation system plans for 20 years into the future. TDMs are used to determine where and when to expand highway and transit systems to meet future demand.

During long range transportation planning, UDOT and the MPOs uses a TDM to test various transportation alternatives. When planning future improvements for existing roads, a TDM is used to determine if more lanes are needed, and if so, how many. TDMs also provide information about pedestrian and bike use.

April 2010: Eleven-year-old Henry Johnson attaches the completed census form to the mailbox after watching his mom fill in the blanks.

NOTE: UDOT is an ARE (acronym rich environment).  MPO and TDM are a few acronyms that see frequent use here at the DOT.  Click this link to see a list of other commonly used transportation acronyms. Then, impress your friends and family by using ATMS, LOS, or MUTCD with confidence. Your mom will be so proud.

June 9th, 2010

View UDOT on YouTube

No Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

With a few key strokes and mouse clicks, you can watch a bridge move, take a virtual tour of the Traffic Operations Center or hear some fine cowboy poetry on UDOT’s YouTube channel. Over 30 videos are posted that show how UDOT uses innovation in construction, contracting and design to make our transportation system better.

Here’s a video of UDOTs Diverging Diamond Interchange in American Fork:

June 7th, 2010


2 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

A revised website has been launched for the Mountain View Corridor, a planned freeway, transit and trail system in western Salt Lake County and northwestern Utah County.  The site provides:

The project will be built in phases designed to balance transportation needs with available funds. Initial construction includes building two lanes in each direction with signalized intersections where future interchanges will be located.

In Salt Lake County construction has started on a 15-mile segment between 5400 South and Redwood Road (at approximately 16000 South). Construction will be completed in 2013.

In Utah County, the three-mile construction area is on 2100 North from Redwood Road to I-15. Construction will be completed in 2011.

Pioneer Crossing bridge move in October, 2009

While not as loud or colorful as an uber-famous rock band, a UDOT bridge move is a show worth catching. UDOT is, after all, a world leader in using new technology to replace bridges.

The public will be able to see that technology in action this weekend in American Fork when UDOT moves two segments of a new interchange from a staging area into place overnight on Friday June 4 and Sunday June 6 beginning at about 10:30 p.m. both nights.

The bridge move can be viewed from the existing Main Street Bridge both nights.  Parking will be available at the park-and-ride lot southwest of the interchange.  A flagger will be posted to help visitors enter the viewing area beginning at 9:30 p.m. Visitors will only be allowed to cross the freeway ramps to enter the viewing area at locations where a flagger is present.  Seating will not be provided.

The new segments should be in place sometime in the wee hours of the morning. Once in position, the  segments will form the north bridge of the new Diverging Diamond Interchange at American Fork Main Street.

What to expect

Watching a bridge move is an fascinating but slow process. Workers will be using a Self Propelled Modular Transporters (SPMT) which are multi-wheeled vehicles equip with lifts. The SPMTs are moved using a small box with controls that look like joy sticks. The bridge will be very carefully and slowly rolled into place over hours of time.

These segments are the among the longest and heaviest structures that UDOT has moved, according to Carmen Swanwick, Chief Structural Engineer at UDOT. Asked if those factors pose any difficulties, Carmen said “no, we’ve designed for it.” Engineers are uber-planners, after all.

For more information about Pioneer Crossing and the Diverging Diamond Interchange, please visit the Pioneer Crossing Web site or call the project information hotline at 1-877-222-3757.