February 12th, 2013

Copper Wire Theft

4 Comments, Preserve Infrastructure, by Tania Mashburn.
Wire Theft Photo 1

Thieves used a golf club shaft to locate the copper wiring. They dug it up, cut it, and tried to pull it out by attaching it to a vehicle.

Driving in the dark lately? You may have noticed the lights are out along some sections of major interstates, like I-15, I-80, and I-215. But don’t blame the power company or burned out light bulbs…the real culprits are thieves who are in the business of stealing copper wire.

When you and I drive past the big light posts on the freeway, we might not think twice about the copper wiring that powers high mast and interchange lighting. But to some, the junction boxes next to the posts are a gold mine waiting to be found. To uncover the copper wiring and pull it out, thieves have used everything from shovels and trucks…to golf clubs and horses.

To combat their creativity, we’ve got to get a little creative ourselves. Led by Richard Hibbard, UDOT’s State Lighting Maintenance Crew (Mike Bishop, Todd Wright, John Garcia, Walter “Woody” Wood, and Brandon Clark) focuses on the hardest hit areas and the biggest targets.

Wire Theft Photo 2

The lighting crew has tried relocating and burying boxes as a method of theft deterrent, but in this case, the thieves managed to locate the box and dig it up.

The crew is now moving junction boxes away from the light posts and burying them randomly, making the boxes more difficult for thieves to find. (Don’t worry, we’ve got a locator ball inside so our own guys know where they are.) The crew is also welding handhole covers onto poles, filling some boxes with concrete, and adding rebar to others to make it harder to chip the concrete away.

Despite our best efforts, thieves are still getting to some of those areas and they’re hitting new locations seemingly every week. Hibbard says some of the hot spots are I-80 near Stansbury Park, I-215 at 700 North and 2100 North, I-15 at 600 North, and I-215 at I-80. He says, “I- 215 at I-80 is just a mess. If anyone wants to know why those lights are out it’s because half the wiring is gone.”

In fact, the amount of copper wire that UDOT has had to replace in just the past two years is staggering. Since February 2011, crews have replaced 110,000 feet of copper wire in Region 2 alone.

Wire Theft Photo 3

Sign structures are fair game with wire thieves. Here they have cut wire in a structure-mounted disconnect box and pulled it out through the ground-level junction box.

They suspect there’s another 75,000 feet missing they haven’t gotten to yet. And the situation does not appear to be improving. In January 2013, thieves made off with 15 hundred feet of copper wire from just one location.

Metal recyclers pay about $2.75-$3.00 per pound for unstripped wire, so a thousand feet of stolen wire would net someone anywhere from $300 to $700. Unfortunately, it costs a lot to replace that wire, and taxpayers are footing the bill. In the past two years, nearly $450,000 of materials and man hours has gone into replacing stolen copper wire. That’s enough money to pay for 26,000 feet of new cable median barrier.

Something needs to change, but what can we do? The answer is keep your eyes open. Hibbard says, “If you see anyone that appears to be working on lighting, someone should be asking questions.” And he means anyone. If you see a guy on a bike digging near a light post, a car pulled off the side of the freeway, or even someone in an orange vest poking around a junction box…be suspicious.

Hibbard suspects many of the thieves are electricians or others who know what they’re doing and look professional. He thinks some thefts may be happening during the day, but most happen at night. “The most suspicious thing is just any time you see a car parked on the side of the road, especially at night. I always find myself wondering what’s going on there.”

If you suspect copper wire theft is underway, but you’re not quite sure, you can always call the TOC and they’ll be able to find out if there’s legitimate work going on in that location.

Wire Theft Photo 4

The lighting crew welded a metal plate over a handhole, but in this case the thieves were able to bend it enough to get to the wire.

If you’re positive there’s a theft underway, just call the police. Let’s put the thieves behind bars, because after all, it’s our taxpayer money they’re stealing.

Wire Theft Photo 8

Thieves will attempt to chip out concrete caps within a box, but rebar will prevent the concrete from “chunking,” making removal far more difficult.

Wire Theft Photo 5

This is an example of a theft-deterring junction box lid. The polymer concrete has a steel plate backing and is attached to the box with security bolts. However, this hasn’t stopped someone from attempting to chip out a bolt as is evident on the lid surface.

February 11th, 2013

2013 Strategic Direction — Part 4

No Comments, Strengthen the Economy, by Kristen Hoschouer.

This is the fourth and final post in our series about the 2013 Strategic Direction. Please also check out Part 1: Preserve Infrastructure, Part 2: Optimize Mobility and Part 3: Zero Fatalities.

Strengthen the Economy

This goal recognizes UDOT’s role in creating and managing a transportation system that enables economic growth and empowers prosperity. Investing in major roadway projects in the past few years has paid great dividends. While many cities in the United States show increasing travel times, Utah travel times are decreasing. This is very significant considering the population of Utah has grown 63 percent since 1990.

UDOT is providing a product for future generations. When Utah’s roadways are safe, free of congestion and operate efficiently, Utahns are free to live where they like with a wider selection of jobs. Businesses are also able to reach a wider range of customers and employee base. Success in the first three goals creates a solid foundation for economic growth.

UDOT understands the importance of mobility and its significance for economic growth. Businesses also understand the importance of locating in areas where their product can be distributed quickly and efficiently, and where their employees can benefit from a healthy quality of life.

Everyone benefits from a safe transportation system, including the economy. When a roadway is known to be safe, residents and visitors will be more likely to use it. Safe roads can promote the growth of business along that roadway and the local economy.

For the third year in a row, Forbes magazine has named Utah as the best state in the U.S. for doing business. According to economist, transportation plays a big role in the state’s business environment. Certainly, businesses in Utah are benefiting from the improved mobility on roadways.

In conclusion, UDOT has completed two of the largest projects in our history using only state funds and delivered the largest construction season in our history. Our significant challenge remains. However, the future is bright for transportation as we focus on our four strategic goals.

February 8th, 2013

2013 Strategic Direction — Part 3

No Comments, Zero Fatalities, by Kristen Hoschouer.

This is the third part of a 4 part series about the 2013 Strategic Direction. Please also check out Part 1: Preserve Infrastructure,  Part 2: Optimize Mobility and Part 4: Strengthen the Economy.

Zero Fatalities

UDOT remains committed to safety. This new goal replaces the previous goal of “Improving Safety” emphasizing UDOT’s commitment to reducing fatalities. Some may believe that zero is unattainable, however to those who’ve lost family members on Utah roads one fatality is one too many. Zero Fatalities is the only goal acceptable to Utahns and to UDOT.

In 2012, 218 lives were lost on Utah’s roads in car crashes–the lowest Utah traffic fatalities have been since 1959. We are making progress toward our goal of Zero Fatalities, but we still have a ways to go.

Every UDOT project incorporates safety improvements. In 2012, UDOT programmed $19.2 million for specific safety projects, including:

  • 42 miles of median cable barrier installed, for a total of 231 miles since 2003
  • Approximately $17 million of Safety Program funds were assigned to specific safety projects in 2012
  • 12 new traffic signals constructed
  • 24 traffic signal upgrades constructed
  • 11 pedestrian/school crossing improvements
  • Construction of 20 safe sidewalk projects
  • Installation of 540 sidewalk access ramps

In UDOT, the focus on safety within engineering begins with planning, designing and building safe roadways. Engineering for safety is UDOT’s commitment to a safe-system approach. The main principle of a safe-system approach is the roadway is designed and built to realistically prevent traffic related deaths even when driving behaviors create crashes.

Education is also important roadway safety. Utah demonstrates its commitment to safety through outreach efforts that help educate the public and make Utah a safe place for living, traveling and doing business. These education programs include:

Since 2009, UDOT safety programs have:

  • Totalled more than 135 presentations to elementary schools
  • Reached more than 100,000 students statewide

UDOT’s Incident Management Program began in 1994 as part of UDOT’s on-going commitment to safety on Utah’s roads. From the beginning, the program has provided significant benefit by increasing first responder safety, reducing congestion and delays and reducing secondary crashes.

Snow and ice removal is a major component to safe driving in Utah. To clear snow from approximately 6,000 centerline miles of Utah’s roads, UDOT employs the latest technologies and trains crews to ensure they are ready.

  • On average, Utah receives more than 25 winter storms each year and UDOT crews remove more than 65 million tons of snow and ice from Utah’s roads.
  • To help keep our roads clear around the clock, UDOT operates a fleet of approximately 500 snowplows.
  • UDOT’s winter operations budget for the 2012-2013 winter season is $23.3 million, including equipment, salaries, sand, salt, brine and avalanche control.

February 7th, 2013

Avalanche Press Conference

No Comments, Zero Fatalities, by John Gleason.

Last Friday, we held a press conference inviting the media to help increase awareness of avalanche safety and the resources available to those who access avalanche country, including the backcountry in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Backcountry skiers and snowboarders endanger hundreds of people by not utilizing available information sources and entering avalanche country at the wrong time. Skiers and riders need to be aware that their actions and decisions may not affect only themselves, but also drivers along the canyon road. Little Cottonwood Canyon is one of the highest-risk roads for avalanches in North America and backcountry skiers and snowboarders need to be aware that UDOT may carry out artillery or explosives avalanche control work at any time during the avalanche season (November to May).

Liam Fitzgerald, UDOT’s Highway Avalanche Safety Supervisor, helped inform the public at the press conference of the numerous resources UDOT and our partners provide to inform backcountry users of where and when avalanche work will be carried out, including:

The press conference was a success and you can watch one of the resulting stories below.

Our next steps to increase awareness of UDOT’s avalanche resources are a social media campaign targeted to appropriate audiences. By utilizing local public opinion leaders such as professional athletes and prominent ski/boarding brands, an informative UDOT Avalanche Awareness video will be spread locally to help keep backcountry users safe.

Here’s to a safe 2013 winter season!

February 6th, 2013

2013 Strategic Direction — Part 2

No Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Kristen Hoschouer.

This is the second part of a 4 part series about the 2013 Strategic Direction. Please also check out Part 1: Preserve Infrastructure, Part 3: Zero Fatalities and Part 4: Strengthen the Economy.

Optimize Mobility

The goal of optimizing mobility continues to include the need to build new highways, expand existing highways, build more bicycle and pedestrian paths and expand the transit network. UDOT accomplishes this by adding capacity, managing lanes, developing innovative cross roads, coordinating signals, and providing traffic information.

Since 2006, more than 575 lane miles have been added to the state system from various programs that fund more than 100 projects. Currently, capacity projects are primarily funded through the Transportation Investment Fund (TIF). Some of these projects include the I-15 CORE, Mountain View Corridor, US-40 passing lane improvements, SR-18 intersection upgrades at St. George Blvd. and US-6 passing lane improvements. These capacity projects dramatically improve delay on Utah roadways.

Wasatch_Front_Delay

Without capacity improvements, delay along the Wasatch Front would have experienced a three-to-five fold increase.

UDOT currently has 124 miles of Express Lanes (62 miles both northbound and southbound) with 54 continuous miles between Spanish Fork and North Salt Lake City making Utah’s Express Lanes the longest continuous Express Lanes in the country. More than 13,000 Express Pass transponders have been purchased, speeds average 9 mph faster than the general lanes and travelers experience a higher level of safety.

Developing and constructing innovative cross roads is a fundamental in optimizing mobility on Utah roadways. Flex Lanes, Commuter Lanes, ThrU-Turn Intersections (TTI), Diverging Diamond Interchanges (DDI) and Continuous Flow Intersections (CFIs) decrease delay at intersections, reduce travel time, improve safety, and reduce the length and cost of construction.

The Traffic Operations Center (TOC) continues to be the key to providing a cost-effective and and efficient solution to help relieve congestion on Utah’s roads and highways. Using advanced technologies such as cameras and traffic/weather sensors, operators in the TOC can monitor traffic, detect problems and take actions necessary to return traffic flow to normal.

UDOT uses a variety of methods to provide actual travel times and accurate traffic and weather information to help drivers make choices that reduce delay, prevent crashes and improve air quality. By implementing an extensive Intelligent Transportation System (ITS), UDOT is able to know what is happening on Utah roads, and provide travelers the information they need to plan their routes. UDOT communicates travel information online at udot.utah.gov and through variable messages signs (VMS), traffic cameras, twitter, facebook, and YouTube, and the UDOT Traffic App.

February 5th, 2013

2013 Strategic Direction — Part 1

No Comments, Preserve Infrastructure, by Kristen Hoschouer.

This is the first part of a 4 part series about the 2013 Strategic Direction. Please also check out Part 2: Optimize Mobility, Part 3: Zero Fatalities, and Part 4: Strengthen the Economy.

After a record breaking construction year, with more than 200 projects completed, worth just over $3 billion, what is in store for UDOT in 2013? The newly completed 2013 Strategic Direction and Performance Measures highlights accomplishments by the department in 2012 and introduces goals for 2013 and the coming years.

Key to the Strategic Direction document are the UDOT Strategic Goals. These goals ensure that we focus our efforts and capital on the most important activities. This year we have revised our goals, which include:

  • Preserve Infrastructure
  • Optimize Mobility
  • Zero Fatalities
  • Strengthen the Economy

Details on each goal will be provided in a four part series, beginning with:

Preserve Infrastructure

Preserving Utah’s multi-billion dollar investment is the single largest expenditure year to year within UDOT. Keeping the state’s bridges and pavement in good condition is the most effective way to extend the life of the transportation system. This is accomplished by applying well-timed preservation treatments to roads, and addressing critical needs first. By applying a combination of routine maintenance, preservation and minor and major rehabilitation projects, UDOT is able to utilize limited funding to maximize the pavement condition.

In 2012:

  • More than 100 preservation and rehabilitation projects were completed,
  • Approximately 350 miles, or six percent of the system, received a specific preservation or rehabilitation treatment,
  • Six critical bridges were replaced,
  • Eighty-four new bridges were built by capacity-driven project,
  • Two pedestrian bridges were built,
  • Bridge preservation and rehabilitation activities were performed on more than 170 bridges.

Please also check out Part 2: Optimize Mobility.

February 5th, 2013

Snow Removal

No Comments, Zero Fatalities, by Becky Parker.

Last week it seemed like it would never stop snowing. Thankfully this week’s commutes along the Wasatch Front have been a little easier on motorist’s nerves. For weeks like last week though we have 510 plows ready throughout the state and our crews make every effort to keep the roads clear and safe. Here is what they have used through January 28.

  • 94,924 tons of saltLoading Salt
  • 9,918 cubic yards of grit
  • 69,330 gallons of liquid deicer
  • 2,621 snow plow blades
  • 388,940 gallons of fuel
  • 87,287 equipment hours

As far a budget, it costs an average of $1,000,000 per storm.

An inauguration of an elected official is an exciting event, and UDOT was on hand during the January 7, 2013 inauguration of Governor Herbert to ensure that traffic moved smoothly. UDOT was contacted by Capitol staff ahead of the inauguration hoping to mitigate traffic problems that were observed during previous inauguration events. The UDOT Traffic Management Division (TMD) and UDOT Region 2 were tasked with using the knowledge and tools available to ensure that traffic delays were at a minimum during this important event.IMT Truck & Utah State Capitol

“The staff at the UDOT TMD and Region 2 went above and beyond to help get attendees of Governor Herbert’s inauguration where they needed to go safely and with little confusion or traffic delay,” said Eric Rasband, UDOT Engineer-in-charge for the event.

UDOT’s duties were to coordinate signal timing plans, attend pre- and post-event meetings, coordinate with Capitol employees and local police as well as handle traffic control and snow/ice removal. UDOT also utilized its social media outlets for parking alerts and related information.

The total attendance for the event was between 1000 and 1500. Overall, traffic moved very well and there were no major delays.

In 2012, 215 lives were lost on Utah’s roads in car crashes—the lowest Utah traffic fatalities have been since 1959. We are making progress toward our goal of Zero Fatalities, but we still have a ways to go. These 215 fatalities were preventable and we hope we can continue to see this number decline, ultimately to zero.

Fatality Numbers

Here are five simple ways to save lives—including your own—on Utah’s roads.

  1. Always, always buckle up. Wearing your seat belt is the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself in a crash. In 2012, buckling up could have saved 67 lives on Utah’s roads. Buckling up takes two seconds to do, and could mean the difference between life or death in a crash. Commit now to always wear your seat belt, and let your passengers know that your car won’t move until everyone is buckled up.
  2. If you’ve been drinking, don’t drive. Designate a driver, call a cab or take public transit. There is no excuse for driving under the influence. Sadly, 41 people died in Utah due to impaired driving in 2012. Alcohol and illegal drugs aren’t the only things that can impair your driving. Prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines and lack of sleep can also impair your ability to drive safely.
  3. Too tired? Don’t drive. Believe it or not, drowsy driving kills. Fourteen fatalities in 2012 are attributed to drowsy driving. If you’re feeling drowsy, pull over and switch drivers, find a safe place to sleep for the night or get out of the car and stretch or jog for a few minutes. Drowsy driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving.
  4. Stay focused on the road. With so many potential distractions, a driver’s attention may easily get diverted if the driver isn’t making a conscious effort to stay focused on the road. It takes just one time of looking away for a brief moment—reading a text, changing the radio or even answering the phone—to cause a disaster. Twenty people died in 2012 in distracted driving-related crashes.
  5. Slow down and don’t drive aggressively. Whether you have a “need for speed” or you’re running a few minutes late, pushing that accelerator a little harder could cost you your life—it cost 43 people theirs in 2012. A total of 49 people died on Utah’s roads in 2012 due to aggressive driving or speeding. Aggressive driving means operating a vehicle in a way that endangers or is likely to endanger people or property.

2012 Zero Fatalities Infographic

Join us as we continue the conversation about Zero Fatalities, what you can do and how we’re doing toward our goal in 2013 by following us on Twitter and liking us on Facebook. You can also review the full 2012 Fatalities Data Analysis report by visiting the Zero Fatalities website.

This post was written by Jane Putnam, Zero Fatalities Team.

UDOT marked two significant milestones as it celebrated the completion of the largest road construction projects in Utah history on Saturday, December 15 with the opening of the Utah County I-15 Corridor Expansion (I-15 CORE) and 15 miles of the Mountain View Corridor (MVC) in Salt Lake County.

“We have delivered the World Series and the Super Bowl all in one day,” said UDOT Executive Director John Njord.

Local leaders, including Governor Gary Herbert, House Speaker Becky Lockhart and Senator John Valentine, joined UDOT in cutting the banner on the record-breaking I-15 CORE project Saturday afternoon. More than 100 people braved the chilly December weather to join the festivities. Refreshments including hot chocolate, hot dogs and special I-15 CORE sugar cookies were available to say thank you to the public for their patience throughout construction.

I-15 CORE Ribbon Cutting

I-15 CORE Ribbon Cuttin

“Hear the noise. That’s the sound of progress,” Herbert said, as cars and trucks passed underneath the Sam White Bridge on I-15. “That’s the sound of commerce, that’s the sound of a state that’s really going in the right direction.”

Construction on I-15 CORE was finished in an unprecedented 35 months, making it the fastest billion-dollar public highway project ever built in the United States. The project came in $260 million under budget.

Saturday’s celebration was held on the Sam White Bridge in American Fork, the site of one of the project’s greatest achievements. In March 2011, UDOT moved the bridge — the longest two-span bridge to be moved by self-propelled modular transporters
(SPMTs) in the Western Hemisphere — into place over I-15 in one night.

“The technology to move the Sam White Bridge into place in hours instead of months is indicative of all the work that took place on this project” to complete it quickly and keep traffic moving, Njord said.

I-15 CORE reconstructed 24 miles of freeway from Lehi to Spanish Fork, with two additional freeway lanes in each direction.

Earlier that day, snow flurries didn’t deter over 200 runners who bundled up in their winter gear to attend the MVC opening celebration, which featured a 5K Polar Bear Fun Run to give members of the community an opportunity to enjoy the road before it opened to motorists.

“It looks like Christmas to me,” said Governor Herbert as he spoke to the chilly, but upbeat crowd.

MVC Opening 5K Polar Bear Fun Run

MVC Opening 5K Polar Bear Fun Run

Runners were entertained by music courtesy of the Copper Hills High School Marching Band, stayed warm with the help of hand warmers and MVC beanies and enjoyed holiday treats, hot cider and hot chocolate provided by the project’s contractors.

Representative Wayne Harper and West Jordan Mayor Melissa Johnson also addressed the audience and thanked UDOT for their continued innovation and partnership in developing this vital roadway.

The current phase of MVC is 15 miles long and features two lanes built in each direction from Redwood Road (at approximately 16000 South) to 5400 South, with signalized intersections where future interchanges will be located.

To meet projected transportation demands in the year 2030, future construction will build out the remainder of the corridor by adding interchanges and inside lanes to achieve a fully functional freeway that will connect with I-80 in Salt Lake County and I-15
in Lehi.

Construction funds have been identified to extend MVC from 5400 South to 4100 South in the next few years.

The roadway also features 15 miles of trails adjacent to the corridor, 9 miles of paved bike lanes and UDOT’s first radar activated bike turn signal.

“The vision for the Mountain View Corridor came from the communities in Western Salt Lake County,” said Project Director Teri Newell. “UDOT is proud to make this vision a reality and provide these communities with a new transportation solution.”

MVC provides increased mobility, but will require motorists to adjust their driving patterns and learn how to navigate a new one-way roadway, as this initial phase is similar to a divided highway with one-way northbound and southbound roadways. Signs
are posted along the corridor and at each intersection to help motorists adjust to the new traffic patterns. UDOT has also produced a navigational video to teach motorists how to drive on the new roadway.

Governor Herbert touted the success of both the I-15 CORE and MVC projects, highlighting their importance state. “This is about economic development. If you want a state to thrive economically, you’ve got to have a transportation system that works,” said Herbert.

You can find out more on the I-15 CORE Infographic and the project website, www.udot.utah.gov/i15core. Additional details about the MVC project are available on the MVC Infographic or by logging on to www.udot.utah.gov/mountainview.

This is a guest post by Mary Rice of the Mountain View Corridor Project Team.