Tag Archives: Innovation

UDOT Launches New Technology Making Crosswalks Safer for Students, Crossing Guards

UDOT Launches New Technology Making Crosswalks Safer for Students, Crossing Guards
UDOT first in the nation to arm local school crossing guards with tool to enable longer “walk” time during peak hours

WEST JORDAN (Sept. 14, 2016) — The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) unveiled a new technology Wednesday that allows school crossing guards to add extra “walk” time on a crosswalk signal during peak periods. This increases safety by allowing students more time to get across the busy street.

By using a newly engineered key on signal boxes, crossing guards can now add 10-15 seconds of extra “walk” time during morning and afternoon hours when students walk and bike to school. This increases safety and allows traffic to continue moving smoothly and efficiently throughout the day.

UDOT’s Traffic Operations Center is the first in the nation to develop this technology. Installing the key costs about $20 per crosswalk, plus 30 minutes of installation time for an electrician.

“This is a low cost, easy solution that will pay off with increased safety and better traffic flow for the area, which is UDOT’s ultimate goal,” said UDOT School and Pedestrian Safety Program Manager Cherissa Olson. “We want to make sure students are getting to and from school every day safe and sound.”

Crossing guards who help students cross the busy 9000 South near 2200 West to Hawthorn Academy and Westvale Elementary in West Jordan every day welcome the new technology.

“With all of the traffic in this area, something had to be done to help our students get to and from school safely,” said Cindy Jacobsen, crossing guard supervisor for West Jordan. “This new tool from UDOT gives us an easy solution that will make our jobs easier.”

Schools interested in using this new technology at their crosswalks can email askudottraffic@utah.gov.




Media Contact:
John Gleason
Public Information Officer
Cell: 801-560-7740

UDOT projects honored at WASHTO meeting

State projects win in “Quality of Life”, “Under Budget” categories

BOISE, Idaho — Dedication and understanding of the impact state-controlled roads have on motorists in Utah was recognized today, as UDOT projects in Southern Utah and Northern Utah garnered two regional awards in the 2015 America’s Transportation Awards competition.

The announcement today was made at the 2015 Western Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (WASHTO) annual meeting. UDOT projects were among eight that won in each of the competition’s three categories: Best Use of Innovation, Under Budget, and Quality of Life/Community Development.

UDOT’s Bluff Street at Southern Hills Parkway Interchange was recognized in the Quality of Life/Community Development category, which recognizes “a transportation project that has contributed to the general quality of life and economic development of local communities. These innovative projects better connect people to businesses, jobs, health care facilities, and recreational activities while encouraging a mix of transportation modes. ” With comfortable weather and access to many outdoor activities and destinations, the largest city in Region Four provides so much of what St. George and Washington County residents who value quality of life are looking for.

So many new residents have come to the area seeking this quality of life that existing transportation infrastructure has been over-taxed. Nearly 43,000 cars travel along Bluff Street (SR-18) each day, and another 13,700 go through Red Hills Parkway. The clash of rural vs. urban can best be seen here, where a state highway suddenly becomes a city road where many cyclists and runners converge to get to and around the natural preserve. It’s the meeting point four multi-use trail systems, and is included in the course of many major sporting events in the area. All of this activity in a traditionally constructed intersection places residents and visitors at risk.

This was how the intersection looked before the project

This was how the intersection looked before the project

In order to accommodate the current population as well as the expected growth through 2030, UDOT, the City of St. George and the Southern Utah Bike Alliance (SUBA) collaborated to reconfigure the intersection by creating a center exit interchange.

The center exit interchange creates a safer section of road, while also maintaining a steady flow of traffic. Highway travelers can continue on their way on the outside lanes, while those needing local access take the inside lanes to an intersection that allows east-west travel.

The construction team saved $4 million in construction costs by utilizing the natural topography of the area and building the project within natural grades.

The project after it was finished. Note the center offramp and bike trails

The project after it was finished. Note the center offramp and bike trails

The project also integrated bike/pedestrian paths into the design, with box culverts under SR-18 allowing for safer multimodal transportation under busy roadways, thus connecting the community in a safe, efficient and positive way.

“UDOT should be commended for their positive design process that encourages outside voices and ideas,” said Craig Shanklin, SUBA President. “This was a great example of how the community can be involved in the design process and lead to a better outcome for all users.”

The Diverging Diamond Interchange at Brigham City’s US-91/1100 South location was honored in the “Under Budget” category. That category honors “a project demonstrating transportation efficiency while promoting economic and fiscal responsibility. The award recognizes a successful project brought in under budget that provided the greatest cost savings to the state(s) while offering maximum performance.”

How do you move a steadily increasing traffic flow through an aging, small interchange at the connection of US-91 and Interstate 15, near the northern Utah city of Brigham City?  With more than 20,000 vehicles a day — many of them trucks — originating throughout the region, this old, inefficient interchange was reducing the economic lifeblood of local communities to a trickle.

The new DDI at Brigham City on the day it opened.

The new DDI at Brigham City on the day it opened.

The 40-year-old interchange would frequently clog when vehicles at its ramps tried to enter the traffic flow.  The predominant west to south-bound traffic on US-91 was so steady during the day that it was nearly hopeless for other movements to occur.  This prompted risk-taking by trapped motorists at the ramps – and frequent crashes when they did.  Regional special events, like local university football games, would bring traffic to a complete halt.

UDOT traffic planners needed a solution, but the answer was elusive.  Soils adjacent to the Great Salt Lake were saturated by surface groundwater, making the interchange increasingly unstable.  Engineers wondered how to upgrade it without a massive redesign to accommodate the increasing pounding from trucks.  Similar rebuilds had cost upwards of $100 million – prohibitive under state budgets at the time.

The answer: innovate.  Engineers used an innovation to solve the water issue — geofoam — which allowed the new interchange to “float” on soggy soils.  Another innovation — advanced bridge construction — replaced the interchange’s old bridge over I-15 while adding a completely new span in a little more than 10 months.  Finally, the innovative diverging diamond traffic pattern was added to the design to solve the problem of congestion and safety.

The white blocks are geofoam, which was used to construct the DDI in a environmentally- and structurally- sound way

The white blocks are geofoam, which was used to construct the DDI in a environmentally- and structurally- sound way

The result? An efficient interchange that allows all traffic movements to occur safely and congestion-free, and all for less than $14 million.

“What UDOT and the project team eventually chose to do was not only innovative, but a brilliant solution to an extremely difficult situation with many built-in constrictions,” said Bradley Humpherys, a Senior Transportation Project Manager for Stanley Consultants.

Utah’s two projects — along with projects in California, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Texas — will compete against projects from other regions in the U.S. for a National Grand Prize, the People’s Choice Award and $10,000 prizes to be given by the winners to a transportation-related charity or scholarship program.

The top two national winners will be announced in September at the AASHTO Annual Meeting in Chicago.

“These projects are a small sampling of the many ways in which state DOTs are improving peoples’ quality of life and providing for a vibrant economy,” said John Cox, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials President and Director of the Wyoming Department of Transportation.

The America’s Transportation Awards – co-sponsored by AASHTO, AAA and the US Chamber of Commerce – annually recognizes the best of America’s transportation projects in four regional competitions.  Learn more about the projects and the competition at: AmericasTransportationAwards.org

A gallery of maps shed light on STIP process

The STIP Workshop Gallery, now available through UPlan, enhances planning, decision-making and transparency.

The projects on the map are showing UDOT’s Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, or STIP, a four-year plan of funded state and local projects for the State of Utah.

The STIP is updated and published annually after a yearlong cycle of events that includes input from other government agencies, fiscal analysis, and public meetings and comments. The STIP serves as UDOT’s official work plan for developing projects from conception, through design, to advertising and construction.

A screen shot of Region One's STIP map gives the public a look the status of projects and how much is being spent.

A screen shot of Region One’s STIP map gives the public a look the status of projects and how much is being spent.

Before UDOT’s GIS team produced maps showing the STIP, the list of projects were published as static hard-copy maps or as a list of projects. The new STIP maps are web-based and dynamic, and change as UDOT makes changes to the program. The data on the maps are obtained from ePM, UDOT’s electric program management system, and are refreshed nightly.

Policy makers, program managers and the public

The maps will be used at the Utah Transportation Commission Workshop in April. “It gives them a view of the planned and recommended projects in the regions they represent,” says William Lawrence, UDOT Director of Program Finance. Lawrence will use the maps to zoom in to see the exact location, scope, planned schedule and budget of each project at the workshop.

The maps help “open a conversation up among groups at UDOT,” says Lawrence. Portfolio and project managers can use the maps to coordinate or combine projects. For example, a bridge program manager and a pavement program manager can coordinate projects to reduce impact to the public.

The maps help UDOT’s goal to be a transparent public agency. “In a nutshell, it basically says here’s the funding we have and here’s where we’ve planned to spend it,” says Lawrence. It lets the public see “exactly what’s coming in their direction.”

To find the maps, start from the UPlan Map Center website, enter STIP in the search field and select “search for apps” in the drop down box.

This post was written by Catherine Higgins of the UDOT Project Development division. It will also appear in the GIS bi-monthly newsletter.

Innovative partnerships prove to be the perfect recipe for Patchwork Parkway

PANGUITCH — In a state where innovation is consistently used to Keep Utah Moving, sometimes innovation alone isn’t enough. Unique partnerships between state agencies can be the perfect additional ingredient to accomplish the improbable.

In rural southern Utah, where equipment and manpower are sometimes as few and far between as the towns in the region, innovation and partnering got a much-needed job done quickly and efficiently, while minimizing the use of taxpayer dollars.

Recently, UDOT’s shed 4469 in Panguitch teamed up with Bryce Canyon National Park to create a shoulder on a seven-mile stretch of Scenic Byway SR-143. This stretch of Utah’s “Patchwork Parkway” was in great need of a shoulder, because a simple task like plowing the road or pulling over created potential safety issues.

The project required tools neither the department nor the national park possessed alone. So to combat this issue, they came together to pool resources and manpower to finish the job in a few days, saving each agency valuable time and money.

“The stars just lined up,” said Panguitch Shed manager Robert Brown. “Down here, we’re all neighbors, and you have to get creative to help each other out and get things done.”

Normally, a similar project requires a team of at least six to eight workers, with three on a shouldering machine alone. But with only two full-time employees at the shed, Brown and his counterpart at Bryce Canyon had to think outside of the box. Here are some of the highlights:

• Bryce Canyon provided side delivery dump trucks that offered a more efficient use of asphalt. Standard machines provide four feet of material, even if only two feet are needed.
• UDOT’s grader was used to accomplish both the grading and compaction tasks, as the shoulder in the area is too steep to use conventional steel drum rollers.
• The asphalt used on the project was recycled and obtained from a pit in nearby Hatch, Utah at nearly one-third of the cost of new asphalt.
• The project was completed in two days, with two UDOT Panguitch Shed employees and two Bryce Canyon employees.
• A pull-behind broom hooked to a pickup truck cleaned the road with two passes.

For Brown, the lesson is simple: when government entities work and plan together, the result can be a win-win for both, as well as the surrounding communities.

“Without the shared resources, we wouldn’t have been able to do the job,” Brown said. “I think this shows that governments need to think outside of the box more to collaborate.”

Black Sand

What black sand looks like.

What black sand looks like.

UDOT recently tested an innovative product used to help enhance the snow melting process during the clearing of mountain passes in the spring. The material is called “black sand” and was tested near Monte Cristo summit in Weber County as an agent to save future time and money.

Special Crews Supervisor, Kelly Andrew, conducted the study and ran tests, to see how effective the black sand would actually be. The result was extremely positive and indicated this method could save UDOT a significant amount of time in the snow removal process as well as in equipment costs.

Black sand has been a tried and tested method farmers have used for years in order to clear snow from the ground to plant their crops faster, rather than letting it melt on its own. Andrew noticed how effective it had been for them and thought, “Why wouldn’t it work for us on roads?” This led to acquiring the material and testing certain sections of snow to see which areas melted faster, those with black sand or those without.

Loading the black sand

Special Crews Supervisor, Kelly Andrew looks on as workers load the black sand.

So how does it work? Black sand uses solar energy to create heat that in turn helps melt snow faster. Vic Saunders, Region One communications manager, used wearing a black shirt as an example of how the black sand works.

Black Sand 2

Spreading the black sand at Monte Cristo Summit.

“If you were to go outside wearing a dark shirt, you would get warmer than you would wearing a white shirt… the black enhances the melting process because it is absorbing the solar rays rather than reflecting them.” Saunders said.

According to Andrew, the black sand is a fine powder-like substance that was lightly spread with a large snow machine. Utah State University conducted a study testing the components of the sand, which consists of 95 percent pure sand and the rest inert elements that are not harmful to the environment.

After a four-week testing period, Andrew and his team found that areas where black sand had been distributed showed significant progress in the melting process over the parts of snow that had been left alone.

The advantage of this new black sand is not only that it makes the process of clearing the mountain passes easier but it also saves taxpayers money. Money is saved on time because the more snow that has melted means less to remove and less wear and tear on expensive equipment that is costly to operate.

The black sand method would not replace salt that is used on highways and freeways to help remove snow and ice; rather it’s an additional agent to be used on closed roads with heavily packed snow.

“We didn’t use the black sand to help us open the road earlier but we did it to make ourselves more efficient,” Saunders said.

The sand will continue to be tested as an additional tool in the snow removal process for mountain passes in the upcoming winter months.

Photos were provided by Kelly Andrew and Vic Saunders from Region One. 

UDOT Leads at GIS Conference for Innovation and Progress

UPLANThe Utah Department of Transportation was recently recognized by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation (AASHTO) at a national conference held in Boise, Idaho May 6-8. UDOT has been acknowledged for the way we utilize Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in transportation.

UDOT stands out as a leader among the nation’s DOTs for our advancements with the highway mapping system known as UPlan. UDOT also received an honorable mention in the Transportation Publication division map competition for the Utah State Highway Map.

UDOT GIS Manager Frank Pisani attended the conference and said he was approached by nearly a dozen states who expressed interest in emulating UDOT’s implementation of UPlan.

So what exactly is UPlan and UGate?  “UPlan is an interactive mapping platform that supports UDOT by helping visualize our data, track our assets and strengthen our transportation planning with better analysis and collaborative information,” Pisani explained.

“UGate is the database and UPlan is the front end,” Pisani said. “UGate is behind the scenes as the engine that powers UPlan.”

The UPlan website is used as an information system where data can be tracked and recorded for both internal and public audiences. Due to it success, the federal government is also encouraging state to implement a similar system..

The Federal Highway Administration also highlighted UDOT as a model for other states for our Highway Performance Monitoring Systems and the approach we use with Linear Reference Systems.

Frank Pisani explains Linear Reference Systems:  “This is how UDOT coordinates with other state organizations like 911, highway patrols and local governments to collectively maintain 1 road network.”

Pisani said he was approached by a fellow conference attendee who claimed he had been coming to the conference for more than 20 years., “Three years ago UDOT wasn’t even here,” the man said. “And now you guys have taken over.”

UDOT has surpassed other state DOTs in the way we have been able to accomplish more with limited resources.

“UDOT has direction, support and good technology that is helping us capstone a lot of our efforts,” Pisani said. “We are trying to use technology to the best of our ability to inform the department and also the public that we are using this as an information tool and we are making the best out of the technology and data that is out there. UDOT is innovative in all aspects of the department and our technology focus is just one of them.”