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Utah DOT’s Weather Operations Program Celebrates its 15th Year

Utah DOT’s Weather Operations Program Celebrates its 15th Year


October 2016

The UDOT Weather Operations Program is celebrating its 15th year of managing weather events throughout the state of Utah. Beginning officially with the 2002 Winter Olympics, the Weather Operations program has reached many milestones over the years. Nearly 20 years ago, UDOT’s first contract meteorologist began with forecasts for a small section of the state. Today, UDOT employs a full time UDOT Weather Operations Manager, 8-12 meteorologists and a UDOT weather research analyst.


Figure 1A UDOT RWIS deployment.

So, how has the program grown and changed over time?

UDOT meteorologists handle over 5,000 phone calls in a typical winter season. There is a significant amount of coordination with the National Weather Service and UDOT plow crews. Ahead of any major weather events, including winter storms, wind events and rain/floods, UDOT’s Weather Operations group will host a weather briefing, sharing critical and timely information. UDOT signals, traveler information, operations, Ports of Entry, Utah Highway Patrol, communications and other teams are all participants.

The UDOT Citizen Reporter program smartphone apps for iOS and Google Play were launched in October 2013 to allow motorists to report road and weather conditions to UDOT. The UDOT app was the first of its kind in the country! UDOT has received thousands of reports from citizens since the program launched and reminds all drivers to never use apps while driving.


Figure 2 The UDOT Citizen Reporter app is a free download for iPhone and Droid.


Figure 3 Sign up to be a UDOT Citizen Reporter.

A new feature to the UDOT Traffic app and website is the Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) of all UDOT plows during storms. A citizen can get, at a glance, an understanding of where all UDOT plows are currently working. This enhancement also allows UDOT to better track plow movements for possible equipment and material savings. Overall, this enhancement has been very well received by the public.



Figure 4UDOT plows at work during a winter storm.

UDOT launched a Winter Road Weather Index (WRWI) project a few years ago to monitor snow and ice removal. The next generation of the WRWI is here… in the form of winter weather performance metrics. UDOT’s Snow and Ice performance metrics dashboard has real-time statistics that are utilized by UDOT maintenance crews to determine how effective they were at maintaining good road conditions during a storm. Several metrics go into creating the measure, including the intensity of the storm, length of time the storm is ongoing, resources allocated to the maintenance shed covering the geographic area and field instrumentation on the RWIS units. The resulting information is utilized to measure storm performance, identify best practices and possibly re-allocate resources to better cover areas in need.


Figure 5UDOT’s Snow and Ice Performance Measure uses green, yellow and red data points to assess how maintenance crews responded to the storm.

UDOT is fortunate to have an incredible crew of plow drivers who are very dedicated to their jobs and to Keeping Utah Moving. But there’s always room for improvement and sometimes opportunities for efficiency and resource allocation. In order to track performance and possibilities for improvement, the snow and ice performance metric takes into consideration several baseline data points including snow fall rate, time of day and shed resources.


Figure 6The UDOT Snow and Ice Performance measure graphic is available for each storm, allowing management to view an assessment and determine of additional resources are needed.

The graphic colors represented here show that UDOT’s crews managed the storm well but have some areas for improvement. The green data points show that when all factors are considered, the plow crews are exceeding expectations and are doing a great job keeping up with the storm and keeping the road well maintained. The yellow data points show that crews are performing within current capabilities for equipment and manpower. The red data points are highlighting areas for improvement where crews are not performing up to UDOT’s standards. Because the data comes to UDOT in real-time, a shed foreman has the ability to review the information at the end of the storm, end of the month or end of the season!

Under the red, yellow and green data point graph, the plow icon shows the movement of plows over the course of the storm.


Figure 7The Snow and Ice Performance metric includes details about the storm, including pavement temperature, storm intensity and precipitation type.


The archived snow and ice removal performance metric data includes atmospheric conditions, air temperature, pavement temperature, precipitation type and other meteorological factors that can help to determine the intensity


Figure 8UDOT Traffic camera screenshots are archived with each storm’s metrics to provide a visual description of the storm.

of the storm. UDOT Traffic camera screenshots are also included to give a data user a visual of the road during the storm. All of this information comes together to give shed crews and UDOT leadership an idea of how resources are being utilized and where there are areas for improvement.

UDOT is ready for the winter season and we hope you are, too. Now would be a good time to check the condition of your tires and ensure you have an emergency kit in your trunk. Please remember: always buckle up and never drive distracted. Check the UDOT Traffic app or website before every trip.



UDOT app wins award for digital pioneering

SALT LAKE CITY — The pioneering sprit has always been in Utah’s blood. From the Winchester rifle, Word Perfect and wider Pioneer Streets, to the Roadometer and Television, Utah has always tried to be at the forefront of technology.

In the digital age, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) has continued as a technological pioneer, especially in the field of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS). It was recently awarded a “Best of ITS” award by the ITS World Congress this fall for its Citizen Reporter app, which was piloted during the 2012-2013 winter season.

Citizen Report Screenshot

A screenshot of the Citizen Report app

The app, which is the first of its kind in the United States, is aimed at Keeping Utah Moving, specifically during winter months. It allows citizen volunteers to report on road weather conditions along specific roadways across the Beehive State, after a short training session. These reports give enhanced road weather information to travelers when the stakes are the highest — during inclement weather. 

In large, sparsely populated states like Utah, state DOTs have trouble providing up-to-the-minute accuracy on road conditions to travelers. It’s especially tough in Utah, where nearly 1,000 cameras statewide still can’t see every inch of roadway. But that’s where crowd sourcing from citizen reporters comes in, providing more accurate and timely information to the traveling public on conditions around the state.

Lisa Miller, UDOT’s Traveler Information Manager, said the program was extremely successful, with over 1100 reports last year from approximately 500 reporters. She predicts four times the usage of the app this coming year.

“Our early concern was that the data might not be reliable,” Miller said. “But what we’ve found is that the incoming data is 99% accurate.”

Other states, such as Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska and North Dakota have requested information from UDOT to create similar programs in those states. The success of the program has spurred the department to produce another app, called Click N Fix, which allows the public to report potholes, burnt out highway lights, and other safety issues. The app will be more widely available to the public in early 2015.

The 2014 ITS World Congress

UDOT was awarded a “Best of ITS” award for “Best New Innovative Practice” in September.

“Crowd-sourcing is emerging as an effective means to both engage and serve the public, Miller said. “The public can now make more informed travel decisions, which impacts everything: safety, mobility, and the economy.”

To become a Citizen Reporter:

In order to become a UDOT Citizen Reporter, you will need to complete a brief training (either online or in person), take a short quiz and complete a sign-up form. The training takes approximately 10 minutes to complete. Once a volunteer has completed these steps, they will be provided with a login and PIN, and can begin submitting reports. Reports are submitted through the UDOT Citizen Reporting app, downloadable for Android and Apple devices from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

If you would like to become a Citizen Reporter, please follow this link to take the online training: www.udottraffic.utah.gov/training/citizenreporter. For more information or to schedule an in person training, email UDOTCitizenReporter@utah.gov.

You can download the Citizen Reports app for your iPhone or Android device.


Comparison of Wintertime Asphalt and Concrete Pavement Surface Temperatures in Utah

Because winter maintenance is so costly, UDOT personnel asked researchers at Brigham Young University (BYU) to determine whether asphalt or concrete pavements require more winter maintenance. Differing thermal properties suggest that, for the same environmental conditions, asphalt and concrete pavements will have different temperature profiles. Climatological data from 22 environmental sensor stations (ESSs) near asphalt roads and nine ESSs near concrete roads were used to determine which pavement type has higher surface temperatures in winter.

Twelve continuous months of climatological data were acquired from the road weather information system operated by UDOT, and erroneous data were removed from the data set. In order to focus on the cold-weather pavement surface temperatures, a winter season was defined as the period from November through April, and the data were divided into time periods that were based on sunrise and sunset times to match the solar cycle.

To predict pavement surface temperature, a multiple linear regression was performed with input parameters of pavement type, time period, and air temperature. As shown in Table 1, the statistical analysis predicting pavement surface temperatures showed that, for near-freezing conditions, asphalt is better in the afternoon, and concrete is better for other times of the day. However, neither pavement type is better, on average, across the locations studied in this research. That is, asphalt and concrete are equally likely to collect snow or ice on their surfaces, and both pavements are expected to require equal amounts of winter maintenance, on average.

To supplement these analyses, which provided useful information about average pavement temperatures across the statewide pavement network, additional analyses of asphalt and concrete pavement surface temperatures were performed for a particular location in a mountainous region of northern Utah more typical of canyon areas. Asphalt and concrete pavement surface temperatures were directly compared at a location on U.S. Route 40 near Heber where asphalt and concrete meet end to end at the base of a mountain pass. As shown in Figure 1, an ESS was installed to facilitate monitoring of asphalt and concrete pavement surface temperatures, as well as selected climatic variables, at the site.

Data collected during the three winter seasons from 2009 to 2012 were analyzed in this research, and the same months and time periods used in the previous study were applied in this analysis as well. To compare the surface temperatures of the concrete and asphalt pavements during freezing conditions, multivariate regression analyses were performed. Equations were generated for three response variables, including the asphalt surface temperature, concrete surface temperature, and difference in temperatures between the asphalt and concrete surfaces.

The statistical models developed in the analyses show that the surface temperature of both asphalt and concrete pavement increases with increasing air temperature and decreases with increasing relative humidity and wind speed, and that the difference in pavement temperatures decreases with decreasing air temperature. For the studied site, the data indicate that concrete pavement will experience freezing before asphalt pavement for all time periods except late afternoon, when the pavement types are predicted to freeze at the same air temperature (see Table 2). Therefore, for material properties and environmental conditions similar to those evaluated at this U.S. 40 site, asphalt would require less winter maintenance, on average, than concrete.

Due to the interactions among albedo, specific heat, and thermal conductivity, the actual thermal behavior of a given pavement will depend on the material properties and environmental conditions specific to the site. As shown in this research, concrete pavement can be warmer than asphalt, which is typical of the statewide pavement network, on average, during late morning, evening, night, and early morning. However, the research also clearly shows that, in mountainous regions of northern Utah more typical of canyon areas, engineers may expect asphalt pavement to be warmer than concrete, or equal in temperature to it, during all time periods at sites that receive direct sun exposure, such as the one on U.S. Route 40 that was studied in this research. At such sites, selection of asphalt pavement may facilitate reduced winter maintenance costs; however, though statistically significant, relatively small differences in temperature between asphalt and concrete pavement surfaces may not warrant differences in actual winter maintenance practices. Other factors beyond pavement type, such as rutting and surface texture, may more strongly affect winter maintenance and should also be considered.

The results of the statewide comparison of wintertime temperatures of asphalt and concrete pavements, as well as the specific results for the U.S. 40 site near Heber, are detailed in two separate research reports available on the Research Division website.

This guest post was written by W. Spencer Guthrie, Ph.D., M.ASCE, Brigham Young University, and David Stevens, P.E., Research Program Manager, and was originally published in the Research Newsletter.

UDOT Citizen Reporter Program gathers volunteer data

Citizen Reporting LogoThe UDOT Citizen Reporting Program enlists volunteers to report on current road conditions along specific roadway segments across Utah. Since the program’s launch in November 2013, UDOT has received over 1,800 road condition reports on critical routes throughout the state. The accuracy rate of the reports continues to be very high, with only 0.03% of incoming reports determined to be inaccurate.

The long term goal of adding Citizen Reporters to UDOT’s weather operations road reporting is to supplement current condition reporting on segments where drivers are already traveling. The Citizen Reporter Program provides the traveling public with a conduit to report their observations directly to UDOT, saving time and money. UDOT employees also use the Citizen Reporting app to submit their reports.

Since the UDOT Citizen Reporter Program was launched volunteer reporters have submitted reports on 119 of the 145 road segments, helping to fill in gaps in locations where UDOT does not have traffic cameras or Road Weather Information System (RWIS) units.

Graph showing citizen reports by day. The most were received in Decemenger 2013.The volunteer reports are especially valuable during winter storms when conditions change rapidly. During a large winter storm that occurred in the beginning of December 2013, UDOT Citizen Reporters submitted over 130 reports, helping the traveling public as well as National Weather Service meteorologists and UDOT staff.

How do you become a UDOT Citizen Reporter?

In order to become a UDOT Citizen Reporter, you will need to complete a brief training (either online or in person), take a short quiz and complete a sign-up form. The training takes approximately 10 minutes to complete. Once a volunteer has completed these steps, they will be provided with a login and PIN, and can begin submitting reports. Reports are submitted through the UDOT Citizen Reporting app, downloadable for Android and Apple devices from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

If you would like to become a Citizen Reporter, please follow this link to take the online training: www.udottraffic.utah.gov/training/citizenreporter. For more information or to schedule an in person training, email UDOTCitizenReporter@utah.gov.

2013 Strategic Direction — Part 3

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.

Snow Removal

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.


Drill Lines

The following is a guest post written by Vic Saunders. Vic is the Public Involvement Manager for all of Northern Utah including Box Elder, Cache, Davis, Morgan, Rich and Weber Counties.

Throughout the fall, winter and spring we get asked regularly at UDOT, “What are these lines on the highway?” Some people wonder if they were caused when some kind of machinery was dragged down the road and left these lines in the pavement. Others wonder if it is some new kind of lane striping.

The truth is, these lines are known as “Drill Lines.” They are evidence that your local UDOT maintenance team has been out on the roadway preparing for an approaching winter storm. When UDOT weather forecasters tell us that a winter storm approaching the Beehive State is about 72 hours away, our maintenance crews hit the roads and spray a brine solution on the roadway. This solution helps prevent the snow from forming ice and sticking to the asphalt or concrete road surface like glue. If that happens, it is very difficult to remove and can be a factor in traffic movement and other incidents during and after the storm.

As the snow begins to fall, the moisture in it interacts with the brine solution sprayed on the road, and a liquid barrier is formed. This saline barrier helps prevent ice formation until our snow plows can get out there and plow it all away.

And what about those Drill Lines? The lines are sprayed on the roadway by the trucks laying down this brine solution. They are an indicator to the driver of the spraying vehicle that the spraying process is going well, and that the spray nozzles are working properly.

So, now you know! Those lines on the road are just further evidence that UDOT is working hard to make sure the roads are safe for Utah drivers.