Tag Archives: VMS

Delay data to help drivers “Rethink Your Commute”

DRAPER — As part of UDOT’s ongoing efforts to minimize the inconvenience of construction, the Traffic Operations Center (TOC) is posting a new set of travel data on the overhead variable message signs (VMS).

Starting today, commuters traveling on I-15 through The Point project at the Point of the Mountain will be able to see the difference in delay for the time of day that they are on the road, compared to earlier or later.

The Variable Message Sign on SB I-15 near 8200 South educates motorists on the best times to commute around The Point.

The Variable Message Sign on SB I-15 near 8200 South educates motorists on the best times to commute around The Point.

For example, a driver traveling from I-215 to Lehi Main Street at 5:15 p.m. would have to deal with average delays of nearly 25 minutes. But if that same driver traveled an hour earlier, she would only be delayed about 13 minutes.

A person could also reduce delays by driving later. Taking the same route, a driver could save ten minutes by traveling at 6:30 p.m. instead of 5:30.

Those ten minutes could be spent wrapping up a project at work, or watching the first inning of your kid’s baseball game – rather than stuck in traffic.

In addition to shifting your travel times, there are several other ways you can rethink your commute to avoid getting stuck in construction traffic. Consider TravelWise strategies like taking public transit, telecommuting or carpooling. Learn more at udot.utah.gov/rethink.

Data shows delay times can be decreased significantly by rethinking when you're on the road.

Data shows delay times can be decreased significantly by rethinking when you’re on the road.

This post was written by Christina Davis, Communications Manager on The Point project. 

UDOT braces for ‘100 Deadliest Days’ on Utah roads

New Variable Message Sign campaign reminds drivers to stay safe

SALT LAKE CITY — (May 22, 2015) — Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of what is known as the ‘100 Deadliest Days’ of travel on Utah roads, and the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) is urging motorists to stay alert and drive safe this summer.  

According to UDOT’s most recent fatality report, 89 people have lost their lives this year on Utah roads, compared with 73 at this time last year. That’s an increase of 22 percent. Compared to the rest of the year, traffic fatalities traditionally rise 35 percent between Memorial Day Weekend and Labor Day. During this stretch last year, 97 people were killed during the ‘100 Deadliest Days’—nearly a fatality a day.

“That’s just not acceptable,” said UDOT Executive Director Carlos Braceras. “When you consider the human cost of these nearly daily tragedies, and their impact on families and communities throughout Utah, you begin to understand why we are doing everything we can to make our Zero Fatalities goal a reality, especially during these critical months of the year.”

Beginning May 22, UDOT will launch a new variable message sign (VMS) campaign, to serve as a reminder that Zero Fatalities will require driver effort and attention. Each Friday, the overhead signs will highlight the number of days during the past week we achieved Zero Fatalities on Utah roads. On Mondays, the signs will display a weekly safety message to engage the public and increase traffic safety awareness.

VMS signs like this one on I-80 will have various safety messages during 100 Deadliest Days.

VMS signs like this one on I-80 will have various safety messages during 100 Deadliest Days.

Through this campaign, motorists are being urged to: 

Motorists planning trips on Utah highways during the Memorial Day weekend should plan ahead and check road conditions through the UDOT Traffic website (udot.utah.gov/traffic) or by downloading the UDOT Traffic smartphone application through the iPhone App Store or Android Market. These free tools allow drivers to access up-to-the-minute road conditions and traffic information.


Automated Queue Warning Detection System in the Work Zone

Prepare to Stop VMSThis summer, Region Two began work on Redwood Road from I-80 to North Temple to rotomill and resurface the roadway with a thin bonded PCCP 6” overlay. One of the biggest challenges on the job was maintaining traffic through the work zone while also maintaining side-street and business access. This issue was complicated by the high number of large trucks in the area. These trucks not only utilize a significant amount of available queue space on the ramps, they also take more time to climb the incline at the interchange before clearing the signal. These factors required significant coordination to keep traffic moving.

Our contractor, Dry Creek Structures, and construction crew worked closely with the Traffic Signal Maintenance group to split phase signals and move detection zones to accommodate traffic through the work zone. We also worked closely with Grant Farnsworth at the TOC Traffic Signals Desk to adjust signal timing as the work zone configuration changed.

From a traffic safety perspective, our top priority was to minimize queuing on the
westbound I-80 ramp and prevent stopped traffic on mainline I-80. Despite the team’s best efforts, traffic was occasionally still backing onto mainline I-80 while waiting to exit at Redwood Road. To help address this queuing problem, working with Marge Rasmussen in Region Two Traffic and Safety, and Project Manager Peter
Tang, an Automated Queue Warning Detection System was change ordered into
the project and installed on the I-80 westbound off-ramp to Redwood Road.
With this system, the occupancy rate was monitored near the gore point of the off-ramp. When the system detected stopped cars at this location, a warning message was activated at a Variable Message Sign (VMS) upstream of the off-ramp alerting motorists of “STOPPED TRAFFIC AHEAD” and “PREPARE TO STOP.”

How it works: A sub-contracted vendor (Ver-Mac) installed a radar sensor, cellular
modem and solar panel on a highway lighting pole near the bottom of the off
ramp. They also placed a VMS equipped with a cellular modem upstream of the off
ramp. When the vendor’s software system (Jam-Logic) detected an occupancy rate greater than 10 percent at this location, a message was activated at the VMS alerting travelers to the stopped condition ahead. Once the queued traffic had dissipated, the VMS message was automatically turned off and remained off until ramp queuing was detected again.

In addition to the VMS message activating when a queue was detected, email messages were also sent to the TOC Operators, the Signal Timing Engineer and the Resident Engineer, alerting them to the situation. When possible, adjustments were made to the signal timing to help clear the ramp traffic.

Results: The project team is not aware of any accidents at this location after the automated queue warning system was installed. Typically, the system was activated 10 times each day throughout the week or an average of 13.4 times on weekdays. Even during low traffic volumes, just a few long trucks on the ramp can back up traffic and activate the system. While the system was live, the queue warning messages were displayed 256 times for a total of 2,327 minutes. The average display time was 9 minutes. The maximum display time was 56 minutes (on August 23 starting at 9:19 a.m.).

Logical Automation Rules Chart“Doing advanced queue warning is a great operational benefit, but what the TOC appreciated most was the communication between the project and the control room. When the control room knows what’s going on, we’ll help out in any way that we can. In this case, we monitored the queue system and helped ensure that it was functioning as advertised – which it was,” explained Glenn Blackwelder, Traffic Operations Engineer.

Future Applications: The automated queue warning detection system was a valuable addition to our “tool box” for managing traffic issues in the construction work zone on the Redwood Road project. In the future, perhaps other projects could benefit from this or other types of technology to help address traffic control issues within construction work zones.

This guest post was written by Bryan Chamberlain, Region Two Resident Engineer, and was originally published in the Region Two Fall 2014 Newsletter.


How UDOT Uses Social Media, a guest post by Andrew Johnson, former UDOT employee.

Chances are you’ve been caught in a traffic jam, wishing you knew about it ahead of time. The Utah Department of Transportation is consistently making strides to keep Utah drivers informed before they get behind the wheel, and a large part of UDOT’s efforts is through the use of social media. (NEVER Tweet and drive!)

UDOT’s innovative approach to keeping commuters up to speed includes regular updates through their Twitter feed. This gives drivers access to real-time information about road closures, accidents, construction projects and abnormal delays, and also provides the public with direct access to UDOT employees.

Here’s an example of a recent conversation on Twitter:

Tweets keep motorists informed — CLICK TO ENLARGE.

In this example, someone Tweeted UDOT with information about a possible malfunctioning traffic signal. UDOT responded to the Tweet, and included the signal technicians at the Traffic Operations Center to relay that information. At that point, the technicians dialed into the signal, and were able to diagnose a potential problem. Since Twitter is a public forum, and anyone who is following @UtahDOT can see the conversation, other people may join the dialog and contribute information. I noticed the Tweets, and was able to contribute my two cents.

UDOT Traffic is another fantastic resource available with the click of a mouse or the swipe of your smart phone. UDOT Traffic includes a network of closed-circuit television cameras, electronic variable message signs, coordinated traffic signals, traffic sensors, ramp meters and weather stations. Together, this network delivers real-time information directly to employees at the Traffic Operations Center and to the UDOT Traffic website. Employees can take the information received at the TOC, relay that information on Twitter and Facebook, and thousands of people instantly receive that information and can plan their routes accordingly.

Travel times help road users to decide to continue as planned or to take an alternate route.

As you travel along Utah’s freeways, you may notice large black signs spanning across the lanes overhead. These are called Variable Message Signs, or VMS, and are extremely effective in communicating important information to public. Located at key points across the state, these signs are controlled by operators at the UDOT Traffic Operations Center, and can be activated with custom messages as needed. The messages on these signs are governed by UDOT policies, and format, length and wording is dictated by the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) by the Federal Highway Administration.

These signs provide drivers with clear, concise messages about freeway conditions, and drivers can then decide if they want to continue on the same route or choose an alternate route. VMS boards can also be coordinated with other State agencies like the Department of Public Safety to run messages about safety belt laws, and other public safety campaigns. You may also see messages about air quality alerts through the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

Despite the integration of social media into their arsenal, not all of UDOT’s efforts into reducing delays for drivers are strictly reactionary. In fact, a large number of construction projects around the State are a response to future demands, and UDOT wants to make sure Utah’s transportation network is efficient for years to come.

Information and pictures provided by 24saltlake.com.