Tag Archives: weather

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.

 

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.

Variable Speed Limit Signs Now Activated on I-80

Photo of Variable Speed Limit sign with a semi passing by on I-80 in Parley's Canyon

Variable Speed Limit sign on I-80 in Parley’s Canyon

The UDOT Traffic Operations Center (TOC) now has a new tool to enhance safety for drivers  on I-80 – one of the most heavily-traveled roads in the state. Last Wednesday (Jan. 8), 15 new variable speed limit (VSL) signs were activated along I-80 in Parley’s Canyon. The new signs will be controlled by the TOC to help maintain consistent traffic flows and assist drivers in adjusting speeds when necessary due to weather conditions.

The 15 signs – 8 eastbound and 7 westbound, located between the mouth of the canyon and Jeremy Ranch, are equipped with LED display screens that allow UDOT to remotely adjust speeds. These adjustments will be made based on driver behavior and road conditions.

“We are always looking for new technologies to help us manage traffic more effectively and enhance safety,” said UDOT Region 2 East District Engineer Robert Miles. “These signs will help keep drivers moving and reduce the number of weather-related crashes in Parley’s Canyon.”

The variable speed limit signs in Parley’s Canyon have been divided into four zones – an eastbound lower zone and westbound lower zone, from the mouth of the canyon to Mountain Dell/Lambs Canyon, and an eastbound upper zone and westbound upper zone, from Mountain Dell/Lambs Canyon to Kimball Junction. When a speed limit is adjusted for a specific zone, the new speed limit will be displayed on all signs within the same zone. These zones were created because of the differences in weather patterns and average speeds observed in the canyon due to changes in elevation.

The TOC will monitor speed limits in the canyon. In the event of poor weather or low visibility, a traffic engineer will be able to review information such as current road conditions, weather forecasts, snowfall rates, observed speeds, and reports from maintenance personnel. Based on this information, the engineer can make the decision to reduce the speed limit as needed. Depending on conditions, speed limits may range from 35 to 65 miles per hour.

The new variable speed limit signs are the first of their kind in Utah. Other states, including Washington, Wyoming, Colorado and Nevada, currently use these signs and have observed a reduction in weather-related crashes in areas where these signs are employed. Washington (Snoqualmie Pass – I-90) and Wyoming (east of Evanston – I-80) in particular are using these signs in areas similar to Parley’s Canyon: interstate highways with moderate to heavy traffic, with significant elevation differences, that are prone to inclement weather.

The Parley’s Canyon VSL project was developed jointly by UDOT and the Utah Highway Patrol (UHP). The speed limits posted on these signs are not merely advisory speeds, but regulatory speed limits that will be enforced by UHP troopers.

I-80 in Parley’s Canyon was selected as the location for this pilot project due to its changing weather conditions, heavy traffic, and existing fiber optic communications network. The investment for the design and construction for the new signs was $750,000, and the annual operating expense is estimated between $7,500 and $10,000. UDOT is also considering installing variable speed limit signs in other locations around the state, such as Sardine Canyon and Provo Canyon, based on the results of this project.

This guest post was written by Aaron Mentzer with the UDOT Traffic team.

Behind the Scenes at UDOT – November 22, 2013 Wind Storm Response

Photo of UDOT personel receiving an update regarding the weather

UDOT Wind Event Weather Briefing

Weather events can have a huge impact on traffic and traveler delay. The UDOT Traffic Operations Center (TOC) handles routine day-to-day rush hour congestion and traffic signal timing smoothly after years of practice. But what about a large winter storm or wind event?

A significant amount of planning and consideration is needed to ensure that UDOT’s response to a storm is thorough and serving the needs of the public. For the high winds event that affected interstate and highway routes from Woods Cross to Centerville on Nov.21–22, 2013, TOC coordination started with a weather briefing. Weather briefings are generally held 24 to 48 hours before a storm to ensure that the incoming weather data is as accurate as possible. Many UDOT departments attend the weather briefings. The briefings are an essential tool to ensure that the UDOT response to an event

Photo of the portable RWIS stations next to I-15 in Centerville

UDOT Portable RWIS Station (Photo by Cody Opperman)

is coordinated and timely. “The weather briefing discussed what we anticipated, what steps they would take when certain thresholds were met, and a detailed schedule of who would be in charge throughout the event,” said Jason Davis, UDOT’s Director of Operations.

Photo of UDOT maintenance technician J.T. Dziatlik is foul weather gear

UDOT Maintenance Technician J.T. Dziatlik

Following the weather briefing, UDOT employees sprang into action. UDOT began strategically deploying equipment and personnel to assist with equipment malfunctions and outages due to the storm. The Traffic Operations Center had an event coordinator and meteorologist on staff around the clock for the duration of the event.

One of the most valuable pieces of equipment during a wind storm are the Road Weather Information System (RWIS) stations. A portable RWIS was deployed at the epicenter of the wind and communicated wind speeds and gusts back to the TOC. Over the course of the storm, the UDOT weather group posted dozens of Road Weather Alerts on the UDOT Traffic app, website and 511 phone line. The weather group was also in near-constant communication with UDOT’s region offices and maintenance sheds providing storm updates.

UDOT Launches a new Citizen Reporter Program

Diagram showing all of the different data sources for weather operationsCurrent and forecast weather conditions are a critical part of traveler information in Utah.  Utah has many high mountain passes and rural routes that frequently experience hazardous winter weather, and accurate road condition information for these routes is vital for traveler safety and route planning.

The UDOT Citizen Reporting Program enlists volunteers to report on current road conditions along specific roadway segments across Utah.  The volunteers can be UDOT employees, law enforcement, truck drivers, plow drivers, experienced commuters, or other volunteers.  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.

All of the incoming data is compiled with carefully crafted logic to determine the condition of the road surface. Reports from plow drivers, law enforcement and other experienced reporters may be utilized in a different way than volunteer citizen data, however all data is immensely valuable and helpful in determining the condition of the road surface.

How do I 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 30 minutes. 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.

UDOT’s Road Weather Information System Network helps with safety

RWIS Network Map

UDOT RWIS network

Utah’s unique geography can be a challenge for traffic management and safety. Many of the critical highway routes in the state are in rural areas and can be prone to flooding, snow drifts, landslides, high winds or low visibility due to wild fire smoke. UDOT’s Road Weather Information System (RWIS) network currently has nearly 80 deployments throughout the state. An RWIS unit has several weather sensors that calculate wind speed, precipitation type, roadway temperature and more. Some RWIS have a traffic camera as well.

Utah has had an active winter and spring with several large storms, flooding and landslides. In June, UDOT deployed a portable RWIS unit near Monument Peak on SR-31. This site was adjacent to an area that was burned in a forest fire and was at risk for landslides. The portable RWIS can be relocated at a later date for other uses. The RWIS sends alerts to the UDOT Traffic Operations Center (TOC) meteorologists who can then contact UDOT crews and UDOT management working in a specific area and alert them to any danger of landslides or flooding. The alert information is also shared with the National Weather Service, the National Forest Service, the United States Geological Survey, Utah Highway Patrol and other agencies. UDOT contracts with Northwest Weathernet for meteorological services and RWIS installation.

Photo of portable RWIS station

Portable RWIS unit being deployed for use during the Rockport 5 Fire

 

Screen shot of RWIS alert

A rainfall alert from the portable RWIS

 

For more information about our use of RWIS also check out RWIS Update and Forecasting for Smarties.