Monthly Archives: March 2011


A UDOT Research Division study team recently unearthed some galvanized steel from retaining walls to see how the important reinforcement material is holding up over time.

Motorists drive along a ramp past a mechanically stableized earth wall or MSE wall faced with concrete blocks.

Dr. Travis Gerber uses a wood frame and a hydraulic jack to remove steel from an MSE wall.

Mechanically stabilized earth walls or MSE walls are commonly built around bridges or used as retaining walls along freeways. UDOT has a database of over 700 walls in use across the state-owned transportation system. MSE walls are expected to have a useful life of 75 to 100 years — a long time to be in place as a critically important roadway feature.

MSE walls are built in “lifts” or layers of fill with steel or geosynthetic reinforcement installed between layers — so it’s not often that engineers can actually see how the reinforcement holds up over time.

The walls are “a valuable asset,” says Chief Geotechnical Engineer Keith Brown. “We need to maintain walls the best way we can.”

I-15 was reconstructed in Salt Lake County prior to the 2002 Olympics, and UDOT used that reconstruction as an opportunity; construction contractors were required to insert steel wire “coupons” that could eventually be removed and examined. All coupons were made of galvanized steel – the same material used to fabricate the wire mesh reinforcement used in MSE walls.

Galvanization, which applies zinc to steel, does not improve steel strength. Zinc corrodes more slowly than steel and therefore delays the eventual corrosion of steel. The byproduct of zinc corrosion also slows the corrosion of steel.

Engineers require steel of a large enough diameter to assure that proper reinforcement is in-tact at the end of MSE wall life, after some expected corrosion takes place.

Field observations and lab tests

Extractable steel wire coupons provided a hands-on view of the condition of MSE reinforcement materials. “This is an actual physical inspection,” says BYU Assistant Professor Travis Gerber, who led the study. Other methods use equipment that measures the condition of coupons in place. “It’s more accurate to actually see and measure” the removable coupons.

A just-removed galvanized steel "coupon" is examined

Field observations showed the galvanization on coupons to be intact with a variable amount of white oxidation visible on the surface. Laboratory measurements showed that the average thickness of galvanization on all coupons presently exceeds standards required at the time of installation.

Gerber’s team, with UDOT oversight, was successful at establishing a critical baseline index of the condition of steel reinforcements used in MSE walls along I-15 through Salt Lake County. Because the study involved actual physical inspection, data from the study is accurate and reliable.

In addition, Gerber believes that study conclusions can apply to other nearby locations. “We think you can extrapolate the results,” as long as soils, backfill specifications and environmental area are similar, “the performance should be similar.”

The conclusions from this study will eventually contribute to better design choices, appropriate material use, and effective long term maintenance standards and practices.


TravelWise during freeway re-construction in Utah County

While workers busily reconstruct I-15 in Utah County, commuters can choose TravelWise strategies to make travel more convenient. These workers are installing concrete. See another post about 40-year pavement in an earlier post:

Choices can make all the difference — leaving for work earlier, car pooling or tele-working can help commuters avoid traffic delay and get around more efficiently during road construction. UDOT has promoted TravelWise strategies to individuals and businesses for years. Now messages about those helpful strategies are being integrated into the biggest construction project in the state- the I- 15 CORE project in Utah County.

Traffic on I-15 in Utah County--taking public transportation can be a cost-saving and convenient travel option.

I-15 CORE Project Team members have emphasized these TravelWise strategies since the beginning of construction of the project by posting information on construction website and presenting information to employers close to the construction corridor.

“TravelWise strategies have been a key component of our communication plans for the I-15 CORE project from the very beginning, says Scott Thompson, Public Involvement Manager in UDOT Region Three. “We understand that strategies such as carpooling, tele-commuting, trip chaining and flexible work schedules are vital in helping us reduce traffic during this construction project.”

Here are some great strategies for businesses that be used to implement a TravelWise construction plan to help employees:

  • Identify a TravelWise coordinator or implementation task force to oversee the program.
  • Conduct a participant survey (provided by the TravelWise team) to determine interest.
  • Design your program to fit best with participant interests. To get started, visit
  • Promote your TravelWise program through newsletters, emails, on a website, etc.
  • Track participation and effectiveness of the program and make any necessary adjustments.

Road users who adopt TravelWise strategies can see many benefits including enjoying a less stress-free commute or a more economical use of time when running errands. UDOT encourages all drivers to take a lot a look at the TravelWise website and incorporate helpful strategies into travel plans.

When more people use TravelWise strategies, cumulative benefits can help everyone, since travel delay can be reduced. “We continue to promote TravelWise messages in everything we do and believe they have been beneficial in helping us reduce congestion in Utah County,” says Thompson.

Contact the I5-CORE team with any questions or concerns along the way.


It’s a big deal –UDOT is carrying out a Western Hemisphere first on Saturday by moving the new 354 foot Sam White Bridge into place.

A view from the top -- the concrete deck serves as a viewing area for media and the project team

Workers are preparing to move the Sam White Bridge using SPMT's

How big is big? The bridge is “6 feet short of a football field,”  said Governor Gary Herbert at a media preview of the upcoming Sam White Bridge move  — the longest two-span bridge that has ever been moved using Self Propelled Modular Transporters (SPMT) in the Western Hemisphere. The bridge, which was built on the east of the freeway in a “bridge farm,” will roll into place on March 26.

SPMTs are remote controlled, computerized, multi-wheeled vehicles with hydraulic lifts. According to the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials, SPMT use “provides agencies and contractors with the ultimate flexibility and speed in removing and installing bridges.”  Six additional full nighttime freeway closures would have been necessary to rebuild the bridge using traditional methods.

UDOT has used various methods to move 23 bridges  – more than double the number of bridges moved by all other states combined.

Sam White Bridge facts:

  • While in transition, the bridge will be hoisted 21 feet in the air  then set into place
  • Length: 354 feet long – the longest two-span bridge ever moved in the Western Hemisphere
  • Each span is 177 feet and will be moved simultaneously with two sets of SPMTs
  • Superstructure Weight: 3.82 million pounds
  • Width: 80 feet
  • Bridge Area: 27,500 square feet1,134 cubic yards, or 2.27 million pounds of concrete
  • 970 yards, or 940,000 pounds, of concrete on the deck
  • 300,000 pounds concrete parapets (safety barriers)
  • 1.53 million pounds concrete slabs
  • 1.47 million pounds steel
  • 275,350 pounds rebar
  • 12,700 hours to construct and move the bridge
  • The former Sam White bridge had a 14 feet 7 inch height clearance; the new bridge will have the national design standard height of 17 feet 3 inches
  • Sam White was a homesteader of 160 acres at the end of Sam White Lane

Workers prepare a hydraulic lift on a SPMT

For more information, including directions to a public viewing area during the move, visit the I – 15 CORE website.

See an animation of the move on UDOT’s YouTube Channel.


Robert Pelly, STIP Coordinator, is the UDOT employee of the year. He was nominated by Bill Lawrence:

Robert Pelly accepts the employee of the year award

Among many capable and dedicated employees in UDOT Program Financing, Robert Pelly rises to the top by providing expert data management and superb customer support while being a congenial and trusted colleague. It is a privilege to recommend Bob Pelly as UDOT Employee of the Year.

Bob has worked at UDOT for 14 years. During the past 7 years as a Research Consultant, he has coordinated a mammoth change that has vastly improved the way UDOT does business. Working closely with programmers, Bob guided the transformation of UDOT’s project tracking method from static to live and developed a first-rate electronic data storage and tracking tool — UDOT’s Electronic Program Management system, fondly known as ePM.

ePM is a complex data base that interrelates with all agency programs. Thousands of projects and programs populate ePM at one time, with the number of active projects ranging from 1,400 to 3,000.  Bob is the central figure when it comes to entering project data into ePM, and UDOT projects can’t get off the ground without him.

Because projects are data driven, the quality and completeness of ePM must be maintained at all times. Bob is responsible for initial input and also ongoing daily maintenance, including modifications, amendments to funding or additional finance charges, all essential pieces of information required to move projects to completion. So, next time you see a new lane on your commute, think of Bob who started the project rolling.

Region Program Managers rely on Bob’s proactive work style, project coordination ability and skill with ePM when setting up and maintaining project data. His knowledge and expertise ensures that all financial regulations and programming rules are followed so UDOT won’t miss out on funds for needed improvements.

Bob is not satisfied with just developing and maintaining ePM; he has made a habit of solving system problems and improving efficiency of system operation. He works closely with programmers to ensure that good ideas are turned into real improvements.  His persistence and determination has improved the efficiency of data entry and accuracy of information so projects can be tracked more easily and quickly, saving funding and time for all who access ePM data.

Bob also maintains the Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan or STIP – a four-year work plan that lists all funded projects. The STIP is a transparent and real time database within ePM that is critical to UDOT’s interface with Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) officials.

When it comes to completing deadline-driven complex tasks, Bob rules. He programs STIP funds and makes frequent daily adjustments to achieve balance. In a typical year, he makes over 4,000 changes to the STIP alone. His work to keep data current moves transportation projects forward with the right monies applied to the right project at the right time. His diligent work maintains transparency and ensures that transportation funds are used carefully and efficiently.

Bob is also a key player in UDOT’s STIP funding cycle. The deadline driven STIP development process is a massive effort that requires him to interact and coordinate with transportation agency and local government officials to identify projects and funding – and he does so with a high degree of professionalism and skill.

The STIP cycle involves workshops, public comment and approval from UDOT Regions, the Utah Transportation Commission, FHWA, and the Federal Transit Administration. Bob also collaborates with the Regions in collecting and producing Commission Meeting Fact Sheets which contain critical information required for major funding and scope changes to projects. Coordination and completion of the funding cycle must be completed by October 1 each year.

Even though his responsibilities are weighty, Bob always remains calm, kind and uber-efficient, which makes working with him a pleasure. He stays cool and clear headed as deadlines loom near.  A true Southern gentleman, his gracious and affable demeanor has fostered a cooperative environment and strengthened relationships between funding partners and UDOT leaders. Whatever the task, Bob is proactive and often finishes work ahead of schedule — “I’ve already completed it” is a common reply to inquiries about the status of tasks.

With relentless dedication to excellence, unwavering professionalism and real strength of character, Bob serves UDOT and Utah citizens well. He truly deserves to be UDOT Employee of the Year.


Glen Wahlberg, Area Supervisor, UDOT Region Three was chosen as the leader of the year. Glenn was nominated by Robert Westover:

Glen Wahlberg accepts the award for leader of the year

Glen Walberg has a firm but gracious leadership style that fosters achievement, efficiency and trust. For this an many other reasons Glen has been chosen as UDOT’s the 2010 Leader of the Year.

Glen has worked at UDOT for over 29 years, including seven years as a Station Supervisor in Eureka. He has been the Area Supervisor in the South Area of Region Three for the past two years. During his career, he has demonstrated superior leadership skills and a sincere interest in individual workers.

UDOT will benefit for years to come from the upcoming leaders Glen has inspired, motivated and sometimes cajoled into learning new skills.  As a case in point, when Glen left the Eureka Station to become Area Supervisor, his Station Lead was highly qualified to replace him as the supervisor – largely because of Glen’s mentoring. That employee is mentoring his crew in the same fashion.

Glen successfully mentored many employees while leading the South Area through the implementation of the Transportation Technician program — one of UDOT’s most significant money saving and efficiency promoting efforts ever undertaken. The program allows UDOT to use construction and maintenance funding judiciously by balancing workload throughout the year. Besides being a smart management approach, the Trans-tech program also offers employees the chance to learn new job skills through participating in the Transportation Education Program (TEP). Glen set out to actively promote TEP and encourage workers to participate as a way to help individual workers gain skills and progress as employees.

Some crew members were hesitant to participate at first. But Glen provided clear expectations and the support and encouragement needed to accomplish the task. He continually emphasized to employees how TEP participation would not only bring value to the Department, but also be a career booster for workers. Because of his support and encouragement, many employees have completed the Trans-Tech program and many others are pursuing completion. An employee who first resisted participating in TEP now credits Glen for helping him see the personal career benefit. He now is enrolled and successfully progressing through the training.

Glen is committed to providing diverse work opportunities for his crew members. Before Glen became Area Supervisor, very few workers could operate specialized equipment such as the Vactor truck or chip-seal machine. In a few instances, only one person could operate a specific machine.

Glen saw a chance to promote efficiency of operation and career development. He insisted that more employees become trained and proficient at operating equipment.

Several employees throughout the area are now capable of operating each piece of specialized equipment. For example, several people who had never previously had the opportunity have now developed the critical skills needed to operate complicated chip sealing equipment. Region Three has benefitted from having a more flexible and versatile workforce – critical work can be completed more quickly and crews can work more efficiently.

Because of his years of experience, Glen has incredible foresight when planning and forecasting future workload.  Last year, the Region Three implemented a $600,000 chip sealing program on lower volume roads in his area. His crew took on the extra work load without needing additional funding or personnel and still accomplished the other critical work needed throughout the year.

His ability plan and manage people and resources has also conserved limited funding. Through working carefully, some of that saved funding was made available for the new chip-seal program.

Glen’s success is due to his skill as a mentor, experience as a worker, but also because he earns the trust and respect of his employees. In all of his interactions with others, Glen shows that he values other employees. He provides steady support for his crew by treating everyone with respect and dignity regardless of their position. He is always willing to provide insight that comes from his years of experience, but knows when to step back and let people develop their own solutions to challenges.

Glen has the unique ability to be both direct and personable. He is approachable and always ready and willing to listen and answer any question. When his answer is not what crew members want to hear, Glen takes time to carefully explain his reasoning so everyone understands his decision. As a result of the respect and support he shows workers, crews in the South Area perform at a very high level and are continually challenged to become even better still.

Glen also has the courage to do the right thing no matter how difficult that action may be. Crew members know that he holds himself to a high standard, and he won’t ask anyone to do something that he isn’t willing to do himself.

Glen is an excellent leadership role model. His actions have encouraged team work and excellence. His skill as a mentor has provided a pattern for other leaders to follow. Because of his experience, he is able to provide valuable perspective to less experienced workers as well as senior region leaders. Under Glen’s leadership, the public is very well served. He deserves to be honored as UDOT Leader of the Year.


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

A roadway in northern Utah that UDOT is the subject of many questions from the public.  It’s named after something that many people would never associate with Utah.  Or at least many of us think it is.

U.S. Highway 89/91, which runs from Brigham City to Wellsville, is commonly known to many in the state as Sardine Canyon.  Lots of folks from Ogden, Salt Lake City and points south remember using this highway to visit a relative in Cache Valley, or while attending Utah State University.  You say Sardine Canyon and they know just what you mean.

Some people believe the name came from early travelers eating sardines as part of a picnic lunch on their way to Cache Valley back in the early 1900’s.  They surmise that the packaging may have been left by the side of the road, someone else saw it and, hence, a name was born.  Another account says the name came from the original road being steep and narrow, and to pass someone on the roadway located on the steep canyon ledge was a very tight undertaking, kind of the way sardines a packed in a tin.

But consult a geographical map and you’ll find the canyon the road follows is actually a series of three canyons.  Yes, there actually is a Sardine Canyon, just a few miles south of Wellsville Canyon, hugging the side of hills southwest of the locality known as Mt. Sterling.   In fact, Sardine Canyon is the original canyon many of early settlers used when traveling to Cache Valley during the 1860s.  But that canyon hasn’t been used for a highway since the 1950’s, and is rutted and difficult to use because there’s no longer any public access to it.  But despite all that, people still refer to the modern U.S. 89/91 as “Sardine Canyon.”

So, if today’s highway isn’t Sardine Canyon, then what is it?

First of all, it’s a highway that traverses three canyons.  As you leave I-15 and head east into Brigham City, U.S. 91 picks up U.S. 89 from the south and the two routes jointly enter the first of the three, which is Box Elder Canyon.  For about three miles Box Elder Canyon travels along its namesake creek, Box Elder Creek, before entering the little valley dominated by a farming community and reservoir, both of which are named Mantua (pronounced Man-a-way).

U.S. 91 Median Barrier, Dry Canyon to Sardine Summit

Upon leaving Mantua, motorists enter what is known as Dry Canyon. The next three miles marks a steep climb, past a famous winter tubing hill on the right and the ubiquitous “Midway Inn,” a former bar turned antiques shop, on the left, before arriving at the only place on today’s highway actually named like its “faux” namesake, Sardine Summit.  At 5,868 feet, Sardine Summit marks the dividing county line between Cache and Box Elder counties, and the beginning of the long downhill cruise toward the end of the route in Wellsville.

From Sardine Summit motorists drop quickly into Dry Lake, which is the focal point of an unnamed valley about a mile north of the summit.  Upon passing through the cut in the hill created for the new highway in the 1950’s, the original Sardine Canyon road is high above on the hillside to the right, where it snakes eastward.  From Dry Lake, travelers pass the Sherwood Hills resort and golf course on the left before entering Wellsville Canyon.

Passing the Wellsville Peak Wilderness trail head on the left, U.S. 89/91 dives into the canyon for the final two miles of the journey, before bursting into the open at its mouth near Mt. Sterling.  There one catches the vista of the Cache Valley, stretching almost as far as the eye can see.  Passing Wellsville on the left, Logan is now only another nine miles.  From there, U.S. 91 heads north to Idaho, while U.S. 89 turns east, making its way through Logan Canyon and the Bear River Range of the Rocky Mountains to Bear Lake.

It’s a beautiful trip that can be enjoyed in nice weather by either car or bicycle.  And now you know you’re not traveling there through one canyon but three.  And none of them are named Sardine.


    Do road improvement projects help the local economy?

    Reconstruction activity on 3500 South in West Valley City

    UDOT has asked experts to study the complicated relationship between the local economy and transportation projects.

    To find answers about how construction impacts local businesses, a team of BYU researchers reviewed other studies, identified key indicators of economic activity, established  statewide norms for each indicator and collected and analysed data from local areas.

    Three indicators — sales tax revenue, VMT, and employment — were identified. Data reflecting each indicator was collected from the vicinity of construction projects three years before and after construction. Local data was compared to statewide growth rates.

    Redwood Road sales tax collection, an example

    Sales tax has been shown to be an indicator of economic growth — more taxes collected mean more spirited economic activity. For the UDOT study, researchers looked at tax revenue growth around the construction zone compared to to the statewide rate.

    Positive trend

    This graph shows a positive trend in the growth of sales tax revenue when compared to the statewide rate.  Similar positive trends were observed when looking at other economic indicators– VMT and employment. While the results of the study are not conclusive, the numbers show that the relationship between road construction and economic activity is generally positive when compared to the statewide norm.

    The study adds to the body of knowledge about how transportation projects can help the local economy, but more study is needed.

    More information:

    The study, “Understanding the Economics of Transportation in Utah” is posted on the UDOT website.

    Read a newsletter article by UDOT Planning Director John Thomas.



New cattle guards are being tried in UDOT Region Four.

Workers install steel bars under the road surface.

Cattle guards are used on highway on and off-ramps to deter cattle and wildlife from entering the roadway. Traditional cattle guards that protrude from the road surface pose problems for snow plows. An old method of deterrence, painted-on guards, works for plows, but is only marginally effective for cattle and less so for wildlife. Painted-on guards are still present on some highways, but their use is no longer a UDOT standard practice.

The new electric guards are flush with the roadway and deliver a safe but deterrent shock to animals that approach. Signs and gates alongside the guards allow people escorting animals to avoid the crossing.

So far, the guards are working well. Here are some photos from installation sent by Dave Babcock, Fleet Manager at UDOT Region Four’s Price Office. Dave and others are monitoring the effectiveness of the guards. Updates will be posted on this blog.

After blocks are installed, concrete is poured.

Mats are bolted onto blocks.










More on wildlife crossings and Dave Babcock:

Appealing to Elk is a post about how UDOT partners with wildlife experts.

High Arch Gets High Praise is a post about construction of a new structure on I-70.

Dave wrote this post about the new Tie Fork Rest Area, a tribute to Utah’s railroad past.



The following is a guest post written by Heather Johnson, Project Support Technician in UDOT’s Region Two.

Recently, senior leaders at Region Two compiled a document called the 2010 FACTS – Final Accomplishments, Challenges and Tactics Summary.

This report details the goals that each Region Two department has set for itself, and how those goals have been measured.

Each goal is set with the Utah Department of Transportation’s Strategic Goals, or Final Four, in mind:

  • Take care of what we have
  • Make the system work better
  • Improve safety
  • Increase capacity

The FACTS is a way for us at Region Two to track our progress on the goals we’ve set, as well as recognize our challenges, accomplishments and the areas in which we can improve.

Some of the goals and measures you will find in the FACTS include the following:

  • Safety: Reduce fatalities on state highways by 10% each year
  • Hydraulics: Complete work on time and under budget within 10%
  • Project Management: Advertise at least 85% of projects within seven days of the committed advertisement date
  • Administration: Process each invoice within 30 days of the invoice date.

Region Two is comprised of Tooele, Salt Lake and Summit counties, which have some of the fastest growing populations in Utah.  In order to keep delays to a reasonable level, Region Two will face the challenge of budgetary needs for new construction, capacity and maintenance.

The challenge to fund innovative solutions such as Accelerated Bridge Construction, Continuous Flow and ThrUturn Intersections is another that Region Two and the Department will have to face.

While every project UDOT completes is valuable to the traveling public, the following projects, which have each had a significant impact in Region Two, are highlighted in the FACTS:

  • 6200 South and Redwood Road Continuous Flow Intersection
  • I-15 Widening, 500 north to I-215
  • 11400 South; State Street to Bangerter, New I-15 Interchange

Concrete paving on I-15 -- a wider freeway has reduced delay for commuters that travel between Salt Lake and Davis County.

To learn more about Region Two’s 2010 FACTS check out the entire document, UDOT Region Two 2010 FACTS.


Utah wildlife management experts love this new structure under I-70.


High arch-crossing gets high marks for safety, and good looks.

Speaking for herself and other wildlife management experts, USU Assistant Professor Patricia Cramer calls this underpass crossing “our pride and joy.”  The new structure looks great and has good functionality as a wildlife crossing too.

Cramer is especially pleased that it’s been used by elk, who are difficult customers when it comes to crossings.  Read about elk using this crossing in a previous post: Appealing to Elk.

Randall Taylor, UDOT Design and Environmental Engineer is happy with the crossing too. He was involved with developing specifications for the high arch structure — the contractor designated the construction method and products used by Contech, a construction products company.

The crossing was built under I-70. Work was staged to allow traffic to be maintained during construction.

Here are some construction photos courtesy of Contech:

Workers place wire mesh that will reinforce concrete footings. The retaining wall on the right was built in five supported lifts.

A crane places a pre-formed concrete arch section on the footings.

Wing walls add structural support and also channel animals into the arch crossing.

According to an I-70 Wildlife Crossing summary of the project produced by Contech, “The CON/SPAN used on our I-70 Wildlife Crossing was great for this application,” said Lyndon Friant, UDOT Resident Engineer.  “It was installed quickly and effectively, allowing for minimal impact to the traveling public…”