Monthly Archives: October 2011


UDOT teams up with local communities to coordinate access and safety issues during road work.

Paving on 11400 South -- UDOT used a CCT process during construction of a road extension and new freeway interchange.

On some road projects, especially those that pass through business corridors, UDOT uses a Community Coordination Team to collaborate with local stakeholders during construction. While the name of the group may change from project to project, the purpose is essentially the same – to provide a mechanism for hearing concerns of the local community so UDOT can make adjustments or accommodations whenever possible.

CCTs are managed by communication experts who are part of the construction team. While not necessarily handy with heavy equipment, CCT coordinators do understand construction and how that work can impact stakeholder groups. Members of the CCT are people who live or work along the corridor who commit to serve as communication conduits with the important function of hearing the concerns of the local community, then taking those concerns back to the construction team.

Taking a wide view of the construction zone

Putting together an effective CCT starts with taking a look at the community around the construction project area and taking note of intersections, shopping centers, employment centers, schools, emergency and transportation services, and other entities or service providers that have a travel or business interest connected to the corridor. After an assessment of the community, CCT coordinators assemble a group of stakeholders with representatives from each group.

CCT members must be committed to attend monthly meetings, and then take construction information back to other stakeholders in each respective group. People who know the long term history of the area or project during the planning phase are especially helpful as “at large” members on a CCT. Priorities for the project, which include but are not limited to safety and access issues, are set by the CCT members, not UDOT. Members even sometimes determine the name of the committee.

CCT meetings usually take part once a month. The agenda includes an overview of planned construction activities. CCT members then comment on how they see construction proceeding from a stakeholder point of view. For instance, trenching for utility work may be interfering with access – contractors can maintain businesses access by safely covering trenches or adjusting construction activities to keep access through an adjacent ingress and parking lot.

Teamwork pays goodwill dividends

Here are some real examples of ways UDOT, the CCT process and construction contractors have worked together to help businesses during recent construction:

  • Parents were worried about children who needed to negotiate a construction area on foot on the way to school. Hearing those concerns, UDOT’s contractor suggested a shuttle and UDOT paid for that expense until full pedestrian access was restored.
  • A UDOT contractor provided a resident with a generator – not at taxpayers’ expense – to keep her tropical fish alive during several planned power outages.
  • UDOT and UTA provided a Para-Transit pass to a young man who used a wheel chair so he could avoid using travel lanes to access his bus stop during construction.
  • A UDOT contractor paid – not at taxpayers’ expense – for a hotel room for four nights for someone with physical disabilities while curing concrete made access to his home difficult.
  • A UDOT contractor responded to needs of the Park City Marathon and adjusted the construction schedule so runners would not encounter construction workers arriving on site during the race.  

Construction is inconvenient for residents, businesses and road users. UDOT strives to reduce that inconvenience by using the CCTs to keep communication lines open during construction.


Combining two safety countermeasures is preventing cross-over crashes and keeping cable barrier up to do its important job.

Cable barrier and guardrail on I-84

Cable barrier and guard rail are ubiquitous on interstates and highways across the nation. But, UDOT’s innovative integration of those two safety countermeasures is only being used in Utah.

Cable barrier is tensioned steel cable held up by break-away posts. When installed properly between opposing traffic lanes, cable barrier prevents crossover collisions and saves lives, so keeping cable barrier up and functional is critical. If a vehicle hits the break-away posts or the anchor point where cable is tensioned, the posts can fall and lower the cable or the cable can lose tension. After such a hit, fully repairing the cable barrier can be an extensive and expensive effort.

UDOT Safety Specialist Glenn Schulte has conducted cable barrier and guard rail installation and repair training for contractors and maintenance workers for seventeen years. The “one-bad-hit” issue has been effectively addressed by Schulte, an engineer FHWA and cable barrier vendor from Washington state.

Rough sketch

Schulte and his two associates came up with an idea – why not integrate guardrail with the cable barrier system at the point where a vehicle hit can make the cable lose tension? Schulte and friends discussed the idea and did some initial problems solving. A quick sketch on paper, and the idea took flight.

Schulte took on the responsibility for developing standard drawings at UDOT and getting FHWA approval. The Cable W-Beam Anchor System uses guardrail, crash cushion or end treatments and a secondary anchor. The system protects the area where cable is tensioned and anchored from being damaged by a crash. UDOT contractors can choose from proprietary and non-proprietary components commonly available and crash tested for safety to assemble a system that’s appropriate for a specific location.

The system was first used on Bangerter Highway. Since inception and first use, many changes and improvements have been made. Now the innovative system that was first a rough pencil sketch is a common and significant safety feature all over Utah. Schulte has sent standard drawings to other states for use, and he expects the system to be more widely used as transportation officials see the value of the system.

These slides show how the Cable W-Beam System protected cable barrier during a crash.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.


A former warehouse is seeing new life as UDOT Region Four headquarters.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

A UDOT owned building that once stored road maintenance supplies and equipment has been remodeled inside and out to serve as a state-of-the-art office building. The facility, located at 210 West 800 South in Richfield, was carefully planned to provide modern solutions and consolidate staff to help Region Four employees take care of their share of the state transportation system more efficiently and effectively.

Region Four, which serves rural and urban roads in the southern one third of the state, covers more area and has more road miles than the other three regions combined. Building and maintaining those roads takes a lot of travel and time. Video conferencing equipment, available in the new conference rooms, is helping staff make fewer trips and improve productivity. “It’s pretty neat to see how it’s being used,” says Ivan Hartle, Region Four Administrative Services Manager, who sees the video conferencing equipment working for employees many times each day.

Trips and money saved

Cindy Wright, Project Management Technician says the new building is awesome. She can confirm the value of the video conferencing equipment when it comes to saving travel time and money. Wright uses UDOT’s TravelWise Tracker to calculate the miles and money saved by videoconferencing for Project Manager Rick Torgerson. Since move-in day on July 1, Cindy’s records show that over 35 thousand miles and nearly $20 thousand have been saved.

Short trips as well as long trips have been saved. It’s been helpful to now be linked by sidewalk rather than be separated by almost a mile,  explains Hartle, who used to go back and forth daily between Region Four buildings. Jami Gentry, Assistant to Region Four Director Nathan Lee, likes being close to the shop. She manages several state cars, and getting quick assistance when there’s a mechanical problem has been helpful for keeping the cars available for state business.

Another feature in the conference rooms – smart boards – allows any kind of presentation to be shown and gives staff new tools for understanding projects. Online services, Google Earth or Google Maps, can be displayed to help employees view a planned or current project area. PDBS, UDOT’s online project management system can also be viewed.

Taking a whole-project approach

Principal Architect Ralph Stanislaw and Technical Manager Kathy Phillips with Archiplex Group, a Salt Lake City based architecture firm, took a “whole project approach,” considering sound, space, light and the internal environment in converting the warehouse into an efficient and pleasing work space.

One early challenge was a noisy roof that popped with changing external temperatures that Phillips says “sounded like a hail storm.” By working with a sound engineer, Stanislaw and Phillips came up with a quiet roof solution.

Managing work and storage space involved adjusting wall and ceiling height so the work and conference areas feel roomy, not closed-in. The main conference room has a slightly vaulted ceiling and ceilings over cubicles are as high as possible. Work space for some employees was reduced, but Phillips worked with Stanislaw to make the space work with efficient office furniture selections.

Existing windows provide natural light for the space. Phillips says she and Stanislaw needed to “get creative” by cutting back or angling walls to preserve that light.

Two large fans, each measuring 10 feet in diameter, are improving energy efficiency and keeping internal temperatures pleasant. The fans change direction to either draw warm air up or push cool air down as needed.

Stanislaw also designed the building to be attractive and “not look like an addition.” Since juxtaposed old and new brick is telltale sign of an addition, external material placement was aimed at making design look cohesive. Colored glass on exterior windows provides a mosaic theme, and those colors are carried through the interior and exterior of the building.

“We think it turned out really well,” says Phillips. Gentry agrees, and says that nearly every day, someone from an outside agency, the general public or UDOT comments to her about how the new building is a great new work space.

Follow this link to see other UDOT buildings designed by Archiplex Group.


UDOT’S Deputy Director has won an award for contributing to AASHTO’s mission to provide technical assistance to state departments of transportation.  

Carlos Braceras

Carlos Braceras, Utah Department of Transportation Deputy Director has earned the President’s Special Award of Merit for serving as AASHTO secretary/treasurer and working on several committees, all while maintaining excellence throughout his career at UDOT. The award, established in 1979, is given each year to recognize contributions made to the work of the association.

Since joining UDOT in 1986, Braceras has served as the chief geotechnical engineer, the chief value engineer, and the Region 2 roadway design engineer. He also was UDOT’s Region 3 director, and he worked on the Legacy Parkway/Interstate 15 North Project, where he was responsible for development of the environmental documents, design/build contracts, and construction management.

Braceras currently serves as chairman of the Subcommittee on Maintenance and is a member of four other committees. He leads the Advisory Board for the AASHTO Center of Environmental Excellence and is a member of its Steering Committee on Context-Sensitive Design.

In 1998, he was named “State of Utah Governor’s Manager of the Year” and received the “UDOT Leader of the Year” award.

A “catalyst for organizational and technical excellence,” AASHTO’s goals are to support transportation as a national priority, advocate and communicate with policy makers and the public, to provide world-class technical services and to assist state DOT’s in achieving excellent leadership and high performance.


UDOT works with local governments to improve rural road safety.

Rural roads in Utah are often unpaved, like this road in Beaver, Utah.

In Utah and across the nation, improving safety on rural roads can be difficult for local governments and departments of transportation. Vast stretches of isolated roadway challenge drivers to stay alert. Funding for improvements to local roads off the state system can be scarce.  The federal government has charged state departments of transportation to tackle safety issues by establishing the High Risk Rural Roads program.

Except for the urban areas concentrated along Interstate 15 between Ogden and Provo, Utah is rural. The rural roads in Utah have many of typical characteristics as rural roads in other states. However, Utah has a greater percentage of rural roads on the state road system, making investigating, budgeting and improving rural road safety easier.  UDOT works with local governments to improve rural roads that are not on the state system.

First, UDOT engineers conduct a safety audit by driving rural roads and looking out for known safety hazzards. Then, UDOT works with local governments to make changes that improve safety. Some of the most common improvements include:

  • Installing safety barrier on a curve to protect motorists run off the road crashes
  • Cutting rumble strips into the pavement on the side or middle of the road to signal motorists when tires cross lane lines
  • Installing median barrier to prevent cross-over collisions
  • Clearing obstructions from the road side to improve visibility
  • Installing warning signs or delineators to mark the shoulder
  • Widening intersections and adding turn lanes

UDOT took a public education approach to safety on I-80 between Wendover and Tooele County. Tired, distracted drivers were involved in run off the road crashes on the long, barren stretch of freeway. Signs that warn drivers about the dangers of distracted driving were placed on the route. After some time, UDOT surveyed drivers at the rest area on I-80 and found that most saw and read the signs. While not a safety improvement per se, the signs were shown to increase awareness of drowsy driving as a potential crash factor.

Improving safety on rural roads is part of UDOT’s Zero Fatalities Comprehensive Safety Plan aimed at reducing fatalities to zero on all roads.


UDOT’s new Diverging Diamond Interchange is sweet when it comes to mobility and safety.

A new DDI at Bangerter Highway and State Route 201 is in operation, and drivers should notice less traffic delay right away. The intersection has safety improvements too. A DDI is more efficient and safer than a regular intersection because of fewer signal phases and conflict points.

The new intersection at Bangerter Highway and SR-201 improves mobility and safety.

When it comes to efficiency, understanding traffic signal cycles and phases within those cycles is the key. “Traffic signal timing is like a yummy apple pie – think of the entire pie as the total green time for the intersection in all directions,” says Taylor. Fewer phases within a cycle are comparable to getting a bigger piece of pie.

At a regular intersection, signals need phases to allow for left turns so “we have to divide up the pieces of the pie into 4 pieces,” explains Taylor. Those “pieces” or phases include the primary street through traffic, primary street left turns, secondary street through traffic and secondary street left turns.

On some busy city streets, no one would be able to turn left without protected left-turn phases. Adding phases, like protected left turns, makes the cycle length longer. For good traffic progression, signal operators try to make the cycle length just right – not too short, not too long. A too-short cycle can create delay when too few cars can pass through. Long cycles reduce traffic speed and can make progression sluggish.

“DDIs are more efficient because of fewer phases,” explains Taylor. Eliminating left turns mean that the green time that you would normally give to the left turn can be given to other movements.” A DDI eliminates left turns on the primary street movement, making the pie pieces bigger for the other competing movements.

Taylor adds that left turns are necessary but generally inefficient. If the capacity volume of a left turn is low compared to the through movements, any green time that can be taken from a left turn movement adds to the overall efficiency of the intersection. “Slicing the pie piece larger for the through movements is much more efficient. The left turn equivalency factor is commonly between 2 and 3, meaning that a left turner looks like 2 to 3 through passenger cars.”

DDI’s are safer because of fewer conflict points.  A conflict point occurs when two cars have the potential of being in the same place at the same time if every direction had a green light. According to Taylor, “a diamond interchange contains 30 conflict points; a Single Point Urban Interchange has 24; a DDI has only 18.  Fewer conflict points are safer.”


The I-15 CORE project team does its homework before placing concrete.

A concrete curing/tinning machine on the I-15 CORE project.

At a month past the half-way point, workers on the Utah County I-15 Corridor Expansion project have placed over 1.7 million square yards of concrete. “Since concrete pavement is smooth, requires less maintenance and resists potholes, it’s often a good choice on high-volume roads,” explains John Butterfield, UDOT Materials/Pavement Engineer for the project. But regardless of pavement type, “the main thing that drives pavement design is traffic.” I-15 CORE pavement is built for longevity and strength.

During the bidding process, UDOT asked for 30-year pavement. Provo River Constructors included a 40-year pavement design as a value-added feature in their winning proposal. The entire pavement section, bottom to top, consists of four layers: granular borrow, drainable granular borrow, asphalt base and 12 inches of Portland Cement Concrete Pavement on top. Together, the layers in the pavement achieve a structural value that is predicted from the road’s expected traffic volume.

Making sure the top layer of concrete meets final acceptance — and lasts that expected 40 years — starts with an understanding of how the specific concrete mix design will cure. For that important task, the I-15 CORE project team uses maturity meters — electronic sensors embedded in concrete and handheld readers. Using maturity meters has become standard practice in the building construction industry and is common in road construction.

Do the math

Before concrete is placed on the I-15 CORE project, “there is some homework that’s required,” says Butterfield, who explains the process. Because the compressive strength of a specific concrete mix design has a relationship to time and temperature, a maturity curve that shows that relationship can be charted. When inserted into core cylinders, maturity meters can be connected to a reader to access information on time and temperature, making the process very precise.

Data is collected by casting concrete cylinder samples and tracking the time and temperature of the concrete as it cures and gains strength. Then, the cylinders are broken at pre-set intervals to determine compressive strength, and that data is recorded and correlated to the time and temperature data.

Progressing work or allowing traffic on the pavement

Once data is collected and plotted, the “homework” maturity curve becomes an appropriate basis to measure the strength of in-place concrete. Workers assess concrete strength simply by taking a quick electronic reading in the field from data loggers embedded in the pavement. When the correct concrete strength is reached, work can progress or traffic can be allowed on the pavement.

For final acceptance, traditional cast cylinders made from the same batch as in-place concrete are still broken to measure 28 day compressive strength. However, for determining interim strength for the purpose of progressing subsequent work, maturity meters are a more efficient, precise and less expensive method than casting and breaking several additional cylinders.

“One of the greatest benefits of maturity meters is that they provide the strength of the actual ‘in-place’ concrete,” Butterfield says. “We no longer have to break cylinders, either lab-cured or field-cured, and speculate how closely they correlate with the strength of the actual structure.”


SLIDE SHOW: Concrete is monitored and tested for strength in order to progress work, allow traffic on the pavement or to determine final acceptance.

The compressive strength of concrete has a relationship to time and temperature specific to the mix design. As concrete hydrates, it cures and gains strength. Hydration occurs as the cement becomes fully saturated by the water in the concrete. The hydration process produces heat. Taking time and temperature readings of the concrete as it cures and gains strength allows workers to track the curing process.

(Click on the large images to see captions. Choose images by placing cursor in the black area below.)

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.


The Manual for Assessing Safety Hardware updates the size of test vehicles to more closely match what’s on the road today.

All permanently installed and temporary roadside hardware – including sign bases, crash cushions, traffic control devices, and various kinds of barriers, is crash tested according to standards established by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program. New standards for crash testing have recently gone into effect, and are detailed in AASHTO’s Manual for Assessing Safety Hardware. The new manual replaces NCHRP Report 350.

This video shows crash testing using MASH standards.
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The MASH updates protocol for vehicles that are used in crash tests to more closely match what’s on the road today. The new crash test criterion is being used on all roadway hardware being produced since January 2011. NCHRP Report 350-tested hardware is appropriate when replacement is necessary, and re-testing is not required. UDOT will update roadway hardware with MASH tested products as necessary – the old hardware in place now is safe.

Although crash testing took place as early as the 1930’s, standards that establish criteria for tests have been in effect since 1962 with sedans specified as a test vehicle. As crash testing has continued through the years, understanding about the practice has improved and updates that add more criteria and different procedures have been added. For example, a 1974 NCHRP update added a small car and also added tests for transitions, terminals, crash cushions and breakaway supports. A 1980 update added evaluation criteria and modernized procedures to conform to available technology and practices. In 1993, a pickup was added as a test vehicle to represent small trucks and minivans in use.

The Texas Transportation Institute is one of the first organizations to crash test hardware, including sign bases and crash cushions. The TTI facility, a decommissioned military air base, has long concrete runways that make a good setting for the tests. The modern TTI crash test video below shows a crash test of a concrete barrier on a mechanically stabilized earth wall using the larger truck specified by the new MASH standards for vehicles.

For more:

Download the MASH.

Read a recent post about tests on MSE walls.

See an interactive timeline about crash testing at TTI.

Watch a presentation about how crash test standards have changed.



UDOT’s use of an innovative traffic control system has earned national recognition for improving safety in an urban construction zone.

Using moveable barrier helped UDOT balance the needs of road users and workers by keeping traffic flowing and providing a large, safe work zone. Here, moveable barrier being adjusted to give west-bound evening commuters an additional travel lane.

The Federal Highway Administration and the Roadway Safety Foundation will recognize UDOT as a winner of the 2011 National Roadway Safety Award for using moveable barrier on the 3500 South reconstruction project. The annual award program honors “high achievers in the field of roadway safety” for using and documenting safety best-practices. The award will be presented on Tuesday, November 15 in Washington D.C.

While common on interstate highways across the nation, urban use of moveable barrier is less common. The flexible lane use system can be adjusted frequently to accommodate traffic flown by providing more lanes in the peak travel direction.  UDOT’s pioneering use of the innovative technology on an urban travel corridor will help other departments of transportation employ the effective safety strategy on projects with similar characteristics.

Moveable barrier helped improve safety, accommodate commute traffic, and shorten the duration of the project. The barrier improved safety by eliminating left turns, except at major intersections. Twenty to 25 fewer crashes occurred during the project, resulting in a safer roadway, less expense to road users and less delay due to crashes.

Traffic delay, which causes inconvenience, also has an associated user cost. Because morning and evening traffic flow was not severely mired, road users saved time and money. A conservative estimate shows that using the moveable barrier saved road users between $1.7 to 2.4 million by reducing travel delay and crashes during construction.

Reducing  the duration of projects is one of the most important ways UDOT limits the inconvenience of construction on road users. Using the moveable barrier provided a large, safe work area where construction could progress more efficiently. Partly as a result of the barrier, the project was completed 7 months ahead of schedule, leaving road users and businesses with a wider, high functioning roadway free of excessive delay.