Research helps UDOT improve safety and reduce travel delay for road users.
Transportation research is the basis for good decision making, and helps make departments of transportation across the nation good stewards of the transportation system. According to an article in the AASHTO Leading in Lean Times Newsletter, research helps DOTs solve problems and make good decisions. UDOT Executive Director John Njord explains: “Most DOTs today are facing significant funding constraints. We have to focus on making the most of what we have, and research plays an important role in finding effective and efficient solutions.”
Some research-based solutions UDOT has implemented have resulted in a safer, more efficient transportation system.
Safety: Through research, cable barrier has been shown to improve safety and save lives. Since 2003, UDOT has installed 189 miles of median cable barrier constructed out of steel strong enough to prevent even large trucks from crossing the median.
Reduced construction related delay: UDOT leads the nation in developing Accelerated Bridge Construction techniques that reduce the duration of construction on the road and limit the amount of construction related inconvenience. By building off-site, then moving those structures into place, bridges can be replaced in hours as opposed to months.
As part of the I-15 CORE project, UDOT built and moved the Sam White Lane Bridge into place. “At 354 feet the Sam White Lane Bridge was the largest ever moved in the western hemisphere using accelerated bridge construction techniques,” said Njord. “We have now moved almost 40 bridges into place using ABC. Why? Because research showed us that the technique was feasible and would result in much shorter delays for the travelling public. We value people’s time and our goal is to minimize the impacts on the public.”
Improved efficiency: Express Lanes on I-15 in Utah average 10-15 percent faster than regular lanes and help UDOT predict travel times. Thousands of Utahns are saving travel time by using the Express Lanes. During peak traffic, users travel about 14 miles per hour faster than the general lanes. The smart new system allows vehicles to take up available space in the Express Lanes so travel time on I-15 is better for everyone. UDOT manages Express Lane use by adjusting the price according to traffic conditions — so when traffic is heavy drivers will pay little more. The system allows maximum use of all lanes with the Express Lanes maintaining a speed of 55 mph during peak travel times.
Improved, state-of-the-art traffic signal timing, developed through research, has reduced travel delay on high-volume roadways. In 2011, 10 detailed signal coordination projects took place involving 164 signals on 22 corridors, including the busy Salt Lake City business district. Overall, the improved timing resulted in a 5.5 reduction in travel time, an 11.4 percent reduction in stops, a 14. 7 percent reduction in intersection delay and an estimated $6.2 million in savings to the public in reduced delay.
Utah is growing at an unprecedented rate. By 2015, travel will increase by 85 to 90 percent, population by 70 to 80 percent and new capacity by only seven percent. Facing increased demand on Utah’s transportation system will take careful, strategic planning. Transportation research provides a solid foundation for making informed, intelligent transportation improvements.