Tag Archives: Innovation

Innovative partnerships prove to be the perfect recipe for Patchwork Parkway

PANGUITCH — In a state where innovation is consistently used to Keep Utah Moving, sometimes innovation alone isn’t enough. Unique partnerships between state agencies can be the perfect additional ingredient to accomplish the improbable.

In rural southern Utah, where equipment and manpower are sometimes as few and far between as the towns in the region, innovation and partnering got a much-needed job done quickly and efficiently, while minimizing the use of taxpayer dollars.

Recently, UDOT’s shed 4469 in Panguitch teamed up with Bryce Canyon National Park to create a shoulder on a seven-mile stretch of Scenic Byway SR-143. This stretch of Utah’s “Patchwork Parkway” was in great need of a shoulder, because a simple task like plowing the road or pulling over created potential safety issues.

The project required tools neither the department nor the national park possessed alone. So to combat this issue, they came together to pool resources and manpower to finish the job in a few days, saving each agency valuable time and money.

“The stars just lined up,” said Panguitch Shed manager Robert Brown. “Down here, we’re all neighbors, and you have to get creative to help each other out and get things done.”

Normally, a similar project requires a team of at least six to eight workers, with three on a shouldering machine alone. But with only two full-time employees at the shed, Brown and his counterpart at Bryce Canyon had to think outside of the box. Here are some of the highlights:

• Bryce Canyon provided side delivery dump trucks that offered a more efficient use of asphalt. Standard machines provide four feet of material, even if only two feet are needed.
• UDOT’s grader was used to accomplish both the grading and compaction tasks, as the shoulder in the area is too steep to use conventional steel drum rollers.
• The asphalt used on the project was recycled and obtained from a pit in nearby Hatch, Utah at nearly one-third of the cost of new asphalt.
• The project was completed in two days, with two UDOT Panguitch Shed employees and two Bryce Canyon employees.
• A pull-behind broom hooked to a pickup truck cleaned the road with two passes.

For Brown, the lesson is simple: when government entities work and plan together, the result can be a win-win for both, as well as the surrounding communities.

“Without the shared resources, we wouldn’t have been able to do the job,” Brown said. “I think this shows that governments need to think outside of the box more to collaborate.”

Black Sand

What black sand looks like.

What black sand looks like.

UDOT recently tested an innovative product used to help enhance the snow melting process during the clearing of mountain passes in the spring. The material is called “black sand” and was tested near Monte Cristo summit in Weber County as an agent to save future time and money.

Special Crews Supervisor, Kelly Andrew, conducted the study and ran tests, to see how effective the black sand would actually be. The result was extremely positive and indicated this method could save UDOT a significant amount of time in the snow removal process as well as in equipment costs.

Black sand has been a tried and tested method farmers have used for years in order to clear snow from the ground to plant their crops faster, rather than letting it melt on its own. Andrew noticed how effective it had been for them and thought, “Why wouldn’t it work for us on roads?” This led to acquiring the material and testing certain sections of snow to see which areas melted faster, those with black sand or those without.

Loading the black sand

Special Crews Supervisor, Kelly Andrew looks on as workers load the black sand.

So how does it work? Black sand uses solar energy to create heat that in turn helps melt snow faster. Vic Saunders, Region One communications manager, used wearing a black shirt as an example of how the black sand works.

Black Sand 2

Spreading the black sand at Monte Cristo Summit.

“If you were to go outside wearing a dark shirt, you would get warmer than you would wearing a white shirt… the black enhances the melting process because it is absorbing the solar rays rather than reflecting them.” Saunders said.

According to Andrew, the black sand is a fine powder-like substance that was lightly spread with a large snow machine. Utah State University conducted a study testing the components of the sand, which consists of 95 percent pure sand and the rest inert elements that are not harmful to the environment.

After a four-week testing period, Andrew and his team found that areas where black sand had been distributed showed significant progress in the melting process over the parts of snow that had been left alone.

The advantage of this new black sand is not only that it makes the process of clearing the mountain passes easier but it also saves taxpayers money. Money is saved on time because the more snow that has melted means less to remove and less wear and tear on expensive equipment that is costly to operate.

The black sand method would not replace salt that is used on highways and freeways to help remove snow and ice; rather it’s an additional agent to be used on closed roads with heavily packed snow.

“We didn’t use the black sand to help us open the road earlier but we did it to make ourselves more efficient,” Saunders said.

The sand will continue to be tested as an additional tool in the snow removal process for mountain passes in the upcoming winter months.

Photos were provided by Kelly Andrew and Vic Saunders from Region One. 

UDOT Leads at GIS Conference for Innovation and Progress

UPLANThe Utah Department of Transportation was recently recognized by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation (AASHTO) at a national conference held in Boise, Idaho May 6-8. UDOT has been acknowledged for the way we utilize Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in transportation.

UDOT stands out as a leader among the nation’s DOTs for our advancements with the highway mapping system known as UPlan. UDOT also received an honorable mention in the Transportation Publication division map competition for the Utah State Highway Map.

UDOT GIS Manager Frank Pisani attended the conference and said he was approached by nearly a dozen states who expressed interest in emulating UDOT’s implementation of UPlan.

So what exactly is UPlan and UGate?  “UPlan is an interactive mapping platform that supports UDOT by helping visualize our data, track our assets and strengthen our transportation planning with better analysis and collaborative information,” Pisani explained.

“UGate is the database and UPlan is the front end,” Pisani said. “UGate is behind the scenes as the engine that powers UPlan.”

The UPlan website is used as an information system where data can be tracked and recorded for both internal and public audiences. Due to it success, the federal government is also encouraging state to implement a similar system..

The Federal Highway Administration also highlighted UDOT as a model for other states for our Highway Performance Monitoring Systems and the approach we use with Linear Reference Systems.

Frank Pisani explains Linear Reference Systems:  “This is how UDOT coordinates with other state organizations like 911, highway patrols and local governments to collectively maintain 1 road network.”

Pisani said he was approached by a fellow conference attendee who claimed he had been coming to the conference for more than 20 years., “Three years ago UDOT wasn’t even here,” the man said. “And now you guys have taken over.”

UDOT has surpassed other state DOTs in the way we have been able to accomplish more with limited resources.

“UDOT has direction, support and good technology that is helping us capstone a lot of our efforts,” Pisani said. “We are trying to use technology to the best of our ability to inform the department and also the public that we are using this as an information tool and we are making the best out of the technology and data that is out there. UDOT is innovative in all aspects of the department and our technology focus is just one of them.”