Tag Archives: Region 3

Urban speed limits raised to Keep Utah Moving

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Department of Transportation crews canvassed the urban interstate across the Wasatch Front, replacing speed limit signs while officially changing the speed limit from 65 to 70 mph.

A new 70 mph speed limit sign waits to be installed.

A new 70 mph speed limit sign waits to be installed.

In an effort to optimize mobility and Keep Utah Moving, crews from UDOT Regions One, Two and Three spent all day on December 8th, changing out 99 signs from Spanish Fork to Ogden. In many instances, the crews simply placed a decal on the existing sign, but several of the older signs were replaced outright.

The speed limit increased on Interstates 15, 80 and 215. However, two sections of I-80 will remain at 65 mph, as engineering studies show the terrain doesn’t allow for a speed increase.

The choice to implement the new speed limits was based on several studies, and in response to last year’s legislation (H.B. 80).

Utah is not the first state to raise speed limits to 70 mph or faster. Nearly one-third of the United States has speed limits set at 70 mph or faster in urban areas, and more than two-thirds of states have increased them in rural areas.

UDOT workers change out speed limit signs on I-80 westbound

UDOT workers change out speed limit signs on I-80 westbound

 

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 Participated in MAG Transportation Fairs

MAG Transportation FairMountainland Association of Governments held its annual Transportation and Community Planning Fairs during October.

MAG invited member cities to provide information about community plans and utilized the fairs to invite public input on the Draft Regional Transportation Plan.

UDOT participated by providing information about upcoming construction on The Point project, seat belt safety highlighted by the Zero Fatalities team, and TravelWise information. Region Three displayed their Interactive Projects map and a looping video using photos from the 2014 photo contest. They also shared information about the region bike plan and invited response to a quick questionnaire to help prioritize potential bike projects.

MAG is launching an interactive website called Exchanging Ideas as part of the Regional Transportation Planning process. Kory Iman, GIS Analyst with Region Three and MAG, had an integral role in developing the site to facilitate public input. MAG staff demonstrated the site at the three fairs in October and will accept comment through April 2015.

This guest post was orginally published in the Region Three Fall 2014 Newsletter.

UDOT leader named top young transportation innovator

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Utah Department of Transportation is known for exciting innovations such as accelerated bridge construction and advanced intersection designs. But innovation doesn’t have to be flashy to be valuable.

GIS Manager Becky Hjelm speaks after winning the 2014 Vanguard Award at the AASHTO Annual Conference in Charlotte.

GIS Manager Becky Hjelm speaks after winning the 2014 Vanguard Award at the AASHTO Annual Conference in Charlotte.

Becky Hjelm, GIS Manager at the Utah Department of Transportation, has been integral to some of UDOT’s recent innovations through data-driven projects aimed to Keep Utah Moving.

For her efforts, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) is honoring Hjelm as its 2014 Transportation Vanguard Award winner.

The national award is given by AASHTO to recognize an individual aged 40 or younger who is leading the way in doing extraordinary things in the field of transportation by “exemplifying a commitment to excellence and implementation of innovative technologies and processes.” It was created in honor of Jim McMinimee, a UDOT leader who passed away in 2012.

Hjelm, who has been at UDOT for just under three years, has proven herself to be a visionary, with the ability to build effective teams and work strategically to accomplish more than thought possible. She does it by using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) along with her attention to detail, outreach and collaboration talents.

“Through her leadership, UDOT has embraced GIS,” said Randy Park, UDOT’s Director of Development. “The way we do business is changing rapidly, and the increased reliance on data is making us more efficient.”

Hjelm has been part of a big culture change at UDOT, through her contagious excitement about the technology. During her short time at the department, she’s identified and implemented many projects and opportunities, including geo-referencing CAD files, creating an Outdoor Advertising Control Map, implementing ProjectWise layers statewide, and establishing a new Emergency Management Tool.

Becky Hjelm (center) poses with her UDOT GIS team.

Becky Hjelm (center, in vest) poses with her UDOT GIS team.

Some of her most valuable work has been her work on an asset management data project. UDOT had already asked Mandli Communications to perform LIDAR scanning, which allows engineers and scientists to examine natural and built environments across a wide range of scales with greater accuracy, precision and flexibility. The state has scans of every state route, which includes pavement and other asset data.  Using that large amount of data would prove to be difficult without using GIS. So Hjelm organized a cross-departmental team to accomplish the task of building the tool in a timely manner, saving countless hours and hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars.

Park said UDOT expects the culture change and innovation to continue to benefit the State of Utah for years to come.

“There isn’t just one innovative idea that Becky has implemented. She’s put in place an entire program that continues to grow,” he said.

 

Vision and Mission announced at UDOT Annual Conference

If all roads led to Rome at the height of the Roman Empire, all roads in Utah lead to elevated economic prosperity and a higher quality of life in our state today.

This theme was prevalent throughout the Utah Department of Transportation’s Annual Conference. UDOT announced a new vision, mission statement, logo, and changes to its strategic goals during the conference—all aimed at improving Utah and keeping people safe.

Carlos Braceras speaks during the 2014 UDOT Annual Conference

Carlos Braceras speaks during the 2014 UDOT Annual Conference

On Tuesday, Oct. 28, Executive Director Carlos Braceras announced UDOT’s vision is “Keeping Utah Moving.” This simple statement is a powerful reminder of the department’s purpose and the goal employees, consultants, and contractors should be working toward every day.

“With our growing population and changing demographics, we need to keep our state moving,” Braceras said. “Whether it’s building new roads, repairing old ones, taking phone calls or holding meetings, it’s all aimed at Keeping Utah Moving.”

Innovating transportation solutions to strengthen Utah’s economy and enhance quality of life. 

Braceras explained that the department has based its direction and performance for years on Strategic Goals (Preserve Infrastructure, Optimize Mobility, Zero Fatalities, Strengthen the Economy); however, until this year it hasn’t had a vision or a mission statement.

As Utah looks ahead to a rapidly growing population, expected to almost double in the next 35 years, the entire state must begin anticipating solutions for Utah’s infrastructure and economy. Change can either be a problem or an opportunity. Braceras argues that for Utah, it’s an opportunity to reinforce Utah’s position as one of the country’s best places to live.

“Quality of life is the essence of what makes living in Utah so attractive,” Braceras said. “I’ve made Utah home for 34 years because I can buy a house, get a job, and enjoy the outdoors I love. That, combined with the strong state economy, is what will keep me here the rest of my life.”

Braceras, who’s been a career-long champion of safety, also announced moving Zero Fatalities to the department’s top strategic goal, but with a twist.

“Nothing that we do is more important than safety. Zero is our number one goal. Zero fatalities. Zero crashes. Zero injuries,” Braceras said.

While UDOT will continue aggressively educating drivers on habits that will decrease the amount of fatalities on Utah’s roads, focus will also be on keeping everybody within UDOT safe as well. That goes for accountants as much as it does construction workers, he said.

Deputy Director Shane Marshall announced one final change to UDOT’s direction: the emphasis area of Operational Excellence has been eliminated, reducing the number of emphasis areas from six to five (Integrated Transportation, Collaboration, Education, Transparency, Quality).

UDOT logo

Marshall explained, “The motivating forces behind the emphasis areas of both Quality and Operational Excellence were very similar. Both areas focus on a value we all share very strongly: the desire to be good stewards of taxpayer money.

If you define part of our Quality emphasis area as “Continued Process Improvement,” then Operational Excellence can fit right into Quality.”

The updated vision, mission, emphasis areas, strategic goals and core values are available on UDOT’s new web app. This tool was unveiled at the UDOT Annual Conference, and Braceras explained there are plans to expand its functionality in the future.

For now, the web app is a helpful resource for reference as employees, consultants, contractors and partners work together in their efforts to Keep Utah Moving.

Bike Advisory Group Formed to Validate Region Three Bike Plan

Photo of bicyclists on Provo Main Street

Cyclists and motorists share Provo Main Street

More than 20 people attended the kick-off meeting for the Region Three Bike Advisory Group, a group of staff who have interest in better understanding the Region Three Bike Plan.

Craig Hancock, Region Three Engineering Manager, is leading the effort to become familiar with the bike plan and identify local government priorities.

“As part of UDOT’s emphasis on integrated transportation, we want to take a close look at the existing plan and validate that our staff and local governments support it,” Craig said. “We will work with local governments and Mountainland Association of Governments (MAG) to gain their buy-in so that together we have a commitment to implement the bike plan.”

Region Three staff expressed interest in the bike plan for a variety of reasons: some are bicyclists who ride for recreation or commuting. Others were interested because the bike plan affects their job and how projects are built. There was also a mix of on-road riders and trail riders. Some key considerations in implementing bicycle improvements that were discussed include:

  • Parking and bike lanes
  • Bicycle signal detection and routing of bicyclists through intersections
  • Pavement type; chip seal surfaces are difficult for bicyclists
  • Sweeping and snow removal or snow storage
  • Rumble strips

A core group from the 20 interested staff will meet monthly to work through the existing bike plan and coordinate with local governments and MAG. The larger group will be assembled for input and feedback at key points during the validation process. “In the end,” Craig said, “the goal is to have a region bike plan that we commit to make happen.”

Incident Management Team celebrates 20 years of service

If you’ve ever had a flat tire, run out of gas, or driven by a crash on Utah’s roadways, chances are you’ve seen the white Incident Management trucks loaded with orange traffic cones, their electronic signs on the top with vital information. An integral part of how the state deals with time-sapping events on our roadways, UDOT’s Incident Management Team has 15 teams on call statewide for just about anything that can happen.

But it wasn’t always that way: After 20 years, it’s time to celebrate the service of the unsung heroes of the IMT team.

Incident Management Team

IMT members Billy Frashure, Nick Jarrett, Mark Whittaker, Jeff Reynolds and Alan Peterson are some of the professionals keeping Utah drivers safe. Photo by Adan Carrillo

In 1994, UDOT started a courtesy patrol — two trucks assigned to help drivers in the Salt Lake Area. But time and demand have increased the IMT’s role. No longer is the team looked at as a courtesy — but a necessity — in keeping Utah freeways safe and traffic moving from Logan to St. George and everywhere in between.

Consider this: since 2004, the IMT has helped more than 120,000 motorists in the Beehive State. With these professionals specifically trained in clearing crashes off the road quickly and then staying on the scene, emergency personnel and the Highway Patrol can focus on what they do best while knowing IMT is protecting them on the road.

Another important stat: with each minute saved by clearing a crash, five minutes of delays are prevented. Clearing crashes also helps prevent secondary crashes.

“Think of how many drivers have been helped since 1994, how many injuries have been prevented, or lives saved?” said UDOT Executive Director Carlos Braceras during a celebration on Monday. “IMT is a critical piece to help us reach our goal of Zero Fatalities.”

Braceras went on to give all of us safety tips to help IMT and UDOT out with the goal of Zero Fatalities on Utah roads:

  • Don’t stop on the freeway unless it’s an emergency
  • If you ARE involved in an incident, stay in your car with your seat belt on.
  • Slow down and move over to the next lane if you see a vehicle on the side of the road — it’s the law to do so for emergency vehicles.
  • Make sure you have enough fuel to make your trip safely
  • Check your spare tire to see if it’s in working condition
  • Prepare for the worst weather by keeping a blanket, food and water in the car.
  • Leave a lot of distance between you and the car in front of you.
Five Incident Management Team Vehicles offered the media ride-alongs to give them a better idea of what it’s like to be an IMT professional. Photo by Adan Carrillo.

Five Incident Management Team Vehicles offered the media ride-alongs to give them a better idea of what it’s like to be an IMT professional. Photo by Adan Carrillo.

I-15 Payson to Spanish Fork Project Wins Award

Photo of I-15 near Payson

This capacity project added a lane and shoulder in each direction

The I-15 Payson to Spanish Fork project was one of the largest construction projects in Region Three in 2013.

The ambitious $22 million, 6.5 mile design-build project recently received the “2014 Excellence in Concrete Award” in the category of Structures: Public Works for the concrete work on the bridges.

The project was fast-paced, with 7 months to widen 8 structures and extend pavement into the existing median for an extra lane and wider inside shoulder.

In addition to being widened, the existing bridge substructures were repaired to increase service life. The project also included constructing two miles of precast concrete post and panel noise walls on the east side of I-15 through Payson.

The I-15 Payson to Spanish Fork project improved a vital connection between the north and south half of the state for both commuters and the movement of goods and services. The rapid pace of the project and public coordination created little impact or inconvenience to the traveling public.

Rural Utah Guardrail Replacement Program Improves Roadside Safety

Photo of guardrail end section

This new Type G end treatment replaced an old Texas-turndown style end treatment on S.R. 87

Region Three’s Traffic and Safety staff focus on improved roadside safety by replacing guardrail and guardrail end treatments.

Griffin Harris, Region Three Traffic Engineer, led the effort to replace aging infrastructure with an eye toward safety. He managed the funding and installation of almost 3 miles of guardrail and the replacement of over 60 outdated Texas-turndown style guardrail end treatments with new Type G end treatments on six different state routes in Region Three.

For example, one project installed 2.25 miles of new guardrail in Indian Canyon on U.S. 191 between Helper and Duchesne. This area has steep drop-offs and the guardrail installation is a great safety improvement.

For more information about UDOT’s Barrier End Section (Crash Cushion) Program check out our website.

State Street Project adds Bike Lanes through Local Government Input

When Region Three began preparations for reconstructing State Street from 1860 North in Orem to 100 East in Pleasant Grove, the focus was on widening to three travel lanes in each direction plus a center turn lane.

The project team prepared plans for new asphalt pavement; traffic signal upgrades; curb, gutter, sidewalk and pedestrian ramp installations and reconstruction of the intersection at State Street and 400 North in Lindon. But what makes this project memorable was the partnership with the cities of Orem, Lindon and Pleasant Grove that brought about the addition of striped bicycle lanes to the project scope.

“We have been working with UDOT Central Planning and Mountainland Association of Governments to identify opportunities for bike improvements,” said Region Three Program Manager Brent Schvaneveldt.

“With UDOT’s emphasis on integrated transportation and these other bicycle connectivity discussions happening, we wanted to take the cities’ request for bike lanes seriously and take a hard look at whether they could be added into the design and construction.”

With the widening, repaving and re-striping already planned for State Street, the opportunity to reallocate space and stripe bike lanes made sense. But it wouldn’t have happened without the buy-in and support from local governments.

“Local government collaboration is key to making our transportation network work for the people who use it. Especially on a roadway like State Street that serves local trips as well as regional travel,” Brent said. “This is a great example of local government input helping us better serve the needs of a variety of roadway users.”