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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.

Comparison of Wintertime Asphalt and Concrete Pavement Surface Temperatures in Utah

Because winter maintenance is so costly, UDOT personnel asked researchers at Brigham Young University (BYU) to determine whether asphalt or concrete pavements require more winter maintenance. Differing thermal properties suggest that, for the same environmental conditions, asphalt and concrete pavements will have different temperature profiles. Climatological data from 22 environmental sensor stations (ESSs) near asphalt roads and nine ESSs near concrete roads were used to determine which pavement type has higher surface temperatures in winter.

Twelve continuous months of climatological data were acquired from the road weather information system operated by UDOT, and erroneous data were removed from the data set. In order to focus on the cold-weather pavement surface temperatures, a winter season was defined as the period from November through April, and the data were divided into time periods that were based on sunrise and sunset times to match the solar cycle.

To predict pavement surface temperature, a multiple linear regression was performed with input parameters of pavement type, time period, and air temperature. As shown in Table 1, the statistical analysis predicting pavement surface temperatures showed that, for near-freezing conditions, asphalt is better in the afternoon, and concrete is better for other times of the day. However, neither pavement type is better, on average, across the locations studied in this research. That is, asphalt and concrete are equally likely to collect snow or ice on their surfaces, and both pavements are expected to require equal amounts of winter maintenance, on average.

To supplement these analyses, which provided useful information about average pavement temperatures across the statewide pavement network, additional analyses of asphalt and concrete pavement surface temperatures were performed for a particular location in a mountainous region of northern Utah more typical of canyon areas. Asphalt and concrete pavement surface temperatures were directly compared at a location on U.S. Route 40 near Heber where asphalt and concrete meet end to end at the base of a mountain pass. As shown in Figure 1, an ESS was installed to facilitate monitoring of asphalt and concrete pavement surface temperatures, as well as selected climatic variables, at the site.

Data collected during the three winter seasons from 2009 to 2012 were analyzed in this research, and the same months and time periods used in the previous study were applied in this analysis as well. To compare the surface temperatures of the concrete and asphalt pavements during freezing conditions, multivariate regression analyses were performed. Equations were generated for three response variables, including the asphalt surface temperature, concrete surface temperature, and difference in temperatures between the asphalt and concrete surfaces.

The statistical models developed in the analyses show that the surface temperature of both asphalt and concrete pavement increases with increasing air temperature and decreases with increasing relative humidity and wind speed, and that the difference in pavement temperatures decreases with decreasing air temperature. For the studied site, the data indicate that concrete pavement will experience freezing before asphalt pavement for all time periods except late afternoon, when the pavement types are predicted to freeze at the same air temperature (see Table 2). Therefore, for material properties and environmental conditions similar to those evaluated at this U.S. 40 site, asphalt would require less winter maintenance, on average, than concrete.

Due to the interactions among albedo, specific heat, and thermal conductivity, the actual thermal behavior of a given pavement will depend on the material properties and environmental conditions specific to the site. As shown in this research, concrete pavement can be warmer than asphalt, which is typical of the statewide pavement network, on average, during late morning, evening, night, and early morning. However, the research also clearly shows that, in mountainous regions of northern Utah more typical of canyon areas, engineers may expect asphalt pavement to be warmer than concrete, or equal in temperature to it, during all time periods at sites that receive direct sun exposure, such as the one on U.S. Route 40 that was studied in this research. At such sites, selection of asphalt pavement may facilitate reduced winter maintenance costs; however, though statistically significant, relatively small differences in temperature between asphalt and concrete pavement surfaces may not warrant differences in actual winter maintenance practices. Other factors beyond pavement type, such as rutting and surface texture, may more strongly affect winter maintenance and should also be considered.

The results of the statewide comparison of wintertime temperatures of asphalt and concrete pavements, as well as the specific results for the U.S. 40 site near Heber, are detailed in two separate research reports available on the Research Division website.

This guest post was written by W. Spencer Guthrie, Ph.D., M.ASCE, Brigham Young University, and David Stevens, P.E., Research Program Manager, and was originally published in the Research Newsletter.

UDOT Citizen Reporter Program gathers volunteer data

Citizen Reporting LogoThe UDOT Citizen Reporting Program enlists volunteers to report on current road conditions along specific roadway segments across Utah. Since the program’s launch in November 2013, UDOT has received over 1,800 road condition reports on critical routes throughout the state. The accuracy rate of the reports continues to be very high, with only 0.03% of incoming reports determined to be inaccurate.

The long term goal of adding Citizen Reporters to UDOT’s weather operations road reporting is to supplement current condition reporting on segments where drivers are already traveling. The Citizen Reporter Program provides the traveling public with a conduit to report their observations directly to UDOT, saving time and money. UDOT employees also use the Citizen Reporting app to submit their reports.

Since the UDOT Citizen Reporter Program was launched volunteer reporters have submitted reports on 119 of the 145 road segments, helping to fill in gaps in locations where UDOT does not have traffic cameras or Road Weather Information System (RWIS) units.

Graph showing citizen reports by day. The most were received in Decemenger 2013.The volunteer reports are especially valuable during winter storms when conditions change rapidly. During a large winter storm that occurred in the beginning of December 2013, UDOT Citizen Reporters submitted over 130 reports, helping the traveling public as well as National Weather Service meteorologists and UDOT staff.

How do you become a UDOT 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.