Tag Archives: traffic signals

UDOT Signal Engineering Team receives Governor’s Award for Excellence

Photo of team members standing with Governor Herbert.

Team members with Governor Herbert. From left to right: Shane Marshall, Mark Taylor, Carrie Jacobson, Shane Johnson, Governor Herbert, Rob Clayton, Derek Lowe, Jamie Mackey, Peter Jager and Matt Luker.

For the last three years UDOT’s traffic signal management team has been focused on bringing innovative solutions to Utahns. The team was recently recognized by receiving the Governor’s Award for Excellence from Governor Gary Herbert.

The signal management team has been working on in-house solutions to better track and time traffic signals across the state. UDOT worked with the Indiana Department of Transportation and Purdue University to create software that provides real time traffic information to UDOT. The program was then developed by UDOT and the Department of Technology Services (DTS) and is a web based Automated Traffic Signal Performance Measurement System (SPMs).

SPMs are a series of visual aids that display high-resolution traffic data from vehicle sensors and traffic signal controllers (intersection computers changing the traffic signals) that help agencies effectively manage traffic signals in ways that improve mobility, increase safety, reduce vehicle emissions, preserve pavement infrastructure and use resources more effectively. In most cases on UDOT state roadways, SPMs are accomplished utilizing the same vehicle sensors already deployed at signalized intersections for normal day-to-day operations without the necessity of having to install expensive new equipment or sensors.

The sensors allow analysis of data collected 24-hours a day, 7-days a week (not just during business hours), and provide a clear framework for performance analysis and decision-making. The transportation community uses SPMs to directly measure what they previously could only estimate and model.

The use of the real time and accurate information helps traffic signal engineers make better decisions on signal timing and traffic patterns. Bangerter Highway is a good example of how accurate information helps move traffic. The SPMs were able to increase the amount of cars that reached the intersections at a green light by 19%. The information has also helped with moving large amounts of traffic during one time or recurring special events.

All of this information helps commuters stay on the move, saving them time and money. The cost for this program and the cost of a traffic signal change is very low compared to the amount of travel savings day by day.

In an effort to help traffic around the state UDOT has shared this technology with counties and cities so that they can better understand and monitor their traffic signals. UDOT hopes that the SPM’s will help them to get a more comprehensive idea of their traffic patterns and signal accordingly.

Mark Taylor a Traffic Signal Operations Engineer said “Innovations, creativity, risk and increased transparency are necessary to meet UDOT’s needs.  Automated performance traffic measures allows us to optimize mobility, increase safety and use resources more efficiently.”

UDOT’s goal is to continually refine the use of technology in traffic signals and timing in the future. They are always looking for ways to improve their efficiency and their ultimate goal of keeping Utah moving.

This guest post was written by Adam McMillan, Traffic Operations Center Intern.

Highlights from the 2013 Annual Efficiencies Report

Efficiencies within UDOT often generate cost savings for the public and the Department through better utilization of resources and innovative technologies. At the end of each year, UDOT prepares an efficiencies report which summarizes key efficiency initiatives from the year. The annual report fulfills a requirement for UDOT to describe the efficiencies and significant accomplishments achieved during the past year to the State Legislature. UDOT Senior Leaders use the report in presentations during legislative committee meetings.

Following are the key efficiency initiatives summarized in the FY 2013 report:

  • Bicycle Detection and Pavement Markings
  • Flashing Yellow Arrow for Left Turns
  • Reflectorized Yellow Tape on Signal-Head Back Plates
  • Portable Weather Station for Advance Warning of Debris Flows
  • Audio Over IP Highway Advisory Radio in Utah County
  • Commercial Vehicle Bypass (PrePass)
  • Partnered Fiber-Optic Cable Installations
  • Resolving Utility Conflicts through a Preserve and Protect Approach
  • Utah Prairie Dog Programmatic Agreement
  • Performance-Driven Programming
  • Energy-Efficient LED Lighting Upgrades in Department Facilities
  • iMAP GIS Tool
  • Improved Decision Making Using Mobile Data Collection
  • MMQA Data Collection Teams
Photo of a flashing yellow signal

Flashing Yellow Arrow left-turn phasing

One example from the 2013 report is the improved safety at intersections that are changed from Protected/Permissive to Flashing Yellow Arrow left-turn phasing. UDOT and other jurisdictions throughout Utah are among the first in the nation to implement flashing left-turn arrows. Potential annual public cost savings per installation ranges from $17,745 to $2,769,000 from reduced crashes.

Photo of rock and mud covering the highway

Debris flow across S.R. 31 in Huntington Canyon

Another example from 2013 is the use of a portable weather station to provide advance warning of debris flows and flooding at the Seeley burn scar near S.R. 31 in Huntington Canyon. Using the station contributed to over-all safety, minimized equipment losses, reduced response time, and minimized impact to commerce. An estimated $50,000 was saved through reduced risk to field crews, motorists, and equipment.

UDOT Research Division staff coordinate each year with UDOT Senior Leaders and the Communications Office to collect and compile write-ups on the past year’s key efficiency initiatives. This process will start again in August for FY 2014. We look forward to receiving “game changing” efficiency topics from all Regions and Groups that will potentially be included in the annual report.

The 2013 and earlier annual reports are available online at www.udot.utah.gov/go/efficiencies.

This guest post was written by David Stevens, P.E., Research Project Manager, and was originally published in the Research Newsletter.

Region Three Traffic Signal Update nearly Complete

Photo of the State Street and 1320 South intersection in Provo

New signals at Provo State Street and 1320 South.

Existing traffic signals have been updated to newer equipment that includes controllers that send real-time data about the signal operations to the Traffic Operations Center.

With the upgraded controllers, UDOT can troubleshoot issues remotely such as noticing a stuck pedestrian button or verifying signal timing.

Traffic engineers can track data that used to require manual labor such as traffic speeds, traffic volumes and percent arrival on green.

Photo of the inside of a signal cabinet

A signal cabinet at State Street and 1320 South. The cabinet contains a controller that gathers and transmits real-time traffic data for remote analysis and optimization of the system.

Out of 249 signals operated by UDOT in Region Three, 211 have been upgraded to gather this real-time traffic data for analysis and optimization of the system. “Small adjustments can sometimes make a big difference for our traffic operations,” said
Adam Lough, Region Three Engineering Manager.

“The upgraded signal controllers allow us to make these adjustments and monitor how the intersection is operating without being on-site.”

WASHTO Quality Award Winners

I am pleased to announce that the WASHTO Quality Award winners for 2013 are the Ogden Canyon Fiber Project and Traffic Signal Operations teams. It became evident as our selection committee reviewed the nominations that these two groups distinguished themselves as leaders who have made significant contributions to the Department while simultaneously improving the quality of life in our communities.

Photo of Carlos Braceras and the Ogden Canyon Fiber Project Team

UDOT Executive Director and the Ogden Canyon Fiber Project Team

The Ogden Canyon Fiber Project Team members were Jesse Glidden, Lynne Yocom, Blaine Leonard, Brent DeYoung, Rex Harris, Matthew Smith, and Dave Moss.

As many of you know, Ogden Canyon (S.R. 39) is a narrow, winding 5-mile canyon road connecting the Ogden Valley with the metropolitan area. It is a critical transportation link but a difficult location for constructing projects due to its mountainous terrain.

Our Region 1 folks initially had asked our Traffic Management Division to install a VMS sign in the canyon that would warn motorists of frequent winter canyon closures. Lynn, Blaine and Matt were more than happy to do that but while they were visiting the site they noticed construction already happening in the Canyon.

Ogden City had recently started the installation of a waterline. The team knew that underground construction of this magnitude in the canyon rarely occurred. They successfully seized upon this opportunity to partner with the city and get a fiber communications line installed along the entire canyon corridor.

This vital link to Ogden Valley now provides fiber optic communications for traffic monitoring and public communications. In addition, Ogden City enjoys a fiber connection to their water treatment plant and residents have improved cell and broadband service.

Because our team members took the time to think beyond the limited scope of their own individual duties, they were able to see the bigger picture. This synergistic approach to finding a solution will benefit thousands of people for decades to come.

I commend them for their great work.

Photo of Carlos Braceras and the Automatic Signal Performance Measures Team

UDOT Executive Director and the Automatic Signal Performance Measures Team

The first place winning team is our Traffic Signal Operations group, consisting of Mark Taylor, Jamie Mackey, Matt Luker, Shane Johnson, Derek Lowe, Peter Jager, Eric Rasband, Adam Lough and Carrie Jacobson.

Tasked with providing “World-Class” signals operations and maintenance, our folks have risen to the occasion. Adopting best practices from our partners at Indiana DOT, they have developed eight different performance measures currently available for 750 intersections. The measures provide both real-time and historical data, with all of the information housed on the UDOT Traffic website.

The program works via FTP connections located throughout the network that provide information to our traffic signal controllers. Every 15 minutes TOC servers retrieve and store “packets” of time-stamped data. This process is overseen by software engineers Shane Johnson and Derek Lowe. Anyone can access this data, which is an approach that fosters transparency and information sharing. Because of their efforts, UDOT is now the national leader in real-time traffic signal performance measures.

It’s not hard to see why in June of this year UDOT received the AASHTO Technology Implementation Group (TIG) award for their efforts in this area. But this team isn’t stopping there. By the end of the year they plan to have additional performance measures to track elements such as historical travel times for arterials and overall operations system improvements.

Both teams’ efforts have served to further our Department’s Strategic Direction.

Our Ogden Canyon Fiber Team has strengthened the economy by providing fiber optic service to Ogden City’s water treatment plant and improved cell and broadband service to residents. They have optimized mobility via a vital communications link that will facilitate traffic management and public information. They have improved safety with the capability to more effectively manage traffic, thus keeping drivers safer and getting us one step closer to our goal of Zero Fatalities.

Our Traffic Signal Operations team has strengthened the economy by improving the efficiency of the signal system. This has made a huge impact on alleviating traffic congestion and consequently the movement of goods and services throughout the state. In addition, they have implemented signal timing plans to accommodate large events such as college football games and community parades.

The signals team has optimized mobility by closely monitoring and adjusting red and green time to allow for better progression along corridors. They have improved safety by partnering with our radar vendor to track approaching vehicle speeds at intersections. To preserve our infrastructure, they have devised a way to quickly find and replace deficient vehicle detectors.

These efforts do not go unnoticed. Congratulations to both teams for their exemplary work and dedication. Please join me in thanking them for their great work as they are well-deserving of the 2013 WASHTO Quality Awards.

Information about all of the WASHTO Quality Awards nominees is available in a previous post.

Traffic Signal Performance Measures announced as a 2013 AASHTO Innovation Initiative

Engineer Mark Taylor working in an open traffic signal cabinet

Engineer Mark Taylor working in a traffic signal cabinet.

Managing traffic is an effective way to reduce congestion, save fuel costs and improve safety. One of the most visible components of the traffic management landscape is traffic signals. Day-to-day traffic challenges keep the staff at the UDOT Traffic Operations Center (TOC) very busy- especially during winter weather, special events and during the morning and evening commutes. The operators at the TOC have the ability to remotely operate nearly 80% of Utah’s traffic signals, which can be a very helpful way to alleviate traffic congestion. Each signalized intersection has a metal cabinet adjacent to the intersection that holds the equipment needed to operate the traffic signals. The equipment that operates the traffic signal can be programmed for specific traffic patterns along a corridor in an effort to better manage traffic.

Every year, the American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) identifies innovative projects that have been successfully adopted by transportation agencies across the country. One of the 2013 AASHTO Innovation Initiatives was UDOT’s Traffic Signal Automated Performance Measures program. The program developed a structure that will allow UDOT to actively manage, in real-time, its traffic signal systems which will help traffic flow as efficiently as possible along any given roadway corridor. “When we have a maximum number of vehicles arriving at a traffic signal when the light is green, traveler delay is minimized,” said Mark Taylor, UDOT’s Traffic Signal Engineer. Other benefits to well-timed traffic signals are reduction in vehicle emissions and reduction in crashes. Since traffic management needs to occur every day of the week and at all times of day, the Performance Measures program helps to monitor and improve traffic flow even when a traffic signal engineer is not available.

UDOT is moving forward with an AASHTO Technology Implementation Group (TIG) which will work to document the techniques, benefits and technologies UDOT is using for Traffic Signal Performance Measures so other interested transportation agencies can begin their own program in this important area. More information about the AASHTO Innovation Initiatives selected for 2013 can be found on their website.

Whatever the Weather

During storms, driving conditions can cause travel delay, especially during the morning and evening commute.

When a storm hits the Wasatch Front, a twenty-minute commute can turn into an hour due to slick roads, start-and-stop traffic and low visibility. What if traffic could be managed more effectively to minimize the sluggish traffic speeds drivers experience during storms?

Recent technological advances in assessing weather and controlling signals have given traffic engineers better tools to keep traffic moving in stormy weather. On some corridors along the Wasatch Front, UDOT is taking a Weather Responsive Traffic Management approach that puts the tools to use.

WRTM uses sensors, traffic signal plans designed for storm conditions, and sophisticated traffic monitoring systems already in place to move traffic more efficiently during winter weather.

Traffic on Riverdale Road PhotoDuring winter months in 2013, an urban arterial in northern Utah served as testing area for WRTM. Riverdale Road intersects a busy shopping district and connects four Utah cities with Interstates 15 and 84. Over 47 thousand vehicles travel the corridor each day.

UDOT’s results in managing Riverdale Road traffic during winter storms were very good – for motorists, that is. Drivers experienced less stopped time at intersections compared to other storm days, and overall, traffic speeds were not significantly impacted by weather.

Here’s how the WRTM system worked on Riverdale Road:

  • Traffic engineers created signal timing plans for implementation before or during a storm. The plans accommodate travel speeds that are likely during storms so that signalized intersections along the corridor work together to make traffic flow more efficient.
  • A Road Weather Information System unit was installed in the corridor. The RWIS helped meteorologists and engineers anticipate upcoming storm severity to decide which signal timing plan to employ.

    RWIS on Riverdale Road Photo

    RWIS on Riverdale Road

  • Detection units were installed overhead along the roadway. The new equipment is better at detecting traffic movement during storms, and the equipment gave UDOT traffic speeds.
  • To monitor traffic during storms, UDOT used a Signal Performance Metrics System that lets signal operators assess and adjust traffic in real-time. After a storm, the system can be used to evaluate how the signal plans worked.

Winter 2013 ended up being a challenging year to test the WRTM system. During testing, the Salt Lake City and Ogden area experienced one of the worst winter storms in the past decade. Nevertheless, post-storm review showed an average or above average improvement in performance in traffic operations in over half of the weather events, including during the major storm.

Post-storm analysis also shows that cars maintained a high level of progression from intersection to intersection with platoons of cars arriving on green lights. When platoons of cars arrive at intersections on green lights, traffic flow throughout the corridor is more efficient.

Based on the success of the Riverdale Road WRTM performance, UDOT plans to expand the system to other corridors.

UDOT assists with traffic management for Draper Sergeant Derek Johnson’s funeral procession

Photo of the funeral processon on I-215

The beginning of Sgt. Johnson’s funeral procession on I-215.

On September 1, 2013, Utah lost Draper Police Sergeant Derek Johnson in the line of duty. This tragic loss brings grief and heartfelt sadness, but also patriotism, gratitude and remembrance from whole communities. Nearly 4000 law enforcement, family and citizens joined the memorial service at the Maverik Center and tens of thousands of thankful citizens lined the procession route.

UDOT’s Traffic Management Division collaborated with many law enforcement agencies to ensure that traffic flow to and from the Maverik Center and along the procession route moved as smoothly as possible. UDOT’s traffic signal operations staff were deployed to key intersections throughout the Salt Lake Valley to assist with traffic control, while UDOT’s Traveler Information Manager was using the @UDOTTraffic

Photo of wall of images from the Traffic Operations Center

Staff at the Traffic Operations Center monitored the procession route on cameras throughout the Salt Lake valley.

Twitter account to update the public on lane and ramp closures. UDOT was listening to the police radio event channels to monitor the traffic flow along the procession route.

Photo of flags along and citizens lined up along 12300 South.

Citizens lined up along 12300 South in Draper to honor Sergeant Johnson. Photo courtesy of Mark Taylor.

UDOT worked with the Unified Police Department, Unified Fire Department, Salt Lake City Police, Draper Police, the Utah Department of Emergency Management and the Utah Highway Patrol for traffic management during the funeral and procession. Several other agencies not mentioned here came together honor Sgt. Johnson – an awesome tribute to a dedicated public servant.

Optimizing Mobility – UDOT’s Traffic Management Division

TOC Control RoomThe UDOT Traffic Management Division (TMD) houses UDOT’s Traffic Operations Center (TOC), the traffic signal management division, traveler information program and deployment and maintenance for Utah’s robust Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) network. UDOT utilizes the resources from within the TMD to plan for and react to any type of event that reduces capacity on Utah interstate and highway routes.

The UDOT TOC is operated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year! TOC operators actively monitor traffic, looking for road debris, crashes or lane closures due to construction. This sophisticated ITS network includes traffic cameras, overhead message signs, vehicle detectors and much more. The fiber optic network that connects the ITS devices to the TOC provides an excellent, fast connection that allows TOC operators to react at a moment’s notice. “Our TOC operators monitor traffic throughout the state from our facility in Salt Lake City. If a crash occurs in St. George, our operators are able to use traffic cameras to locate the incident and post a message warning motorists on an overhead message sign within a matter of seconds,” said Mike Evans, Control Room Manager.

In addition to day-to-day traffic problems, the UDOT TMD also provides traffic signal support for large-scale special events. A signal management operator can remotely control nearly 80% of UDOT’s traffic signals from the TOC.

UDOT’s Traffic Management Division is charged with operating a smart transportation network. Using technology to help manage traffic is an excellent way to optimize mobility, reduce delay and increase roadway capacity. To schedule a tour of the UDOT Traffic Operations Center, please call(801) 887-3710.

Traffic Signal Amendments and Runaway Vehicle Ramp Requirements

Two bills passed by the state legislature this March will affect transportation in Utah, SB 123, Runaway Vehicle Ramp Requirements and HB 272, Traffic Signal Amendments. Both of these bills help to relieve traffic and make roads safer in Utah.

I-70 Runaway Truck Ramp

Runaway truck ramp on eastbound I-70 in Emery County.

SB 123, prohibits a person from using a runaway vehicle ramp unless the person is in an emergency situation requiring use of the ramp to stop the person’s vehicle; and prohibits a person from stopping, standing, or parking on a runaway vehicle ramp or in the pathway of a runaway vehicle ramp.

These ramps save lives by stopping vehicles, particularly semi-trucks, that have lost their brakes or are unable to slow down. When the ramps are blocked by vehicles-not using it for its intended purpose- runaway vehicles are left with very few safe options in stopping their vehicles. Not only is the driver in danger but the runaway vehicle puts many other motorists in danger. This bill will help to ensure that runaway trucks have a safe place to stop if their truck is unable to slow down.

HB 272, provides that under certain circumstances an operator of a vehicle facing a steady red arrow signal may cautiously enter the intersection to turn left from a one-way street into a one-way street.

Under this bill, motorists may only make this left turn on a solid red light when a sign at the intersection indicates that it is legal. Drivers are still required to stop at the red light and yield to oncoming traffic before cautiously entering the intersection, similar to any turn made on a red light. This bill, although not specifically designed for diverging diamond interchanges (DDI), will make these intersections more efficient and will allow traffic to move more quickly and safely.

2013 Strategic Direction — Part 3

This is the third part of a 4 part series about the 2013 Strategic Direction. Please also check out Part 1: Preserve Infrastructure,  Part 2: Optimize Mobility and Part 4: Strengthen the Economy.

Zero Fatalities

UDOT remains committed to safety. This new goal replaces the previous goal of “Improving Safety” emphasizing UDOT’s commitment to reducing fatalities. Some may believe that zero is unattainable, however to those who’ve lost family members on Utah roads one fatality is one too many. Zero Fatalities is the only goal acceptable to Utahns and to UDOT.

In 2012, 218 lives were lost on Utah’s roads in car crashes–the lowest Utah traffic fatalities have been since 1959. We are making progress toward our goal of Zero Fatalities, but we still have a ways to go.

Every UDOT project incorporates safety improvements. In 2012, UDOT programmed $19.2 million for specific safety projects, including:

  • 42 miles of median cable barrier installed, for a total of 231 miles since 2003
  • Approximately $17 million of Safety Program funds were assigned to specific safety projects in 2012
  • 12 new traffic signals constructed
  • 24 traffic signal upgrades constructed
  • 11 pedestrian/school crossing improvements
  • Construction of 20 safe sidewalk projects
  • Installation of 540 sidewalk access ramps

In UDOT, the focus on safety within engineering begins with planning, designing and building safe roadways. Engineering for safety is UDOT’s commitment to a safe-system approach. The main principle of a safe-system approach is the roadway is designed and built to realistically prevent traffic related deaths even when driving behaviors create crashes.

Education is also important roadway safety. Utah demonstrates its commitment to safety through outreach efforts that help educate the public and make Utah a safe place for living, traveling and doing business. These education programs include:

Since 2009, UDOT safety programs have:

  • Totalled more than 135 presentations to elementary schools
  • Reached more than 100,000 students statewide

UDOT’s Incident Management Program began in 1994 as part of UDOT’s on-going commitment to safety on Utah’s roads. From the beginning, the program has provided significant benefit by increasing first responder safety, reducing congestion and delays and reducing secondary crashes.

Snow and ice removal is a major component to safe driving in Utah. To clear snow from approximately 6,000 centerline miles of Utah’s roads, UDOT employs the latest technologies and trains crews to ensure they are ready.

  • On average, Utah receives more than 25 winter storms each year and UDOT crews remove more than 65 million tons of snow and ice from Utah’s roads.
  • To help keep our roads clear around the clock, UDOT operates a fleet of approximately 500 snowplows.
  • UDOT’s winter operations budget for the 2012-2013 winter season is $23.3 million, including equipment, salaries, sand, salt, brine and avalanche control.