Doug Robinson: Meet Tim Taylor, the man who gets you to and from work every day

Published: Monday, July 14 2014 3:00 p.m. MDT

Another innovation is the diverging diamond interchange, or DDI, that has been implemented on freeway on- and off-ramps in American Fork and Lehi. The design began showing up in the U.S. a few years ago. As Taylor puts it, “(DDIs) give the most through time to the heaviest movements. Lanes don’t cross an opposing movement, so no one has to stop.” There’s an online tutorial for this one, too.

For the 44-year-old Taylor, such innovations and their applications are what he lives for professionally. The son of a civil engineer, he grew up around the construction business. He majored in civil engineering at BYU because, “I loved solving problems and building things.” A scheduling conflict during his sophomore year forced him to drop a class and find a new one. A chance meeting in the hallway with professor Glen Thurgood proved fortuitous. Thurgood invited him to join a senior-level class he was scheduled to teach a few minutes later. The class — transportation and land-use planning — inspired Taylor's career.

“After my dad, Professor Thurgood has been the most influential person in my life,” says Taylor, who studied civil engineering with an emphasis in traffic engineering, earning bachelor and master degrees.

Taylor took a series of jobs with consulting firms around the country before returning to Utah, where he co-founded WCEC Engineers nine years ago. The company is frequently consulted by UDOT.

“Traffic engineers are pretty competitive,” says Taylor. “This is our football game. We want to be out there thinking of smart new ideas that are safe. We get in our little group of nerds and it’s, 'I’m smarter and nerdier than you.' We take our job pretty seriously, but it is fun. We affect hundreds of thousands of lives every day.”

He designed an intersection for the Daybreak development in South Jordan he describes as “the only one like it in the U.S. (Daybreak) came in and said we want to do this development, but we can’t handle the traffic. We came up with the concept.”

The 10600 South exit was another challenge he undertook. Northbound drivers on I-15 who are headed for South Towne mall must make a quick dash across four lanes of traffic shortly after taking the 10600 South exit to make a left turn into the mall. Taylor found himself doodling solutions at his desk and helped come up with a solution. Plans are underway to put a one-lane tunnel under 10600 South that will connect to Monroe Street, thus eliminating that scary left-hand turn.

The planning of intersections requires a lot of math, traffic flow theory, timing signal lights, sophisticated computer models and a collection of statistics that measure everything from traffic at peak hours to whether an intersection is safer than it was previously. It utilizes household surveys to learn average number of cars and people per household; preferred mode of travel; destination; and origination. It involves macro studies, which examine large areas of traffic, say, from Brigham City to Payson, and micro studies, which examine specific locations, counting cars and drawing up an intersection on the computer to simulate how it will operate under differing conditions.

“I’m usually thinking 20-40 years down the road,” says Taylor. “If I see a vacant piece of land, I’m asking what that is going to be someday, and, if it becomes that, what are the roads going to look like at that point. And not just the roads, but all modes of traffic — walking, biking, mass transit. It’s about making a complete system. Cars are only one part of it.”

And how does Taylor, a man who used to spend three hours a day in a car getting to and from work in Denver, get to work these days?

“I ride a bike or take mass transit,” he says, smiling at the irony. “I want to be doing something other than driving after my experience in Denver. I don’t want to be part of the problem.”

Email: drob@deseretnews.com

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