September 2017 Vol. 25, No. 3

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Asset management peer exchange features local, national leaders

Asset management is becoming more important for managing aging infrastructure with limited budgets and staffing levels. Peer exchanges and active sharing between agencies can help facilitate efficient and effective asset management, ultimately maximizing asset life while providing good service to the public that depends on them.

On May 16 and 17, a peer exchange for local agencies on asset management was held in St. Cloud. The event was sponsored by the MnDOT Division of State Aid for Local Transportation (SALT) and coordinated by the Center for Transportation Studies at the University of Minnesota with financial assistance from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

The meeting focused on the needs and interests of small, rural cities and counties and was inspired by a similar peer exchange held last year for metro-area agencies. It provided an opportunity for participants to explore a variety of issues and challenges surrounding transportation-related asset management.

man using tablet

Crow Wing County uses a mobile-platform-based program that requires
only smartphones or iPads. Photo: Shutterstock

Asset management means managing the assets (i.e., signs, roads, pavement) an agency owns in an efficient, business-like way to benefit area citizens. Local agencies have a considerable amount of asset information and firsthand experience with their systems. They use this knowledge and information—along with engineering expertise and close connection to citizens and elected officials—to help direct long-term budget, planning, and investment decisions.

In recent years, data-driven asset management software systems have been developed that can benefit local agencies. They accomplish this by directly guiding or confirming investment decisions while providing the added benefits of better data organizing, managing, and tracking. The challenge is often finding which system is best for each organization.

The peer exchange featured national and local speakers sharing their expertise and success stories on a variety of asset management topics. Attendees learned how small, rural agencies in Minnesota and across the United States are effectively and successfully implementing asset management of transportation-related infrastructure. Facilitated discussions and discovery activities focused on:

  • Hurdles or difficulties faced by small rural agencies in developing and implementing asset management
  • Potential strategies for overcoming these hurdles and difficulties
  • Resources that are available to assist agencies in successfully implementing asset management

Presentation summaries

Kris Riesenberg, team leader with the FHWA Minnesota Division, was the first presenter and reviewed the 2016 Hennepin County Asset Management Peer Exchange. He also shared success stories from several cities throughout the nation that are doing great asset management work. There are federal requirements for states to do asset management with the ultimate goal of improving the stewardship and the condition of the nation’s transportation system.

Rick West, Otter Tail County engineer and public works director, shared Otter Tail County’s 2040 Transportation Plan. The goal of this plan is to ensure that constrained funding is invested in the best interests of the public. One of its highlights was the establishment of a four-tiered highway rating system. An extensive public outreach program that included direct involvement of citizens and local elected officials was crucial to public acceptance and support and ultimately the success of the plan.

Crow Wing County's ESRI system

Crow Wing County's ESRI system

Steve Stroschein, senior engineer with Crow Wing County, demonstrated the agency’s integrated asset management program. It uses an ESRI mobile-platform-based program that requires only inexpensive smartphones and iPads. The county started managing signs and has expanded applications to right-of-way, bridges, culvert inventory, ADA compliance, storm sewers, weight restrictions, construction, and public data sources. The program is easy to use and provides excellent GIS mapping and reporting.

John Kostreba, engineering technician supervisor with Morrison County Public Works, and Mike Becker, engineering technician with the Morrison Soil and Water Conservation District, discussed how their agencies addressed two challenges in a cooperative venture. Together, they contracted with RT Vision to develop a software asset management system that allowed them to update old legacy maps and notes to a more usable and updatable format. It also made the information readily available to the public.

Nick Anderson, consulting engineer with Bogart-Pederson and Associates (and former Big Stone County engineer) shared how Big Stone County developed a data collection and asset management program with limited resources. It installed a high-accuracy reference network (HARN), bought GIS equipment, and hired a contractor to complete a parcel map. One important and valuable data-management feature it now has is the ability to track the repair history on the department’s maintenance equipment. The county has continued to grow its asset management programs to include township data and other county assets.

Allison Kampbell, Carver County’s GIS specialist, shared how the county and its cities have created a unique collaboration to develop and manage an infrastructure asset management program. This model could be replicated in other Greater Minnesota counties with many small cities and limited resources. The county entered into agreements with its cities to develop a cooperative GIS program. The county employs the GIS specialist, hosts the ESRI software and web server, and is responsible for security. The benefits of the county-wide collaborative approach include cost savings, increased sharing of GIS data, quicker start-ups for GIS, and building strong working relationships.

Ryan Miles, street operations program manager for Vancouver, Washington, described the city’s successful pavement management system (PMS). Vancouver’s PMS assesses the condition of its pavements, predicts their future performance, analyzes performance of individual projects and the road network with alternative treatments, provides a valuable budgeting resource, and assists in informing the public and elected officials about the city’s street system and its future. The PMS is a web-based GIS program operating on a remote vendor’s secure server. It can provide a long-term, multi-year comprehensive analysis of pavement road network conditions as well as maps and reports for informing the public and elected officials.

ASSET MANAGEMENT MEANS MANAGING THE ASSETS AN AGENCY OWNS IN AN EFFICIENT, BUSINESS-LIKE WAY TO BENEFIT AREA CITIZENS.

Tim Colling, director of the Center for Technology & Training at Michigan Tech University, provided an overview of Michigan’s pavement management systems. He stressed the importance of thinking about asset management as a business process, not just a software tool. Agencies starting with asset management should first develop their business process and then look for software to meet their needs. He encouraged the group to collect data only if there is a plan in place for how to use it, especially since data collection is the greatest cost. A data collection guide is essential and should be updated annually.

Colling also explained how the Michigan Legislature created a Transportation Asset Council that reports annually to the Legislature’s Transportation Commission. The council provides data collection tools, asset management software, training, and funding to establish a pavement management system for the state’s public road miles. All local agencies in Michigan use RoadSoft for data collection and analysis. The RoadSoft software is a GIS-based management system that uses data to produce information to help make decisions.

Brad Wentz, director of the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute at North Dakota State University and former Minnesota county engineer, presented information about the pavement management system called Geographic Roadway Inventory Tool (GRIT 1.0). Developed by North Dakota, GRIT 1.0 is a web-browser-based management tool that is easy to use with multiple laptops and mobile devices. It is map-based and compatible with other interactive maps, and it uses a linear referencing system using GPS points. It also allows for independent county data editing. GRIT has the potential to be applied to rural areas throughout the United States. A next step is to work with Minnesota counties using this tool.

MN2050: state of the infrastructure

MN2050 (mn2050.org) is a coalition of Minnesota engineering and public works organizations. A report from MN2050 looks at the state of Minnesota’s infrastructure.

Brad Henry, an engineer with MN2050, stated that the goal of 2050 is to have all infrastructure using asset management. A state of infrastructure survey was completed that shows most of Minnesota’s roads and bridges are part of an asset management system, but most public utilities are not. He emphasized the need for our industry to do a better job advocating for our infrastructure. Henry is also working with the University of Minnesota to include asset management components in civil engineering courses.

Ryan Miles returned to present on the history of the Northwest Pavement Management Association (NWPMA), of which he is chair. He provided an overview of how this formalized group of nonprofit agencies formed and became a cohesive group. The NWPMA’s purpose is to promote partnerships, manage pavements, promote pavement management technology transfer, conduct research and education, and provide a forum for the exchange of ideas for their members in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. He introduced the question of whether this type of association could work in Minnesota or in our region.

graphs in IPMP

Iowa Pavement Management Program's (IPMP) asset management tools

Inya Nlenanya, transportation research specialist from the Center for Transportation Research and Education at Iowa State University, rounded out the presentations by sharing the history and goals of the Iowa Pavement Management Program (IPMP). IPMP provides support of the management, planning, and programming needs of transportation agencies. It also provides pavement management information, tools, and training for project and network-level activities. IPMP takes raw data and helps agencies utilize and implement the data.

Next steps

So what are the next steps in the effort to encourage and promote asset management among Minnesota’s local agencies? Based on what was learned and taken away from the peer exchange, a starting point is to promote and increase awareness of the tools already available to agencies at no additional cost.

Additionally, departments within agencies can learn from and work closer with each other to use their knowledge and skills. This allows them to assist each other in efficiently tackling asset management. Future peer exchanges are being considered to continue promoting knowledge-sharing among agencies.

There is also a need to promote and implement research related to asset management. Several research projects are under way and have been completed by the Minnesota Local Road Research Board and MnDOT Research Services.

(Reprinted from the summary report.)

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