Congratulations, Minnesota Mousetrap winners!
Congratulations to Clearwater County and Polk County, the recipients of Minnesota's first-ever "Build a Better Mousetrap" awards.
"We have a great group of guys here in Clearwater who are continually coming up with new ideas to make projects run smoother and in a more timely and efficient manner," says Joel Stenseng, general foreman with Clearwater County.
"Ryan Wagner, Polk County mechanic, did a great job recognizing the concern that the maintenance personnel were verbalizing and came up with a low-cost safety solution (stairs and platform) for filling the oil tank and a more efficient way of applying the oil (extension bar and hose) for the oil wand," says Rich Sanders, county engineer for Polk County.
Prizes are gift cards that the agencies can use to purchase tools and items to help continue their innovations.
Both submissions were forwarded to the National LTAP Mousetrap Competition—and Polk County received third place! Sanders, who was attending the 2017 LTAP/TTAP National Conference in July on other business, accepted the award on behalf of his agency. The national contest is sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration’s Local Technical Assistance Program and Tribal Technical Assistance Program.
Videos of both projects are on our website.
First Place: Tractor-Mounted Shouldering Box
Agency: Clearwater County Highway Department
Problem: After spring road restrictions and before the county begins its normal summer road maintenance, staff fill the slow period by shouldering the county's roads using available equipment. In the past, the county has added a shoe to the end of the moldboard on the motor grader or to the end of the wing on a plow truck to accomplish this task. However, using this equipment took away from pro- duction and other maintenance activities.
Solution: The county fabricated a tractor- mounted shouldering box, which allowed the county's motor grader operators to remain on their regular blade routes without interruption and freed up a truck to haul shouldering material. As an added benefit, the box of the tractor-mounted unit keeps gravel material on the shoulder with minimal spill onto the roadway. Savings achieved included enhanced visibility, minimal cleanup, increased speed due to visibility, and increased safety for the traveling public.
Second Place: Asphalt Patch Trailer Improvements for Safety and Productivity
Agency: Polk County
Problem: Members of the county's patch trailer crew had no safe way to load tack oil into the top of the machine without climbing on the trailer tongue and then the propane fuel tank to reach the fill port. In addition, the tack oil dispensing wand was too short to reach more than one lane of the road surface without positioning the truck/trailer between both lanes of traffic on two-lane roads.
Solution: County staff designed and fabricated a platform with an access stairway that allows workers to safely maintain three points of contact while ascending and descending the platform to perform required duties, including filling the tack oil tank, monitoring asphalt material hopper levels, and servicing the tack oil pump. Staff also designed and fabricated a swinging boom to support the added weight of the extended tack oil dispensing wand to reduce operator fatigue and provide an extended reach for two lanes of traffic and roadway shoulders. The boom also prevents the excess hose from lying on the roadway, thereby eliminating tripping/ entanglement hazards for the other workers on the patch crew.