September 2018 Vol. 26, No. 3

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Congratulations, Minnesota Mousetrap winners!

Driver yawning
Driver yawning

Congratulations to Otter Tail County and the City of Rochester, the recipients of Minnesota's 2018 Build a Better Mousetrap awards! Otter Tail County took first place for its Otter Plow Cushion (left), and the City of Rochester placed second for its Hydraulic Arrow Board project (right).

The Minnesota competition is sponsored by the Minnesota Local Road Research Board and administered by Minnesota LTAP.

Both submissions were forwarded to the National LTAP Mousetrap Competition, where they competed with other projects from across the country. The national contest is sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration's Local Technical Assistance Program and Tribal Technical Assistance Program.

First Place: Otter Tail County Highway Department

Project: Otter Plow Cushion

Problem: Winter roads, especially late in the season, can be especially rough, causing more stress on snowplow lift chains and plow lift parts as the heavy plow assembly bounces more. Broken plow lift chains are a common result and can take maintenance vehicles and personnel out of service for hours.


Solution: Maintenance personnel with the Otter Tail County Highway Department created the Otter Plow Cushion with spare parts during downtime on a cold winter day. The device absorbs the shock of rough roads on the plow assembly and lift chains, improving ride quality and reducing the failure of the plow lift chains and parts. Once their stock of used parts was depleted, the department maintenance staff found they could purchase the needed parts new for about $431 per plow.
“We have a talented crew on staff that teamed up to find a solution to this problem. Otter Tail County Highway Department has become a leader in transportation innovation and safety,” remarked Rick Hoium, Otter Tail County highway maintenance supervisor. “We are proud to have earned this award.”

Second Place: City of Rochester Public Works Department

Project: Hydraulic Arrow Board

Problem: The city's infrastructure maintenance crew members had to climb into the back of the truck and physically lift/lower the electronic arrow board into position. The arrow board has to be lowered before moving to a new work site in order to avoid it being caught in low-hanging trees.

Solution: The arrow board is now raised and lowered by a hydraulic pump operated from inside the vehicle. This eliminated the need for staff to climb into the back of the truck to raise and lower the board manually. Additionally, the new system allows the arrow board to be raised 18 inches higher than before, making it more effective at traffic control because it's more visible.