February 2017 Vol. 5, No. 2

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Interactive guide helps local agencies address funding gaps

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A new interactive guide from the Minnesota Local Road Research Board (LRRB) will help local agencies evaluate their transportation network preservation needs, communicate these needs to elected officials and the public, and select and implement strategies to address funding gaps.

The guide and tools developed in the project are based in part on the experiences of five Minnesota counties: Anoka, Dakota, Freeborn, Otter Tail, and Stearns. Investigators worked with the five pilot counties to compare the gaps in their mainte­nance funding to the funding they needed to manage their pavement system, determine whether the county board understands those gaps, and choose implementation strate­gies to narrow the funding gaps.

Structured as a decision tree, the step-by-step guide includes these steps:

  • Needs assessment
  • Preservation strategies
  • Communication strategies
  • Lessons learned

The guide provides links to supporting documentation, including tools for collecting revenue and expenditure data, resources for assessing a county’s current maintenance practices, sample reports, case studies, and sample communications campaigns.

After using the process presented in the guide, all five pilot counties successfully built consensus among the public and their elected officials to implement either a sales tax or wheelage tax to increase transportation funding. Each county also selected other strate­gies to address funding shortfalls based on their specific needs and situations.

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Submit an entry for ‘Mousetrap’ competition

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Photo: Shutterstock

Have you or one of your co-workers recently built an innovative gadget or developed an improved way to do a job? Now is the time to show off your creativity and help other agencies solve problems by submitting an entry to the Build a Better Mousetrap Competition! Minnesota LTAP is participating in the 2017 contest, sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration’s Local Technical Assistance Program and Tribal Technical Assistance Program.

Your entry can be anything from the development of tools or gadgets to equipment modifications to processes that increase safety, improve efficiency, reduce costs, or improve the quality of transportation. The purpose of this competition is to collect and disseminate real-world examples of best practices, tips from the field, and assist in the transfer of technology.

To enter the competition, please complete the entry form on our website and submit it by May 31, 2017. You're also encouraged (but not required) to submit photos of your project along with your entry form.

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Guidelines help local agencies modernize plans, documentation

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A recent project sponsored by the Minnesota LRRB developed guidelines to help local agen­cies incorporate 3-D modeling and electronic document management (EDM) into their design, bidding, and construction processes. The project captured best practices for producing and delivering road construction plans and documentation from several Minnesota cities and counties, industry, and several other state DOTs.

Digitizing road construction plans and documents can save transportation agencies significant time and money in design and bidding. For example, one technology, 3-D modeling, can make project design and construction more efficient by showing, in a single file, all the design details needed by a contractor and by making conflicts obvious early in the process. Other technologies include electronic bidding, electronic signatures, and automatic machine guidance.

Implementing these technologies effectively, however, is a long-term project that re­quires a significant initial capital investment and specialized training. Agencies also need to evaluate and mitigate potential risks, such as legal liability if there are errors in the data used to create 3-D models.

The LRRB project evaluated which options might be beneficial and feasible for local agencies in Minnesota. The final report includes recommended procedures for successful implementation.

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FHWA website provides e-Construction resources

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Photo: Every Day Counts

Through round four of Every Day Counts (EDC-4), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is promoting e-Construction to help deliver transportation improvements smarter and faster. e-Construction is the creation, review, approval, distribution, and storage of highway construction documents in a paperless environment.

Paperless processes include electronic submission of all documentation by all stakeholders, electronic document routing and approval (e-signature and workflows), and real-time management of all documents in a secure digital environment accessible to all stakeholders through mobile devices and web-based platforms.

EDC-3 promoted e-Construction as an effective way to transfer and use electronic documents in construction, and it has been successfully demonstrated using various tools and technologies in states nationwide.

The FHWA e-Construction web page includes:

  • A library with resources from federal and state agencies
  • Links to education and training videos from four state DOTs
  • Links to reports, proceedings, and other materials from peer exchanges and workshops

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Living snow fence, snow control work wins award

Screenshot of Snow Control Tools website

In recent years, the University of Minnesota and MnDOT have partnered to find ways to keep more rural roads drift-free. Teams have studied a promising option for living snow fence (shrub willow) and developed a website and new online tools. Their work was honored with this year’s Research Partnership Award from the Center for Transportation Studies.

In one component of the work, researchers analyzed shrub willows as a more affordable, fast-growing option for living snow fence. They found that shrub willows were effective at trapping snow after just two growing seasons; typical snow-fence plants can take 5 to 20 years to establish themselves. The researchers also estimated the cost of a 100-meter, four-row living snow fence at less than $8,000.

In other work, teams collaborated to develop two online tools:

  • The Minnesota Drift-Free Roads Design Module allows users to create two types of mitigation strategies: a road design and a snow fence design. Users are able to enter a site-specific blowing snow problem and examine solutions.
  • The Cost Benefit Web Tool allows transportation agencies to estimate the return on investment of implementing blowing snow control practices such as living snow fences or standing corn rows on private lands.

Both tools are on the Blowing Snow Control Tools website, also the home for videos and other resources.

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