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Hot Topics is our electronic newsletter highlighting new publications and resources from a variety of sources.

New training from Minnesota LTAP


Online Training: Gravel Road Maintenance and Design

Minnesota LTAP understands that training budgets are tight, so we’re launching our first online distance-learning course: Gravel Road Maintenance and Design. The course, developed in partnership with the Minnesota Local Road Research Board, provides a high-quality training option at a low cost to students and employers.

Online distance learning is perfect for students who are unable to travel or prefer a “work at your own pace” environment. It is particularly valuable for older students, who may find it difficult to return to a traditional classroom setting.

Students are free to access our new training anytime, anywhere, within a three-month timeframe. All students need is access to a web-enabled computer and an e-mail address.

Each lesson contains a narrated presentation, video clips, reading assignments, a quiz, and time to reflect on what was learned and develop an action plan. The quizzes and the final test are designed to be taken as many times as necessary in order to pass. Reading assignment materials are available online, and no additional books or materials are needed.

The course includes the same curriculum that is still available in an in-person LTAP workshop.

New Workshops in 2012: Paved Trails and Micro/Slurry Surfacing

Best Practices: Corridor Management/Maintenance of Paved Trails
This workshop focuses primarily on the management and maintenance of the trail pavement, but also includes other elements such as vegetation, drainage, signing/striping, lighting, and amenities. Workshop participants will be guided through the use of a maintenance schedule and checklist for a typical paved trail and educated on various pavement issues and treatments.

Micro/Slurry Surfacing: A Workshop for Practitioners
Micro/slurry has been used in Minnesota since early 1990s, yet a vast number of agencies have no experience with these products. This workshop will discuss what micro/slurry surfacing is, the differences between the two products, and how and where to use each one. Project selection, development of specifications, and constructions details will also be discussed in detail.

Snowplow simulator training held this fall

A new workshop that Minnesota LTAP hosted this fall was MnDOT's Minnesota Snowplow and Safety Simulator Training for Local Agencies. The training provides a safe environment in which students can experience hazardous weather conditions, varied road conditions, heavy vehicle and pedestrian traffic, and difficult maneuvering. The simulator provides attendees with a basic plow cab control system with everything from a 15-speed max manual transmission to an automatic transmission.

Minnesota LTAP expects to offer the training again in fall 2012.

Watch a video clip from the November 15 session

Snow & ice control manual: update on the way

Minnesota LTAP is in the process of updating the Minnesota Snow and Ice Control: Field Handbook for Snowplow Operators. The new version will include updates from Kathy Schaefer, the CTAP instructor and one of the project members who created the first edition of the handbook, which was published in 2005. The new version will posted on our handbooks page in January.

Local OPERA update


Blue Earth County used a blend of recycled asphalt shingles and recycled asphalt pavement on CSAH 48.

New fact sheets: waste shingles, calibration scale, pothole repair

The Minnesota Local Road Research Board’s Local Operational Research Assistance Program (Local OPERA) website has the following new fact sheets:

  • Rehabilitating/Upgrading Low-Volume Roads with Waste Shingles

  • Implementation of a Scale-Tec Calibration Scale

  • Taconite-Enhanced Pothole Repair Using Portable Microwave Technology

The fact sheets, along with full project reports, are posted on the OPERA website. Other fact sheets and reports will be posted as they are completed throughout the year.

Catch basin video

The City of Lakeville created a video of its OPERA project—a catch basin repair trailer. Staff used the video in a report to the City Council in November.

Watch a clip from the video

Read the project report

Asset management packages: more options

The September 2011 issue of Hot Topics included an article about asset management software and a list of some packages currently in use. The list was not meant to be comprehensive, and several readers contacted us to share other options—which we’re pleased to share with you here.

Cartegraph Systems offers technology to manage work, assets, infrastructure, and more. The company is based in Iowa, and WSB & Associates, Inc. is a local partner. According to John Mackiewicz, information systems group manager with WSB, “Cartegraph is either the most (or second most) used asset management software platform for cities in Minnesota.” 

Sign Logic is a sign inventory management software that was designed specifically for small- to medium-sized municipalities. The system will help municipalities comply with federal sign mandates, says Kelly Velander of Grid Logic, the Faribault-based company that sells Sign Logic.

More packages

MnROAD research: ready for implementation


The TERRA research conference featured tours of MnROAD

Researchers shared results of studies from MnROAD’s Phase Two Initiative during a daylong research conference October 4 in Minneapolis. Many of the research findings on pavement materials, design, construction, and rehabilitation are ready to be implemented in Minnesota and around the country.

The event was part of a larger organizational undertaking over three days that included a quarterly board meeting of the Transportation Engineering and Road Research Alliance (TERRA) and technical advisory panel meetings for seven MnROAD pooled-fund projects.

The research conference—a TERRA Innovation Series event—featured 22 research presentations and bus tours of MnROAD. TERRA hosted the conference in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and the Minnesota Local Road Research Board, both TERRA members.

Read more and see PowerPoints on the TERRA Innovation Series: MnROAD research conference event page.

Caring for our waters


Duschee Creek, in Fillmore County, Minn., was one of the culverts examined in the study.

Culvert design & fish passage

Lacking a state standard, Minnesota culvert design is currently based on the judgment of county, state, and DNR personnel who work to maintain natural stream dimensions and patterns through culvert crossings. If designed properly, culverts allow aquatic organisms and fish to move upstream.

The University of Minnesota’s Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering recently led a study assessing the hydraulic conditions related to recessed culverts and other design elements over a range of landscapes in Minnesota. The team also included researchers from the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory. The study was sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Minnesota Local Road Research Board.

The research team suggests that design improvements could be made through better matching of stream type and culvert design, improved sediment stabilization in the bottom of culverts, and an improved culvert design for wider channels and floodplains.

A final report on the project, Performance Assessment of Oversized Culverts to Accommodate Fish Passage (MnDOT 2011-19), is available on the CTS website.

‘Liquid Assets’ video on public television; DVD available

Liquid Assets, a film documentary produced and sponsored with the assistance of the Minnesota Chapter of American Public Works Association, is being aired on January 17 on Twin Cities Public Television. The documentary explores the function, age, and condition of our water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure and delivers the message that the infrastructure is in urgent need of repairs and capacity relief or else our quality of life may be threatened. Liquid Assets is a teaching tool that explains and demonstrates with animated graphics how these systems work.

The program will be repeated several times on TPT. In addition, the documentary will be made available on DVD so that it can be viewed and discussed by select groups such as schools, city councils, public utilities, other civic groups, legislators, and anyone interested the future of our water infrastructure. 

More information about the video

Retroreflectivity mandates: news still pending

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced on August 30 that it is proposing to eliminate dozens of regulations on traffic signs. Of specific interest are federal requirements that certain signs be replaced by specific dates to meet minimum retrorefletivity requirements. Comments on the proposed rule were due October 31.

Ken Schroepfer, co-instructor with Howard Preston of Minnesota LTAP’s sign workshop—Minnesota’s Best Practices for Traffic Sign Maintenance and Management—says there is nothing new to report from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) as of yet. “It may take the FHWA several months to review all comments and make a decision about rescinding the rules,” he says. A possible target date for the FHWA, he predicted, could be the initial compliance date for a sign maintenance/management plan—January 22, 2012.

In the meantime, Schroepfer says, “Howard Preston and I have encouraged township, city, and county officials not to wait and hope that a change is made or that an extension is granted.”

The instructors also note that the FHWA did NOT propose eliminating 12 implementation dates—for example, agencies will still need to adopt a maintenance method for their sign inventory, and all uncontrolled railroad crossings need to have STOP or YIELD signs installed.

To review the entire proposed rule, go to the Federal Register for August 31, 2011, at Rules are not official until published on the Federal Register.

Safety news & resources

TZD conference

View presentations from the 2011 Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths annual conference, which was held November 16 and 17, 2011, in Duluth, Minnesota.

New online game teaches risks of distracted driving

The Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Institute, a part of the Center for Transportation Studies, continues to push the envelope in the development of “serious games” with the launch of Distraction Dodger, a new online game designed to help teens and young adults understand the risks of distracted driving. Serious games engage learners through entertainment while providing training and education.

In Distraction Dodger, players get behind the wheel of a pizza delivery van and have to avoid obstacles and obey traffic laws. As they progress through the game’s levels, they receive feedback on their driving—and how it is affected by their level of distraction.

Developed by Web Courseworks for the ITS Institute, the game has already received international attention with an award at the 2011 International Serious Play Conference.

Distraction Dodger builds on the success of Gridlock Buster, another online game from the ITS Institute. Gridlock Buster provides a fun way to teach students about traffic grid management and make transportation interesting and relevant. Since its original posting online, Gridlock Buster has received more than 3 million game plays and has garnered national interest.

Try your hand at both games on the ITS Institute website.

MnDOT wins FHWA safety awards

MnDOT recently received two National Roadway Safety Awards from the Federal Highway Administration and the Roadway Safety Foundation. One award recognized the department for using micro surfacing—adding a thin layer of asphalt and crushed rock mixture to the road surface—to reduce crashes on wet roads.

Along with Wright County in central Minnesota, MnDOT also was recognized for the County Roads Safety Plans Program. Read an update about the program in the summer issue of the Minnesota LTAP Exchange.

Read more about the awards in the November 22, 2011, issue of MnDOT Newsline.

Working safely in trenches

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released three new guidance products to educate workers and employers about the hazards workers face in trenching operations.

The new information products, which are available on OSHA's Publications page, are:

  • "Trenching and Excavation" fact sheet

  • "Working Safely in Trenches" QuickCard – an easy-to-use guide to trenching hazards and safety measures with graphics

  • "Do Not Enter an Unprotected Trench!" poster – a resource for construction workplaces informing workers what steps must be taken to ensure trench safety, along with the warning "An Unprotected Trench is an Early Grave."

The guidance also describes the protective measures that are required under OSHA's excavation standards (29 CFR 1926.650, 29 CFR 1926.651, and 29 CFR 1926.652). Spanish-language versions of the documents are also available.

Protecting workers from construction hazards

OSHA has released 12 educational videos about potential hazards in the construction industry. The educational short videos are geared to employers and workers. They are based on real-life incidents and include detailed depictions of hazards and the safety measures that would have prevented these injuries and fatalities. The videos cover falls in construction, workers who are struck by vehicles and heavy equipment, sprain and strain injuries, trenching and excavation hazards, and carbon monoxide poisoning. Spanish-language videos

Highway Safety Improvement Program Self Assessment Tool

The FHWA Office of Safety recently published the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) Self Assessment Tool as a companion document to the previously released HSIP Assessment Toolbox. The tool describes an approach to self assessment that allows users to evaluate specific aspects of the HSIP process. It is available in electronic format only.

The HSIP resources website also includes a supplemental score sheet in MS Excel and responses to frequently asked questions.

Work Zone Safety and Mobility Performance Measurement

This primer (FHWA-Hop-11-033) has been developed to assist agencies in establishing and monitoring a useful set of work zone safety and mobility performance measures. The primer describes possible work zone performance measures and provides guidance to help agencies select and implement measures that make sense for their own work zone programs. The primer also discusses the use of measures across multiple projects to assess an agency’s overall efforts and outcomes against its policies and goals.

Roadway Safety Noteworthy Practices Database

The Roadway Safety Noteworthy Practices Database is an online collection of innovative practices documented by state and local agencies summarizing their efforts to implement and evaluate data-driven, strategic approaches to improving highway safety.

Other new FHWA materials

Roundabout outreach and education toolbox

This toolbox is an online reference that connects transportation professionals with outreach resources from across the country to help them obtain public support for roundabouts. It includes:

  • Case studies of outreach success stories

  • Outreach implementation guidance

  • Products including presentations, videos, and brochures

  • Simply use the form to the right to search or browse the toolbox to find the resources you need.

Bridge preservation guide

A new Bridge Preservation Guide (Pub. No. FHWA-HIF-11042) provides a framework for implementing a preventive maintenance program. The FHWA guide provides definitions for terms such as bridge preservation, preventive maintenance, rehabilitation, state of good repair, and structurally deficient, along with related commentary and examples. Also featured is a framework for establishing a systematic preventive maintenance program for bridges.

More training news

LTAP training & events

Winter 2012

Spring 2012

Summer 2012

Every Day Counts webinars

Every Day Counts (EDC) is an FHWA initiative designed to identify and deploy innovation aimed at shortening project delivery, enhancing the safety of our roadways, and protecting the environment.

As part of the initiative, a regularly scheduled series of dynamic webinars—the EDC-Exchange—will be held. The in-person learning sessions will describe effective project development and delivery practices, tools, and "market ready" technologies that local and tribal transportation agencies can readily make use of in their programs.  

The 2012 webinars, hosted in Minnesota by MnDOT, will be held from noon to 3:00 p.m. central time on these dates and topics:

February 16      Geosynthetic Reinforced Soil
April 19              Flexibility in Right of Way
June 21              In Lieu Fees/Mitigation Banking
August 16         Adaptive Signal Control Technology (Arden Hills only)

You must be in attendance to view the webinars. There will be two locations in Minnesota: the MnDOT Arden Hill Training Facility and the MnDOT St. Cloud Training Facility.

For more information, please contact David Scott, assistant division administrator at the Minnesota FHWA Division Office, at or 651-291-6103, or Ray Rought, MnDOT EDC coordinator, at or 651-366-4836.

MnDOT Bridge Safety Inspection Training

The Minnesota Department of Transportation, in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration and the University of Minnesota, College of Continuing Education, is pleased to offer seven Minnesota Bridge Safety Inspection Refresher Training seminars to be held at various statewide locations in February and March 2012.

County, city, or consultant engineers who are designated as bridge inspection “Program Administrators” are required to attend a minimum of two bridge inspection seminars every four years.

Content sources

CTS Catalyst, TERRA E-News, and websites of the FHWA, TRB, NACE, and other organizations


We would like to hear what you think of Hot Topics. Please e-mail us at

Minnesota LTAP
Center for Transportation Studies
University of Minnesota
511 Washington Ave. S.E.
Minneapolis, MN 55455
Phone: 612-626-1077
Fax: 612-625-6381

Managing Editor: Pamela Snopl
LTAP Editors: Christine Anderson and Michael McCarthy
LTAP librarian: Marilee Tuite
Student interns: Kristin Havercamp, Nicola Losik, and Joe Reinke

Check out other Minnesota LTAP publications

Minnesota LTAP publishes many other materials such as a quarterly print newsletter (the Technology Exchange), handbooks, and CD-ROMs.

For more information, please visit the Publications page, or e-mail the LTAP librarian at

Minnesota LTAP | University of Minnesota | Minneapolis, MN 55455 | Location & Contact Information