August 2017 Vol. 5, No. 6

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Asset management peer exchange features local, national leaders

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On May 16 and 17, 2017, a peer exchange for local agencies on asset management was held in St. Cloud. 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. A summary of the meeting is on the Minnesota LTAP website.

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

Several of the presenters brought to light the fact that tools and technology are often unknowingly already available to agencies. Another presenter showcased the efficiencies, cost savings, and consistency in data gathering made possible by sharing staff between different agencies that could not afford a position on their own. These agencies were able to efficiently collect high-quality data on their assets at a fraction of the cost as a result of shared personnel resources.

The event was sponsored by the MnDOT Division of State Aid for Local Transportation and coordinated by the Center for Transportation Studies at the University of Minnesota with financial assistance from the Federal Highway Administration.

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Enhanced culvert inspections summarized in guidebook

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A simple end-of-pipe visual inspection of culverts may not provide enough detail to manage culverts efficiently. To help users obtain additional detailed data, many inspection technologies have been developed. Which technology is right for the job? A new manual from MnDOT provides guidance.

The Enhanced Culvert Inspections Best Practices Guidebook is a primer on common culvert inspection technologies and applications. The manual summarizes the advantages and limitations of each technology and provides best practices when planning for and implementing an enhanced inspection project.

Enhanced inspection technologies can measure or digitally record conditions that would not be apparent from a simple visual inspection. Common enhanced inspection technologies include:

  • Multiple sensor inspection (e.g., laser ring, sonar, inclinometer)
  • Mandrel inspection
  • Hammer sound testing
  • Core sampling test
  • Closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera inspection
  • Hydraulic Inspection Vehicle Explorer (HIVE) Inspection
  • Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG) Mosaic Inspection

The best practices in the document were developed based on a combination of industry standards and MnDOT practice. In addition, practical and logistic considerations are identified to assist staff in selecting cost-effective inspection methods for typical types of inspection.

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Homegrown inspection vehicle improves culvert repair

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Culverts and pipes must be inspected regularly to determine if they need to be repaired or replaced, but culvert accesses are often too small for inspectors to enter. MnDOT District 6 has developed the Hydraulic Inspection Vehicle Explorer (HIVE), a radio-controlled car that takes lights and a camera into culverts and transmits inspection data wirelessly to a tablet. Each vehicle costs roughly $1,500.

The HIVE has been used to inspect hundreds of pipes and is already saving money. One visual inspection of a culvert showed damage to the ends of a pipe that typically would result in a full replacement cost of about $45,000. However, HIVE video footage from within the pipe showed the damage was limited to just 12 feet near the end. Instead of replacing the entire pipe, MnDOT workers fixed the problem for $1,000, resulting in a $44,000 savings.

The HIVE received the 2016 Governor’s Better Government Award and was chosen as one of the nation’s top research projects in 2017 by the Research Advisory Committee of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

District 6 has shared build instructions with 27 states, counties, and cities. Instructions to build a HIVE, including a parts list and wiring schematic, are online.

The HIVE is just one of the advanced inspection technologies included in MnDOT’s new Enhanced Culvert Inspections Best Practices Guidebook (see related story).

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Taking data-driven safety analysis to the local level

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After generating widespread interest among states during Every Day Counts round three (EDC-3), data-driven safety analysis (DDSA) is back for an encore in EDC-4—this time with an added focus on local deployment. DDSA is the application of the latest generation of software tools for analyzing crash and roadway data. These tools quantify expected safety impacts, enabling agencies to make more informed decisions, better target their investments, and reduce severe crashes on roads.

During EDC-3, more than 40 states implemented DDSA at some level, and 44 states made 145 technical assistance requests to the Federal Highway Administration’s DDSA deployment team. This strong interest was a driving factor for including DDSA in the 11 EDC-4 innovations FHWA is promoting in 2017 and 2018.

For EDC-4, the deployment team will continue to help states incorporate DDSA into their processes, policies, and projects, but a new emphasis will be on assisting local agencies.

Many local agencies have already implemented DDSA, with much success. The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) used DDSA tools to develop road safety plans for each of its 87 counties.

“It was a partnership between the county engineers and MnDOT, as well as the Federal Highway Administration,” said Sue Miller, county engineer for Freeborn County. “We were able to sit down and say, ‘What can we do together to make this data-driven process work for us?’”

The analysis showed that half of fatalities across the state were on local roads, so MnDOT shared funding with the counties to help them implement the plans, based on the data.

“The DOT really understood that if you want to make a true safety difference, then we have to get that money down to the local level to start shifting the culture,” Miller said.

(Adapted from FHWA Innovator, May/June 2017)

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Snowplow route optimization: success factors

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Well-designed snowplow routes allow winter maintenance agencies to make the most effective use of their fleets. A Clear Roads review of snowplow route optimization projects showed that detailed data about a plow route network and close collaboration between route modelers and the operators who drive the routes are critical factors in an optimization project’s success.

Researchers conducted a survey of state and local winter maintenance agencies and provincial winter maintenance agencies in Canada about their route optimization efforts. In the survey, agencies were also asked about the relative importance of route optimization goals and routing constraints that optimization software features should accommodate.

Survey respondents overall put greater priority on minimizing the time until all roads are cleared as a goal for route optimization than on minimizing the total vehicle hours of travel, although many respondents rated both objectives as important.

The five most important optimization software features identified in the survey were accounting for roadway prioritization, accounting for different vehicle load capacities, allowing reloading at remote material storage facilities, lane-specific routing, and accounting for vehicle/road compatibility limitations.

The researchers also generated a project matrix that shows the different features of the optimization software packages used.

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