Road Management & Engineering Journal
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You can learn a lot from reports and newsletters, but nothing beats firsthand experience. At least that's the consensus of a group of western State and Federal maintenance engineers who have been taking to the road once a year for the past 3 years to see how different States apply and manage preventive and general maintenance programs.
Utah was last year's destination. The tour started in Salt Lake City, with a series of presentations on a range of maintenance topics, including snow removal on Interstate 15, which is currently undergoing a major reconstruction, and maintenance management quality assurance. The members of the group then climbed aboard a 40- passenger bus for a 2-day, 600-mile tour of a variety of maintenance projects, including maintenance paving operations, road weather information systems, and a rotomill. The bus, which served as a rolling office, provided ample opportunity for discussion and debate. The costs of the tour were shared by the participating States and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
"If FHWA preserves one thing," says tour member Lynn Millard of the Utah Department of Transportation (DOT), "it should be these small-group State tours. The information exchanged and the discussions about how others are solving problems similar to our own are invaluable."
John Blacker, a tour participant from Montana DOT, agrees. "The camaraderie leads to an informal support network. When faced with a problem, you know who to call who has already handled something similar. This keeps us from wasting tax dollars on reinventing the wheel. We remove the barriers that customarily exist at the State line."
Besides encouraging cooperation among neighboring States, the tours spur conversation between staff in the State DOTs and FHWA. "TEA-21 [the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century] means that the Federal government has much more flexibility in dealing with maintenance issues," says Blacker. "These tours give us a chance to readily share information with our Federal counterparts."
The Utah DOT tour highlighted a number of innovative programs, processes, and projects for striping pavements, removing litter, coating pavements, fencing Interstates to prevent deer from straying onto the roadway, and applying anti-icing strategies.
Montana is slated for the 1999 tour, which is tentatively scheduled for September. Featured projects include crack sealing, thin-lift overlays, and get-ready-quick contracts. Prior years' tours have included Colorado in 1996 and a 1997 tour of South Dakota that visited a long-term pavement performance (LTPP) program specific pavement study experiment (SPS-4, preventive maintenance effectiveness for rigid pavements) site in Vermillion. In a departure from past practice, Blacker hopes to invite participants from other parts of the country to Montana in September.
For more information, contact John Blacker at Montana DOT (phone: 406-444-6158; fax: 406-444-7684; email: firstname.lastname@example.org) or Lynn Millard at Utah DOT (phone: 801-965-4898; fax: 801-965-4769; email: email@example.com).