2022 Wrapped: The Biggest Stories in Transportation Infrastructure Innovation
InfraTalk America’s 10 most-read stories from Delaware to California
By Angie Schmitt
2022 was a big year for innovation in transportation infrastructure. Infratalk America arrived on the scene this summer with a mission to share success stories and inspire further action and commitment.
We launched a podcast. We held two Policy Roundtables. We ran more than 50 articles, all focused on our core technologies: Positive Work Zone Protection, Sustainable Composite Bridges, Building Information Management and E-Ticketing.
As we reflect on 2022 and look forward to a productive and groundbreaking year ahead, we wanted to look back on some of the highlights from the year. Here are the most-read stories on InfraTalk America.
How many state DOTs are still storing their files in a warehouse full of boxes? That was a question posed by Aaron Chamberlain, a senior transportation engineer at Caltrans, during a webinar on Digital As-Builts hosted by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) last month.
According to Chamberlain, Caltrans has a warehouse of file boxes that are full of paper tickets from projects. These voluminous records accumulate when managing transportation for a state of 40 million people. “We know this isn’t the way moving forward,” said Chamberlain. “And this is what we’re trying to replace.”
It’s time for the industry to be aggressive about evolving in a sustainable way. Composite materials in bridge construction present an exciting opportunity. The Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI) is helping the transportation construction industry do better. ISI serves as a third-party certification provider to verify that infrastructure projects are held to high environmental standards.
With paper tickets, Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) inspectors manually enter 50 to 100 tickets into the INDOT system face each day. Often, they hunt for paper tickets that were inevitably misplaced on busy construction sites. But over the last few years, the department has found a way to tame the beast; INDOT has introduced e-Ticketing, a digital exchange, that tracks and archives information.
A 2014 survey found that almost half of highway contractors had a vehicle crash into their work zone in the previous year. However, according to research jointly produced by FHWA and the American Traffic Safety Services Association in 2015, the cost benefit of positive work zone protection is “very high” with costs typically recouped in five years or less on high volume roadways.
In October, the Biden Administration released a policy document called “Action Plan for Accelerating Infrastructure Projects,” which aims to speed and smooth project delivery. As part of the initiative, the White House will be expanding the successful Every Day Counts program, which over its 11-year history has helped promote and mainstream dozens of time
– and money-saving innovations in the sector. The program, which operates on two-year cycles to “identify and rapidly deploy proven, yet under-utilized innovations to shorten the project delivery process,” will be expanded beyond the highway space, advancing process innovations in transit and trail project delivery as well.
After years of discussion and trial and error, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is advancing e-Ticketing. Today, Ohio DOT has 90 projects using the technology. This is still a small fraction of the estimated 1,000 contracts it awards annually, but they’ve gained enough confidence to plan a statewide rollout in 2023.
New research on the benefits of e-Ticketing from Dr. Karthik Subramanya and a team at the University of Texas Arlington finds that implementing software programs that digitize and automate the materials transfer process could reduce workforce pressure and potentially lead to big savings. Using survey data, the paper concluded the average time savings from instituting e-ticketing to be 30 minutes to 90 minutes per inspector per day. This added time savings would allow understaffed state DOTs to reduce the inspector workforce by about 25 percent.
#8. Publisher’s Message: “We Can Do Better”
In an introductory essay, Publisher Gregory Nadeau talks about his career overseeing the Federal Aid Highway Program at the state and federal level as well as the inspiration behind the launch of InfraTalk America. “I came to feel very strongly that there are important opportunities to improve project delivery, offering the public greater safety, sustainability and cost savings,” said Nadeau. InfraTalk America “has become my vessel for seeking to affect positive change in the industry, in both the public and private sectors.”
At a factory in North Randall, Ohio, something is happening that has the potential to revolutionize public infrastructure. Along a small assembly line, fiberglass threads are treated with an epoxy before being baked in an oven. What emerges is rebar that is as strong as steel but many times lighter. An average woman can easily lift a 16-foot rod with one hand over her head.
Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) began a pilot program for electronic ticketing (e-Ticketing) integration in December 2020 using a software system, HaulHub, to integrate e-Tickets for hot-mix asphalt suppliers around the state. E-Ticketing is an example of how the construction materials industry can innovate. Switching from paper tickets to digital platforms not only captures all project documentation from start to finish, but it can also improve work-zone safety while saving time and resources.