Skip to content

2020 Mousetrap Winner - Bold Steps Award

Jaws of Life

Download 2020 Booklet as PDF

Arapahoe County needed a solution for repairing hundreds of damaged culverts throughout the eastern rural areas. The damage comes from large trucks and farming equipment making sharp turns onto narrow roadways crushing the end of the culverts. Repairing these culverts is expensive, requires a lot of time and causes a disruption to traffic flow because county workers have to dig out the asphalt or gravel on the surface of the pipe, excavate around the pipe in order to cut the damaged steel off the pipe, add a new section of pipe to the existing old pipe, place a steel collar around the new union and grout the two pieces together. This work also requires repairs to the road's surface. Arapahoe County needed a solution that involved less time, money, and effort repairing these culverts.

Arapahoe County has a culture of innovation providing staff at all levels an opportunity to suggest improvements at a physical location affectionately called the "Thought Spot", which is a large board where employees can pin their ideas no matter the cost or complexity. It was on the board where Arapahoe County leaders found an innovative idea to more efficiently repair damaged culverts.

The idea was to use some sort of a hydraulic ram to open the crushed culverts. The Arapahoe County leadership team discussed feasibility of the idea and decided to conduct some additional research that led them to a tool that is widely used among fire departments all over the country.

The Jaws of Life is used to pry open vehicles that have been involved in car accidents. "We tried several different styles of the piston-rod hydraulic devices. But, we knew we only needed one style to pry open the crushed culverts and that it would need to be powered by a cordless battery that we could keep in our maintenance trucks," says Douglas Stern, Arapahoe County's Road and Bridge Manager.

Although the tool cost $11,900, Arapahoe County says they paid themselves back in savings after 12 culvert repairs using their version of the Jaws of Life. They expect to save over $300,000 in repair costs over the life of the equipment. "We have seen overwhelming success in our process improvement with the Jaws of Life," says Douglas.

When seeking solutions for challenging issues, Douglas suggests keeping the focus on the job, "When you take an organization and focus on the innovation itself, you get random ideas. But when you start focusing on being faster, better and more economical and then tie it to employee reviews and evaluations, you are creating motivation and then you really start to see some good ideas."

Congratulations to Arapahoe County, Colorado as the 2020 Build a Better Mousetrap Bold Steps Award recipient.

For more information:
Douglas Stern, Road & Bridge Operations Manager
Arapahoe County, CO


Jaws of Life used to repair crushed culverts in Arapahoe County, Colorado. View of the culvert after the repair.

Source: Arapahoe County, CO

« back

Explore LTAP
Innovation Exchange Webinars

Bill Grants Federal Requirements Seminar New

An introductory webinar to assist local and tribal agencies with applying for transportation funding under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL).

View webinar →

Stay connected with
Local Aid Support

Sign up to receive the CLAS quarterly e-Newsletter.

Online Training Booklet for LTAPs

Download PDF for more information on available online training resources.

back to top