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Federal Highway Administration / Publications / Focus / July 1997

Accelerating Infrastructure Innovations

Publication Number: FHWA-SA-97-025
Date: July 1997

In Missouri, New Maintenance Technology Gets a Boost from Personal Contact

"You can't implement new technologies with a videotape," says Ivan Corp of the Missouri Department of Transportation (DOT). "It takes personal contact." Corp should know: Since last summer, he's been the DOT's point man for the implementation of new technologies for winter maintenance and pavement maintenance. By meeting face to face with DOT crews, Corp is nurturing a new dedication to innovative technologies among the people who keep Missouri's roads smooth and safe.

As senior research and development engineer, Corp's main duty is to introduce DOT staff to new maintenance technologies. He also oversees the evaluation of new technologies. He has traveled to each district at least once to show crews how to use the new technologies and to explain their benefits. "Sending out a manual or letter doesn't get it done," he says. "You have to get out to the grassroots level and help people get started."

Corp has been focusing so far on road weather information systems (RWIS) and anti-icing strategies, technologies that were evaluated under the Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP) and that can quickly improve safety and cut costs. He is now branching out into pavement maintenance.

As he makes presentations, Corp watches for local champions-people who are excited about new technologies and who will communicate Corp's message after he leaves.

The effort has changed the culture at the highway agency, says Joe Mickes, Missouri DOT's chief engineer. "Crews now see better where they fit into the maintenance picture and how important their jobs are."

Corp agrees: "A supervisor who has been here 40 years told me we're doing a better job than we ever have and doing it for less money-and that it has put the fun back in the job."

Mickes says it was Missouri DOT's participation in SHRP that pointed out the need to improve maintenance operations. "As chair of the TRB-SHRP Committee, I'm a believer in SHRP and other research," says Mickes. "However, I've always been concerned that our department hasn't in the past done a good job of implementing the products of research." In response, Mickes initiated a reorganization of Missouri DOT's research operations. Part of that reorganization was to bring all research and implementation activities together in the new Division of Research, Development, and Technology and to name Corp-formerly a district maintenance manager-to his new position.

"Before, we only conducted maintenance research as a sideline," Corp says. "Now, we're able to concentrate on it and sort out new equipment and new ideas so we can adopt the best methods."

Mickes attributes the effort's success to Corp's background in the field. "There's always a place in the deployment of maintenance technologies to use the knowledge of people who have been there and done it."

Corp recommends Missouri DOT's strategy to other States, but warns that it isn't easy. "Don't get discouraged," he advises. "You can always expect 35 percent of the people to be reluctant about implementing anything new. Also, you must be available on a moment's notice to clear up confusion and answer questions."

For more information, contact Ivan Corp at 816-889-6403 (fax: 816-889-6449).

anti-icing photo.

Missouri DOT finds that personal contact is key to the successful introduction of new technologies such as anti-icing, shown here.

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