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TransOvation™ Workshop Explores Breaking Down Barriers to Innovation

by Mark Holan

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November 16-18  |  3M Innovation Center  |  St. Paul, Minnesota

New products and processes to improve transportation infrastructure construction and maintenance are emerging at an unprecedented pace. But the latest technology and techniques aren’t much good without federal and state transportation agencies giving the green light to use them.

At the ARTBA Foundation’s 5th Annual Dr. J. Don Brock TransOvation™ Workshop, held Nov. 16-18 at the 3M Innovation Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, a key interactive panel session will explore how to break down barriers in bringing new innovations into the U.S. transportation construction marketplace. This panel will lead into a workshop, where attendees will be tasked with a similar challenge.

“I’d like to get into a healthy discussion, a productive conversation about what are the barriers, what are the restrictions and how have organizations been able to navigate the problems?” said John Hillman, president and CEO of HC Bridge Company, and co-moderator of the session.

The other moderator is John Huyer, contract administration engineer at the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in Minneapolis/St. Paul. He will review rules of the road for allowing innovations to reach federal aid highway construction projects.

Transportation department officials from Maine, Virginia and California also will provide step-by-step case studies that spotlight how new products reached the market in their respective states. They will help explore how industry and agency partners might streamline the process.

“Right now, if something is approved in Virginia that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be approved in North Carolina,” said Jeff Milton, a 41-year veteran bridge preservation specialist at the Virginia Department of Transportation. “With 50 state DOT’s there are 50 ways to evaluate these products, and that’s obviously a challenge to the industry.”

Once a product or process is found safe and effective, there needs to be quicker way to get it to market “without having to reinvent the wheel,” Milton said.

Other panelists include:

  • Dale Peabody, director of transportation research, Maine Department of Transportation;
  • Mark Henderson, owner, LJB Inc.;
  • Mike Keever, structure design chief, California Department of Transportation; and
  • Lester Hensley, CEO, EMSEAL.

During the Nov. 17 session, the group also will explore the different perspectives of construction and maintenance divisions; barriers to testing new technology; and how public-private partnerships and design-build contracts incentivize contractors to implement innovations.

Hillman, a past presenter at TransOvation™ workshops, said the gathering is one of his favorite industry events of the year.

“It’s not only transportation companies, but companies with cultures of innovation that have opportunities for synergies,” he said. “It’s an open forum for learning creative ways to solve the enduring problems of our transportation dilemma.”

Ross Smith is among the outside-the-industry thought leaders participating in the event. He has spent over 20 years developing and testing software for Microsoft and knows how to cultivate an environment that can lead to increased collaboration, productivity and profit.

“It’s interesting to see the influence of technology on transportation infrastructure,” he said. “You wouldn’t normally put these industries together, but with the pervasiveness of technology, you see it more and more.”

Roads and vehicles are getting smarter, he said, through the impact of GPS navigation and dynamic tolling. He said data collection will continue to have a big impact on both road builders and car builders.

Attendees will also hear from other fantastic innovation thought leaders, including Ted Zoli, senior vice president with HNTB and John P. Banovetz, vice president at 3M Corporate Research Laboratory.

TransOvation™ plays off three key words: transportation, innovation and ovation. The event is named after Dr. J. Don Brock, the late founder of Astec Industries, who secured over 90 U.S. and foreign patents on construction machinery and drying equipment.

The 3M Innovation Center at the company’s St. Paul headquarters is one of 50 similar centers in 40 countries. The center includes interactive displays, films and presentations about 3M technologies and the company’s culture of collaboration.

Go to www.transovation.org to register or for more information contact Allison Klein at aklein@artba.org.

Mark Holan is ARTBA editorial director.

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2015 September/October Articles

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