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Credit: WisDOT

A sign coordinator for the WisDOT office checks on roads using the sign maintenance software.
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The Wisconsin state legislature had considered raising the speed limit for freeways from 65 mph to 70 or 75 mph; WisDOT was able to fulfill requests for data on existing signs to help make this decision.

Implementing an automated asset management system can be overwhelming for any organization, regardless of its size or number of assets. For the Wisconsin DOT(WisDOT), implementing a new sign management process was a major undertaking that delivered many benefits.

WisDOT has more than 3600 employees, within five regions, to maintain 12,000 miles of state and interstate highways, along with 100,000 miles of locally owned county, town, and municipal streets. The annual vehicle miles of travel on Wisconsin roads is 58.7 billion miles and, in 2002, the state had 3.8 million licensed drivers and 5 million registered vehicles.

Due to the complex nature of the organization and the growing need for access to information, WisDOT moved to automate its roadside asset management functions. In the late 1990s, the agency purchased a computerized sign management system with the intention of implementing the program statewide.

“We started by implementing it in just one region,” said Dave Allaby, WisDOT's Engineering System Group leader. “Most of the other regions were still using paper or had developed an in-house remedy using spreadsheets. Not everyone was ready for change.”

STATEWIDE IMPLEMENTATION

Results from that pilot showed efficiency improvements and WisDOT management decided to expand the system to the enterprise level. With all regions committed to the program, all of the state's signs were populated into region-specific databases. The data gathering and entry effort took approximately two years to complete. WisDOTdeveloped its own software to exchange data between the central, organization-wide database and the field laptops running the sign management software with PC database software. This unique deployment means that the WisDOTsolution does not require replication of data entry.

Every night, when the crews are done with their daily workload, they plug their laptops into the local area network to synchronize the data with the central database, located at the headquarters in Madison, Wis. Due to the lack of cell phone coverage in some rural parts of the state, WisDOT is not yet able to upload remotely from the field. Only data that have been changed or added are uploaded to the central repository, and uploads take a few minutes.

Each night, five region-specific databases are generated and sent to servers in 11 regional offices. In the morning when crews from around the state arrive, they connect to the network and receive updated data.

WisDOT has been actively using the automated sign management system statewide since late 2003 and currently has more than 365,000 signs stored in the system, including the history of the assets.