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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.
RETURN ON INVESTMENT

Matt Rauch, state signing engineer with WisDOT's Bureau of Highway Operations, works closely with the sign management system. Recently, the state legislature was looking into raising the speed limit for freeways from 65 mph to 70 or 75 mph, and Rauch had received many requests for data on existing signs.

“People had asked me, if we change the speed limit, how many signs do we have on the freeway that will need to be changed,” said Rauch. “With our system it was so easy to come up with the numbers—they were right at my fingertips.”

The sign management system enables managers and staff to run multiple reports. WisDOT staff runs accounting reports for various purposes, such as design costing and legislative reports.

“We can account for the distribution of each sign and charge it back to the appropriate project number,” said Mike Rufflo, WisDOT's project leader. “The software allows us to run damage reports of signs or posts. It also gives us an annual report of our asset inventory and the value of that inventory.”

MANAGEMENT FEEDBACK

Wisconsin has a statewide quality assurance and asset management program for highway operations. The COMPASS program uses statistical sampling to evaluate the condition of roadways, pavement and bridges and provides reports to upper management and in some cases the legislature. For sign assets, WisDOT has received favorable feedback on the reports and accuracy of the data drawn from the Sign Inventory Management System, or SIMS.

The statewide sampling program pulls only a periodical spot check of assets, according to Rod Riepl, Operations Information Systems project team leader for WisDOT. “Officials are more satisfied with the SIMS database because it is true data. With sampling there are a lot of judgment calls, while SIMS gives factual data for each sign,” said Riepl.

“We can provide the legislature with the list of all of the signs, their service life, and how many signs are 10 years old or older within a few minutes,” said Rauch.

FLEXIBILITY AND EFFICIENCY

The flexibility of the sign management software allows users at all levels to complete their jobs effectively. Rauch appreciates the ability to run filters statewide and quickly obtain budgeting information. In Riepl's position, he has found that the integrity of the data is as important as what is actually in the database. Allaby sees the benefits of automation making people more productive.

Rauch is a strong proponent of training users and one way WisDOThas accomplished this is by developing users groups. The groups meet quarterly to get their questions answered and share solutions.

“Take your time,” Riepl advises organizations that plan to begin implementing maintenance software. “What are the pieces of the puzzle that you will need to filter and what information do you want out of the database? Defining this is almost as important as the database itself.”

— Jay Wickham is executive vice president of marketing with CartêGraph, Dubuque, Iowa.