2017 County Road Association Highway Conference Celebrates a â€œCentury of Innovationâ€
LANSING, MI The state of Michigan has the nation's fourth-largest local road system and the 83 members of the County Road Association of Michigan (CRA) represent the unified voice for a safe and efficient county transportation infrastructure system in Michigan, including appropriate stewardship of the public's right-of-way.
Representatives from these county road agencies got together at the Lansing Center for the County Road Association of Michigan's 2017 Highway Conference and Road Show. CRA members partook in several days of educational seminars, product education, comradery and a lot of fun. Plus, this year's conference was indeed a special occasion as it celebrated 100 years of the CRA and its member organizations.
Among the topics that were discussed at the conference were developing a new local road warranty program, guiding right-of-way development with increasing infrastructure demands, initiatives such as the new local Federal Fund Exchange Program, public-private partnerships coming to road agencies, cybersecurity, capturing knowledge before retirees walk out the door, and much more. The conference also featured an update on where the 2017-2018 State Legislature is headed now that state capitol insiders have had a couple months to evaluate what is going on in Lansing.
"We've made an effort to expand the educational offerings at our Highway Conference, including tracks for management, finance and human resources, communications, and engineering and environment," said Denise Donohue, Executive Director of the County Road Association of Michigan. "Improving our educational programming is an important strategic goal for our board, and with our conference attendance increasing every year it seems as if our members are responding positively to this direction."
The three-day conference also included the CRA Road Show with exhibitors displaying everything from heavy construction equipment and trucks to technology information services and other products and services used by road agencies. One of the highlights of the Road Show was a circa 1880-1917 horse drawn road grader that had been made by the Austin Manufacturing Company in Chicago, Illinois. The grader had been restored by the Washtenaw County Road Commission and drew a lot of attention from the attendees.
"The 2017 CRA Road Show was our biggest show to date," said Christina Strong, Communication Specialist for the County Road Association of Michigan. "The event is a great opportunity for our agency members to connect with Associate Members and each other to learn about cutting edge technology and products related to local road maintenance."
A Gallery of Entries for the CRA IMPRESS Awards was set up in the Road Show highlighting 2017 nominees. During the Road Show, CRA members could vote for their favorite Communication and Operations entries in the "People's Choice Awards." The announced winners include:
2017 Communications Award Winners
Washtenaw County Road Commission (WCRC) swept the communications category with three winning projects: "Roundabout Education," "Road Millage Outreach," and "Pothole? There's An App for That". These respective projects reduced failure-to-yield roundabout crashes by 33 percent, placed a millage on the General Election ballot which passed with 71 percent of the vote, and moved 15 percent of 10,000 annual service requests to a digital platform for the first time.
Roscommon County Road Commission (RCRC) was awarded for their "Permit Fees" project, working with other county road agencies in the East Central Council to standardize permitting fees across the board.
Grand Traverse County Road Commission (GTCRC) created a "Virtual Road Tour" that utilized a videographer and drone technology to provide an annual report on road projects at a higher quality, eliminating the use of uncomfortable buses and hours of labor.
The Road Commission of Kalamazoo County's (RCKC) "RCKC Connect" consisted of a mass notification system that makes sure the right message gets to community members at the right time.
By reaching out with physical presence at local fairs and low-cost methods like social media, Midland County Road Commission's (MCRC) "Honest, Open, and Two-Way" communication methods contributed to the passing of two road millages.
Kalkaska County Road Commission (KCRC) submitted a decorated v-plow into the Kalkaska Christmas Parade for its "From Servants to Celebrities" project, generating positive press by winning parade entry awards for non-profits, as well as winning an award for originality in the National Trout Festival and County Fair.
2017 Operations Award Winners
Washtenaw County Road Commission (WCRC) was awarded for their "Safety Committee Activities" project to work towards zero injuries in the workplace. They revamped much of their Safety Committee's public outreach- including a competition to update the committee's logo and slogan. These improvements increased safety suggestions from employees by 25 percent.
Roscommon County Road Commission (RCRC) was awarded for the launch of an "Equipment Sharing" program that has created an inventory of rental equipment to ensure a quality supply of road equipment is available for partner agencies' use.
Montcalm County Road Commission (MCRC) and Kent County Road Commission (KCRC) became the first to partner in a "Local Federal Aid Exchange Program" in which strict federal aid dollars could be transferred to one agency in exchange for non-federal transportation dollars, meeting the immediate needs of both agencies.
Montcalm County Road Commission also collaborated with Newaygo County Road Commission (NCRC) on a "Getting Ahead of the Curve" initiative to fund a significant amount of road work at the end of 2016 in advance of a big rush for 2017 funds for better unit prices in their respective communities.
The Road Commission of Kalamazoo County (RCKC) worked with a local manufacturer to create a custom "Pneumatic Tire Roller" in Kalamazoo County, cutting the crew and machinery needed for typical tire roller jobs in half.
The Road Commission for Oakland County's (RCOC) "Stormwater Outfall Permit Collection" project saved $1 million dollars by utilizing interns and Samsung Galaxy tablets to create a central database of storm water structure locations.
Utilizing a treatment normally used to preserve truck beds called "Rhino Lining," Grand Traverse County Road Commission (GTCRC) was able to find a long-term solution to preserve the metal columns in their wash bays.
Delta County Road Commission's (DCRC) "Chain Sander Conversion" project utilized cost-saving processes to retro-fit chain sanders in-house instead of buying new.
To work around the tedious process of sealing cracks and minor imperfections in roads, the Ingham County Road Department created the "Chip-Sealing Emulsion Tail Drag System" to save 150 hours of labor per mile with a superior finished product to show for it.
People's Choice Awards
Roscommon County Road Commission won the People's Choice Awards in both the communications and operations category for their "Permit Fees" and "Equipment Sharing" projects.
A RUSH-PAC Silent Auction was also held during the conference where funds were raised to support CRA's political action arm.
The 2018 Highway Conference is scheduled to take place March 13-15, 2018, in downtown Lansing.
All in all, the 2017 CRA Highway Conference was a huge success and many members commented that they were already looking forward to the 2018 Conference.