MTC News: 2001
Major Accomplishments During Year One (2000)
The MTC has realized early successes in both education and outreach/technology transfer. In the area of education, the MTC has augmented the ability of existing transportation programs at Iowa State University and the University of Missouri-Columbia to develop high-quality students who will become high quality transportation professionals. The MTC is aiding the University of Northern Iowa, Lincoln University and the other MTC consortium partners to develop new transportation programs from the ground up. UNI was able in year one to begin offering transportation courses for its students. Lincoln University will begin to offer a transportation program during year two of the MTC grant.
Several important outreach activities related to asset management were also initiated this year. These include holding several workshops that have already been held or will be held in the region and developing specialized World Wide Web content. These activities will be expanded during year two. The MTC is already a significant player in discussions of asset management and the implementation of provisions of Government Accounting Standards Board Statement 34 (GASB 34) in the region.
The MTC's third major component, research, is also underway. A portfolio of projects involving principal investigators at universities in three of the four MTC states have been approved and are now under contract. These projects will provide work and learning opportunities for students and build a critical mass of knowledge on asset management within Region 7. Additional research project competitions will occur subject to sufficiency of available funding.
Success stories for each major programmatic component of the MTC are provided below.
Development of entirely new transportation programs continues at the University of Northern Iowa and at Lincoln University. There are now four Lincoln University students enrolled in the co-op program that has been developed between that historically-Black college (HCB) with the Missouri DOT (MoDOT). Several other Lincoln University students participated in a summer internship program with MoDOT last summer. The efforts at Lincoln were facilitated by Charles Nemmers of the University of Missouri-Columbia.
A videoconferencing classroom at CTRE/ISU is now being used on a regular basis to provide distance learning opportunities throughout Iowa, the MTC region, and even nationally.
An ultimate goal of the MTC is to share many more educational resources through videoconferencing technology in a virtual transportation university. During summer 2000, a number of tests were run to assess the compatibility of CTRE's videoconferencing room with potential distance learning partners, including other universities in the region and the FHWA in Washington, D.C. In addition, a survey and listing of university transportation offerings via distance learning technologies (both videoconferencing and Internet) was completed to establish a baseline for future virtual transportation university activities. The results of the survey indicate that very few courses in transportation are now offered in the MTC region to distance learners, although it also indicated that some programs are considering or planning such offerings.
The CTRE videoconferencing facility was financed through a combination of sources, including Iowa State University, the Iowa State University Research Park, and the Iowa DOT.
While many students have summer jobs in transportation, few can (or would want to) duplicate that of Joseph Turner, a senior at the University of Missouri-Columbia. The Midwest Resource Center of the FHWA entered into a contract with UM-C to provide for the scheduling and demonstration of FHWA's state of the art retroreflectivity van. This van collects information that feeds a sign management program. Joseph drove the van to 10 Midwestern states (including the four Region 7 states), assisted in presenting the technical material, demonstrated the sophisticated equipment, ran the computers, and even repaired and performed troubleshooting of the equipment. Field demonstrations were conducted on rural and urban interstates, major arteries, roads and streets. At the end of the summer, and 15,000 miles later, Turner definitely earned the title of "transportation engineer."
The MTC goal of introducing and involving students in transportation was certainly accomplished for Joe Turner. He submitted a paper covering this activity in the annual MTC student paper competition.
As a result of their membership in the Midwest Transportation Consortium, ISU, UNI, Lincoln University, and the University of Missouri-St. Louis have each added new transportation asset management related courses to their curriculum. Each course is described below.
- Iowa State University-MTC Director David Plazak. Several hours of asset management concepts will be incorporated into a new transportation policy planning course being offered to graduate and undergraduate students by the Department of Community and Regional Planning. This course will be offered for the first time during the fall 2001 semester.
- Lincoln University-Assistant Professor Sherrie Koechling-Andrae. During the spring 2001 semester, a new asset management course will be offered as part of the public administration curriculum. The course will incorporate the MTC Spring Transportation Seminar as well as including information on fund accounting, asset valuation and depreciation, GASB-required statements, and related topics.
- University of Missouri-St .Louis-Center for Transportation Studies Director Ray Mundy. During the spring 2001 semester, a marketing course, Domestic Transportation, will be offered covering issues in transportation. Professor Mundy will include the MTC Spring Transportation Seminar as part of the basis for special studies by students.
- University of Northern Iowa-Assistant Professor Tim Strauss. Transportation Geography, a new course offered by the Department of Geography, was taught for the first time in the fall 2000 semester. The preparation of this course was facilitated by a provost's mini-grant. The title of the mini-grant proposal was "Development of Material for a Transportation Geography Course Using Integrated Geographic Information Systems and Transportation Analysis Software."
MTC activities in outreach and technology transfer have centered around a series of workshops and web sites that are helping transportation agencies in the region cope with the complexities of asset management and related accounting requirements.
Iowa State University/CTRE and the MTC partnered with the Iowa League of Cities, the Iowa Association of Counties, the Iowa State Auditor's Office, the Iowa County Engineers Association, Howard R. Green Company, and others to offer an introductory workshop in August 2000 on GASB 34. GASB 34 in effect requires governments to adopt generally accepted accounting principals and to account for depreciation of infrastructure assets and is a prime motivation for the adoption of asset management systems.
GASB 34, rather than asset management, was the main focus of this workshop and it attracted a huge audience-over 400 people, mainly from Iowa. The workshop was aimed primarily at government decision-makers, financial officers, and managers. However, it also attracted a large number (approximately 100) of municipal and county engineers. A second workshop was more technical and aimed at local government and DOT engineers.
As a result of this workshop, CTRE and the MTC have been asked to assist the Iowa County Finance Committee in the development of guidelines for counties to use in complying with GASB 34. Other partners in this effort will include the State Auditor's Office, several county auditors, several county engineers, and the Iowa County Engineers' Service Bureau.
Iowa State University has created a small, information web site on GASB 34, primarily aimed at the local governments that must comply with its infrastructure accounting provisions. The web site contains links to useful information plus a number of articles on asset management and GASB 34 prepared at MTC-member universities. It also includes an on-line training needs survey. Content from this web site has already found its way onto the official Government Accounting Standards Board web site.
The URL for this web site is: http://www.ctre.iastate.edu/gasb34/index.htm
The MTC has agreed to work with the Midwestern Regional University Transportation Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to co-host the 2001 Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Access Management Task Force meeting. The two-day meeting will be held in the fall of 2001, probably in a large metropolitan area in one of the two centers' regions. This should give the two centers some national exposure within the asset management community.
The virtual transportation research community web site outlined in the MTC's strategic plan is now operational in pilot form and is being tested by faculty at Iowa State University. This web site allows faculty to enter their areas of expertise and past research efforts. It also allows consumers of research (e.g., at state DOTs) to search for expertise or past research. The goal of the web site is to facilitate better dissemination and sharing of research in Region 7 through the use of on-line database technologies. This web site (which we have given a unique identity and Internet address) may be found at: http://www.trexpo.org/.
The MTC will be expanding the scope of the site to other campuses in future months and then marketing it to research consumers in the region. A focus group was held in November to identify the most pressing needs and interests of research consumers. Following the rollout, we will be adding new functions to the site such as the ability of agencies to post research RFPs and for communities of interest to have discussions online.
The MTC is in the early stages of its research component. Projects were sought throughout the region through an RFP process that took place in the late winter and early spring of 2000. In the end, six projects were approved and funded subject to availability of adequate and eligible matching funds. All of the six selected projects focus tightly on asset management and closely related subjects. They include subjects ranging from optimizing snowplowing assets to research that will allow asset management data sources to be related in geographic information systems (GIS).
Projects were funded in three of the four MTC region states and at five different universities. One project was funded at a university that is not a member of the consortium.
The MTC plans to concentrate its efforts in a few strategic areas during the next several years. These include
- continuing to produce high-quality students for the transportation industry in the region and to offer students in the region the best-possible learning experiences.
- continuing to aggressively use technologies such as videoconferencing and the World Wide Web to share educational resources within the regions and to coordinate regional research efforts. Considerable focus will go into providing additional distance learning courses and workshops and on the TREXPO web site.
- publishing a second-round RFP for focused research on asset management and related topics.
- offering additional regional workshops on asset management and GASB 34 as the market permits. As the MTC-funded research projects are completed, the results will be integrated into the MTC's outreach efforts in the region.
- being involved in providing technical assistance to transportation agencies
and groups of agencies involved in implementing asset management and the
infrastructure provisions of GASB 34.