Packed WASHTO Agenda Illustrates National Trends in DOT Planning

Written by  John Obr, PE, Construction Division Director, Texas Department of Transportation

In March, TXDOT hosted the Western Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (WASHTO)

Subcommittee on Materials and Construction at the historic Menger Hotel in San Antonio. Presentations and discussions covered a wide range of topics, including laser surface texture measurements, the move to paperless construction management, succession planning, short-term warranties and more.

Eleven WASHTO states, including Texas, participated. FHWA representatives (both local, regional, and headquarters) also attended, as well as representatives from several construction industry organizations. The agenda was developed by TxDOT, Utah DOT and the Nebraska Department of Roads, with input from all WASHTO states.

BY JOHN OBR, P.E., DIRECTOR OF CONSTRUCTION DIVISION TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION Packed WASHTO Agenda Illustrates National Trends in DOT Planning On the first day of the session, Mike Arellano with TxDOT’s Austin District discussed thin surface mixes and their successful, growing use throughout the state. Amy Tootle of the Florida DOT and others gave presentations on e-Construction and the move to paperless construction management throughout the nation.

Robin Huang, of TxDOT’s Maintenance Division, talked about the department’s use of lasers to determine surface texture, including a demonstration of equipment to show texture and coverage of aggregates as would be distributed on a chip seal.

Darren Hazlett, of TxDOT’s Construction Division, helped with a presentation on the department’s Programmatic Quality Assurance Program for Design- Build Projects and how it enables TxDOT to meet the federal requirements for using contractor test data in the acceptance decision.

The second day of the conference consisted of separate construction and materials breakout sessions.

Many DOTs are under pressure to reduce FTEs, while at the same time planning for succession. CEI contracting services and using consultant labs may help counter the loss of expertise as experienced personnel retire. However, someone still needs to know what is going on in order to procure and administer these contracts, to know what the testing means, and what the CEI/ Consultant Lab is giving the DOT. Technician certification is a good thing and many DOTs require certification for both DOT and contractor personnel. Several WASHTO DOTs are members of the Western Alliance for Quality Transportation Construction and use its technician certification programs.

There was general discussion by several states on their experience with short-term warranties. Montana and Idaho have shortterm warranties on seal coats, typically from application to the first cold weather—possibly 6 months. Idaho wants to place a short warranty on HMA overlays.

TxDOT representatives recounted their use of warranties on microsurface and traffic markings. AGC added that for most contractors, getting a performance bond for a warranty project was problematic. TxDOT added that warranties do not absolve the DOT from monitoring the performance periodically and working with contractors if there is a warranty issue.

WASHTO delegates commented that this was an extremely valuable meeting with lots of technology transfer and lots of sharing of experiences and they loved sunny San Antonio. Next year, the WASHTO Materials and Construction meeting will be hosted by Utah DOT.

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