South Dakota Local Transportation Assistance Program (SD LTAP)
Between Transportation Technology and Local Government
Volume 21, Number 1 Spring 2008
Career Reflections to Share An Interview with Ted Eggebraaten, Retired Brookings County Highway Superintendent
s anyone involved with local roads and streets knows, the position of county highway superintendent, as with any local transportation manager, is filled with many challenges. Too often a job well done may be taken for granted and may be even unappreciated by those being served. To gain some insight into the ups and downs of this challenging job, and to share some lessons learned from one successful highway superintendent’s many years of experience, the SD LTAP decided it would be interesting and worthwhile to interview Ted Eggebraaten. Ted recently retired after 19 successful years as Brookings County Highway Superintendent and many years in the heavy construction and maintenance industry. He is well known to the transportation community across South Dakota for his service to the South Dakota Association of County Highway Superintendents, the Advisory Board of SD LTAP, South Dakota Public Assurance Alliance Board, SD DOT Research Review Board and more. We wish Ted and his lovely wife, Mary Lou, all the best health and happiness as they enjoy the good life of retirement together.
What pleased you most in your job? Working with the public, good employees, and an understanding commission. What in your background do you think helped you to do this job? Education? Experience? Other? Experience! My career was built around construction. I worked for 15 ½ years for the South Dakota Department of Transportation in Madison and in Brookings. I also had my own construction company for 10 years prior to becoming the Brookings County Highway Superintendent. What things did you feel most responsible for? 1. I felt that good roads and bridges were the highest priority for the safety and welfare of the traveling public. 2. Employees were next on my list; a good employee makes your job easier and can make your department respectable to the public.
Ted Eggebraaten receiving an award for his 20 years as highway superintendent from Chuck Fromelt, president of the South Dakota Associationn of County Highway Superintendents.
3. The hardest part about being a Highway Superintendent is irate citizens. Here is how I addressed it: I would work with these people to the best of my ability. I always said there is at least one in every corner of the county! I would always meet with these people and get their side of the story before I would begin to discuss the matter. These meetings would generally end with a compromise that was satisfactory to both parties. It is important to “air” concerns and educate citizens on laws, regulations, etc. I implemented road reports via the local radio stations. This was certainly well received and kept citizens informed of various situations (examples: load limits, construction projects, weather/travel reports). I believe that attributed to the overall good rapport that I had with citizens throughout Brookings County.
What would you change about the job to make it more satisfying? The funding level for maintaining roads and bridges. This was always a challenge and the level of funding for 400 miles of road and 200+ bridges was never at the level needed for proper maintenance.
Share your thoughts on gravel roads. This is a level of projects that never got proper construction due to funding levels. I would always try to do what is needed to be done to construct a portion of gravel road surface and would blade these as often as needed. Try to keep gravel depth of four to six inches.
Table of Contents Career Reflcetions to Share Page 1-3 Road Safety and Trees Page 3 Making Local Rural Roads Safer Page 4-5 Showing Appreciation for Employees Page 6 Management and Supervision Training Page 7 Ron Van Den Berg Retires Page 8
The Connection is published by the South Dakota Local Transportation Assistance Program (SD LTAP) Engineering Resource Center Box 2220, Harding Hall South Dakota State University Brookings, SD 57007-0199 Phone: (605) 688-4185 1-800-422-0129 Fax: (605) 688-5880 E-mail: SD LTAP@sdstate.edu Main Office Staff A. Selim, Ph.D., P.E., Director K. Skorseth, Field Services Manager L. Foster, Secretary D. Hosek, Technical Assistance Provider Central Satellite D. Huft, Central Satellite Contact, (605) 773-3292 L. Weiss, Technical Assistance Provider, (605) 773-4423 Western Satellite M. Klasi, Ph.D., Western Satellite Contact, (605) 394-2425 R. Marshall, Technical Assistance Provider, (605) 645-6380 The use of product brand names in these newsletter articles does not constitute any endorsement of those products by the SD LTAP. 1,940 copies of this document were printed by the Engineering Resource Center at a cost of $.00 each. TS 005 1/08
What were the big changes (technology, equipment, work force, etc.) during your tenure, and how did they impact you? In my 19-year tenure, the technology changed considerably and to keep updated was a challenge. The commission would always try to cut employees which I felt was a mistake due to the large county needs. I had positions cut due to funding which should not happen. Computer technology came on the scene and has been beneficial for quick reports, valuable information and a source of important past, present and future data. I was thankful for the commission support to upgrade equipment which was excellent when I retired. What did you do that your staff did not or could not do? Answer the phone 24/7! I would receive many calls during the night to address some situations that I would try to handle myself or to call in help if necessary. (Examples: accidents, signs that were down, trees across roads, flooding and other weather related emergency situations.) I had the opportunity to serve on many state and local boards which was a great help to me in managing and keeping up with the education and knowledge to be a successful manager. How do you assess your success or failure? I think that with the help of the county commission and a five-year program that I initiated for construction, maintenance and equipment replacement, the Brookings County Highway system was maintained to the best of our funding level and is in fairly good shape. The equipment level was poor when I took over the position and now is in excellent condition due to that five-year program. What kinds of information did you use most that was not written down? Where did you go when you needed help? I was fortunate to have many local people to help me when I needed help. The main ones were local engineers, LTAP, contractors, states attorney office, local legislators, the SD DOT local governmental office in Pierre along with many highway superintendents across the state. The winter, summer, and fall meetings were always a good opportunity to attend valuable learning sessions and visit with vendors and various county and state employees from across the state. Describe the techniques that have worked best to train your subordinates. Be truthful, commend employees, keep your commission informed, take advice from all employees so they feel they are in the circle of things. Always greet employees in the morning with a “Good Morning” and a smile! Show you care for them and their families. Always have your office door open for any and everything that needs to be discussed. What advice would you give to a new highway superintendent? Keep your county commission and employees informed on everything. Go to all meetings that you think are important to you and stay in touch with your fellow highway superintendents across the state. Establish a working relation with your border counties to share various projects. Get all the training possible and serve the county well. Keep a daily diary. This is a valuable tool for past information, some of which has been used in the court system.
Are there three or four recommendations you could give a County Commissioner about working with a new Highway Superintendent? 1. Work with highway superintendent to the best of their ability, keep informed on the needs. 2. Keep funding levels adequate to the needs of the department. 3. Stop and talk to employees and office staff to show your concern and appreciation. 4. Don’t cut employees and funding so that projects get only half done— you are throwing away money if that occurs.
What was the most overlooked aspect of your job? The time and effort to assure that projects go well. This is truly a 24/7 job and you will rarely receive any thanks for doing your job. I put in many “unpaid” hours and I think that this just goes with the job if you are going to do it well. Weather situations would often take employees away from their families. I did feel sorry for them when it occurred but they were dedicated employees – that is important. What are the major, future issues facing County Highway Superintendents and which are most controversial? FUNDING! The funding level on the state and federal level will have a great impact on the counties of South Dakota. We have seen that already and the future looks grim for additional funding.
’08 Asphalt Conference CD is Available The 47th annual Asphalt Conference was held in Pierre on April 2-3, 2008. The conference was well attended, very focused, and successful by all measures. The planning committee decided to prepare a CD of all the presentations made in both the technical and practical sides of the conference. Because of the inevitable changes and updates made at the last minute by the authors and presenters, a decision was made to make the CDs after the conclusion of the conference. The CD contains several presentations that will interest you. To get a free copy, please contact the SD LTAP office at 1-800-422-0129. by Ali A. Selim, Ph.D., P.E., SD LTAP Director
Anything else you want to pass on to the future leaders? Work with the State legislators on bills that will help the county roads and bridges. Inform your commissioners. Inform your residents. Funding will no doubt be the main factor of the future of our counties. Any other comments or observations? Know your state government employees and work with your local engineers plus the Local Transportation Assistance Office at SDSU. Treat everyone as you would like to be treated and make a difference! Interview coordinated by Ron Marshall, Western SD LTAP Tech Assistance Provider
Making Local Rural Roads Safer n recent editions of The Connection we have addressed the challenge of improving the safety of South Dakota’s local, rural roads and discussed our SD LTAP initiative to promote Road Safety Audits as a tool to identify and address road safety improvement opportunities. With approximately 50 deaths per year, local, rural roads have accounted for 25 percent of total state highway deaths over the past several years. In addition South Dakota’s local, rural roads have fatality rates which are the highest of surrounding states and nearly 50 percent higher than the national average for similar roads.
Rural areas face a number of unique highway safety challenges. Rural crashes are more likely to be at higher speeds than urban crashes; victims of fatal crashes in rural areas are more likely to be unbelted than their urban counterparts; and it often takes first responders longer to arrive at the scene of a rural crash, leaving victims waiting longer for medical attention. Outdated roadway design and roadside hazards such as steep slopes and culvert ends, sharp-edged pavement drop-offs, and utility poles or trees can also be major contributors to the severity of rural crashes.
Rural Road Crashes—What we do know With the often relatively low traffic volumes on local, rural roads, crash locations are not concentrated like they may be in urban places or higher volume rural roads. Identifying specific locations to make cost-effective safety improvements to existing roads or predicting likely locations of future crashes is a difficult or impossible task. However, looking at the statewide summary crash data over several years shows us that the types of crashes are relatively consistent and predictable. Both nationally and in South Dakota, roadway departure crashes are leading causes of injuries and deaths. Specifically for local, rural roads in South Dakota, run off the road rollovers and striking a fixed object crashes are not only the two leading types of crashes, but they account for 70 percent of deaths and injuries on these roads. Statistics have held fairly consistent from year to year. Thus, highway safety experts often say that “crash locations are random or unpredictable,” but “crash types are predictable.”
What can be done? Even with the budget restraints faced by most local governments, there are many low cost safety countermeasures available to address the most common and predictable crash types: run off the road rollovers and fixed
Typical rural highway where the last pavement overlay left no shoulder area.
objects. We can start by thinking about safety in a new or different way. Recognizing that most local road managers are faced with the ever increasing challenges of keeping up with maintenance needs and severe resource constraints, it can be productive to step back and think about safety of the roads we maintain from the perspective of those who use our roads. Take time to talk to someone who drives your roads and listen to what they have to say. The perspective of one or more of your customers familiar with your roads (a school bus driver, a mail delivery person, a law enforcement officer, a motorgrader operator, a truck driver, etc.) can be enlightening. Since we cannot predict with precision where crashes are likely to occur, addressing the goal of reducing the predictable crash types (i.e., rollover and fixed object crashes) requires thinking about how your design, construction, and maintenance practices can keep vehicles on the road. If they leave the roadway, how can these practices contribute to making roadsides safer. Following are some questions to consider in assessing the safety of your roads. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list, but to encourage reflection on maintenance, design, and construction practices.
Some Questions to Consider Road Surface Condition – Paved and Unpaved Roads • Is the surface free of loose aggregate/gravel, which may cause safety problems? • Is the gravel surface maintained with the proper shape (crown) and appropriate superelevation on curves? • Is the surface free of potholes, washboards, or other defects that could result in the loss of steering control? • Are there sharp drop-offs at the edge of pavement? • Are changes in surface type (e.g., where pavement ends or begins) free of poor transitions?
• Is the paved surface free of locations that have inadequate skid resistance that could result in safety problems, particularly on curves, steep grades, and approaches to intersections? • Is the surface free of areas where drainage (ponding or sheet flow) of water may cause safety problems? Signing and Delineation (the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices – MUTCD) • Are signs effective for existing conditions? • Can signs be read at a safe distance (both daytime and night visibility)? • Are there locations where additional signing is needed to improve safety? • Are curve warning signs, markings, and advisory speed signs installed where needed? • Are existing regulatory, warning, and directory signs conspicuous? • Is there improper or unnecessary signing which may cause safety problems? • Is the road free of signing that impairs safe sight distances? • Is the road free of locations with improper or unsuitable delineation (post delineators, chevrons, object markers, etc.)? Are there locations where additional delineation is needed? Pavement Markings • Are pavement markings in good condition? (Clearly visible day and night?) • Is the road free of locations with pavement marking safety deficiencies? • Is the road free of pavement markings that are not effective for the conditions present? • Is the road free of old pavement markings that affect the safety of the roadway? Roadside Features • Are clear zones free of hazards and non-traversable side slopes without safety barriers? • Are the clear zones free of obstructions that are not properly shielded? • Are shoulders wide enough to allow drivers to regain control? Intersections and Approaches • Are intersections free of sight restrictions that could result in safety problems? • Are intersections free of abrupt changes in elevation or surface condition? • Are advance warning signs installed when intersection traffic control cannot be seen a safe distance ahead of the intersection?
Railroad Crossings • Are railroad crossing (cross bucks) signs used on each approach at railroad crossings? • Are railroad advance warning signs used at railroad crossing approaches? • Are railroad crossings free of vegetation and/or other obstructions that have the potential to restrict sight distance? • Are roadway approach grades to railroad crossings flat enough to prevent vehicle snagging? Bridges and Culverts • Are narrow bridges and culverts appropriately signed? • Are bridge rails and guardrails suitable for the purpose? • Are bridges and culverts routinely inspected to ensure their safety? Other Features • Are travel paths and crossing points for pedestrians, cyclists, and school zones properly signed and/or marked? • Are mail boxes safely located with adequate clearance and visibility from the traffic lane? Are mailbox supports a safety hazard? Working to improve the safety of our roads is not an end in itself. Alcohol, seatbelts, speed, inexperienced and inattentive driving (including cell phones) are all contributing factors to local road vehicular crashes. Clearly local road managers, with severe budget and resource constraints, cannot solve the safety challenge alone. Cooperation with others including South Dakota Department of Transportation, South Dakota Department of Public Safety, SD LTAP, engineers, law enforcement, Emergency Medical Services, the judiciary, Driver’s Education, media, and the public is needed if we are to be successful in making rural roads safer. As part of the Road Safety Audit initiative that we at SD LTAP are working on, we are developing a “toolbox” of local road safety improvement strategies that we will be sharing in the near future. This toolbox will include specific countermeasures for roadside hazards and information on crash reduction factors from safety studies nationwide. In addition to looking for opportunities for road safety audits, we would like to hear from you about your road safety experiences. If you have a safety success story (or not so successful story) to share, drop us a note, give us a call, or send us an email so we can share it with others. by Ron Marshall, SD LTAP Technical Assistance Provider
Showing Appreciation for Employees O
ne of the characteristics of good management is to demonstrate appreciation for employees. This is something that is easy to forget. It is also too easy to focus on the negative issues of managing personnel. Granted, there will be problems along the way, but how could any highway or street department function without dedicated workers? Managers can become overwhelmed with the daily work of managing budgets, responding to questions and complaints, dealing with regulations, managing contracted projects, preparing for meetings and a myriad of other things. In the meantime, the crew does the daily work of maintaining the road or street system. Don’t ever overlook their role in keeping the department running smoothly. The larger the department, the easier it is for management to become a bit detached from the daily operations of the maintenance crews. Elected officials should also think about this. Chuck Fromelt, Day County Highway Superintendent, has set a good example of trying to recognize his crew at least once annually in a special way. Shortly after the holiday season each year, he hosts a lunch for everyone at the shop. No one has to bring lunch. The food and beverages are provided. He has found a cooperative vendor who is willing to donate food to make the event a success. This year the vendor provided a large ham – more than enough to feed the entire department staff. One staff
Part of Day County’s crew along with a lot of leftovers on the table. No one went hungry!
member also likes to provide home-grown sweet corn that he grows each summer. (They invited me this year and it is some of the best sweet corn I’ve ever tasted!) Others, or their spouses, are proud to provide a special cake or dish they know everyone will like. It’s not an elaborate or fancy affair. But, it demonstrates appreciation in a small way for the service they provide. It’s relaxed and informal. A couple of retired employees usually come back for the event as well. Everyone has a good time swapping stories and telling tall tales. But, that’s the point — it’s a welcome break from the normal routine and it is appreciated. Think about it. Is there a small way for you as a manager to show your appreciation? As we all know, public employees do not get a lot of recognition for what they do. If you can think of a special way to give or show appreciation, almost invariably you’ll be glad you did. It is a small, but effective, way to build a team atmosphere. by Ken Skorseth, SD LTAP Field Service Manger.
Other crew members enjoying the event.
Management and Supervision Training S
D LTAP provides training in a variety of functional areas. One is the broad category of managing and supervising. One of the critical “people skills” in management is communication. During the past winter, we provided training in this critical area in partnership with the South Dakota Chapter of Associated General Contractors -Highway and Heavy Chapter. The area covered this year was “Written and Oral Communication.” Attendees included first line supervisors from cities, counties, contractors, suppliers, and the South Dakota Department of Transportation. I have been facilitating leadership training for the past ten years presenting and facilitating dozens of workshops and in-house seminars. In every workshop one or more participants comment, “our supervisor(s) could use this workshop, they don’t operate in the manner you are teaching” or a comment of similar nature. Our response is simply that this training is voluntary. We cannot require select individuals or groups to attend. Also we advise that some supervisors, managers, or elected officials may not
Ron Van Den Berg Retires
Participants in Oral and Written Communication training in Sioux Falls.
have had the opportunity for training. We also attempt to encourage first line supervisors to “coach” others one-onone regarding issues of concern since we must recognize all may not have had training in supervision. That is a problem in many, many places. People come into positions of management without having the benefit of basic training in communication and other supervisory skills. But, it is never too late to learn! SD LTAP can provide training to mid-level supervisors, managers, and elected officials if they desire and/or recognize there is a need. Any effort to do this can improve efficiency, effective use of public funds and more. But, the most important benefit is improvement in internal working relationships or, in other words: morale! We would be open to your needs with focused training in short segments for those above first line supervisors. Input from supervisors, managers, and elected officials is welcomed at the SD LTAP office in Brookings or to me. My contact information is shown below.
At the annual South Dakota Association of County Highway Superintendents Short Course in March, Ron Van Den Berg was given a plaque of appreciation from Association president Chuck Fromelt and recognized for his 18 years of service as Hyde County Highway Superintendent. Ron was very active in the highway superintendents association and is a past president of the organization. He was also a long time member of the National Association of County Engineers. We wish Ron the very best in retirement.
Thanks for listening! Larry L. Weiss Central SD LTAP Provider 222-4339 email@example.com Commissioner, City of Pierre
Acknowledgments The Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP) is a nationwide effort financed jointly by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and state organizations. Its purpose is to translate into understandable terms the latest state-of-the-art technologies in the areas of roads, bridges and public transportation to local highway and transportation personnel. The South Dakota Local Transportation Assistance Program (SD LTAP) is sponsored by the South Dakota Department of Transportation, South Dakota State University and South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. SD LTAP provides information and counsel to all counties, small municipalities, townships and all cities in South Dakota. This newsletter, The Connection, is designed to link transportation technology and local government and to keep them informed about new publications, new techniques, and new training opportunities that may be helpful to you and your community.
South Dakota Local Transportation Assistance Program Advisory Board Members Robin Bobzien, South Dakota Chapter, American Public Works Association Toby Crow, Associated General Contractors of South Dakota Ted Eggebraaten, South Dakota Association of County Highway Superintendents Gerry Foell, Bureau of Indian Affairs Rollie Isaacson, City of Vermillion Bill Lengkeek, South Dakota Association of County Highway Superintendents Bruce Lindholm, SD DOT Local Government Assistance Program James Puffer, South Dakota Association of Towns and Townships John Rohlf, Federal Highway Administration Loren Shaefer, Director of Planning and Engineering, SD DOT Steve Wagner, South Dakota Engineering Society Robert Wilcox, South Dakota Association of County Commissioners
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