Training program helps prepare state DOTs
The billions of dollars flooding into state transportation budgets via TEA-21 are apparently solving transportation construction problems for years to come. But the money has created a different problem – one that while solvable is not immediately recognized: Who will perform materials sampling and testing on the projects to be built?
The number of states that have programs for training technicians is increasing, but most counties and cities rely on previous “on-the-job” training and existing AASHTO procedures to get the job done. However, the fact remains that there simply are not enough qualified people to perform quality assurance testing for the amount of transportation construction planned in the near future. Furthermore, there are not enough state training programs operating to prepare the necessary workforce.
The problem is accentuated by a federal mandate (23 CFR 637) that demands that “after June 29, 2000, all sampling and testing data to be used in the acceptance decision or the independent assurance program will be executed by qualified sampling and testing personnel.”
To address the problem, Portland, Ore.- based AGRA Earth & Environmental, working with a regional authority in the Northwest and the Federal Highway Department, has developed a transportation technicians training program (TTTP). Originally created to serve a small regional cooperative, the training system is successfully being used by departments of transportation in 10 western states, and more states are signing on. “Training is as critical to the efficient use of TEA-21 money as it is to the quality and timely construction of transportation projects,” says Scott Huff, Dean of Engineering Mathematics and Technology at Portland Community College, a member of the team that developed the TTTP.
The only program of its kind in the country, the TTTP covers five major subjects: aggregate; asphalt; concrete; embankment and base; and in-place density. Program participants receive workbooks complete with procedures and other related materials that are illustrated with photographs and other images. A detailed PowerPoint presentation offers full-motion video demonstrations of certain procedures. For the participant who cannot attend class, there is an interactive CD that combines the detailed information of the workbook with the video capabilities of the presentation.
“Technicians are now going to see the big picture,” says Garth Newman, training supervisor at the Idaho Transportation Department. “They’re going to have the overall scope of the whole program instead of just going out there and running a test, giving another person the test results, and never knowing what that really means to the whole end product.”
The simplification of procedures, the unification of disparate training programs and the cooperation between states help ensure efficient use of public money for public projects. Standardization also allows technicians to work on projects in subscribing states without the costly and time-consuming need for retraining. Additionally, the program can be customized to meet specific needs. For more information, contact Dave Kondziolka at (505) 821-1801.