Eastern TTAP at
Michigan Tech

Pathways Newsletter
Winter 2015

Program Director
John Velat
Scott Bershing
Staff Assistant
Amanda Abramson
Web Developer
Chris DelReal
Graduate Student Intern
Ronesha Strozier

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Experiencing New Horizons at the 2015 Wisconsin Tribal Transportation Conference
Ronesha Stozier
Eastern TTAP Graduate Intern

Editor's Note: The 2015 Wisconsin Tribal Transportation Conference was held November 3-4, 2015 at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Ronesha Stozier was recently hired as a graduate intern for Eastern TTAP, and this was her first chance to participate and present at a tribal conference. Below is her account of her experiences at the conference.

Ronesha Strozier presents during the 2015 WTTC.
Ronesha Strozier, graduate intern at Eastern TTAP, presented on NEPA and Section 106 during the 2015 Wisconsin Tribal Transportation Conference.

Hi, my name is Ronesha and I am the new intern at the Eastern TTAP. This past November, I had the wonderful opportunity to give a presentation on the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Section 106 at the Wisconsin Tribal Transportation Conference(WTTC). It was an exhilarating experience and I can say that I learned everything I need to know to do a great job from my experience at the WTTC. Overall, I learned to be open, available, and creative.

Be Open

To be a great intern or employee you need to be open. When John Velat first asked if I would do the presentation, I said, “Yes, I’ll do it, but….” John replied, “You had me at yes, I’ll do it”. At that time, I had no idea what being open to trying new things would do for me as a new professional, but it did wonders. Being open gave me confidence, taught me how to work on my feet, and taught me how to communicate in nontraditional ways. Before this presentation, I was not confident in my ability to present on jargon-heavy, technical subjects, but now I am. I am even confident that I can present on topics that I do not know as much about. Being open teaches you how to work on your feet. There is something special about standing in front of a room of people that you don’t know, despite your computer freezing, and giving a presentation about topics you spent two years of your life trying to understand. Lastly, being open teaches you how to be an effective communicator. I had to do some research and I had to track down the experts. My contacts with the state preservation office and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) were miles away and could only communicate with me by phone and email. I did not meet them in person until I attended the conference. In today’s global work environment being open helps you meet your employer’s needs in a nontraditional way that can improve productivity.

Be Available

To be a great intern you need to be available. Contrary to popular belief, being available consists of more than just showing up to the office. Being available means being mentally ready to work. A mind that is ready to work is a mind that is ready to be productive. To prepare for my presentation I became available to any and everyone who wanted to talk about NEPA and Section 106. This preparation required a lot of time outside the walls of my office. I made myself available to the faculty in my department by giving a presentation. They, along with my boss, commented on my presentation to help me improve. Being available facilitates a learning environment that produces ideas, forges new relationships with colleagues, and positions you as a “thinker” in your field. You cannot learn if you are not available and my experience presenting at WTTC taught me to be available at all times.

Be Creative

To be a great intern you need to be creative. No, you do not need to be the next Edmonia Lewis, Frieda Kahlo, or Laura Wheeler Waring, but you do need to envision your work through a different lens other than what you are used to. To give my presentation I used different learning techniques to engage my audience. Being creative does not mean that you have to get it right, but it allows you to see what you do in another way. In the end changing the lens that you view your work can make it that much easier for a general audience to understand. Science communication is very important and you need to be creative to reach your audience.

Overall, attending the WTTC was a wonderful experience. The attendees of this conference are great professionals and teachers. If you are still wondering if you should participate next year, then let me answer for you and say "YES" you should. You should be open to participating in tribal transportation. You should be mentally available to work on tribal transportation projects. You should be creative when designing solutions to tribal transportation issues. Lastly, you should expect to meet a great group of people and have fun.


We have a number of toolkits related to NEPA and Section 106 available on the Eastern TTAP website.  For more information, visit the links below.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA)
Tribal Programmatic Agreements

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2015 Minnesota Tribes & Transportation Conference Summary
Robert Larsen, Chairmen of the Lower Sioux Indian Community thanked participants for attending and welcomed everyone to the Lower Sioux Indian Community.
Robert Larsen, Chairmen of the Lower Sioux Indian Community thanked participants for attending and welcomed everyone to the Lower Sioux Indian Community.

The 2015 Minnesota Tribes & Transportation Conference was held October 13-14, 2015 at the Jackpot Junction Casino Hotel in Morton, Minnesota. More than 150 attendees, presenters, crafters, and vendors representing tribal, state, and federal agencies attended the conference. Nine of the eleven federally recognized tribes were represented at the conference.

The two-day conference proceeded with a general session and four parallel breakout tracks on the first day. Each breakout session provided opportunities for discussion in smaller groups and more focused attention to specific topics. In addition, there were local crafter booths, and vendors set up displays, hands-on activities, and equipment in the main expo center. The breakout tracks for day one were: Leading the Way- Cultivating an Emerging Workforce; Mission Accomplished- A Joint Venture in Process and Safety; Innovative Technology and Data Sharing; and Plugged In- Tools for Traffic Safety. Day two of the conference had two breakout sessions covering tribal jurisdiction, testing technologies for soil compaction and density, innovative safety devices, and the difference between various tribal lands. The conference concluded with a general session discussing the Emergency Relief for Federally Owned Roads Program (ERFO), a summary of the events of the conference, some door prizes, and closing songs by the Red Tree Drum Singers. After the conclusion of the conference, attendees were invited to take a tour of the Lower Sioux Indian Community Center and museum. Throughout the conference, attendees had many opportunities for informal networking and discussion, including several social functions sponsored by conference vendors including a unique banquet meal by the "Sioux-Chef" Sean Sherman, using traditional ingredients and cooking techniques.


Click Here to view the final conference agenda with links to presentations.

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Eastern TTAP Client Needs Survey
We Need Your Input!

The Eastern Tribal Technical Assistance Program (TTAP) at Michigan Technological University has developed a client needs survey to help us identify the priority transportation training and technical assistance requests for the tribes in the Midwestern and Eastern BIA regions.

We realize your time is valuable, but please take a few minutes to complete this survey.  Your contribution can help strengthen and improve transportation services for not only your tribe, but all the tribes in our service area.

The information gathered on this questionnaire will be used for planning purposes only.  Your responses and any individual information you provide will not be given out to any private, federal, state, or local agency.  The questionnaire is for addressing tribal transportation needs and issues and assisting the Eastern TTAP with meeting those needs. We will follow up this fall with a program assessment that will allow you to evaluate our performance.

Please note that the survey is set up so you can respond anonymously, or you can optionally provide your contact information which will be useful to us if you have specific training or technical assistance needs or concerns.

Click Here to provide feedback.

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Bureau of Indian Affairs Extends Rights-of-Way Final Rule by 90 Days
Updated rule will become effective on March 21, 2016

Published December 26, 2015

WASHINGTON – Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn on this past Monday announced that the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs has extended the effective date of its rights-of-way final rule by 90 days.  The extension provides grantees, potential grantees, landowners and BIA personnel with more time to review the final rule and to adequately prepare for its implementation.  The updated rule streamlines the process for obtaining the Bureau’s approval to ensure consistency with recently updated leasing regulations, increases the flexibility in compensation and valuations, and supports landowner decisions regarding the use of their land.

The new rule, originally scheduled to become effective on December 21, 2015, will now become effective on March 21, 2016.

“The new rule modernizes the process for obtaining rights-of-way over proposed oil and gas pipelines, electric transmission lines, railroads and other infrastructure projects on Indian lands,” Assistant Secretary Washburn said.  “These reforms will expand economic opportunities for tribes and individual Indian landowners, as well as give more certainty to project proponents seeking rights-of-way approvals.”

Those specific reforms include clarifying the right of Indian land owners to negotiate the terms of rights-of-way directly with applicants and requirements for the BIA to issue prompt decisions on rights-of-way applications.  The extension also delays the date by which current holders of assignments must provide documentation of their assignments to July 17, 2016.

The rights-of-way final rule was published on November 19, 2015, and updates the BIA’s regulations at 25 CFR Part 169, which were last updated more than 30 years ago.  The old regulations were deemed ill-suited for the modern requirements for rights-of-way leasing.  Among other issues raised by stakeholders were the need for faster timelines for BIA approval to improve economic development on tribal lands and greater deference to deals negotiated between tribes and lessees.

For additional information on the final rule, please visit the Indian Affairs website at http://www.bia.gov/WhoWeAre/AS-IA/ORM/RightsofWay/index.htm.

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Superior Ideas for Winter Maintenance
Shaughn Kern – Technical Writer
Center for Technology & Training

Example of lighted wing plow used in traveled lane.
Wing plows extend a grader's range by half a lane, but are oftentimes just used for curbs, banking, and turn lanes. Through the use of effective lighting systems, operator training, and communication, wing plows can be used in travel lanes. photo - Michigan LTAP

If necessity is the mother of invention, it’s difficult to imagine a better place to innovate winter operations than Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. With an average annual snowfall of over 120 inches in many parts (compared to about 60 inches in the Lower Peninsula), the Upper Peninsula needs every tool available for winter maintenance. So, it should come as no surprise that garages in the Upper Peninsula are pioneering new approaches for combating snow and ice.

Wing plows mount on the right side of snow plow trucks or motor graders to extend the plowed area from one lane to one-and-a-half lanes. They can be used on plow trucks and graders to clear the pavement and shoulder; additionally, graders can be used for benching snow banks if they are too high for one-way plows to throw the snow over. Bob Lindbeck, Engineer/Manager at Alger County Road Commission (CRC), explained that Alger County equipped each of their graders with wing plows, and have used them successfully for many years. “We can bench snow banks when the snow gets too high, and also use the front plows, underbody blade, and wing to do very creative snow removal.” They also use their wing plows to bench guardrails, as it’s common for snow banks to grow to more than three feet high.

While wing plows speed up snow removal and get snow out of hard to reach places, one of their greatest advantages is that they remove the need for driving a plow truck on shoulders. Shoulders are one of the most fragile parts of the road, particularly during early snow (before the ground has frozen) and late snow  (once thawing begins). Once damaged, shoulders become expensive to repair and dangerous to drivers.

Using a wing plow in “float mode” keeps the weight of the truck off the shoulder and leaves more shoulder gravel in place. This is particularly useful for snowfall that happens in fall or spring when the shoulder’s base is less stable. Lindbeck explains that, contrary to what most would think, this approach is not just for agencies that experience heavy snowfall. “Because of the massive amount of snow we get up here, we still have to use a snow plow on our shoulders to throw the snow over the banks a few times per year. However, an agency in an area of lower snowfall can get away with using a wing plow during the entire season, meaning they never have to drive a truck on the shoulder.” Whether an area gets 50 or 250 inches of snow each year, wing plows are quite literally a huge weight off the shoulders.

The Lane Less Traveled

Unfortunately, the motoring public is largely unaware that the wing plow extension exists; this lack of awareness, coupled with the cloud of snow kicked up by the wing plow, creates the risk that a motorist may not see the wing plow and try to pass on the right. Consequently, winter operations personnel often avoid using wing plows in traveled lanes (passing lanes, multilanes, turn lanes, etc.) and often relegate the wing plow to clearing shoulders or benching banks, as mentioned above. Hence the wing plows at MDOT’s L’Anse garage were not being used to their full potential. “Ultimately, we had an innovative attachment that we couldn’t use. We needed something,” MDOT Maintenance Coordinator John Dault recalled. Enter the Superior Stick, a lighting system bright enough to alert traffic to a wing plow’s presence, enough so to get regional permission to use wing plows on travel lanes.

photo showing alternating lights on hydraulic light bar
On top of adding hydraulic bars to increase visibility of their wing plows, Marquette County Road Commission contacted local media to increase the public's awareness of wing plow use. One of these communications, a video and interview done by a local news channel, can be watched at https:youtube.com/watch?v=9OW_qQx2kic.
photo - Marquette County Road Commission

According to Dault, the Superior Stick is essentially a series of programmable LED lights installed on a portable sign post, made in-house using materials and tools that were laying around MDOT’s L’Anse garage. Construction of the Superior Stick only requires two people working for a few hours. In addition to saving time and money, this simple design and lack of moving parts enables the Superior Stick to function in even the worst winter conditions. Dault explained that he and the L’Anse garage crew have “tried the Superior Stick out in the worst, harshest conditions we could find, and have had nothing but success.”

Now that the L’Anse garage has built Superior Sticks for every truck in its fleet (not just snow trucks), Dault says that they are no longer going to make them in house. “I’m not in the business of manufacturing, and don’t have the time or manpower to manufacture more.” The garage has given the Superior Stick blueprints to a local manufacturer, and intends on purchasing new ones from there. Meanwhile, MDOT is exploring the possibility of patenting the design.

Local Wing Plows in Traveled Lanes

Elsewhere in the Upper Peninsula, Marquette County Road Commission is in the unique situation of being a local agency that both experiences high snowfall and maintains four-lane roads for MDOT. Therefore, they potentially have the most to gain of any local agency when it comes to being able to operate their wing plows in traveled lanes. Marquette CRC applied for and received an exemption from MDOT to operate its wing plows in travel lanes; however, this exemption was not just based on adding lighting to make the plow more visible to the public. According to Mike Harrington, Director of Operations and Maintenance at Marquette CRC, they also added lighting to make the wing plow easier for operators to see, and created more visibility of wing plows by increasing public awareness.

Marquette manufactured hydraulically activated lighting bars that swing out horizontally above the wing plow (see below). The lights on this bar blink in sequence with the light on the wing plow itself, so that it creates a more definite and visible shape through the lighting. They then outfitted their vehicles with an indicator light (viewable by the operator) that automatically turns on when the wing is down, and wrote a document outlining Marquette CRC’s internal policy on wing plows. As far as hydraulics working in cold temperatures, Harrington did confirm what anyone who has done winter maintenance might suspect. “Yes, the operation of the hydraulics do slow during cold temperatures… However, much like knowing where the wing plow is located, operators who use it on a regular basis get a feel for how long it takes, and are able to adjust accordingly.”

Example of lighted wing plow used in traveled lane.  Photo - MDOT.
A wing plow outfitted with MDOT's "Superior Stick" has enough visibility to be used in a traveled lane. You can view a video of the Superior Stick in action at http://michiganltap.org/bridge/292.
photo - Michigan Department of Transportation

Finally, recognizing that even the most successful wing plow operation in the world isn’t enough to prevent an unaware motorist from passing on the right, Harrington and his team created public service announcements for local radio, TV, and billboards. This outreach has prepped the public to give wing plows a wider berth, and to operate with more patience during the winter months. While an approach like this is easy to overlook in the excitement over new technology, it is a great example of communicating effectively with those we serve. 

Marquette CRC’s Wing Plow Operational Guidelines document is available at http://www.MichiganLTAP.org/bridge/292

This article originally appeared in The Bridge, Vol 29 No. 2, Fall, 2015, published by Michigan's Local Technical Assistance Program, and was reprinted with permission.

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Application of Systemic Safety to a Non-Engineering Concern

The National Center for Rural Road Safety (Safety Center) will be hosting a FREE, 1.5 hour online training event. 

This Safety Center sponsored webinar will provide a background on the rural safety problem and how the systemic safety approach is used to help address these problems. Some examples of systemic safety applications will be summarized and non-engineering application discussed. An overview of the High Five Rural Traffic Safety Project administered through the Iowa Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau (GTSB), a non-engineering application, will be provided. This project uses 10 years of crash data and seat belt compliance data to determine annually which five rural counties will receive additional funding in order to increase enforcement, engineering, and education related to traffic safety in those counties. This webinar will discuss how the project works, its ongoing outcomes, and how to develop a similar program in your area.

After the course, participants will have:

  • An understanding of the systemic safety approach (e.g., data collection, factor identification, and location prioritization) and how it applies to rural safety
  • Knowledge of a systemic safety case study focused on a non-engineering concern
  • Ability to develop a similar multi-disciplinary program that fits your situation

The course presenters include:

Pay Hoye, Bureau Chief of Iowa Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau

Nicole Oneyear, Institute for Transportation at Iowa State University

Nicole is a post-doctoral research at the Institute for Transportation whose research focuses on rural safety, automated enforcement and use of naturalistic driving data.

Keith Knapp, Institute for Transportation at Iowa State University

Keith Knapp is the Iowa Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP) Director. He has more than 25 years of experience in transportation-related training, outreach/extension, and research. His research has focused on the safety and operational impacts of roadway design and environmental characteristics.

To register for the webinar, please click on the link below. Instructions on accessing the webinar will be sent after your registration is confirmed.

Click Here to register for the webinar.

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Request Training or Technical Assistance for Your Agency

Click Here to request training sessions for your organization. Eastern TTAP can assist you with road safety plans, road safety audits, and inter-agency safety projects. Please contact us for more information or to schedule these activities.

If you don't see a topic listed or have a suggestion for training that you'd like to have at your tribe, send us a suggestion.

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Pathways is published quarterly by the Eastern Tribal Technical Assistance Program, which is in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department and part of the Michigan Tech Transportation Institute at Michigan Technological University. The Eastern Tribal Technical Assistance Program is part of a nationwide effort jointly financed by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). It intends to relay the latest technology and information on tribal roads and bridges, tourism, recreational travel, and related economic development to tribal transportation and planning personnel. Tribes in the Eastern TTAP region include those in the Midwest and Eastern BIA Regions. Contact the TTAP office to submit articles and suggestions.

The Eastern TTAP logo was created by Sally R. Brunk, Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. Eastern TTAP and Pathways are sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Michigan Technological University is an equal opportunity educational institution/equal opportunity employer.
This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Transportation
under Cooperative Agreement No. DTFH6114H00006.
Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the Author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Michigan Technological University is an Equal Opportunity Educational Institution/Equal Opportunity Employer, which includes providing equal opportunity for protected veterans and individuals with disabilities.
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