Wisconsin's road projects go the right way

Wisconsin's Department of Transportation oversees a construction program that has laced the Badger State with 112,362 miles of state highways, roads and streets as well as 13,300 bridges.

Building and maintaining the network calls for administering hundreds of contracts annually, a task carried out largely with paper change orders to the contracts the department negotiates with its vendors, said David Castleberg, supervisor of the department's construction technology unit.

'In fiscal 2001 [which ended last June], we processed 6,890 vouchers for a total of about $686 million,' Castleberg said.

Paper jam

Keeping track of so many projects and so much money on paper was a cumbersome task, but WisDOT is finding it much easier since switching to an automated system.

WisDOT now relies on the Transport software package produced by the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials, Castleberg said.

WisDOT adopted Transport after problems arose with its old system for processing payments, the Item Received Accounts Log, which used computers for some tasks and paper for others.

'We would use a paper system for keeping track of what was happening with the [state] engineers' contacts, and the change orders they generated,' Castleberg said.

The legacy system created pay vouchers that authorized payments to the contractors, but other management functions required paper records.

When WisDOT adopted the Transport system, department managers realized that they needed a way for engineers in the field to get information into Transport.

'We were faced with either creating an interface with Transport or finding an off-the-shelf product that would interface with it,' Castleberg said.

WisDOT adopted Fieldmanager software, developed by InfoTech Inc. of Gainesville, Fla., and the Michigan Transportation Department.

The Fieldmanager application includes modules called Fieldbook and Fieldpad that let engineers at job sites load construction contracts or sections of them onto their notebook computers.

The field applications also can run on handheld computers under the Microsoft Windows CE operating system, Castleberg said.

Constructive app

'The advantages are saving time and giving multiple persons the ability to work on a contract using either a laptop or a handheld,' Castleberg said.

With the new software and mobile hardware, engineers no longer have to keep paper diaries or compete for time on the department's main system, he said.

'It was an easy decision for us because we didn't have to pay for development or maintenance, we just have to pay yearly license fees,' Castleberg said.

The department has 475 Transport users, spread across WisDOT and its consultants. The simplicity of use has eased its adoption by state workers.

'Training goes really well,' Castleberg said. 'Because it's a Windows application, people who are familiar with Windows find it easy to navigate, and we've had few problems.'

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