Until recently, the best way to reach some of ITD’s remote maintenance sheds was to drive there. Connectivity using telephones, cell phones and computer networks - was unreliable in many locations.
Major improvements to the information highway are changing that. ITD has invested heavily in bringing all but a few of the rural maintenance facilities onto the department’s network, improving access to e-mail, time sheet entry, the RWIS (Road Weather Information System), the 511 system and the Web.
The upgrade was initiated at the request of the District Engineers, and additional emphasis was placed on the project in preparation for the future Maintenance and Pavement Management system, which will rely heavily on staff input and access from these key locations.
The new connectivity will allow districts to have more reliable and faster access to information to ITD’s maintenance facilities located throughout the state. While information gathered by the maintenance and pavement management system will provide the Department with greater efficiency and better maintenance management decisions.
The Craigmont maintenance facility and one nearby in Grangeville (District 2) were the first to be upgraded. The last ones on the summer schedule were in Weippe (District 2) and Kooskia (District 2), explains project manager Jake Duplessie of Enterprise Technology Services.
Working with district networking specialists and a private vendor, ITD began the process last spring and moved the first facilities from an antiquated satellite-based system to a faster more reliable system based on DSL telephones and T-1 (transfer rate of approximately 1.5 megabits per second) lines in June.
Of the 52 facilities identified for the upgrade, only eight could not be completed due to their remote location – Riddle, St. Maries, Leadore, Santa, Reeds Bar, Powell and Cascade. Duplessie said the Department will continue to look for new opportunities to extend connectivity to these facilities.
The six-month schedule was “pretty aggressive,” Duplessie said. “We hoped to have the work done by the end of August; however, this proved to be challenging due to the number and remote nature of these MTCE Sheds.
Duplessie stated that the upgrades required great coordination and assistance from IT employees in each district … “The District Coordinators and Maintenance Forman were invaluable.”