Minnesota Department of Transportation

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News Release

Jan. 31, 2017

MnDOT inspection vehicle honored with Governor’s Better Government Award

ROCHESTER, Minn. – The Minnesota Department of Transportation’s use of a radio-operated vehicle equipped with a video camera to improve the inspection pipes and culverts in southeast Minnesota received a 2016 Governor’s Better Government Award on Monday at a ceremony in St. Paul.

Lt. Governor Tina Smith honored the MnDOT group from Rochester, who developed and implemented the effort, and now produce similar inspection vehicles for other MnDOT districts across the state. The ceremony was held in the rotunda of the Minnesota State Capitol. Smith presented awards to four agencies that have made state government more efficient, accountable, and effective for the people of Minnesota. Since 2010, the Governor’s Better Government Awards have annually celebrated individual and organizational accomplishments that have increased the efficiency and effectiveness of state government.

Smith said the winners “are helping make government more responsive, while saving time and money. We are committed to building on this progress, and creating a culture of continuous improvement across state government.”

A record 63 reform initiatives were nominated for Better Government Awards this year by teams from almost every state agency. MnDOT District 6 also had one other nominee: an effort to plant native grasses along a stretch on Interstate 35 north of Albert Lea to help decrease snow drifting in the winter.

MnDOT won the Great Results category. In the award it was noted that the Rochester group’s effort helped reduce costs and save time using a remote control inspection vehicle built with off-the-shelf hobby shop parts to inspect pipes and culverts. The Hydraulic Inspection Vehicle Explorer (HIVE) in District 6, an 11-county region in southeast Minnesota, already has saved thousands of dollars, with an inspection of a culvert on Highway 26 in Houston County revealing that only limited repairs, rather than full replacement, were needed. It also completed inspections of culverts in the Highway 52 Rochester corridor, revealing major culvert failures that could not be seen using external visual inspection.

“The HIVE has proven to be an invaluable tool for the inspection of the thousands of culverts and pipes that exist under our transportation system in southeast Minnesota,” said Jeff Vlaminck, the district engineer in District 6. “The effort has tapped our employees’ expertise across departments and has shown what a fairly simple, but innovative idea can do to improve our efficiency and financial effectiveness.”

This year, winners were picked from three categories: Great Customer Service, Great Place to Work, and Great Results. Minnesota Veterans Home – Luverne won Great Customer Service for a music and memory program with its residents and two Great Place to Work awards were given. One to the Department of Revenue for its inclusive program “I am Revenue” and one to Minnesota Management and Budget for promoting state employment opportunities.

MnDOT’s program was initiated by Rob Coughlin, who inspects culverts and pipes to provide key information for construction projects and regular maintenance programs. Coughlin’s idea was approved and overseen by Kris Langlie, District 6 water resources engineer. Coughlin met with Chade Trupe and Mark Hill in materials management to evaluate equipment and order it. By coincidence, Trupe and Hill are radio operated car enthusiasts and offered expertise to Coughlin on how to equip the vehicle to achieve the best performance.

Since then, Coughlin has inspected hundreds of culverts and pipes. The vehicle uses a wireless connection to send video from the vehicle’s camera to a tablet held by Coughlin. The vehicle was fitted with a camera that can be rotated by the operator and includes additional lighting on the vehicle to provide sufficient illumination for the camera to capture images that Coughlin evaluates. Trupe has since built additional HIVEs for other MnDOT districts and Hill has assisted in helping create an electronic assembly and inventory catalog for users.

To learn more go to http://mn.gov/governor/newsroom/?id=1055-275294#/detail/appId/1/id/275294


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Pictured left-to-right: Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, Mark Hill, Rob Coughlin, Kris Langlie, Chade Trupe and Minnesota Department of Administration Commissioner Matt Massman. (MnDOT photo)

The Hydraulic Inspection Vehicle Explorer (HIVE) used by MnDOT utilizes off-the-shelf equipment to assist in inspections of culverts and pipes under and near roadways. (MnDOT photo)