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Has a member of your staff dreamed up a new way to tackle a transportation problem?

Has a member of your crew created a new tool or gadget to help make roads safer?

Have you or a team member discovered a better way to get the job done?

Then you’ve built a better mousetrap. 

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) wants to help you show off your innovative solutions to problems faced by tribal transportation workers. It might be a new tool, equipment modifications, or a new way to increase safety, reduce costs, or improve efficiency.

That’s why the FHWA’s Office of Innovative Program Delivery – Center for Local Aid Support sponsors the ‘Build a Better Mousetrap’ competition every year. It’s a great way to share your creative transportation solutions. Check out last year’s winners: 

The Guardrail Reclaimer (Gunnison County Public Works Department, Colorado)
“The way we’ve always done it doesn’t mean it’s the only way to do it.” 

Modified skid steer removing debris from underneath guardrail. Photo: Gunnison County Public Works Department

Removing debris and sand from under guardrails requires a lot of time, labor and resources to ensure the safety of the traveling public. Staff at the Gunnison County Public Works Department tackled the problem by designing a bull blade and a scraper to fit over the forks of a skid steer, adjustable to guardrail height and post space widths. Using scrap metal, the team came up with this creative design for around $650. Now crews can clean more guardrails, more often.


Survey Pin Puller (Sioux County Secondary Roads Department, Iowa)
“People out in the field are solving problems for issues out in the field.” 

Survey Pin Puller. Photo: Sioux County

With an average of 3200 survey pins for an eight-mile paving project, crews needed a better way to remove the pins. Instead of bending over and pulling the pins out manually with a vise grip, the crew designed a device featuring a wheel, handle grips, and tubing. For less than a $100 in development costs, crews use the device to remove stubborn pins more easily and quickly. The Survey Pin Puller is now being used on paving projects throughout Sioux County. 


Asphalt Patch Trailer Improvements (Polk County Asphalt Patch Trailer Crew, Minnesota)
“Always be innovative with your thinking. There is nothing wrong with trying. Even if it doesn’t succeed, you learn from it and keep trying.”  

New platform and stairway. Photo: Polk County

Unsafe methods for loading and dispensing tack oil on roadway repairs led the Polk County Asphalt Patch Trailer Crew to develop ways to improve safety for workers and motorists.  Rather than climbing on top of the trailer tongue to reach the tack oil fill port, the crew designed a platform access stairway, providing safer access to the tack oil fill cap. A newly-designed swinging boom increased the reach of the tack oil wand, reducing blocked travel lanes and worker entanglement issues. With a total cost of $550, the improvements have resulted in reduced injuries, less operator fatigue, faster repair times and increased productivity.  

Tribes are invited to submit their ‘build a better mousetrap’ ideas to the Tribal Technical Assistance Program (TTAP) competition. The winning TTAP entry will compete with winning entries from Local Technical Assistance Programs (LTAPs) from across the country.  

The winning submission will be announced at the 2018 National LTAP/TTAP Conference being held in New Orleans on July 23 – 26. Compete for national recognition and bragging rights!   

For more information about the TTAP competition, contact or call 833-484-9944 toll free. 

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