2020 Francis B. Francois Award for Innovation – NJDOT’s Marine Navigation Retroreflective Markers

NJDOT's Flexible Marine Navigation Retroreflective Marker

Adoption of new technology and innovative solutions is pivotal to improvements in transportation systems and New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) is adopting innovation in its projects to increase safety and efficiency, and reduce costs. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) recognizes these efforts through its Francis B. Francois Award for Innovation. The award enables the winning state to fund a $10,000 graduate fellowship at a state university of the winner’s choosing. In 2020, 36 state DOTs nominated 79 projects and AASHTO awarded its Francis B. Francois Award to NJDOT for the innovative use of retroreflective markers for marine navigation.

Marine Navigation Retroreflective Markers are an innovative addition to the traditional lights required by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) on bridge fenders. The State of New Jersey owns and maintains 65 bridges that cross navigable waterways. Lighting equipment is used on bridge fenders to aid navigation through the channels underneath the bridges. Any failure of these lights creates a safety hazard and requires emergency repairs. Upon detection of a light failure, a work order is issued by NJDOT for an emergency crew, incurring costs due to lost productivity and overtime pay. In addition, the USCG may impose a penalty of $25,000 per day per incident. The genius of the innovation is in the installation of retroreflective panels, typically used on highways, which are themselves inexpensive. As a backup for the navigation lighting, these panels maintain safety for boaters, and help to ensure the safety of repair crews as work can now be carried out during daylight hours rather than immediately — irrespective of daylight or harsh weather conditions. This cost-effective solution makes navigation safer and reduces the burden of maintenance. The USCG has approved NJDOT’s Marine Navigation Retroreflective Markers as a backup to the navigation lighting system.

The Marine Navigation Retroreflective Markers can easily be adopted by other NJ agencies and other state DOTs as backup lighting for navigating waterways under bridges.

Watch the video shared at the AASHTO awards to learn more about NJDOT's Marine Navigation Retroreflective Markers.

Use of the marine navigation retroreflective markers can aid navigation

Use of the marine navigation retroreflective markers on bridges as backup navigation lighting

Use of the marine navigation retroreflective markers beneath bridges for better guiding boats

Build a Better Mousetrap 2020 Award Winner Announced

Employees often create innovative solutions to everyday problems or develop alternative ways of doing things in their workplace to improve safety and efficiency, reduce costs, and enhance the quality of transportation. The NJ Build a Better Mousetrap (BABM) Competition seeks entries from employees of local and state public agencies who have created and successfully implemented innovative solutions. This annual competition uses cost, savings/benefits to the community, ingenuity and/or innovation, transferability to others and likelihood of implementation, and effectiveness as the criteria to judge all the entries.

Scott Ainsley and Mark Crago of NJDOT’s Operations and Training Unit were the winners of the 2020 BABM Competition for the design and development of their Anti-Jackknife Device under the Maintenance Tools and Methods category. This early warning device is designed to prevent damage to trucks and trailers while new employees are maneuvering these vehicles during training for their Commercial Driving License tests. The device, costing $165, saves 17 hours of repair labor, amounting to $2,100 with each incident. The device also increases efficiency in new employee training. The video shows the mechanism of the Anti-Jackknife device developed.

This year's winners were announced at the 22nd NJDOT Research Showcase held as a virtual event in October 2020. The annual event serves as a showcase to spotlight research, innovations and the benefits of the NJDOT Research program.

This year’s BABM competition attracted other notable submissions from NJDOT employees that highlight team and individual examples of ingenuity in advancing innovative solutions, including:

NJDOT Bridge Navigator – This bridge navigation app improves efficiency by assisting inspectors, resident engineers, and maintenance personnel navigate to bridges and fuel stations around the State.  The Bridge Navigator website is hosted on GitHub pages which are free and open source. (Submitted by: Asim Zaman; Transportation Operations Systems and Support, Asset Management Category)

NJDOT Bridge Navigator app. Screenshot of bridge at New Dover Rd (CR650)/NJ 27, Woodbridge Township, NJ,

NJDOT Bridge Navigator app. Screenshot of Fuel Station Finder.

M.R.T. Grass Diverter

M.R.T. Grass Diverter – This modification to a mower discharge chute improves safety by redirecting grass and debris away from traffic and reduces costs of potential litigation (Submitted by: James Nunn, Crew 333, Maintenance Tools and Methods Category)

Traffic Signal Explorer - This comprehensive Traffic Signal Assets database improves efficiency and reduces costs by providing readily-accessible information on the 2,800 State-managed traffic signals, traffic signal flashers, and sign-based traffic control devices (Submitted by: Brendan Rahl, NJDOT Bureau of Traffic Engineering, Asset Management Category)

Traffic Signal Explorer

Traffic Signal Explorer. Several screenshots from the database.

Further information on the 2021 Build a Better Mousetrap Competition will be posted soon. See Build a Better Mousetrap Competition for more information about the 2020 competition.

Get Oriented with EDC-5 Innovations – Webinars and Baseline Report

In June 2018, FHWA announced the fifth round of Every Day Counts Innovations (EDC-5). From September 10-26, 2018, the agency held Orientation Webinars, 90-minute sessions to introduce each EDC-5 innovation area. The EDC-5 website posted webinar recordings, factsheets, and presentation slides following each session.

See the full list of orientation webinars for EDC-5 innovations here.

Every two years, FHWA works with state departments of transportation and other public and private stakeholders to identify innovative technologies that merit widespread deployment. State Transportation Innovation Councils (STICs) in all fifty states then meet to evaluate these innovations and lead deployment efforts.

Innovations for EDC-5 include weather-responsive management strategies, collaborative hydraulics, rural roadway departures, advanced geotechnical exploration methods, unmanned aerial systems (UAS), virtual public involvement, use of crowdsourcing to advance operations, project bundling, Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian (STEP), and value capture of transportation.

In Fall 2018, transportation leaders and front-line professionals from across the country gathered at five Regional Summits to discuss the EDC-5 innovations, exchange ideas with industry counterparts, and provide feedback to FHWA on resources needed to support innovation adoption.

The NJDOT team attended the Regional Summit in Albany, New York. Following the summits, New Jersey finalized its selection of innovations, established performance goals for the level of implementation and adoption over the upcoming two-year cycle, and initiated its efforts to implement the innovations with the support and assistance of the technical teams established for each innovation.

In the Spring of 2019, the FHWA issued a summary report, EDC-5 Summit Summary and Baseline Report that describes the Regional Summits and indicates the priority innovations for deployment being taken by the individual states.