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South Dakota Department of Transportation
Project Synopsis

Title: Local Transportation Agency Training and Technical Assistance Needs Assessment
Project Researcher: Toran Kopren, SDDOT
Project Manager: Hal Rumpca
Research Period: 9/1/1997 - 9/30/1998
Cost: $20,000.00

Problem Statement: The South Dakota Local Transportation Assistance Program (SDLTAP) provides training and technical assistance to the South Dakota Department of Transportation (SDDOT) as well as the local and tribal highway and street departments located in South Dakota's 66 counties, 309 municipalities, 8 tribal governments and 957 townships. Often training is delivered through formal workshops that are selected to address the topics most useful to local, tribal, and state transportation agencies. Other LTAP technical assistance tasks include providing information services, technology transfer materials, and the issuance of quarterly newsletters and other worthy publications. Because several years have elapsed since a formal needs assessment was made, updated information is needed to help direct and focus the transportation training and technical assistance programs. Information is also needed to determine the current and projected role of SDLTAP in meeting these needs. A statewide survey of SDLTAP's clientele is needed to identify training, technical assistance and other needs and to assess the level of demand for each need identified. Possible survey techniques include mail, phone, and interviews with local and tribal government officials.

Findings: Useful findings became evident early in the project, during the focus groups. Comments from the 27 participants suggested that: Users of SDLTAP's services are generally satisfied with their quality. Predominantly positive opinions were expressed on SDLTAP's: Staff competency,friendliness and helpfulness Technical asistance Training workshops Newsletter (The Connection) Technical Bulletins Awareness and use of SDLTAP varies by type of agency. Focus group participants from federal, county, city and state agencies were most familiar with SDLTAP's services and had taken most advantage of them in the past, Township officials and contractors' staff were generally less familiar. In spite of differences between organizations, most face common challenges, including: Limited staffing Budget constraints Growing workload Rising costs Although the three focus groups differed in their estimates of current funding for SDLTAP, thry agreed closedly on the relative importance of its functions. Typically, participants said they would allocate the following fractions of a hypothetical budget to: Formal workshops, 30% On-site visits, 30% Technical assistance, 20% Newsletter publication, 10% Other, 10% Interviews with SDLTAP staff revealed a good understanding of clients' needs. Staff at SDSU (Ken Skorseth, Lorna Foster, and Sue Grant) and at the SDSM&T (Mary Espeland) demonstrated their commitment to helping local agencies and other clients meet their technical and administrative challenges. They also expressed their belief that other clients, particularly in the contacting industry, could benefit from additional outreach. Pat Collins, formerly of the SDDOT's training activity and now (following reorganization with the BOP, provided valuable advice on the mailed survey instrument. Findings of the mailed survey confirmed many of the perceptions expressed in the focus groups and staff interviews: As had been suggested in the focus groups, the survey showed that county, city and state personnel are most familiar with SDLTAP services and have used them most in the past. Federal and tribal officials are also quite aware, but the relatively small number of responses from these groups weakens this finding somewhat. Consultants, township officials and contractors appear to be least familiar with the services, and to some extent are unsure whether the services are appropriate to their needs. Respondents expressed predomiantly favoralbe opinions of SDLTAP's present services. For every service offered, favorable responses greatly outweighed unfavorable, suggesting that the quality of servece generally meets clients' needs. Survey responses suggested that training needs vary somewhat by opganization and by respondents' positions within their organizations, but many training needs are common to all agencies within the state, Overall, the top twenty training needs identified from analysis of all returned surveys are: Blading techniques Erosion contol Blade operation Ditch and drainage maintenance Snow plow operation Cardiopulmonary resuscitation Culvert installation Work zone safety Traffic signs Proper lifting and carrying Weed and vegetation control Ditching tecniques First aid Budget preparation and accounting (Gravel) material properties and tests Rural plowing and sanding Legal issues First responder Culvert design Motor grader operation Survey respondents did not suggest radical changes to SDLTAP's activities. Responses to questions regarding SDLTAP's potential role suggested that some opportunity exists to use computer communication (via E-mail or Internet) to communicate with local agencies and to provide general computer assistance to local agencies. A few respondents said they were interested in contributing articles to the newsletter, and a majority said they would use a catalog describing SDLTAP's services. In regard to worksho0p length and location, over 60% of respondents said they prefer workshops of one day duration or less, and 56% said travel distances over 100 miles of travel are unacceptable.

Research Objectives:
1  Determine the training and technical assistance needs (both short and long term) of local and tribal transportation agencies in South Dakota.
2  Assess the current and potential role of the SDLTAP in meeting these needs.
3  Provide documentation which will allow the SDLTAP to conduct annual evaluations on training and technical assistance needs.

Research Tasks:
1  Meet with the project’s technical panel to review the project scope and work plan
2  Review and summarize literature pertinent to Local Transportation Assistance Program Training and Technical Assistance Needs Assessments as well as the role that LTAPs play in meeting those needs
3  Meet with the SDLTAP staff and a representative sample of local government and tribal transportation agencies to gather background information for developing a survey to assess training and technical assistance needs
4  Prepare a technical memorandum which summarizes the information from Task 3 and prepare a draft survey which can be used to identify training and technical assistance needs and determine the current and potential role of the SDLTAP in meeting those n
5  Meet with the project’s technical panel to review and approve the survey instrument and methods
6  Conduct the survey using the instrument and methods approved by the technical panel
7  Analyze the survey results to identify training and technical assistance needs of local government and tribal transportation agencies and recommend the role of SDLTAP in addressing these needs
8  Provide the necessary documentation which will allow the SDLTAP to conduct annual evaluations on training and technical assistance needs for transportation agencies
9  Prepare a final report and executive summary of the literature review, survey methodology, findings, conclusions, and recommendations
10  Make an executive presentation to the SDDOT Research Review Board and the SDLTAP Advisory Board at the conclusion of the project

Documents Available:

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