DEARBORN, MICH. — The 52nd annual International Highway Engineers Exchange Program (IHEEP) Conference was held Sept. 26-30, 2010, in Dearborn, Mich. Hosted by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), the five-day program drew 256 attendees from 22 states and four countries.
The Highway Engineering Exchange Program’s (HEEP) mission to promote advances in transportation engineering through the exchange of knowledge and information technology took center stage during roundtable sessions that gave participants a chance to learn from each other, talk about what is and isn’t working in their states, and to share best practices. The conference also included technical tours and other valuable networking opportunities.
IHEEP 2010 President Dan Belcher’s welcoming remarks included some background on the state of Michigan and what the participants could expect during the conference. He was followed by MDOT Director Kirk T. Steudle, who talked about past, present, and future innovations involving the department, focusing on MDOT’s role in Intellidrive, a system that enables wireless communication between vehicles. "My job, and the job of my counterparts in other states and Ministers of Transport, is to improve safety. Intellidrive will help us do just that."
Keynote speaker Joie Chitwood III, president of Daytona Speedway, discussed the challenges in auto racing of balancing safety and performance. "In the racing world, it’s all about speed. When safety changes are made, they are often the result of a tragedy." Chitwood talked about new safety features such as the HANS Device and Steel and Foam Energy Reduction Barriers being installed on many tracks around the country and how they are saving lives.
Featured presenter Stewart Wang, M.D., University of Michigan trauma surgeon, spoke about innovation and the human factor. In discussing the close ties between the fields of traffic engineers and trauma surgeons, Wang stressed the need to share data. "When a victim is brought into an ER, the more information available to medical professionals, the better for surgeons to diagnose and treat the patient," he said. Wang, whose research is funded in part by the Federal Highway Administration and MDOT, explained how medical trauma analysis could be useful to traffic engineers when planning roadway safety improvements. Wang also noted the human element, commenting that, "trained professionals, not just technology, are needed to save lives."
Michael Arthur, New York Department of Transportation (NYDOT), won the 2010 HEEP Kenneth G. Close Award for his contributions to the goals and objectives of the HEEP. Arthur is currently the claims engineer in NYDOT’s Division of Legal Affairs. The Kenneth G. Close Award was established in 1985 after Close and his wife were involved in a fatal automobile accident while returning from the 1984 AASHTO subcommittee meeting. The award recognizes those who have provided long-term support for HEEP and is a way to remember and honor Close for his significant contributions to the organization.