North Idaho crew shares improved sign catwalk innovation
at Foremen’s Conference
Faced with a laundry list of signs to replace this season, a North Idaho (District 1) crew invented a tool in January to replace signs, and its immediate success prompted the crew to demonstrate its utility at the Foremen’s Conference in Lewiston last week.
Rather than leaning ladders up against signs while they changed them, crews from Peterson Hill and St. Maries now use a catwalk that extends from a maintenance pickup and can be easily stored in the bed of a truck between replacements.
When Ross Farrell’s crews first submitted the innovation, they estimated that the catwalk would allow them to replace nearly 25 signs in as few as three hours, as opposed to the two or three signs typically completed.
“Sign replacement has become safer and much more efficient, especially on our highways that have no shoulders and are on steep terrain,” Farrell said. “Twenty-five signs in a few hours is no problem, and we can do even more on flat roads with a shoulder.”
Lead designer Gary Haynes has continued to improve on his original idea to make this innovation even more effective.
The latest version of the catwalk has a jack to adjust the height of the catwalk for each sign. Haynes also modified how the plank extends from the truck, meaning crews no longer have to set it up and tear it down between uses.
“I still have more ideas to improve it, but I hope more of my co-workers will try it and find it as useful as I have,” Haynes said.
District 2 Operations Engineer Bob Schumacher has already asked to see its design, and after the demonstration in Lewiston, it is possible that this innovation could circulate beyond the neighboring district. Its use has already expanded past its original purpose of sign replacement to include other operations activities that involve ladders, such as brushing.
The conference, which serves as the annual gathering of operations supervisors, provides attendees an opportunity to share best practices, evaluate the events of the last year and celebrate their successes.