Damage prevention

Pipeline Integrity and the PHMSA Mega Rule – What You Need to Know

January 31, 2023

By Brandi Wolfe, Regulatory Compliance Manager, Oil and Gas, WSB

A vital part of a pipeline operator’s job is to ensure the integrity of pipelines always remain impenetrable and intact. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), in charge of regulating the pipeline industry, has recently developed new requirements concerning pipeline safety of gas transmission lines, adding layers of complexity and stringent new standards for operators. 

The new rule Repair Criteria, Integrity Management Improvements, Cathodic Protection, Management of Change, and Other Related Amendments (also known as RIN2) goes into effect on May 24, 2023, and operators are required to have their integrity management program updated and implemented by February 2024. Because there are so many new complexities and factors involved, operators need to act now to update their program and ensure they adhere to all new guidelines and regulations. 

What You Need to Know.

The latest rule specifies that pipeline operators of transmission lines in a regulated Integrity Management Plan update their requirements for repair criteria, assessment repair timelines, management of change procedures, expanded identification of potential threats to pipeline integrity (like a severe weather event), and more. 

Where to Place Your Focus and Resources.  

As operators review and update their integrity management programs, what are the best practices and things you need to review?

Start by focusing on data integration. PHSMA is requiring operators to incorporate more than forty specific pipeline potential threats into their risk assessments. Updating your integrity program to incorporate these changes is time intensive. New items like geohazard review, external forces, land movement, and water movement are all items to plan for and consider. Operators must start this process by May 24, 2023, and have all required integration complete by February 26, 2024.

Next, it’s important to update corrosion assessment requirements. PHSMA incorporated a standard assessment program that is more prescriptive than before, and corrosion assessments must be built to meet those strict industry standards. 

Finally, it’s important to conduct a geohazard review. Operators must now take into account external forces that may affect the integrity of the pipeline. WSB put together a more in-depth article on this topic, and you can find more information on geohazard reviews by clicking here. 

Don’t Delay, Act Now. 

With so much to do and less than one year to do it all, many operators will find it difficult to allocate the internal resources and time necessary to fulfill all the requirements. Updating the integrity management program takes time, and if you haven’t started, you may already find yourself falling behind. 

We have worked in the pipeline industry for over a decade and are available to help update plans, implement procedures, make risk assessments, and meet all requirements to ensure your program is in full compliance with the new rule. We have the team and the know-how to help guide pipeline integrity teams, no matter where you are in the process. 

Top 500 Design Firms

Chemical Plant Fire Impacts on Community Water Treatment

January 24, 2023
By Greg Johnson, Director of Water/Wastewater, WSB

A major chemical plant fire occurred at the Carus Chemical Company plant in LaSalle, IL during the morning of Wednesday, January 11. This facility is a leading producer of chemicals that are commonly used for water and wastewater treatment including potassium permanganate, sodium permanganate, and phosphate-based corrosion control chemicals (see EPA link for additional information). 

Chemical Plant Fire and Potential Impact on Supply Chain Disruptions | US EPA

What does this mean?

This event will affect the global supply chain for these chemicals and may impact water utilities across the United States. Sodium and potassium permanganate are commonly used in municipal water treatment to address manganese in the groundwater through conventional gravity and pressure filtration methods. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has implemented the following health advisory limits for consuming manganese: 100 parts per billion (ppb) for infants and 300 ppb for adults and children.  Studies have indicated that consuming manganese above these levels for a lifetime can affect memory, concentration, and motor skills.

What are the alternatives?

A very cost effective and natural method for treating manganese, iron, and ammonia in drinking water without the use of sodium permanganate, potassium permanganate, and chlorine is a process called biological filtration. This process uses microorganisms, rather than chemicals, to remove compounds biologically and has been commonly used in the wastewater industry since the early 1900’s.

In the last 20 to 30 years this treatment method has gained popularity in the United States. Minnesota water suppliers are showing an increasing interest in this water treatment method in order to combat rising costs of chemicals, address an increased desire for green technology and to meet federal regulations that limit the formation of disinfection by-products (DBP’s).

Most Minnesota groundwaters already have the balanced nutrient conditions necessary to grow microorganisms that remove compounds biologically. Therefore, modifications of existing conventional filtration plants to operate biologically are often straightforward and very cost-effective.

The ultimate benefit of implementing biological filtration for water treatment is the reduction or elimination of treatment chemicals, which results in significant operational savings over time.  

Where to start?

A biological filtration pilot study is the first step required by MDH to verify its effectiveness to treat contaminants in a community’s water source.  These studies typically require 3 to 4 months to complete before an engineering report is submitted to MDH for review and approval.

WSB has completed successful biological filtration studies for the cities of St. Martin, Baxter, Worthington, Hastings, Plymouth, and Andover using our own biological filtration pilot plant and trailer. This set up allows us to perform the necessary pilot study without disrupting the existing infrastructure and to identify the ideal treatment solution based on the area’s water conditions. If it is determined that biological filtration is a good alternative, the Minnesota Public Facilities Authority (PFA) can provide funding to implement treatment of emerging contaminants such as manganese in drinking water through the Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund. WSB has worked with many clients to secure this funding.

Learn more about how WSB’s water treatment pilot study program works.


Greg is the Director of Water/Wastewater at WSB with over 26 years of water and wastewater engineering experience in project planning, design, and construction administration of water treatment facilities as well as with groundwater and surface water supplies, water storage structures, water distribution systems, wastewater treatment facilities, and lift stations.

gjohnson@wsbeng.com | 651.286.8466

Greh Johnson
How to Prepare for Severe Weather Disasters

PHMSA Mega Rule: How to Prepare for Severe Weather Disasters

January 16, 2023

By Jen Holmstadt, Senior Project Manager, Oil and Gas, WSB

Hurricanes, flash floods, landslides, or any other form of severe weather can affect the environment by causing things like cracks and leaks in existing pipeline infrastructure. These issues can impact owners, managers, and workers of midstream transmission pipelines if they aren’t proactive in dealing with issues that may arise. 

As part of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHSMA) final rule Repair Criteria, Integrity Management Improvements, Cathodic Protection, Management of Change, and Other Related Amendments (RIN2), PHMSA amended section 192.613 Continuing Surveillance to align with requirements previously added to the liquids rule. The new language seeks to decrease environmental issues by incentivizing proactive planning to protect and fix infrastructure in a timely manner after weather disasters.  

WSB has a team of experts in geohazard risk assessment who can help companies navigate the murky waters of regulation and policy surrounding RIN2.

Policy Change

Extreme weather has been a contributing factor to several pipeline failures. PHMSA has issued Advisory Bulletins in 2015, 2016, 2019, and 2022 to communicate the potential that severe weather has to negatively impact pipeline integrity.  PHSMA has amended 192.613 to require pipeline operators to inspect their potentially damaged infrastructure within 72 hours of a severe weather occurrence. If an issue is found during inspection, the operator is required to take the steps necessary to address the problem area.

PHMSA has defined extreme weather or natural disaster as any event that has the likelihood of damaging pipeline facilities. This includes soil movement around the pipelines, landslides, floods, earthquakes, and named hurricanes and tropical storms. Because storms of differing magnitudes will cause different outcomes in every landscape (e.g., even a small precipitation event may cause a landslide if the slope is unstable), this introduces a fair degree of uncertainty for operators. This regulatory and operational uncertainty can be difficult for companies to navigate, which is why a proactive approach to extreme weather management is important.

The rule goes into effect on May 24, 2023. After petitions by several industry agencies (AGA, API, and INGAA), PHMSA has decided to refrain from taking enforcement action on the severe weather inspections and other requirements from the effective date until February 24, 2024, for pipelines installed or repaired prior to August 24, 2022. We do recommend that operators take advantage of this extension now, PHMSA has the right to revoke this discretion at any time.

Geohazard Risk Assessment and Severe Weather Monitoring

We recommend companies proactively incorporate severe weather planning into their current geohazard risk assessment plan. It is vital that operators know their system, have identified where potential issues could occur, and have a plan in place to act within 72 hours of a hazardous event. 

Having a scientific rationale and process in place within your geohazard risk assessment plan will go a long way when severe weather events happen.

What WSB Can Do

This rule is important to protect the environment, people, and property within the natural gas industry. The best approach to ambiguity and unknowns surrounding this policy change is being proactive. While there are no easy or one-size-fits all answers, there are geohazard risk assessment experts at WSB that are available to provide geohazard management assistance for operators. 

WSB can also provide coaching and planning when it comes to combining a company’s geohazard program with a severe weather monitoring system.

Fisheries

Full Circle Sustainability from Coast to Coast

January 13, 2023

By Tony Havranek, Director of Fisheries, WSB

WSB & FisH2O are helping manage invasive species, protecting wildlife, enhancing water quality, and creating a more resilient future.

Aquatic Invasive Species are behind some of the most drastic changes to freshwater systems in the world today. They are impacting the ecology and water quality of many bodies of water across the U.S We went one step beyond mitigation when we formed FisH20, a subsidiary that grew from WSB’s innovative species management services.

Since 2019, FisH20 has expanded in scope, services and markets served across the U.S. Today, local governments, commercial fishers, lake associations, and wildlife protection agencies are among our partners. Together, we’re providing customized solutions that make an impact and build a more resilient tomorrow.

California
WSB is working with tribal, county, and state leaders to save Clear Lake hitch – an endangered species found only in Northern California. Currently in its first phase, WSB is conducting a carp assessment. 

Nebraska
WSB partnered with a local lake association to mitigate against silver an big head carp, ensuring the lake is safe for recreation.

Minnesota
Based in Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes, FisH2O helps manage invasive species and protect water quality in lakes, rivers, and streams across the state.

Wisconsin
FisH2O fish are transported through Wisconsin where they are flushed with freshwater and await transport to further locations.

Michigan
Semi trucks transport millions of pounds of FisH2O carp where they are unloaded and held in ponds until they are ready for market.

New York
FisH2O fresh fish travel to New York where they are sold to restaurants, wholesalers, and retailers.

North Carolina
WSB has advised and helped the North Carolina Fish & Wildlife Services obtain a grant that will support the management of invasive species, enhance water quality, and protect local wildlife and ecosystems.


Damage prevention

Damage Prevention Awareness

January 12, 2023

By Nate Osterberg, Director of Strategic Growth, WSB

Impacts on the Oil and Gas Industry

According to the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), damages to underground facilities cost $61 billion annually. To protect the public, reduce costs, and incorporate asset management, damage prevention has become a relevant conversation for stakeholders across the construction industry. Advances in technology and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) are spurring more engagement throughout the country.

IIJA Impact

With the passage of IIJA, there is an increase in construction activity including utility, road, and renewable infrastructure. The current demand for utility locators is extraordinary and when coupled with the labor shortage and increasing demand, it is only becoming more challenging. In these circumstances, we rely on technology to guide us. To offset impacts from the labor market we incorporate digital mapping into production locating processes.

Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE)
SUE is the investigation of buried utilities that identifies conflicts and mitigates risks in the pre-engineering phase of construction. Using survey grade-accuracy with cutting-edge locating and survey equipment, capable of sub-centimeter accuracy, we identify risk and conflicts. Our team captures the location information to digitally map the facilities. When unlocatable utilities are identified, our team of damage prevention specialists approaches the challenge with different means and methods.   

Cataloging for the Future

Locating the utility is the first step, but just as important is the data collection. Once a utility is located the information is documented and added to an asset management database. This process is having a major impact on the industry and is assuring accuracy for future locates. Construction plans are evaluated through a digital twin utility map, resulting in cost and time savings and enhanced design data. After decades of stagnant innovation, the industry is advancing quickly because of cutting-edge tools that allow for safer conditions and better planning.

Impact Across an Industry

With hundreds of field staff on active job sites, the collection of highly accurate location data for new and existing facilities is becoming vital to project performance.  With minimal impact on budget and a streamlined mapping process, data collection efforts reduce the time it takes to provide facility owners and 811 systems with updated and accurate records.

The Top Drivers in Damage Prevention

  1. Public Safety
  2. Infrastructure Act
  3. 5G initiative
  4. Increased Damages to Facilities
  5. Unlocatable and Untoneable Utilities
  6. Workforce Turnover & Experience
Twin Ports Interchange

Twin Ports Interchange

January 12, 2023

By Chad DeMenge, Director of Contract Administration, WSB
Bryon Amo, Senior Engineering Specialist, WSB

Well-maintained, organized infrastructure is vital to safe travel and commerce, including the transportation of materials, goods, and people across the country. The Twin Ports Interchange in Northeastern Minnesota, which connects I-35, I-535, and Hwy 53, needed a significant upgrade to be viable and meet the modern needs of users.

The previous interchange was a series of intertwining and crossing bridges, roads, and traffic signals, serving as the main connection for goods and tourism through the city of Duluth. The original interchange was built between 1969 and 1972, and serves as a vital access point for the port of Duluth, one of the Great Lakes’ major ports.

Alternative Delivery Benefits

Delivered through a CMGC method, the contractor and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) were actively involved from the beginning of design and worked collaboratively to deliver this project. Active participation in early design allowed our team to gain an understanding of the history of the project and the impacts of the unique location and design.  

Engineering Ground Improvements

When the Interstate and interchange were originally built, the engineers were challenged by poor soils. The project area was formerly part of St. Louis Bay and had been filled by various industrial and railroad activities for over 100 years. The solution was to build the highway on low-level bridges on piers, allowing the highway to be supported on piling. The piling was nearing the end of its lifecycle and showed signs of corrosion. In addition, the open bridges between the bay and the neighborhood posed safety hazards, as pedestrians could freely travel under the highway, and through the highly active railyard.

To eliminate the low-level bridges, streamline maintenance costs, and isolate the railyard from the neighborhood, the team chose to build the roadway directly on the ground through the area, using the placement of grouted column ground improvements. The geotechnical team mapped the entire area, determining depths and spacing for over 8,000 ground improvement columns to support the new roadway embankment.

Combining Creeks

Miller Creek and Coffee Creek are two designated trout streams that crossed under the Interstate and ran under city streets. To provide a more suitable habitat for fish and other wildlife, the two creeks were opened and combined into one. Eliminating one entire crossing under the highway saved millions in construction and future maintenance costs.

Relocating Rail Lines

To accommodate construction staging throughout the project, the three-rail lines entering the railyard needed to be relocated three times. Due to the proximity of the bridges and new roadway to the railyard, the collective project partners including owner, contractor, engineer, and the railway worked together to maintain up to ten active rail crossings at a time.

Mitigating Contamination

The surrounding area is rich in industrial history that caused contamination in the soil and groundwater. To pre-treat all the groundwater before it’s discharged to the local wastewater treatment plant, the contractor built a water treatment center. Making these improvements and mitigating contamination allows the project to meet current Pollution Control Agency and Environmental Protection Agency standards.

Construction innovation for the future.

The project’s new design began in early 2019. When complete, the project will not only increase safety, but will allow operations in, out, and around the interchange to run more seamlessly for the interchange’s 80,000 daily users. The new interchange will be able to support the oversize and overweight loads coming in and out of the port. Construction of the Twin Ports Interchange is expected to be completed in 2025.

WSB Services Provided:

  • Constructability Reviews
  • Independent Cost Estimating during Design
  • Construction Oversight and Inspection
  • Contract Administration
  • Change Management
  • Material Testing Services during Construction
Texas Road

Q&A with Rob Bailey | VP of Transportation – Texas

January 12, 2023

Rob Bailey is the Vice President of Transportation – Texas at WSB. Rob has over three decades of engineering experience. His dedicated background and ability to lead has contributed to the expansion of WSB’s footprint in Texas since joining our firm a year ago.


In this Q&A, Rob shares his reflections on the expansion and future of WSB in the Texas market.

You’ve worked in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) Industry for many years, how has your experience informed how you approach your role at WSB?

My experience is almost entirely in the state of Texas, I have over 30 years of experience working on transportation infrastructure, the first ten at the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) which has been foundational for me. Building that foundation has helped me learn about our client needs, understand their culture, and it has allowed me to build personal connections and relationships that I have taken with me throughout my career. Having that background has given me what I need to be successful in this role in terms of leadership and transportation knowledge.

What is your favorite part about leading the Texas transportation team?

I really enjoy the people side of leading. I see my role and team much like a sports team. I am the general manager, and I must understand the rules of the game, and the playing field, and I must analyze and put together a strategy for success. I am also in charge of recruiting the best talent and having the right players. I need to figure out their strengths and weaknesses and find what position fits best within the team and the organization.

How has transportation been advancing in Texas?

The transportation program has changed dramatically over the last year. I am really excited about the team we have built and the clients we have added. Moving forward, we have all the pieces we want in place, and I am really optimistic about the future. Fortunately, the market lines up with my optimism. TxDOT has a steady stream of revenue that will support infrastructure across the state. We are experiencing significant population growth that is stretching city and county resources, which means we need to help build the infrastructure to support that growth.

How has WSB grown? What factors do you think made this possible?

There are two factors that pertain to the growth of WSB. One is the market, along with the policies that elected officials enact. The other is the soft side, the people side. We are focused on our staff. We are committed to hiring staff that is well-known in the industry and well-respected by our clients which will help us to maintain relationships and foster new opportunities.

Why is the Texas market important to the growth of WSB?

The opportunities for growth in Texas are significant. The population and growth of the state are driving both the infrastructure and energy markets. As a company, our mission is to build what’s next in infrastructure and this is a great place to do just that. Our company roots in Minnesota and the deep bench of expertise we have throughout the country help position us for success. The infrastructure needs across our country vary and it helps us expand our knowledge and bring new ideas and innovations to our clients regardless of location.

What makes WSB best suited to support industry efforts in Texas?

WSB has a true understanding of the client’s needs. We believe in working with our clients to help them be successful. Many WSB staff in Texas have experience working for owners, contractors, and engineering firms. These experiences help us understand the challenges of our clients, the real purpose of delivering infrastructure projects, and an overall deep understanding of how to support industry needs.

I am really excited about the team we have built and the clients we have added. Moving forward, we have all the pieces we want in place, and I am really optimistic about the future.

Rob Bailey
What does WSB look like to you in the future?

There has been significant growth for the company, and I don’t see it slowing down. I see it accelerating more each day. It’s a big reason why I came to WSB. I was excited about the opportunity it would bring not only to myself but the staff as well. Our staff will continue to grow, and I am excited to see how everyone will fit into a larger organization. There will be a lot more opportunities and the company will be led by a lot of the younger leaders we have today.

Any advice for leaders now and for those who come after you?

Leadership is a lot like relationships and marriage. Always make sure to pick your battles wisely. Try hard to have a long-term vision with your decisions and actions. One thing that can be challenging in a large company is short-termism. Focused on the next quarter’s reports, and impacts today, and less focused on the long-term. I am impressed with WSB and our long-term vision and investments in staff and technology.

MN Department of Natural Resource Grants for Emerald Ash Borer

January 12, 2023
By Emily Ball, Forestry Program Manager, WSB

What is new in 2023?

The MN Department of Natural Resources recently released a new grant application to help local governments fund emerald ash borer management in 2023. Each grant cycle is funded a bit differently, may include different eligible activities, and extra priority points on different factors. Occasionally match requirements are waived and the match amount required varies.  If you represent a unit of local government OUTSIDE the Twin Cities, this is an excellent opportunity for you since this is the first grant cycle that is awarding priority points for those applicants outside the 7-County metropolitan area.

Who is Eligible?

  • All units of local government (cities, counties, regional authorities, joint powers boards, towns, tribal
  • Parks and recreation boards in cities of the first class (those with 100,000 residents or more)

What Activities Are Eligible?

  • Public tree inventories
  • Developing a management plan that includes Emerald Ash Borer as a component
  • Tree and stump removal and replanting
  • Tree Planting

What is the Timeline?

  • February 13, 2023 – Application questions due 
  • February 27, 2023 – Applications due
  • March 20, 2023, Project Selection, Grant Agreement Negotiation begins
  • July 1, 2023, Work Plans Approved, Contracts Executed, Grant Funded Work begins

How will they Prioritize Funding?

In this grant cycle, priority points will be awarded to:

  • Applicants outside the 7-County Twin Cities metropolitan area
  • Communities who have staff, plan to certify their staff during the grant period, or who will contract with companies with staff with professional tree care credentials (MN Tree Inspector, International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborist, WSB, etc.)
  • Projects removing and replacing ash trees that pose significant public safety concerns
  • Projects that benefit underserved populations and areas of concern for environmental justice (communities with higher populations of low-income residents, or people of color including tribal communities or both)


Funding Details

The DNR has a total of $315,000 available in general fund dollars to fund projects managing forest pest and disease with a priority given to EAB on public lands. There is no minimum to the dollar amount applicants can request. The maximum award that will be funded per site is $50,000.

Applicants must include a 25% match of total project funds. The match can be in-kind (such as staff time, to administer the grant, time spent doing removals by in-house crews, technology, equipment used), cash match (such as money spent on ash tree injections by a contractor, re-planting projects by a contractor, or a mix of both. For grantees who are awarded the full $50,000 the match would be approximately $16, 600.

Looking for more information?

For more information on how WSB can help you formulate a project plan and prepare a strong grant application, contact Emily Ball, Forestry Program Manager at 651-318-9945 or eball@wsbeng.com. 

Emily is a ISA Certified Arborist, MN Tree Inspector that brings 20 years of experience, primarily in community forestry. She has extensive experience in contract administration, management of staff, AmeriCorps members and contractors, budget and grant management, plan review, tree health and condition inspections, outreach and education. She works closely with partner organizations, staff, and the community to educate, manage natural resources and provide excellent customer service.

eball@wsbeng.com | 651.318.9945

An Update on Minnesota’s Environmental Review Program and Climate Change

January 12, 2023
By Alison Harwood, Director of Natural Resources, WSB

The Environmental Quality Board (EQB), the authority on Minnesota’s Environmental Review program, has released a new required form and process to incorporate climate-related information into the environmental review process. Environmental reviews are required on projects of certain densities, sizes, and/or types and can include Environmental Assessment Worksheets (EAWs), Alternative Urban Areawide Reviews (AUARs), or Environmental Impact Statements.

Prior to 2021, information related to climate change was not part of the environmental review process. A project’s potential to impact the environment focused on resources such as water resources, wildlife, habitat, soils, and noise as well as public infrastructure and transportation. In 2021, several public agencies participated in a pilot program to test the effectiveness of proposed changes to the EAW form that incorporated information related to climate change. Based on the outcome of that pilot project, the EQB voted to replace the previous EAW form with a new one that includes several additions related to climate change assessment and estimating a carbon footprint.

Any projects that required and began an environmental review document after December 14, 2022 are required to use the new form. The new form includes several additions related to climate, including:

  • Assessment of climate trends related to the proposed project
  • Evaluation of climate adaptation potential and resiliency of the proposed project design
  • Evaluation of existing or proposed green infrastructure
  • Estimation of greenhouse gas emissions/carbon footprint of the proposed project

The EQB has a guidance document available for developing a carbon footprint and incorporating the climate change information into the environmental review process. WSB is available to help navigate this new process and keep your projects on track. Reach out to Alison Harwood with questions.

Alison leads the Natural Resources group. Her experience includes work in the natural resources field, including wetland and avian surveys, permitting, alternatives analysis, and environmental documentation for projects in both the public and private sector.

aharwood@wsbeng.com | 612.360.1320

Smart City

Smart City – Building the Communities of Tomorrow

January 11, 2023
By John Bradford, Sr Project Manager, WSB

From electronically monitoring water pumps to installing GPS trackers on city snowplows, many cities are embracing technologies and tools to become a smart city. Communities across the country are advancing initiatives that make their cities more efficient, while protecting resources and public dollars. 

What opportunities are out there, and what does being a smart city mean? Let’s break it down. 

What Does It Mean to Be a Smart City? 

There is no one definition of smart city, but there are a few ways to approach the concept and adopt smart city initiatives that meet the needs of your community. 

The first is to consider policies and tools that benefit the public. How can smart cities improve health metrics, the way that residents interact with one another, or best utilize community resources? There are numerous technologies and innovative ideas that can improve the lives of citizens and benefit overall public wellbeing. 

The next area to think about is data systems, and how you can track information to improve the efficiency and life of equipment. Thorough asset management means understanding that infrastructure and equipment not only require preventative maintenance, but predictive management as well. New technologies can help cities understand when certain equipment needs to be repaired or adjusted, extending its life, and helping communities more effectively plan for capital improvements. Furthermore, for communities with sustainability plans, it’s important to understand how sustainability, asset management, and smart cities all connect. 

Next, when thinking about smart cities, it is critical to map how using technology can more effectively utilize resources. For example, many northern cities are installing GPS tracking devices on city snowplows and making traffic light modifications that allow the plows to make it through green lights instead of having to stop. This improves the efficiency of snow removal, better utilizes community resources, and positively benefits public safety by clearing roads more quickly and effectively. Another example is having occupancy sensors installed at community parks and playgrounds to track usage and the best allocation of resources. 

What it means to be a smart city can mean something different to each community, so it’s important to think about what works best for your community. 

What are the Biggest Opportunities and Challenges?

Smart cities are the future, and can help communities save money, direct resources more efficiently, and better connect and communicate with residents. The opportunities are endless, so communities need to look at places where they can find the greatest value and potential. 

But because there is no one definition of what a smart city means, many communities can feel pressure to do too much, or fail to see how the small technological investments and changes they are making fit into the big picture of a smart city. 

Furthermore, as every community faces limited budgets and funding priorities, understanding where smart city investments make the most sense and will have the biggest impact is key. Also looking at opportunities to expand funding resources is critical. WSB helps many communities with identifying and applying for grants. 

Where to Start?

Where do you start on the road to becoming a smart city? It’s important to think both big picture and in detail. 

Start by defining your goals. Is it improving the efficiency of public works? Is it better communication with residents and the public? And how do these goals tie into your city’s larger strategic plan? 

At WSB, we help communities navigate big ideas and in-depth planning. If you’re not sure where to start or have ideas, I encourage you to reach out for an exploration conversation. There are so many amazing new tools, technologies, and opportunities out there – and smart cities can help build a better future for all of us. Look to us this year to continue to share articles on the ways that technology can help improve your community.

John has worked in the private and public sectors for 29 years and has worked with the cities of Hopkins, Woodbury and Bloomington. His experience includes policy development, capital improvement planning, infrastructure planning, comprehensive planning, site master planning, facility expansion projects, and interagency partnership agreements, labor contract negotiations, and culture change management.

jbradford@wsbeng.com | 952.210.8280