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Pan American Partners: the Pan American Institute of Highways.

The Pan American Institute of Highways (PIH) is an international network of 30 technology transfer centers serving the needs of the highway community of the Americas. These centers, located in 13 countries, are working together to solve the technological needs of the Americas. The centers provide technical support to national and local governments, universities, road associations, and individuals.

Technology transfer, or technology exchange, is not easy. It is much more than a series of classes of lectures. It takes time, and it costs money. But the success of PIH demonstrates its value as a model for future international cooperation and partnerships.

This article reviews the origin and development of PIH, briefly describes some of the relationships of the centers, explains some of the needs for technology in Latin America, and considers some ways to work together.

In 1986, a number of the leaders of the highway community of the Americas met at the XVth Pan American Highway Congress (PAHC) in Mexico City, Mexico. The participants were painfully aware that the developing countries of the Americas were being buffeted by economic inflation, institutional and social stagnation, infrastructure deterioration, and technological isolation. This was the "lost decade of the 80's." Every day they were falling further and further behind their contemporaries in Europe, the United States, and Asia. Somethin needed to be done! They passed a resolution creating the Pan American Institute of Highways.

PIH is modeled after the Rural Technical Assistance Program (RTAP) with the objective of sharing information, documentation, and technology.

The Permanent Executive Committee of PAHC asked the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to take the lead to set up PIH. Under the guidance of then Federal Highway Administrator Ray Barnhart, some technology transfer specialists from the Americas and Europe met at a "Founders Conference," and a charter was established. PAHC in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1991 formally approved these actions, and FHWA agreed to serve as headquarters for the next 4 years.

The headquarters is located at the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center in McLean, Virginia. The staff includes:

*Director General, FHWA, part-time (currently George Shrieves).

*Executive Director, FHWA, full-time (Gregory Speier).

*2 Special Advisors, FHWA, part-time (William Brown and William Williams).

*4 Technology Transfer Specialists, Contract, full-time.

The goal of PIH is to be a world-recognized transportation-related technology transfer network worving the highway community of the Americas through the promotion and sharing of technology, materials, equipment, computer software, documentation, videos, courses, seminars, technical advice, and consultations. Thus, PIH brings the hemisphere a little closer together every day.

The centers are the backbone of PIH. The centers have laboratories, experts, document centers, and actually conduct or arrange technology transfer activities. These is a sense of community among these centers; they work together.

The centers differ in capabilities and strengths, but all make significant and complementary contributions. Some centers have experience with designing roads in mountain regions. Some have experience with environmental concerns. Some are doing research on the World Bank's Highway Design and Maintenance-Version III-model (HDMIII). Others are experienced in short courses preparation and presentation. Some of the centers are within university settings. Some are part of the national or State highway agency. Some are road associations, and others are institutions such as cement or asphalt institutes.

PIH's bylaws allow for special recognition for centers that meet certain criteria. These centers are known as certified centers. Presently, 10 centers are certified by PIH. Certified centers must:

*Have a program of activities

*Publish a newsletter.

*Maintain a resource list.

*Have a mailing list.

*Participate actively in the PIH network.

*Conduct an annual self-evaluation.

A first glance, it might seem like to a lot of work to become a certified technology transfer center Butcertified center are better able to serve their clients, and that is where technology transfer takes place.

PIH's goal for this year is to certify 10 more centers, but only the best centers will be certified. Certified centers are given priority for many PIH programs.

PIH is guided by an advisory committee composed of members from 10 countries. The 10 advisors represents a variety of fields of expertise within the highway community. The president of the committee is Julio Cesar Caballero, former Federal Highway Administrator of Argentina.

Technology exchange within the framework of PIH involves a number of difficulties. The Americas include 34 governments; each has its own currency, standards, and customs. There are cultural differences, immigration limitations, customs problems, and other obstacles. Communication is difficult, if not impossible, at times because PIH has four official languages - English, Spanish, French, and Portugese - requiring translation and interpretation of courses, documents, correspondence, and conversation.

Long distance must be traveled, and travel by government employees to another country often requires significant bureaucratic manuevering, sometimes including approval by the president of the country.

Training is a major element of the PIH family of activities. For example, a short course on Pavement Management was recently held in Honduras. The instructors were two young Uruguayan engineers who have been studying in Phoenix, Arizona.

P sent a concrete specialist from Cordoba, Argentina to San Jose, Costa Rica to share Argentina's experience with roller-compacted concrete. A geotechnical expert from Texas went to a number of countries to explain slope stability and slide restoration. When a maintenance need is identified, PIH sends a specialist to share knowledge.

The PIH course catalog lists 115 courses and seminars from 16 centers in 10 countries. These courses are ready to be used. For example, recently, PIH sent a team of specialists from Chile and Colombia to share their experience in a seminar in Venezuela. The catalog, printed in Spanish and in English, is available from PIH headquarters.

A second way to use the course catalog is to contact the responsible person listed for each course and to send one or two people from your organization to the place where the course is to be taught. Most of the centers will not charge a registration fee for an international participant. In fact, it is frequently the case that technical visits can be added to the trip agenda.

One other way to use PIH experts is to have them train others how to teach the material. For example, the center in Rosario, Argentina is conducting a course on drainage structures. PIH sent an expert from FHWA to share computer applications related to this subject. He shared his knowledge with the students, and he also taught professors at the university how to use the programs and how to teach the material. In this way, PIH enhances its ability to transfer technological information more efficiently.

In 1993, PIH plans to conduct more than 40 training sessions.

A popular program is the "Loaned Staff Program." In this program, young engineers, and some not so young, are sent for assignments of 1 to 12 months at other centers. The host center is responsible for living expenses, and the releasing center is responsible for salary. Presently, an engineer from Brazil is learning highway safety with FHWA, and an engineer from Uruguay is working with one of the U.S. technology transfer centers. An engineer from Costa Rica worked with PIH headquarters learning how to organize and conduct training activities in an international arena, and an engineer from Colombia is learning highway information systems management. Exchanges of this nature bring us closer together and help us to solve mutual problems in new and different ways.

One of the technology transfer centers in Chile has agreed to operate a video lending library for all of PIH. This center will publish a list of available video tapes dealing with all aspects of highway maintenance. PIH members will only have to write, requesting a copy of the video in which they are interested. This method of sharing technology is a very productive and low-cost approach to solving our maintenance problems because the videos can be shown to many audiences in many locations. The equipment for editing and duplicating video tapes was provided by the International Road Federation. Presently, FHWA has a contract with the University of Texas to translate into Spanish a number of the most popular maintenance videotapes used in the United States.

PIH has its own newsletter. This newsletter includes a calendar of events of interest to PIH members. The mailing list includes over 1,000 engineers and technicians.

Many of the PIH centers are involved in research activities, and PIH is conducting a survey to determine which research should be done and what is needed to enhance the research already underway. A report on this activity will be prepared in March.

What is needed in our countries today? PIH is attempting to devote 40 to 60 percent of its efforts to enhance maintenance of existing infrastructure. Traditional maintenance technologies can be taught to engineers and technicians through short courses, seminars, video courses, and on-the-job training. This type of training is never finished because new methods are developed and new staff are employed.

Mid-level managers need to be trained in the management technologies, and these technologies need to be implemented as soon as possible because these, in the long run, will save money. Among these are maintenance management, equipment management, bridge management, and highway information management technologies. PIH will try to devote from 20 to 40 percent of its training funds to this endeavor.

Whatever is left, perhaps 15 to 25 percent of the efforts, should be directed towards new technologies including personnel management, marketing environmental and safety considerations, and new constructions techniques.

Technology transfer is in itself a technology. It is not an easy task to organize, conduct, evaluate, and manage a series of technology transfer activities. Look at the more successful organizations of the world, and find out how much money they spend on training and preparing their employees. Should highway organizations be any different?

"Absurd" has been defined as "to continue acting in the same way, over and over again, expecting different results." PIH is an agent of change. Therefore, training opportunities must be provided for maintenance forces, making it possible for the young managers of our organizations to learn new management technologies. Top-level managers must be shown what can be done differently and how that will provide different results.

One problem for engineers is that they are trained to solve problems, and often they try to solve problems that have already been solved. For example, six countries were researching the World Bank HDMIII model. They were not aware that each of the other countries was doing the same research to adjust values to country-specific conditions. They are now sharing their results. Similar things happen in pavement design and structure design. We need to share what we are doing and to stop reinventing the wheel!

To do this, we must encourage contacts with other agencies and other countries. We must entwine our institutions. Initially, this will cost money, but in the long run it will be cost-efficient.

PIH is not a large building or infrastructure. PIH belongs to the members. Although PIH is headquartered at the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center, the headquarters' records and equipment belong to PIH and can be moved to a different headquarters in any of the countries at any time. PIH is an agent of change dedicated to working together to manage the transfer of technology.

Individual membership is $ 10 per year, and institutional membership is $ 100 per year. Sponsoring members can contribute as much as they want. For a brochure on PIH and how to become a member, contract Enrique Ordonez, HIHI-20, 6300 Georgetown Pike, McLean, Virginia 22101-2296.

What does PIH offer to the highway community of the Americas? PIH offers excellence. PIH courses are offered with a money back guarantee of satisfaction. PIH offers the opportunity to interact with colleagues from all over the Americas, solving problems together, learning from each other, and helping each other. PIH provides its members direct access to the highway community of the world through its contacts with the International Road Federation, the Permanent International Association of Road Congresses, the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development, and others. Working together we can save resources and enhance our work and success.

Gregory (Greg) C. Speier, P.E., has been the executive director of the Pan American Institute of Highway for 4 years. He is a career highway engineer with the Federal highway Administration. For 5 years, he worked in FHWA's Office of International Programs, during which time the plan for establishing and implementing PIH was developed in cooperation with the Latin American countries. Hw served overseas as an engineer in Puerto Rico and Vietnam. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez, and he is registered as a professional engineer in Kentucky.
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Author:Speier, Gregory C.
Publication:Public Roads
Date:Mar 1, 1993
Words:2114
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