The idea of organizing the exchange of experience platform between road managers, confronted with the need to select specific methods, techniques and tools for road diagnostics and maintenance planning was first implemented by HELLER Ingenieurgesellschaft in Darmstadt in 2007. The authors of this idea noticed that many administrators have a great distance to the information delivered at most conferences and seminars. This is because the success stories of the techniques and innovative methods dominate there can only be verified and evaluate to see if they have met expectation in the future.
Meanwhile, it is of particular value to road infrastructure managers to be able to exchange their own experience in relation to specific, practical solutions with their colleagues, confronted with similar challenges. The exchange of such experiences, not only the good ones, but especially the bad ones, cannot be overestimated. However, conferences and seminars are rarely the right place for such a sincere exchange of experience, including informing the auditorium about decisions that have not always produced the expected results.
For such an honest, trusted exchange to happen, it is important that most participants know each other personally and are confronted with similar challenges. The role of the organizer is therefore to select participants and specific topics wisely. During the meeting itself, this role is limited to logistical issues and to moderating the discussion. What is necessary is a high level of substantive knowledge of the organizer of such an event for the exchange of experience in the discussed subject and a high level of trust in it on the part of all participants of the meeting.
When HELLER Ingenieurgesellschaft organized the first exchange of experiences on the roads of the German Lands in autumn 2007, none of their representatives present there had any idea that they would participate in a historic event. It initiated an unprecedented series of meetings, which continue every year until today. And although this first, very small meeting of a dozen administrators turned into an international conference, it remained faithful to the fundamental objective of creating a forum for the exchange of experience between road infrastructure managers on road diagnostics and maintenance.
It is noteworthy that from the very beginning Polish road managers took part in the forum. The director of Voivodeship Roads Authority in Katowice Zbigniew Tabor, participated in almost all meetings, but also managers of other voivodeships, employees of General Directorate for National Roads and Motorways as well as Polish universities and scientific institutes took an active part in them. Their presentations and participation in discussions increased the attractiveness of this forum.
When during the 9th Forum, in September 2016, Polish participants complained about the lack of comparable initiative in Poland, the organizers decided to take up the challenge and try to fill this gap.
The issue of modern road diagnostics is of fundamental importance for efficient planning of maintenance, but despite this, Poland lacks consistent standards of road diagnostics. Therefore, it was decided that this subject will be the leading theme of the first Polish forum for the exchange of experiences.
INFRAMA had no doubt that this first Polish Forum must be even smaller than its German “prototype” and will be limited to representatives of only a few voivodeships. Such a “Small Forum” seemed to be the most appropriate form for the purpose of initiating works on the adaptation of DSN (Condition Surface and Evaluation) guidelines for voivodeship roads.
The first “Small Forum” took place on 22 November 2016 and was attended by directors of the Roads Management Authorities from the Silesian, Warmian-Masurian, Lesser Poland, Pomeranian, West Pomeranian and Podlaskie Voivodships. The main goal, which was to evaluate current experiences, analyze the needs and establish an operation plan for the development of diagnostic guidelines for voivodeship roads, has been achieved, and thus the “Small Forum” should be considered a success. Although the way to the final compilation and approval of the guidelines took almost 2 years, this time was filled, among other things, by 6 successive meetings between representatives of the employees of the Voivodeship Roads Authorities involved in the process of compiling the guidelines, which were in themselves a continuation and fulfillment of the idea of the “Small Forum”.
However, the final presentation of the results of the works, i.e. Guidelines for Voivodeship Roads Condition Surface and Evaluation (WDSN), on April 2-3, 2019 in Zegrze near Warsaw, which gathered representatives of almost all voivodeship as well as the Ministry of Infrastructure, due to a much larger scale and number of participants, can no longer be called the next edition of the “Small Forum”.