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Build a Better Mousetrap 2024

Posted: 4/22/2024

California’s Local Technical Assistance Program (CALTAP)—in partnership with the Caltrans Division of Research, Innovation & System Information (DRISI)—is excited to launch another year of FHWA’s Build a Better Mousetrap (BABM) statewide competition.

Designed to celebrate local ingenuity on a national platform, BABM is a federally sponsored initiative that recognizes agencies from across the country who are using innovation to solve transportation-related problems that improve job safety and efficiency.

To showcase this kind of workplace innovation in California, CALTAP/Caltrans are encouraging our state and local agency partners to submit an online application describing how your team has produced an innovative solution to an everyday challenge faced by similar local, rural, or tribal transportation professionals.

Eligible solutions must be locally relevant and could include anything from the development of a new project design/delivery process to the invention of a new tool, equipment, or modification that increases efficiency, enhances safety, reduces cost, and/or improves the quality of local road transportation. Any out-of-the-box approach that simplifies or makes safer a routine agency process or practice is a good candidate. 
BABM recognizes innovation across four application categories:

  1. Innovative Project – Any solution that addresses any or all phases of a project life cycle, including Planning, Engineering, Construction, Operations and Maintenance. Your project should introduce new ideas, be locally relevant, original, and creative in thinking.

  2. Bold Steps – Any locally relevant high-risk project or process that presents a break-through solution and demonstrates high-reward.

  3. Smart Transformation – A locally relevant significant change in any transportation activity or process that is “SMART” (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound) in nature that results in improved efficiencies.

  4. Pioneer – A locally relevant product/tool that is among the first to solve a maintenance problem with a home-grown solution.


California’s statewide competition runs from March 1st through May 15th, 2024, with one winner from each of the four categories above selected to represent the state in FHWA’s national BABM contest. Our local winners also receive some free LTAP-sponsored training, a permanent spotlight on our CALTAP website, and an opportunity to present before a live global audience during Caltrans upcomming Innovation Expo 2024.




When applying, be prepared to provide:

  • Your Contact information.
  • A brief description of the problem you set out to solve, how you went about solving it, and how your solution provided long-term benefits to your department, agency, and/or the community.
  • A couple photos that illustrates your innovation and if possible, a short (3-4 minute) video presentation.

From the Build a Better Mousetrap 2024 website, click the  Submit an Innovation  button then register or login aa requested to gain access to the application form. Here you'll be met with a handful of prompts to capture your contact information, the details of your innovation, and any picture, video, or other relevant documentation uploads.

When your application is ready, click the  Submit Improvement  button, to alert staff that a new submission is available for review. You'll receive a confirmation email once the application has been accepted. You can return to this portal at any time to edit any part of your submission.


The California submission deadline for BABM is May 15th, 2024. Winning applications will be announced June 4th, 2024. By applying, the applicant consents to the use of any/all application materials/content for promotional use and awardee acknowledgment. 

Direct any and all questions regarding the Build a Better Mousetrap 2024 competition to:
Scott Jakovich, CALTAP Center Manager

For issues accessing the online application platform, please contact:
Casey McKenzie, Innovation Station Program Manager

The FHWA BABM Initiative

The Build a Better Mousetrap (BABM) national recognition program highlights locally relevant, innovative solutions and provides a platform to share innovations to everyday challenges that local and tribal transportation professionals encounter on local roads.

These local road solutions range from the development of new project delivery or design processes to the invention of new tools, equipment, or modifications that increase efficiency, enhance safety, reduce cost, and/or improve the quality of transportation on local roads. 

BABM 2024: How to Apply

1. Go to Build a Better Mousetrap 2024

2. Click the  Submit an Innovation  button

3. Register or login as requested

4. Complete each form prompt in detail

5. Upload a thumbnail, pictures, video, and any other relevant documents

6. Click the  Submit Improvement  button

7. Await confirmation email

8. Return any time to amend your application as needed

2023 BABM Winners

FHWA's national Build a Better Mousetrap program recognizes innovation across four competitive categories. Last year's winners stacked-up as follows:

Pioneer Award: City of Walnut Creek for their Safe Sightings of Signs & Signals

Innovative Project Award: Confederated Tribes & Bands of the Yakama Nation for their Mobile Unit Sensing Traffic Devices

SMART Transformation Award: St Louis County Public Works Dept for their Solar-Powered Remote Cameras

Bold Steps Award: New Jersey DOT for their Route 71 Over Shark River Road Diet

Need More Help?

California LTAP Center

Phone: (562) 985-2872