Breaking the mold

National Partnership for Highway Quality rewards those who step outside the norm

Article April 16, 2003
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From coast to coast, highway agencies are taking new steps
to reinvent the way they design and build roads. Ten organizations were
recognized recently for their innovations and for "Making a
Difference" by the National Partnership for Highway Quality (NPHQ).
Awards were presented in the categories of Risk Taking, Breaking the Mold,
Partnering and State Quality Initiatives.

The award for Risk Taking is presented to groups that take
an unconventional approach to successfully complete projects. This year the gold
award went to the team that rehabilitated a segment of I-64 near Louisville,
Ky., using accelerated construction techniques. The Kentucky Transportation
Cabinet and its contractors shut down the 3.5-mile section of the interstate
entirely, rather than close a few lanes to make the improvements incrementally
as is the norm. This created a safer environment for workers and allowed them
to complete the work seven weeks ahead of schedule.

The silver award was presented to the Texas Department of
Transportation and its Queen Isabella Causeway reconstruction team, which
rebuilt a collapsed bridge near Brownsville a month sooner than anticipated
through the use of incentives and disincentives and a very aggressive schedule.

In the Breaking the Mold category, the Utah Department of
Transportation's  I-15 team
received the gold award for its use of the design-build technique in the
reconstruction of Salt Lake City's main north-south highway corridor.
Performance-based specifications also were used and a large number of
partnerships were established to keep the project on course and on schedule.
Utah saved $32 million and completed the project two years ahead of original
estimates--in time for the Winter Olympics in February 2002.

The silver award was given to the Maryland State Highway
Administration and its Neighborhood Conservation Program, whose "When
Main Street is a State Highway" planning and design approach helped to
preserve the individual character of small communities.

The seven-hour demolition and reconstruction of a dual-span
section of I-40/75 in Knoxville won Tennessee's Forest Heights bridge
team top honors in the Partnering category. The project avoided six weeks of
temporary lane closures, rolling road blocks and short closures of all traffic
lanes. Accomplishing the work in the seven-hour overnight period required a
massive coordination of contractors, the trucking industry, law enforcement,
firefighters and the media.

Maryland, meanwhile, won the silver award for its Maryland
Quality Initiative Partnering Subcommittee, which brings a greater degree of
quality to the state's highways through communication and cooperation
among stakeholders. And the Partnering bronze went to the Oregon DOT for its
redesign of the congested interchange at I-5 and Oregon 217.

Oregon also captured the coveted gold award for State
Quality Initiatives for its constructibility review team. The team has
implemented a collaborative process for bringing contractor input into the
project design stage.

The state's approach to constructing the flyover and
pedestrian structures on its I-5/Highway 217 project--in which
facilitators worked with stakeholders to eliminate risks, prevent millions of
dollars in added costs from accruing and avoid years of construction
delays--was particularly noted by NPHQ.

The silver award went to the Utah Pavement Council, an
assembly of federal, state and local industry heads formed to assess pavement
issues and make recommendations that will improve road quality while lowering

NPHQ was founded in 1992 and known until 2000 as the
National Quality Initiative. The consortium comprises members from the American
Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials, FHWA and 10
industry associations. To be considered for an award, states must nominate
their projects in one of the four categories.

The nominations are reviewed by NPHQ's awards
subcommittee, which makes award recommendations to NPHQ's Steering

For more information on NPHQ or its "Making a
Difference" awards, contact Bob Templeton at NPHQ, 512/301-9899; e-mail:
[email protected]; Internet address:

About the author: 
Sorenson is a senior highway engineer in FHWA's Office of Asset Management. He can be reached at 202/366-1333, fax 202/366-9981, e-mail: [email protected]
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