Fast work: Momentum for change

Accelerated construction initiative moving smoothly following positive workshops

Article December 30, 2003
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Faster, safer, better. Achieving highway construction
projects that meet these vital goals is the driving force behind the
Accelerated Construction Technology Transfer (ACTT) initiative. Sponsored by
the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials
(AASHTO) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), ACTT promotes the use
of innovative technologies and techniques to accelerate major highway projects.
Started last year, the initiative is now steadily gaining momentum as highway
agencies struggle to support highway construction programs commensurate with
the ever-increasing traffic demands.

The ACTT strategy was seen in action in September at a
workshop hosted by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) in Mesquite,
Texas. The workshop looked at how to accelerate Project Pegasus, an initiative
aimed at redesigning and improving the two major interstate freeways that serve
downtown Dallas, IH 30 and IH 35E. The event brought together local and
national transportation experts from state highway agencies, industry, academia
and FHWA. These experts' skill areas included design, construction, innovative
financing, right-of-way, utilities, innovative contracting, the environment,
work-zone traffic control and worker safety.

Redesigning and rebuilding portions of the IH 30 and IH 35E
freeways is critical, as traffic on these roads is typically bumper-to-bumper
for more than six hours a day, with traffic speed averaging only 20 mph. The
traffic problems are made worse by the outdated layout of the freeways: in many
locations, ramps lack adequate acceleration or deceleration lengths,
interchanges and ramps are too close together and bridges have limited vertical
and horizontal clearances, among other problems.

The reconstruction project will add capacity and upgrade the
roads to meet today's design standards for freeways. The goal of the
accelerated construction plan is to complete the $760 million project in four
years, shaving three years off of the original estimate. Challenges faced in
accelerating the project include having to weave construction around railroad
tracks, major employment sites, four city parks and the Dealey Plaza historic
district.

Workshop recommendations for accelerating the project
included using design-build contracting, coordinating with utility companies
early in the project planning process and using long-life pavements with a
50-year design life. Also recommended was improving general materials
specifications to only allow use of premium materials and setting up a
dedicated incident management system at the project site. Additional
suggestions for managing traffic flow during construction included building the
planned Trinity Parkway west of I-35E in Dallas prior to starting on the
Project Pegasus work so traffic can be detoured onto the parkway. This will
allow TxDOT to use such traffic strategies as total or partial road closures,
weekend closures or restriction of the road to high-occupancy vehicle use only.

The ACTT approach was first used at two pilot workshops held
last year in Indianapolis and Pittsburgh.

The Pennsylvania workshop examined options for accelerating
the rehabilitation of a 1.8-mile segment of Pennsylvania Rte. 28 in Pittsburgh,
while the session in Indiana focused on a needed improvement to I-465 on the
west side of Indianapolis.

"The workshop allowed the open discussion of numerous
innovative right-of-way, utility relocation, structural design, pavement design
and construction options," said Indiana Department of Transportation Chief
Engineer Richard K. Smutzer. "The workshop was definitely a success and
very informative for all of the participants."

Support for the ACTT initiative continues to grow, as
customers demand a response to their travel needs. Workshop locations being
considered for 2004 include Louisiana, Montana, Oklahoma and Washington State.

To learn more about Project Pegasus, visit the project
website at www.projectpegasus.org.

For more information on ACTT or to learn more about hosting
a workshop, contact your local FHWA division office or call 202/493-0551;
e-mail: [email protected].

About the author: 
Sanayi is a construction and system preservation engineer in the Federal Highway Administration's Office of Asset Management. For more information on the FHWA go to www.fhwa.dot.gov. The site features information on agency programs, legislation and regula
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