Fast work: Momentum for change

Dec. 30, 2003

Faster, safer, better. Achieving highway construction projects that meet these vital goals is the driving force behind the Accelerated Construction Technology Transfer (ACTT) initiative.

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 The traffic problems are made worse by the outdated layout of the freeways: in many locations, ramps lack adequate acceleration or deceleration lengths, interchanges and ramps are too close together and bridges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