MDOT Tries to Catch Funding

March 27, 2007

The Mississippi DOT knows it pays to be nice to politicians—and alligators.

Still trying to recover from the wrath of Hurricane Katrina, the agency has been waiting patiently for emergency relief money to trickle in from Washington, D.C.

“The people of the United States of America are too generous to let [a lack of funding] happen,” Wayne Brown, Southern District commissioner for MDOT, told Roads & Bridges. “Over and over and over again, they have helped folks who are in trouble.”

The Mississippi DOT knows it pays to be nice to politicians—and alligators.

Still trying to recover from the wrath of Hurricane Katrina, the agency has been waiting patiently for emergency relief money to trickle in from Washington, D.C.

“The people of the United States of America are too generous to let [a lack of funding] happen,” Wayne Brown, Southern District commissioner for MDOT, told Roads & Bridges. “Over and over and over again, they have helped folks who are in trouble.”

As 2005 came to a close, MDOT was experiencing some financial distress. In order to make immediate repairs to damaged roads and bridges caused by one of the worst natural events in U.S. history, it pulled $138 million out of its own pocket while those on Capitol Hill debated the multibillion-dollar Gulf Coast Recovery Act. MDOT, however, issued a statewide halt to all highway and bridge construction projects in December because its financial coffers simply ran dry.

“What we have done is spend out of our current cash flow and it has put us in the middle of quite a fix,” said Brown. “The funds that we used were dedicated funds that we planned to spend on ongoing projects.”

Brown said MDOT did receive $25 million in federal relief, but officials were hoping for an additional $740 million. The money would go toward the reconstruction of the bridges on U.S. 90 ($400 million), the repair of U.S. 90 ($100 million), debris removal ($135 million), repairs on I-10 and I-110, aid for the transit authority ($44 million) and the replacement of traffic signals, signs, guard rail and other items. At press time, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved $66 billion in hurricane relief. It was up to the Senate to follow suit.

Debris removal has been the most intensive of cleanup efforts for MDOT. Brown said the drain culverts on U.S. 90 were filled with sand, debris and “11 alligators.”

“Most of them were alive. [Debris removal] has been one of the most expensive things,” Brown said.

MDOT decided to do a temporary fix on U.S. 90. Crews removed broken slabs, cleared the drainage culverts and filled washed-out areas. U.S. 90 will be rebuilt to its original condition before the storm, but construction probably will not start until 2007.

Adding to the cleanup strain is the fact that many landowners, following orders from FEMA, have piled hurricane rubble on the rights-of-way. MDOT was waiting for FEMA to execute the removal process.

Depending on the status of the Gulf Coast Recovery Act, Brown was hoping contracts covering the remaining reconstruction would be awarded by Jan. 9. However, if Congress failed to act in a timely matter MDOT would have 60 days to decide exactly what it wanted to do.

“We have until March to make final decisions, and if Congress doesn’t give us the money, then we have a difficult decision to make,” said Brown.

All the contracts will be design-build, a first for MDOT, and there will be incentives for finishing early. If everything goes according to plan, all repairs will be complete in late 2007.

Nebraska gets ambitious

The Nebraska Department of Roads (NDR) is about to embark on one of its longest and largest highway construction projects ever, the McCook Daily Gazette reported. The four-part project involves rebuilding 47 miles of U.S. 6-34 from Cambridge to Holdrege at a cost of $18.3 million. Crews are planning to start work next month and finish in November.

In order to get a better price on asphalt, the NDR combined projects originally planned to be performed over a four-year period. Contracts for the four phases were awarded to Werner Construction of Hastings.

Work is scheduled to begin in mid-February by replacing the Deer Creek bridge on the east side of Holbrook.

Acid rock lingers, blocking roadbuilding in Pennsylvania

Acid rock will probably delay the opening of I-99 over Skytop Mountain in Pennsylvania until the end of 2007, the Centre Daily Times of State College, Pa., reported. Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) officials have been working since 2003 to develop a plan for permanent cleanup of a million cu yd of pyrite-laden sandstone uncovered in Centre County, Pa., during excavation for a new section of the interstate.

When pyrite is exposed to air and water, it produces acidic drainage. PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection decided to halt earthwork on that segment to prevent the acidic drainage from running into two nearby high-quality trout streams.

A few months ago, PennDOT officials were optimistic that the cleanup could be completed by the end of 2007. At a conference in early December, though, Allen Biehler, secretary of PennDOT, told the Centre Daily Times he thought that schedule was “probably long gone.”

Private Dulles proposals advance

Four out of five conceptual proposals for private operation of the Dulles Toll Road have been advanced by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). The agency conducted a quality control review of the proposals and advanced four of them to an independent review panel for review under the Public-Private Transportation Act.

Acting VDOT Commissioner Gregory A. Whirley said the review process was on schedule.

The four proposals advanced were the Dulles Corridor Mobility Initiative, by Macquarie Infrastructure, Autostrade, John Laing and IIG; the Cintra Dulles Proposal, by Cintra USA Corp.; the Dulles Express, by Franklin L. Haney Co.; and the Dulles SmartLink, by Transurban and Goldman Sachs.

Buffalo Skyway targeted

The state of New York has hired an engineering consultant to study alternatives to Buffalo’s 150-ft-high Skyway, the Buffalo News reported. The consultant will assess the Skyway’s effect on the local economy, among other topics. Some of Buffalo’s residents and elected officials are in favor of demolishing the elevated roadway, saying it has hindered waterfront development.

Jeffrey M. Conrad, who represents South Buffalo on the city’s Common Council, in September won support for his resolution for an environmental review of the Skyway as a way to set the stage for tearing it down.

“We’re absolutely convinced that any study will show that the Skyway hinders waterfront development,” Conrad told the Buffalo News.

The study is expected to begin in spring and take about a year.

ARTBA honored for advancing work-zone safety awareness

The American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) has been named to the 2006 “Associations Advance America (AAA) Honor Roll,” a national awards competition sponsored by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE).

ARTBA was recognized for its “Customized Roadway Worker Safety Training Program.” The association, through an Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) grant and in partnership with CNA, examined insurance data and then developed safety training for states with high accident and injury rates aimed at educating workers about the hazards they face in roadway construction zones.

Nearly 1,000 workers have been trained since the program was launched in 2004. The program has received another OSHA grant for continued training in 2006.

In-depth asphalt treatment

In celebration of this year’s 50th anniversary of the interstate system, the National Asphalt Pavement Association is publishing a 302-page hardbound book about the history of hot-mix asphalt titled Paving the Way: Asphalt in America.

The book starts where hard-surfaced roads started—with the Romans. After visiting Rome, the narrative moves to 18th century Britain and France, where McAdam and Tresaguet left their marks on the art and science of roadbuilding. The reader learns how early experiments in building roads from iron, granite, bricks, cobblestones and wood pointed up the excellence of asphalt as a surfacing material.

The book brings to life figures from asphalt history, such as the Asphalt Tycoon, the Warren family and Sheldon G. Hayes, and celebrates the heroic deeds of the Navy Seabees, who paved the way to victory in the Pacific in World War II.

The book is now available from NAPA; phone: 888/486-6499; fax:

301/731-4621; web:

Medals for wooden bridges

Fourteen U.S. timber bridges were recently recognized in the 2004-05 Timber Bridge Awards, sponsored by the American Institute of Timber Construction, APA—the Engineered Wood Association and the USDA National Forest Service Wood in Transportation Program.

For over a decade, the U.S. wood products industry has sponsored four major programs to recognize superior design and construction of timber bridges. Entries are submitted by creative designers, engineers and contractors, and the program highlights the elegance, strength, economy and historical role of the timber bridge.

This year, five timber bridges were awarded first-place recognition in their respective categories, while nine others were given awards of merit.

First place winners included:

Long-span timber bridges (under 40 ft): Burr Oaks Road Bridge, Linn County, Iowa—In continuing a 70-year-old tradition, the county replaced and updated timber bridges first built in the 1930s. The Burr Oaks Road Bridge is a three-span, nailed-laminated timber deck slab on timber piers and abutments.

Long-span timber bridges (over 40 ft): Alton Sylor Bridge, Angelica, N.Y.—This timber-arch bridge spans a 350-ft gorge, making this bridge the longest clear-span timber-arch bridge in the U.S. The structure has a glued-laminated (glulam) timber deck and three glulam timber arches. Total length is 274 ft, with a 32-ft-wide roadway.

Pedestrian/light vehicular bridges: Centennial Garden, Longview, Wash.—This elegant pedestrian bridge spans 100 ft from a small island in Lake Sacajawea to the shore in downtown Longview. Two glulam girders provide the main structure, each measuring 51?8 x 251?2 in. x 100 ft.

Covered bridges: Brighton Bridge, Brighton, Vt.—This covered bridge has provided walkways over two active railroad tracks in Brighton since the late 1880s. A new covered bridge completed in 2003 is a Howe Truss design with a 230-ft main span.

Rehabilitated bridges: Fisher School Bridge, Lincoln County, Ore.—This historic covered bridge was relocated 60 ft downstream, restored and opened to vehicular traffic. Renovation included installation of new Howe Truss chords and new glulam floor beams, roofs and siding.

Awards of merit were given to:

Big Canoe Bridge, Big Canoe, Ga.; Aitken Drive Bridge, Cumberland County, N.Y.; Hopland Casino Bridge, Hopland, Calif.; Pochunk Quagmire Suspension Bridge, Vernon Valley, N.J.; Potwisha Footbridge, Sequoia National Park, Calif.; Old Mill Covered Pedestrian Bridge, Roswell, Ga.; Littleton Riverwalk Pedestrian Bridge, Littleton, N.H.; Henninger Farm Bridge, Dauphin County, Pa.; and Milbridge Pier, Milbridge, Maine.


Organizers of the 7th edition of INTERMAT, the international meeting place for the world’s construction industries, announced that 95% of 3.7 million net sq ft of exhibit space has already been reserved in this much-anticipated trade event taking place in Europe, the world’s second largest construction market.

Rotating every three years with BAUMA in Germany and ConExpo-Con/Agg in Las Vegas, INTERMAT is one of the three leading exhibitions of equipment and services for the civil engineering, construction and building materials industries. Building on the exceptional success of the show’s last edition, 200,000 visitors (42% international) from 160 countries and 1,500 exhibitors (75% international) from 40 countries are expected to gather in Paris next April 24-29, 2006.

With the spotlight on health, safety and prevention, INTERMAT 2006 will hold conferences and special activities to emphasize eight main sectors: earthmoving, building, mining and quarrying, lifting and handling, roads, drilling and boring, materials and components and attachments.

Concrete bridge awards

The Portland Cement Association has begun taking nominations for the 2006 Concrete Bridge Awards Competition. This biennial program was instituted in 1988 to recognize excellence in design and construction of concrete bridges. This year’s competition is co-sponsored by Roads & Bridges magazine.

All types of bridges are eligible, but the bridge must have been completed between June 2004 and March 2006. Awards will be presented at the American Concrete Institute Fall Convention in Denver, Nov. 5-9, 2006.

One or more entries may be submitted by any organization. Entry forms are available from the PCA, 847/966-6200,

Proud of transportation

The ARTBA Transportation Development Foundation (ARTBA-TDF) is now accepting applications for the 2006 “PRIDE Awards” program, which annually recognizes extraordinary efforts of individuals, companies, public agencies and industry-related associations that serve to enhance the image of the U.S. transportation construction industry.

Awards are presented in two categories:

Community relations: Programs and activities that demonstrate positive civic involvement with the community in which a firm or agency is located.

Public or media relations or education: Programs and activities that educate the public and opinion leaders about the significant contributions the transportation construction industry (or a specific sector of it) makes to the economy or quality of life.

Award entry forms are available online at Deadline for submission is March 17, 2006.


An astute reader noticed that, in the October 2005 Spanning the News, we incorrectly identified FIGG as the designer of the Cochrane Bridge. The prime consultant was Barrett, Daffin and Carlan with Iberinsa of Spain as the real designer of the cable-stayed bridge.

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