Raising the bar

Maryland State Highway Administration leads “Making a Difference” winners

Raising the bar for roadway performance, safety and environmental stewardship are this year’s winners of the National Partnership for Highway Quality’s (NPHQ) “Making a Difference” awards. From partnering efforts that have saved both time and money to technology innovations that have increased worker and motorist safety, the award-winning projects continue to reap benefits and make a difference every day to highway users across the country.
In the category of “Risk Taking,” the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) was honored with a gold award for its Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project Contracting Team. When the team bid the largest construction project in SHA history, the completion of twin six-lane drawbridges that will carry I-95 over the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia, only one bid was received. This bid exceeded the project estimate by $365 million. SHA’s solution was to modify the design for the project, making it more contractor-friendly, and rebid it as three separate segments. Sixteen bids were received for the three contracts, with the winning bids combining to keep the project within the original budget.
Maryland’s work with numerous stakeholders on a $25 million project also earned it a gold award for “Partnering.” The project includes constructing a new interchange along I-270, a major commuter route that carries more than 200,000 vehicles a day in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. Partnering with stakeholders that included Facchina Construction Co., 10 subcontractors and 14 utility companies, the SHA cut nine months off of the planned three-year project.
Also earning a gold award for “Risk Taking” was the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). It all began with a mouse: CDOT had discovered that the rare, protected Preble’s meadow jumping mouse lived within its right-of-way property along East Plum Creek in the Town of Castle Rock. The creek is close to I-25, flowing under the highway in the middle of town. As CDOT looked ahead toward future construction projects on I-25, it teamed up with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Colorado Division of Wildlife to restore disturbed areas of the mouse habitat with a series of dams and to create a conservation bank along East Plum Creek, where the endangered mouse could reside. Monitoring data now shows increased distribution of the mouse in the bank area.
The Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT) ingenuity earned it a gold award in the “Breaking the Mold” category. TxDOT’s Amarillo District developed and built innovative devices that increase the safety of applying hot-mix asphalt (HMA) to the roadway. Its new motor grader lay-down blade and skid box allow HMA to be laid to the desired width and depth with one pass of the grader, after which it is immediately ready for compaction. The devices conserve time and labor, increase safety for workers and saved the Amarillo District more than $600,000 in fiscal year 2003.
Also making a difference is the Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT) work to improve the quality of highway construction, which won VDOT the Gold Award for a State Quality Initiative. Offering outreach, training, mentoring and auditing services, the Quality Assurance (QA) team of VDOT’s Northern Virginia District was the first of its kind in the state. The team’s Construction Quality Improvement Program (CQIP) scores the quality of construction projects on a scale of 1 to 100 using checklists derived from VDOT’s road and bridge specifications. In 2002-2003, the district’s CQIP score rose from 87.1% to 92.1%. Team members also provide onsite training and mentoring, as well as information on best practices and lessons learned. Aspects of the QA program are now being implemented statewide.
NPHQ brings together state, federal and highway industry leaders to encourage the use of quality practices that will improve safety and service for highway users. NPHQ’s members include the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials, American Highway Users Alliance, American Traffic Safety Services Association, Associated General Contractors of America, FHWA, Foundation for Pavement Preservation, National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, and the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies.

Templeton is executive director of the National Partnership for Highway Control.

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