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Improving Connectivity: The Custer Interchange Project

Workshop Details

Why ACTT, Executive Summary, and Workshop Details


  • ACTT provides a fresh outlook by bringing national experts to your planning table.
  • ACTT introduces innovations that have been tested elsewhere.
  • ACTT saves time: according to FHWA's ACTT II report, published in March 2005, "most agencies have found ways to slice construction time by 30 percent or more."
  • ACTT saves money: ACTT suggestions enabled New Jersey to reduce its budget for the Route 46 bridge project from $10 million to $7.2 million.
  • ACTT works for you and your customer!

How do I ACTT?

  • Select a corridor: ACTT is most helpful when applied during the project development phase.
  • Make a workshop proposal to ACTT team members, and submit a copy of your proposal to the FHWA Division Office. Include details on the project corridor, timeline and goals.
  • Hold a pre-workshop meeting with the ACTT management team.
  • Select a meeting site, and coordinate workshop details with the FHWA Division Office.
  • Host the workshop.
  • Draft a report for submittal to FHWA.
  • Incorporate ACTT into project operations.

Executive Summary

"It's a journey with no end; Americans crave mobility, and wheels will always need roads."

—George Constable and Bob Somerville
A Century of Innovation:
20 Engineering Achievements That Transformed Our Lives, 2003
Source: "The Quotable Interstate," Federal Highway Administration,
U.S. Department of Transportation http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/interstate/quotable.htm.Accessed May 13, 2008

One of the major challenges many departments of transportation (DOTs) now face is keeping our nation's roadways in top-notch condition, not an easy challenge in light of aging infrastructure, increased congestion and limited transportation dollars.

These are the very issues the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) is dealing with on the Custer Interchange Project in Helena, Montana.

The $40 million project includes the construction of a new interchange, the widening of an existing roadway, the construction of two auxiliary lanes, and the realignment of another existing roadway, as well as a number of other features. Because the 12-mile corridor serves as a key artery to Helena, traffic disruptions must be kept to a minimum. Stakeholder buy-in and communication are essential to the project's success.

With this in mind, MDT approached the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) about hosting their second Accelerated Construction Technology Transfer (ACTT) workshop. MDT hosted an ACTT workshop in January 2004 for the US 93 upgrade project between Evaro and Polson in Western Montana and is one of the leading, progressive agencies in the country that has helped the effort to institutionalize ACTT among other agencies. Thanks to the lessons learned in their previous workshop, MDT has effectively applied ACTT in its design development process whenever possible and has adopted the ACTT mindset and process when planning future projects.

Together, FHWA and MDT identified the following skill sets for the Custer Interchange workshop:

  • Structures.
  • Innovative Financing/Innovative Contracting.
  • Traffic Engineering/Safety/Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS).
  • Construction/Innovative Materials.
  • Public Relations.
  • Roadway/Geometric Design.
  • Utilities/ROW

Each team focused on how the ACTT process applied to its area of expertise. The group as a whole searched for innovative ways to help MDT fund and accelerate construction of the Custer Interchange project.

As the workshop progressed, each team summarized its thoughts and narrowed them to a list of priority recommendations. On the final day, each team presented its suggestions to conference attendees. Now that the workshop is complete, MDT will evaluate the various recommendations and decide which ideas should be implemented as part of the project.

1. Workshop Details

1.1 Opening Session

The Custer Interchange - Helena, Montana ACTT workshop took place January 22-24, 2008, at the Red Lion Colonial Inn located in Helena, Montana.

FHWA Construction & System Preservation Engineer Chris Schneider served as the workshop moderator. MDT Director Jim Lynch and MDT Chief Engineer Loran Frazier welcomed the group. FHWA Division Administrator Kevin McLaury gave a presentation entitled Building on Success. Helena City Manager Tim Burton and Lewis & Clark County Commissioner Chair Ed Tinlsey greeted the attendees. The participants introduced themselves. Following a project overview from Mick Johnson (MDT District Administrator for the Great Falls District), John Pavsek (Morrison-Maierle, Inc.), and Mike Duman (FHWA ADA), the group departed on a tour of the project corridor.

1.2 Workshop Process

The MDT workshop followed the traditional ACTT process. On Wednesday morning, the ACTT management team discussed the brainstorming process with workshop attendees. The skill sets teams then broke apart to discuss the project and brainstorm preliminary ideas, reconvening before lunch to share initial thoughts. After lunch, the skill sets teams continued their work, intermingling with other teams to ask questions and share ideas. The teams spent the remainder of the afternoon preparing final recommendations for presentation to the group on Thursday morning.

1.3 Skill Set Goals

Participants in each skill set established a group of goals that was unique to their subject area:

  • Reduce bridge construction time.
  • Remove bridge from project critical path.
  • Improve quality and durability.
  • Minimize disruption to Custer Avenue.
  • Reduce costs.
Innovative Financing/Innovative Contracting
  • Identify funding sources.
  • Provide cost control/savings.
  • Compress schedule for entire project and construction activities.
  • Minimize user costs and delays.
  • Optimize contract packaging.
Traffic Operations/Safety/Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS)
  • Provide traffic management plan.
  • Establish construction phasing.
  • Manage access.
  • Promote safety.
  • Establish system level planning.
Construction/Innovative Materials
  • Phase construction of project elements.
  • Use alternative materials to reduce costs and time of construction.
  • Recycle/reuse existing surfacing.
  • Consider incentives/disincentives.
Public Relations
  • Ensure two way communications.
  • Build community support.
  • Build community awareness of project challenges.
  • Educate the public on the highway development process.
  • Keep the public informed throughout project construction.
Roadway/Geometric Design
  • Manage phased construction and maintenance of traffic.
  • Address ramp termini/interchange geometry.
  • Establish alternative roadway design criteria.
  • Use advance right-of-way acquisition.
  • Coordinate with utilities throughout project development.
  • Clear project area of utilities prior to letting bid.
  • Clear project corridors of encroachments prior to letting bid.
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Updated: 10/27/2015
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