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Highway Quality Compendium

Highways for LIFE: Changing the Way Today's Infrastructure Is Built

At a 2004 media event held at the construction site of the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge outside Washington, DC, U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta highlighted Highways for LIFE's goals of achieving the long lasting, innovative, and fast construction of efficient and safe highway infrastructure.

Figure 2. Photo. Woodrow Wilson Bridge media event. Media surround U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta at a 2004 media event held at the construction site of the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge outside of Washington, D.C.

It's a new way of doing business. Just as the construction of the Interstate Highway System transformed the way America traveled over the past 50 years, the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) new Highways for LIFE program aims to bring a higher level of innovation and technology to improving the Nation's roadways.

At a time when congestion is on the rise, highways and structures are aging and requiring increased rehabilitation and reconstruction, and road work can bring months or years of delays, Highways for LIFE is about achieving the Long lasting, Innovative, and Fast construction of Efficient and safe highway infrastructure. Its goals are to:

  • Improve safety
  • Reduce congestion due to construction
  • Improve quality.

"We want to get things done better, faster, safer, and cheaper," says Kathleen Bergeron of FHWA's Highways for LIFE team. "The key to that is creating a culture within the highway community that invites innovation and rapidly adopts new practices, as well as effective technology transfer and improved ways for getting new technology to State highway agencies and practitioners faster."

The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) provides $75 million in funding for Highways for LIFE-$15 million for fiscal year (FY) 2006 and $20 million per year for FY 2007-2009. The program includes demonstration construction projects, stakeholder input and involvement, technology transfer, technology partnerships, information dissemination, and monitoring and evaluation.

A transportation department can apply for Highways for LIFE funding for a highway project if the project constructs, reconstructs, or rehabilitates a route or connection on an eligible Federal-aid highway and uses innovative technologies, manufacturing processes, financing, or contracting methods that meet performance goals for safety, congestion, and quality. The amount allocated for a Highways for LIFE project may be up to 20 percent, but not more than $5 million, of the total project cost. The Federal share for projects approved under this program may be up to 100 percent.

The program's technology partnerships will provide incentive funding for the adaptation of proven innovations from outside the U.S. highway community, so that the innovations are ready for use. Technology transfer initiatives will market innovations to highway practitioners and managers, introduce and deliver ready to use innovations to the highway community, and provide training and technical assistance. Information dissemination efforts will provide information to States, industry, the public, and FHWA about Highways for LIFE, project success stories, and innovations. Stakeholder input and involvement strategies will also inform States, industry, and highway users about Highways for LIFE and offer mechanisms to solicit feedback on the implementation of the program. Through monitoring and evaluation, Highways for LIFE will gather information on all of the program elements to improve the performance of the elements, document the benefits, and explain the expenditures.

The innovative technologies that the Highways for LIFE program is promoting include prefabricated bridge elements and systems, road safety audits, and tools and techniques for "Making Work Zones Work Better." Prefabricated bridge elements and systems, ranging from substructures to entire bridges, can be manufactured offsite, under controlled conditions, and brought to the job site ready to install (see December 2004 Focus). Using these prefabricated systems reduces the traffic congestion and environmental impacts of bridge construction projects and improves work zone safety for both workers and drivers. Other advantages can include improved constructibility, increased quality, and lower costs. More information on best practices for prefabricated bridge elements and systems and details on how these systems are being used around the country are available online at www.fhwa.dot.gov/bridge/prefab.

A road safety audit (RSA) is a formal safety performance examination of an existing or planned road or intersection by an independent audit team. The RSA team assesses the crash potential and safety performance of the roadway or intersection and then prepares a report identifying potential safety issues. Project managers can then evaluate the project plans and determine appropriate changes that need to be made. Additional information on RSA is available at safety.fhwa.dot.gov/state_program/rsa.

FHWA's "Making Work Zones Work Better" outreach campaign is designed to provide transportation practitioners with tools, best practices, and innovative technologies to reduce congestion and accidents in work zones. These tools and technologies include the Work Zones Best Practices Guidebook, fact sheets and case studies on State activities to improve mobility and safety in work zones, and the QuickZone 2.0 software, which is being used by highway agencies and contractors as a work zone delay impact analysis tool (see April 2005 Focus). For more information on "Making Work Zones Work Better" and the many resources available, visit ops.fhwa.dot.gov/wz.

The Highways for LIFE Web site (www.fhwa.dot.gov/hfl) features a toolbox of information on innovative technologies, success stories, information contacts, and other resources. A Highways for LIFE workshop on Innovation and a technical session on Performance Goals will also be held at the January 2006 Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting in Washington, DC. For more information on Highways for LIFE, contact Byron Lord at FHWA, 202-366-1325 (fax: 202-366-3943; email: byron.lord@fhwa.dot.gov). Focus will also continue to provide updates as Highways for LIFE implementation activities and workshops are developed.

Reprinted from Focus, September 2005.

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Updated: 11/26/2013
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