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Highways for Life

clip art of dump truckNational studies show that many motorists in some of our nation's largest urban areas are spending the equivalent of one whole workweek -- 40 hours -- simply stuck in traffic. This is a significant waste of time and money, costing the average motorist over $1,000 each year. The wasted fuel from millions of idling vehicles also contributes to the pollution of our air. Ironically, building more roads and bridges to reduce such congestion often has the opposite effect -- of making congestion worse while construction is underway.

What if road crews could find ways to accelerate their work, causing fewer motorist delays, while at the same time building new roads and bridges of such superior quality they would last twice as long as today's typical highway project?

This vision is not unattainable — it’s happening right now. When a disaster has required extraordinary effort to get a major transportation facility back in service, the owners and industry have risen to the occasion. For example:

These and other exceptional efforts have demonstrated the tremendous potential of the highway community, and the technology and practices available to us. Accelerated construction techniques can dramatically reduce the time the public has to spend driving through work zones. Use of manufacturing processes or prefabricated components can expedite the on-site phase of construction, improve the quality of the end product, and reduce the exposure of both the construction forces and the traveling public to the hazards of the work zone. Innovative contracting approaches can streamline the front-end efforts and promote quality in highway infrastructure. However, high standards and expectations are needed to drive widespread adoption of these innovations and technologies.

Highways for LIFE[1] is an integrated approach to the highway construction process with three strategic goals

The Highways for LIFE goals will be achieved through:

Funding for Highways for LIFE is included in the Administration's $247 billion reauthorization proposal. A $1 billion dollar investment over the life of the new bill is proposed as part of spending down the balance of the highway trust fund. Highways for LIFE will advance the state-of-the-practice in highway construction by demonstrating and promoting the adoption and use of the best available technologies and contracting practices.

Why should you support Highways for LIFE?

Current highway construction practices and the evolutionary rate at which they change affect our nation in several ways. Between 1997 and 2001, the loss of human life attributable to highway construction work zones increased from 693 to 1,079. In 2001, highway construction work zones resulted in an average of 2.6 hours of delay per driver, with substantial economic and environmental costs. On the 140,000-mile National Highway System, 11,000 miles of pavement are in poor condition and more than 24,000 bridges are classified as “deficient.” These deficiencies are themselves an impediment to safe, efficient and reliable transportation.

Improving the overall condition of our Nation’s highway system using current practices, technologies, and revenue streams is a daunting task. We can afford neither the costs associated with a deficient highway system, nor the costs in congestion and human life associated with perpetuating current practices. If we continue to do what we’ve always done, we’ll only get more of the same, and that is simply not good enough. Clearly, there needs to be a better, safer, smarter approach to building highways.

How will Industry benefit from Highways for Life?

Highways for LIFE will offer….

How will Highways for LIFE operate?

Both the highway users and the highway community will be involved in the determining how the objectives of Highways for LIFE will be achieved. The Highways for LIFE Alliance [NOTE: What’s the latest on the Alliance?] will provide a forum through which the State and local transportation agencies Departments of Transportation (DOTs), private sector consultants, material suppliers, equipment manufacturers, highway users and contractors can provide advice on the structure and conduct of Highways for LIFE, and input on technologies, performance standards, and business practices.

How does Highways for LIFE differ from conventional construction?

Projects using conventional construction methods take years, present safety hazards, delay traffic and do not always produce a long - lasting product. Highways for LIFE construction differs from conventional construction in that it utilizes proven best practices, technologies and innovations to reduce on-site construction time, attain higher quality and improved safety. The Highways for LIFE performance standards will establish elevated goals for safety, construction-related congestion and quality of workmanship. Highways for LIFE will also provide a toolbox of approaches and technologies to assist the highway owners and builders in reaching the performance standards.

Some examples of how Highways for LIFE technologies and innovations are being used…

Mitchell Gulch Bridge, Denver, Colorado
  Conventional Construction Highways for LIFE


Assembled on site




Value engineering

Time of Construction

60 days (estimated)

2 days (actual)


  • Time of construction reduced 97%
  • Initial construction cost savings of a "couple of thousand dollars"


1.7 mile segment of Interstate 10, Pomona, California

  Conventional Construction Highways for LIFE


4-hour strength concrete

4-hour strength concrete


  • Design-bid-build
  • Limited outreach
  • Incentives/disincentives
  • Extensive outreach to inform public of closure

Time of Construction

16 night-time closures of 7-10 hours (estimated)

One 55-hour weekend closure (actual)


  • Time of closure reduced 51% to 66%
  • Duration of construction reduced 81%


Expansion of 120 miles of New Mexico 44 from two to four lanes

  Conventional Construction Highways for LIFE




Time of Construction

27 years (estimated)

3 years (actual)

Cost of Construction

$261 million (estimated)

$252 million (actual)

20- yr. maintenance cost

$151 million (estimated)

$62 million (warranteed)


  • Time of construction reduced 89% (24 years!)
  • Cost savings of $98 million over first 20 years of service


I-95 Bridges over the James River, Richmond, Virginia
(Superstructure replacement and substructure rehabilitation of twin 4,184’ bridges)

  Conventional Construction Highways for LIFE


  • Cast-in-place construction
  • Typical concrete
  • Prefabricated and assembled composite units
  • High-performance concrete



A + B contracting with incentive/disincentive

Time of Construction

36 Months (estimated)

7 Months (actual)

Cost of Construction

$43.7 M (estimated)

$38.6 M (estimated)

  • Time of construction reduced 81% (29 months)
  • Initial construction cost savings of 12% ($5.1 million)

[1] LIFE is an acronym for Long lasting highways using Innovative technologies and practices to accomplish Fast construction of Efficient and safe pavements and bridges.

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