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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 65· No. 5 > Highway Quality Awards

March/April 2002
Vol. 65· No. 5

Highway Quality Awards

by the National Partnership for Highway Quality

The National Partnership for Highway Quality (NPHQ) recognized 26 states for their outstanding highway projects. These states received their awards at the 2001 NPHQ National Achievement Award ceremony on Nov. 29, 2001, at the NPHQ Conference in Fort Worth, Texas.

The awards, which aim to ensure that quality remains a focal point in all aspects of the highway program, were presented in five levels or categories. The top-level National Achievement Award winner was Pennsylvania. Maryland received the Special Recognition for a Small Project (less than $20 million) award, and Special Recognition for a Structure Project was given to North Carolina. Eight states — Arizona, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Oregon, and Texas — were Gold Level Award winners. NPHQ State Award recipients were Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.

The National Partnership for Highway Quality is the successor name of the former National Quality Initiative (NQI). NPHQ is dedicated to continuous quality improvement in the planning, design, construction, and maintenance operations of the nation's highways. NPHQ is the only nationally formed organization that combines public- and private-sector highway expertise to promote keeping the nation's highway system in the highest possible quality condition and to improve its safety and service to the public.

The following organizations are members of the NPHQ Steering Committee:

  • American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).
  • American Concrete Pavement Association.
  • American Consulting Engineers Council.
  • American Public Works Association.
  • American Road and Transportation Builders Association.
  • American Traffic Safety Services Association.
  • Asphalt Institute.
  • Associated General Contractors of America.
  • Federal Highway Administration.
  • National Asphalt Pavement Association.
  • National Ready Mixed Concrete Association.
  • National Stone, Sand, and Gravel Association.

Picture of the Highway Quality Award

Our aging infrastructure challenges for state highway agencies and contractors to upgrade, rehabilitate, and maintain our ways. These challenges dictate these projects must be cost-take less time to build and open traffic, be of high quality, and longer. Highway engineers and contractors must also look for new and innovative techniques and practices that improve highway work and better satisfy the needs of today's highway users. Higher quality and longer lasting highways are built when state highway agencies, designers, contractors, and suppliers come together and cooperate as project delivery teams that are customer focused and quality oriented.

While customer satisfaction surveys show that much of the public believes that the highway system has improved, they also show that the public expects their highways to continue to get better.

NPHQ strives to be aware of customer needs and to champion and encourage implementation of successful strategies used by state, county, and city highway, road, and street programs. It emphasizes the use of customer-focused contracts and customer-focused project delivery teams that complete construction and maintenance work in a more timely, less disruptive, and safer manner for the customer — the driving public.

These award winners were selected on the basis of the following criteria: quality process and results, customer focus, teamwork, innovation and value, and long-term improvement.

2001 NPHQ National Achievement Award —Pennsylvania

The 22/Renew Expressway Improvement Project illustrates Pennsylvania's continuing commitment to excellence. Innovation, teamwork, and public involvement were guiding principles in this $70 million reconstruction. This eight-mile (13-kilometer) section of U.S. Route 22 included reconstruction and rehabilitation of 12 bridges; modification to five interchanges; and deployment of an intelligent transportation system with ramp metering, variable message signs, and highway advisory radio.

U.S. 22 is the principle east-west urban expressway in the Lehigh Valley. This four-lane, limited-access artery carries an average of 85,000 vehicles per day. Through the innovative use of traffic management strategies, congestion during the project was greatly minimized. These strategies included maintaining four traffic lanes through the work zone during peak traffic periods, compression of the construction schedule from three to two years, and deployment of a real-time traffic control and motorist advisory system.

Aerial photo of a section of U.S. 22 in Pennsylvania

2001 NPHQ Special Recognition for a Small Project (less than $20 million investment) — Maryland

The Maryland State Highway Administration's (SHA) first large-scale use of the design-build process was the first phase of the U.S. Route 113 project. With rapid growth in the area, the need for improved transportation infrastructure was critical. Recognizing that teamwork and partnership with the local officials was imperative, SHA worked to build trust and cooperation with a customer-focused approach.

The project resulted in three miles (five kilometers) of dualized highway in a critically needed area. The fast-track completion of this project was made possible through innovation at both the coordination level and the construction site. Completed 18 months ahead of projected schedules, this project featured innovations that streamlined the permit system and helped to create a flexible design that could adapt to onsite modifications. This was also the first use in Maryland of cement-amended fly ash, and new quality assurance plans were needed.

Conscious efforts were made on site to preserve and complement the natural elements. Innovative uses of the natural terrain led to the dual use of adjacent natural marshes and ponds to assist in highway drainage and to protect the environmentally sensitive Coastal Bays watershed.

Aerial photo of a section of U.S. Route 113 in Maryland

2001 NPHQ Special Recognition for a Structure Project — North Carolina

Completed in 1999, the Neuse River Bridge in New Bern, N.C., was a major undertaking designed as a regional solution to increased traffic, as well as to remove navigational barriers presented by the existing John Lawson Bridge. A $93 million project, the bridge is actually a series of 12 interconnecting bridges joining two major U.S. transportation routes and one state route. With a length of 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), a height of 65 feet (20 meters) at its apex, and a 100-year design life, the Neuse River Bridge used 49 million pounds of steel (22,222 metric tons) and 200,000 cubic yards (153,000 cubic meters) of reinforced concrete.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation (DOT), recognizing the beauty of Craven County, sought to maintain and improve the environment surrounding this coastal community. Through cooperation at the local level and close work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the North Carolina DOT not only restored wetlands as the bridge was built, but they also maintained the water quality for wildlife and enhanced the view of the river in this popular tourist destination.

Aerial photo of the Neuse River Bridge in New Bern, NC

2001 NPHQ Gold Level

Arizona

The Interstate 17 design-build freeway project, the largest single construction contract in Arizona history as well as the first ever design-build project in Arizona history, reconstructed and widened a seven-mile (11-kilometer) stretch of three mixed-use travel lanes connecting downtown Phoenix to the rapidly expanding northern suburbs. Known as the Black Canyon Freeway in the Phoenix metropolitan area, I-17 is 150 miles long (241 kilometers long) and connects the I-10 and I-40 freeways, the two principal east-west interstate highways across Arizona. Major project features included the reconstruction of two overpass structures and eight traffic interchanges. A high-occupancy-vehicle lane was also added to the freeway.

Aerial photo of a section of  Interstate 17 in Arizona

Indiana

Finished in one construction season, the design-build reconstruction of the I-65 project was the first total reconstruction of roadways and bridges using the design-build method in Indiana. The project included six new lanes and the laying of 15-inch-thick (38-centimeter-thick) concrete pavement on I-65 from U.S. 30 north to 52nd Avenue. Five bridge structures were also replaced. With traffic peaking at more than 100,000 vehicles per day, this showcase of teamwork, scheduling, and coordination was completed while maintaining two lanes of traffic in each direction.

Aerial photo of I-65 project in Indiana

Iowa

The Iowa DOT used a unique "design partnering" process to garner local support and overcome opposition dating back to the 1960s to improve U.S. 71. Bisecting a chain of lakes and small communities, this two-year, $40 million project widened the existing roadway to three lanes in the cities of Arnolds Park and Okoboji. The remainder of the corridor was widened to four lanes. A new bridge was constructed in an environmentally sensitive area. Special erosion control measures were taken to minimize the effect of the bridge on West Okoboji Lake, a rare deep-blue, spring-fed lake. The Dickinson County project finished a full construction season ahead of schedule.

Photo of bridge in an environmentally sensitive area in Iowa

Kansas

This $18.5 million reconstruction of I-135 in Sedgwick and Harvey counties featured the laying of 390,000 square yards (326,079 square meters) of 11-inch-thick (28-centimeter-thick) concrete pavement. The reconstruction included improvements to 14 ramps, 2-1/2 interchanges, and several rest area ramps. Through the use of innovative methods such as double-lane crossovers and a concrete maturity meter, this quality control/quality assurance project came in a full season early with administrative and engineering cost savings estimated at $1.9 million.

Aerial photo of a section of I-135 in Sedgwick and Harvey counties in Kansas

Kentucky

In a record 107 hours, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet completed the bridge joint replacement project on a section of I-65 in Louisville. Faced with traffic peaking at more than 133,000 vehicles per day with trucks comprising 40 percent to 60 percent of the traffic, it was apparent that traditional construction methods would cause major headaches for highway users and construction crews alike. Adopting a "Get In, Get Out, and Stay Out" philosophy, the contractors and the Transportation Cabinet created an encompassing six-point strategy that was both safe and avoided unnecessary inconvenience. The whole-piece replacement process eliminated cold joints in the replaced concrete and asphalt, allowed the replacement of butt joints in steel plates used for the new joints, and allowed better compaction of the laid asphalt.

Aerial photo of bridge joint replacement project on a section of I-65 in Louisville, Kentucky

Michigan

This project was the reconstruction of a 1.2-mile (nearly two-kilometer) section of the U.S. 131 S-curve, which included five bridges, in the heart of Grand Rapids, Michigan's second most populous metropolitan area. The Michigan DOT and its partners planned, designed, and constructed this project in less than two years. The urgency of this project became apparent when a 1998 survey showed the Grand River bridge had been damaged by the settlement of the riverbed. The thorough planning included time for archaeologists and a local Indian tribe to rescue artifacts from a 2,000-year-old Indian village discovered during the construction.

Aerial photo of reconstructed section of U.S. 131 in Michigan

Oregon

Due to increasing congestion in the heart of the Grant's Pass business district and concern for public safety, the Oregon DOT embarked on the 6th and 7th Streets Couplet Project. This $12.5 million project included the removal and replacement of approximately five miles (eight kilometers) of existing roadway from curb to curb at a depth of up to four feet (1.2 meters) and the placement of almost three miles (4.7 kilometers) of storm drain pipe and 60 manholes. Despite unforeseen obstacles, such as an unmarked well under the roadway and the discovery of hundreds of old railroad ties and rails, the project was completed within 3 percent of budget and made the most significant improvements to the roadway in half a century.

Photo of road in Oregon

Texas

A key component of an initiative to construct the new Veterans International Bridge at Los Tomates was the careful coordination among U.S. and Mexican local, state, and federal agencies. The U.S. 77/83 Los Tomates Expressway Extension project linking Brownsville, Texas, with Matamoros, Mexico, included new, elevated main lanes; construction of frontage roads; and improvements to the International Boulevard intersection. Other significant aspects of the project were the relocation and construction of a new 47-acre (19-hectare) park and the dedication of a new 175-acre (71-hectare) wildlife preserve. With the completion of the bridge and 10 other projects, international trucking can now bypass the heavily congested downtown corridors of Brownsville and Matamoros.

Photo of the New Veterans International Bridge at Los Tomates

2001 NPHQ State Award

Connecticut

Thread City Crossing, known locally as the Frog Bridge, is a new four-lane structure over the Williamantic River, in Windham, Conn. The new structure, which replaces an existing stone arch structure that was too narrow and had restricted vertical clearance, enables safer and more efficient traffic flow through the downtown historic area. Adorning the ends of the bridge are 10-foot-tall (three-meter-tall) bronze frogs inspired by a 350-year-old legend that gives the town its nickname "Frog City." The project was completed at a cost of $14.6 million and nearly a year ahead of schedule.

Photo of Frog Bridge in Connecticut

Delaware

Because of traffic volumes of more than 100,000 vehicles per day, the Delaware DOT began an ambitious rehabilitation project of a 30-year-old, four-lane section of I-95. In a successful attempt to speed up the repairs and bring relief to the long-suffering commuters of the region, each direction of travel along I-95 was closed in succession. All traffic was funneled onto the other side until repairs were finished, then all traffic was shifted to the repaired side. This was the first time that this technique had been tried on the East Coast. Adoption of this method allowed completion of the project in 192 days.

Aerial photo of section of I-95 in Delaware

Florida

Aware that the Florida Everglades are one of the world's unique ecosystems, the Florida DOT took great care when constructing the I-75 Miami Canal Rest and Recreation Facility. They combined an environmentally sensitive design with a customer-focused outcome. The project included a modified diamond interchange, mid-level bridge construction, an 8,500-square-foot (790-square-meter) rest area building, five boat ramps with floating docks, 2,000 square feet (186 square meters) of retaining wall, and 220 parking spaces spread over eight lots. The project took 911 days to build.

Aerial photo of section of I-75 Miami Canal Rest and Recreation Facility

NPHQ Organization

NPHQ is guided by a steering committee of representatives from each of the member organizations. This committee is co-chaired by a representative from the AASHTO Standing Committee on Highways and by a representative of private-industry members of NPHQ. Program activities and operations are guided by a long-range plan to continually improve the quality of the highways in the United States.

The NPHQ Long-Range Plan has the following four goals:

  • Enhance NPHQ to improve cooperation among industry; state, federal, and local agencies; and academia.
  • Regularly identify customer needs.
  • Promote safe highways and safe work zones.
  • Champion the development and implementation of strategies that address customer needs.

The NPHQ Steering Committee leads this program and strives to encourage all of the states to consider using good practices that are being successfully used in various state highway programs. Four subcommittees, an administrator, and a secretary carry out the directions of the Steering Committee.

The Awards Subcommittee oversees the NPHQ awards programs. It evaluates nominations and makes recommendations to the Steering Committee for the selection of award winners. It strives to increase participation of the states in these awards, and it monitors the NPHQ awards programs to ensure their adequacy and effectiveness. The awards program consists of the NPHQ National Achievement Award and the NPHQ Making a Difference Awards, which are given in alternate years.

The Communications Subcommittee guides NPHQ outside communications, publications, marketing, and the Web site. It leads the NPHQ Special Communications Team that channels information about the

NPHQ program through the member organizations.

The Measurements Subcommittee is responsible for verifying and providing data that shows the quality of the nation's highways. It evaluates the measures being used to validate quality improvement and is constantly searching for new measures. The subcommittee shares information with other subcommittees for use in their areas of responsibility.

The State Quality Programs Subcommittee works to promote local quality programs in the various states and in the local road and street programs. It guides the NPHQ State Quality Program Lead States Team, which is able to serve as a mentor to other state quality programs that want to start or improve an existing program. It also monitors the accomplishments and innovations being implemented by the state quality programs and forwards that information to the Awards and Communications subcommittees for consideration.

Georgia

An example of interstate cooperation and communication, the 13th Street Bridge Project was built with the goal of providing easier access between Columbus, Ga., and Phenix City, Ala. — two communities separated by the Chattahoochee River. The bridge project involved precise coordination among the two states, local governments, and a private corporation. With a total length of 1,234 feet (376 meters), the bridge contains more than one million pounds (453.5 metric tons) of substructure and superstructure reinforcing steel, 776 cubic yards (593.6 cubic meters) of Class AAA concrete in the intermediate caps, and 3,945 cubic yards (3,018 cubic meters) of Class AA concrete in the remainder of the bridge. The bridge was opened to traffic on May 11, 2000, and has greatly reduced travel time between the two communities.

Photo of 13th St Bridge connecting Georgia and Alabama

Illinois

The McClugage Bridge, located north of downtown Peoria, Ill., carries both U.S. Route 24 and U.S. Route 150 over the Illinois River. The dual truss bridges, built in 1949, are among the most heavily traveled river crossings in Peoria, averaging 42,500 vehicles per day. Over the past 50 years, weathering and salt from snow removal had caused the bridges to deteriorate. The Illinois DOT rehabilitated the bridges to extend their life and safety. In all, more than 1,500 tons (1,360.5 metric tons) of new steel, 1.2 million pounds (544 metric tons) of reinforcing steel, 5,000 cubic yards (3,825 cubic meters) of concrete, and 17,500 gallons (66,238 liters) of paint were used in the rehabilitation.

Photo of McClugage Bridge during rehabilitation

Louisiana

The I-10/I-610 interchange is one of the most heavily traveled roadways in Louisiana. It was also one of the 10 worst traffic bottlenecks in the country. An important daily commuter route between downtown New Orleans and the westside suburbs, it also serves as a major route in the city's hurricane evacuation plan. By combining ambitious scheduling, contract incentives, timely materials delivery, and night and weekend work, the three-year project was completed eight months ahead of schedule. Originally designed for a maximum capacity of 70,000 vehicles per day, the redesigned interchange can now accommodate 176,000 vehicles per day, providing an easier daily commute and a much safer hurricane evacuation route.

Aerial photo of I-10/I-610 interchange in Louisiana

Minnesota

The Highway 371 project was a seven-mile (11-kilometer) grading and asphalt resurfacing project. The newly rebuilt, four-lane, divided expressway consists of 12-foot-wide (3.66-meter-wide) driving lanes, 10-foot-wide (3.05-meter-wide) outside shoulders, and four-foot-wide (1.2-meter-wide) inside shoulders. The project also included installing three signals on the new alignment and replacing two signals on the existing alignment. More than 1.2 million square yards (more than 1 million square meters) of material were removed and replaced with nearly 160,000 tons (145,120 metric tons) of hot-mix asphalt, 100,000 tons (90,700 metric tons) of gravel base, and 2,900 cubic yards (2,219 cubic meters) of concrete. The project was finished almost a month ahead of schedule, saving the public nearly $600,000 in user-delay costs.

Aerial photo of a section of Highway 371 in Minnesota

Montana

The Montana DOT completely reconstructed 10th Avenue South (U.S. Route 87). The deteriorating 1950s-era, four-lane highway would become a modern, six-lane roadway with center median and turn bays. In addition to adding two general-purpose travel lanes, the project provided for upgrades, such as new pavement markings, improved traffic signals, accessibility enhancements, and storm sewer and water line improvements. During the reconstruction project, maintaining access to the adjacent businesses and continuing to accommodate 30,000 vehicles per day were priorities. The 10th Avenue project was completed 95 days ahead of schedule.

Photo of 10th Avenue South (U.S. Route 87) in Montana

Nebraska

With a philosophy that combined strong team-building and cautious protection of the environment, the Gering South reconstruction widened an existing 8.5-mile (13.7-kilometer), two-lane highway to a four-lane expressway. The $13.7 million improvements included construction of a new bridge, rehabilitation of an existing bridge, and replacement with Superpave asphalt pavement. A unique aspect of this project involved working around a paleontologist and his crew while they searched for fossils in the ancient river channel. More than 420,000 square yards (321,300 square meters) of topsoil were salvaged and replaced — the most ever salvaged on a project in Nebraska.

Photo of 4 lane expressway in Nebraska

New Jersey

Built in 1932, the interchange of routes 4 and 17 was designed to accommodate 9,000 cars at peak traffic. By 1998, the 66-year-old interchange was accommodating an average of 285,000 vehicles per day. This situation led to some of the worst traffic congestion on the eastern seaboard. The New Jersey DOT completed a $120 million overhaul with the unprecedented goal of completely replacing the interchange while maintaining travel lanes for a quarter of a million motorists. Originally scheduled for completion in April 2001, the interchange was completed 17 months ahead of schedule.

Aerial photo of the interchange of route 4 and 17 in New Jersey

New Mexico

The New Mexico State Highway and Transportation Department has completed a major reconstruction of the I-25/I-40 interchange in downtown Albuquerque. The most significant of the five projects was one of the last — the Carlisle and I-40 interchange, known locally as "the Big One." This project reconstructed the Carlisle Boulevard Bridge across I-40 and the Embudo Channel to increase traffic capacity. Additional work included the addition of retaining walls and noise-abatement walls with aesthetic design features that reflect the city's Southwestern heritage.

Photo of the Carlisle Boulevard Bridge in New Mexico

South Carolina

At a cost of $386 million, the Conway Bypass project is South Carolina's largest ever design-build project. The 28.5-mile (46-kilometer) route provides relief to approximately 16 million annual visitors to the Grand Strand/Myrtle Beach area of South Carolina. The project team overcame obstacles, including two major hurricanes and critical funding challenges. The team created by South Carolina DOT was able to complete the project ahead of schedule and set the standard for future construction projects in South Carolina.

Aerial photo of the Conway Bypass in South Carolina

Utah

With a commitment to partnership and a willingness to try new techniques, the Utah DOT and its contractors finished widening U.S. Route 6 near Spanish Fork under time and under budget. Through the use of a Superpave mix design and other innovative techniques, such as use of a radio-guided, computer-controlled grading system, Utah DOT was able to widen a two-lane road to four lanes with a median in less than 4-1/2 months. The project also included signing, landscaping, wetland mitigation, noise mitigation, and traffic signals.

Photo of widened U.S. Route 6 in Utah

Virginia

The Route 199 and Monticello Avenue Extension project took place on the outskirts of historic Williamsburg, Va. Originally planned as a two-mile (3.2-kilometer), two-lane highway without a median and with an interchange at Route 199. The project changed dramatically when, four months into the project, additional local funds were raised due to changes. In place of the original plan, a new four-lane, urban highway with grassy medians, curbs, sidewalks, bike paths, and underground storm water drainage was constructed. The flexibility of the planning team facilitated the completion of the project in phases to coordinate with the opening of a new courthouse and shopping centers.

Photo of 4-lane Route 199 in Virginia

Washington State

Innovative elements of the Colville 2000 Downtown Revitalization and Transportation Improvements Plan included traffic-calming design features and the cooperative linkage of local economic development goals and regional transportation goals. This strategy, in which economic development and transportation are mutually supporting, may become a prototype for cooperative efforts elsewhere in Washington. Phase 1 of the project enhanced highway traffic movement by making Wynne Street, adjacent to Main Street, a second north-south arterial route with three lanes.

Photo of road divided by a center island in Washington state


Questions about this program or requests for additional information should be directed to NPHQ Administrator Bob Templeton at (512) 301-9899, by fax at (512) 301-9897, or by e-mail at btemplenphq@aol.com. Information is also available at NPHQ's Web site, www.nphq.org.

The NPHQ National Achievement Award and the NPHQ Making a Difference Awards are presented in alternating years. NPHQ has issued the call for nominations for the 2002 Making a Difference Awards. The nominations are due by 5:00 p.m., May 1, 2002. The NPHQ Workshop and Awards luncheon will be held in Salt Lake City on Nov. 14, 2002. The 2000 Making a Difference Awards recognized some 34 products, programs, and services and approximately 160 teams. The 2002 awards will recognize gold, silver, and bronze winners in each of the four categories of these awards — partnering, risk-taking, breaking the mold, and state quality programs.

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