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Highway Quality Compendium


by James B. Sorenson

Better, faster, safer, and more cost-effective. For highway practitioners across the country, highway quality is all about achieving the shared goal of building, preserving, and maintaining better roadways. As we move further into the 21st century, State transportation agencies, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), highway contractors, and others in the transportation sector are faced with a number of significant challenges. Traffic growth and increased congestion, freight management, national security, and an ever-increasing sensitivity to the environment are all driving forces for future highway improvements. Along with these challenges, transportation agencies must also contend with limited budgets and shrinking workforces, and an aging transportation system with an increasing percentage of the infrastructure in need of significant repair. Because of these factors, a strong focus on quality is more important than ever. All of these issues will require significant attention to improving quality and ensuring that we get the highest performance possible from our future highway projects.

Quality is not a single definition or a one-step process, but rather encompasses everything from project planning and design to construction materials, workmanship, and durability of the finished product. Safety characteristics, project management, and financial stewardship are all critical concerns. An attention to quality in all aspects of a highway project is important to producing a final product that safely and efficiently meets the long-term needs of communities and delivers value for taxpayer dollars. We see quality in a highway that conforms to certain design or construction standards while providing excellent long-term performance. The public sees quality in congestion relief, increased mobility, and safety benefits. Quality is not one characteristic but an end result that provides value to all.

The articles in this compendium reflect the broad range of quality characteristics that add up to a successful highway construction program and satisfied customers, providing a snapshot of where we are today and where we are headed in the future. Whether it be new technologies, innovative work techniques, well-trained and motivated employees, or accelerated construction schedules that ease driver inconvenience, these quality practices are making a difference in many areas across the country. As this compendium illustrates, they are also moving us forward as we seek to meet and exceed our customers' expectations, obtain the best system performance for the dollar amounts invested, and sustain the public trust.

With the increased demands on today's highway agencies, continuous quality improvements are essential for a successful highway program. Meeting our quality goals ultimately depends on each of us.

James B. Sorenson
James B. Sorenson is the Acting Director of FHWA's Office of Asset Management.

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Updated: 06/27/2017
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