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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Focus > November 2000 > For NQI "Making a Difference" Award Winners, Quality Pays
November 2000Publication Number: FHWA-RD-00-063

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For NQI "Making a Difference" Award Winners, Quality Pays

Quality doesn't cost – it pays," says Bob Templeton of the National Quality Initiative (NQI). The many State highway agencies and their Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and industry partners who make that statement a reality every day will be honored with NQI's first "Making a Difference" awards this month at a ceremony in Dallas, Texas.

NQI, which was formed in 1992 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), various industry associations, and FHWA, is dedicated to continuous quality improvement in the planning, design, construction, and maintenance of the Nation's highways. By making improvements, highway agencies can save in maintenance costs, reduce the number of work zones, and keep customers happy. The "Making a Difference" awards recognize those who have excelled at this continuous quality approach. The four award categories are:

  • Partnering - This award recognizes cooperative quality endeavors in such areas as highway design, construction, and maintenance; material supply; subcontracting; and communications.
  • Breaking the Mold - This category honors champions of new and innovative techniques and practices.
  • Risk Taking - The award is given to those in the highway field who are taking intelligent and calculated risks to prove there is a better way than the routines and processes that currently prevail.
  • State Quality Initiative - This award recognizes the premier State Quality Initiatives (SQI) in the country. SQIs are collaborative efforts among a State highway agency, local industry organizations, and the local FHWA division office.

Gold, silver, and bronze awards will be given in each category. Some of the gold award winners include Maryland in the SQI category; the Texas Department of Transportation (DOT) and Washington State DOT in the risk-taking category; a coalition of New England State highway agencies and FHWA division offices in the breaking the mold category; and a collaboration among Indiana DOT, Indiana Mineral Aggregates Association, and FHWA's Indiana Division office in the partnering category.

Maryland's accomplishments as the leader in the SQI category include offering two work zone training courses for highway workers, increasing customer involvement during both the preconstruction and construction phases of highway work, and implementing a partnering program that has involved such groups as the Maryland Department of Environment, Maryland Asphalt Association, and Consulting Engineers Council of Maryland. The risk-taking award, meanwhile, honors Washington State DOT and Tucci and Sons for their I-5/SR 512 Interchange Safety Improvements project. This project significantly reduced extreme congestion at the southbound I-5 off-ramp to SR 512 by utilizing a unique set of three left-turn lanes. The triple left-turn freeway exit design is the first of its kind in Washington State.

Texas DOT is also being honored in the risk-taking category for its use of a "total maintenance and operations" contract for sections of the Interstate highway in its Waco and Dallas Districts. This was the first time this type of contract had been used in Texas. The "total maintenance and operations" concept means that instead of specifying the materials and methods to be used, an expected performance level is defined and it is then up to the contractor to determine what work needs to be done, when to do it, and what materials and methods to use.

The New England State highway agencies and FHWA division offices are being recognized in the breaking the mold category for their collaboration on the New England Transportation Technician Certification Program (NETTCP). This initiative has developed training and certification programs in a number of technical areas, including an asphalt binder laboratory certification program that is the first of its kind in the country. The partnering award being given to Indiana DOT, FHWA, and the Indiana Mineral Aggregates Association, meanwhile, is in recognition of their Certified Aggregate Producer Program, which has introduced a quality control/quality assurance specification for aggregates to improve the consistency of the materials used in construction.

Award recipients were chosen by the NQI Steering Committee from nominees submitted by SQI Steering Committees and other officially recognized highway programs. The NQI Steering Committee includes representatives from AASHTO, FHWA, the American Concrete Pavement Association, National Asphalt Pavement Association, National Stone Association, Associated General Contractors of America, and other industry groups.

Along with presenting the "Making a Difference" awards, NQI will unveil a new name at its November meeting: the National Partnership for Highway Quality (NPHQ). The new name, which reflects that the championing of quality improvements is no longer a new initiative but something that's here to stay, comes with expanded goals for the partnership. Those goals include:

  • Improving cooperation among industry; State, Federal, and local agencies; and academia.
  • Regularly identifying customer needs through national and State surveys.
  • Championing the development and implementation of strategies that address customer needs.
  • Promoting safe highways and work zones through such means as identifying and publicizing best practices and innovations; encouraging education and training; and recommending improvements in benchmarking and evaluation.

For more information on NQI or its activities, contact your local FHWA division office, Ken Jacoby in FHWA's Office of Asset Management at 202-366-6503 (fax: 202-366-9981; email:, or Bob Templeton at 512-301-9899 (toll free: 877-526-9899; fax: 512-301-9897; email:

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Updated: 02/20/2015

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