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Federal Highway Administration / Publications / Focus / August 2002

Accelerating Infrastructure Innovations

Publication Number: FHWA-RD-02-013
Date: August 2002

The Time for Accelerated Construction is Now

By King W. Gee

As the Nation's system of highways and bridges ages, the necessity of repairing and replacing the highway infrastructure means that "Work Zone Ahead" alerts are a daily sight to many U.S. motorists. The rise in the number of work zones is matched by increasing congestion, as more cars squeeze the capacity of existing roads. To prevent gridlock and preserve and maintain our highway system with the least impact on the motoring public, accelerated construction techniques are gaining in popularity across the country.

In Oklahoma, replacing the Interstate 40 bridge on the Arkansas river struck by a barge in May was of vital urgency to both the State and the entire south-central region of the country (see article, page 1). This urgency led to an unprecedented accelerated construction schedule that had the bridge reopened to traffic last month. The Oklahoma Department of Transportation employed several innovative measures to speed up the project, including A+B bidding (cost + time), where contractors bid on both the work itself (A) and how quickly they believe they can complete the work (B).

Disaster situations aren't the only impetus for accelerated construction schedules. Day-to-day road rehabilitation and reconstruction now justifies the use of accelerated techniques and innovative materials. Faced with three major intersections on U.S. 395 that needed to be completely reconstructed, the Washington State Department of Transportation took the unconventional approach and shut each intersection down completely for one weekend to perform the necessary repair work. The intersections were reconstructed with a high early strength portland cement concrete mix that allowed the roads to be opened to traffic within about 12 hours. In each case, the roads were back in service within 72 hours. The project contractor got in, got the job done, and impacted the public for just a short time.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is committed to supporting the highway community in exploring and adopting accelerated construction techniques such as these. As the Oklahoma and Washington State projects have shown us, accelerated construction is not a traditional technology but rather an approach to highway construction that draws on everything from using innovative contracting procedures and new materials and practices to building extended life pavements and bridges to cut down on construction time. Also critical to the success of accelerated construction projects are media and publicity campaigns that keep area residents and businesses informed about reconstruction plans and let motorists know about alternate routes.

FHWA is participating in the work of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials' Technology Implementation Group (TIG), which has made accelerated construction one of its focus technologies. Recent pilot workshops in Pennsylvania and Indiana, cosponsored by the Transportation Research Board's Task Force on Accelerating Innovation, explored how these States can incorporate accelerated construction techniques into the rehabilitation of primary corridors while maintaining quality and safety (see article). The TIG is now looking at how to build on these pilot workshops to further assist States in implementing the accelerated construction concept. You can find out more about the TIG's work at www.aashtotig.org.

The "Work Zones Ahead" signs aren't going to disappear soon...but as Oklahoma, Washington, and many other States are demonstrating, we can make work zones' duration shorter and traveling around or through them easier. It's what our customers want, and with accelerated construction, it's what we can give them.

King W. Gee is the Associate Administrator for FHWA's Office of Infrastructure.

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Updated: 06/27/2017
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