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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Focus > January/February 2007 > Raising the Bar on Highway Quality
January/February 2007Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-07-010

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Raising the Bar on Highway Quality

Projects that are raising the bar for highway design, construction, and management were honored at the National Partnership for Highway Quality's (NPHQ) 2006 "Making a Difference" awards, presented in New Orleans, Louisiana, in November 2006. NPHQ brings together State, Federal, and highway industry leaders to encourage the use of quality practices. The awards recognize transportation departments and other organizations that have elevated the standards for roadway performance, safety, and environmental stewardship through innovative techniques and teamwork.

New to the awards this year is a category for "Public Communications." "Good communication contributes to the quality of the driving experience," said NPHQ Executive Director Bob Templeton. "Motorists appreciate having information because it empowers them to make travel decisions appropriate to their situation." The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) captured the gold award in this category for its "Construction Jam" campaign, which raised awareness about a heavy construction season and provided up-to-date information to help drivers plan their trips. The Michigan Department of Transportation's "Line Drive Home" campaign won the silver award for using the Detroit Tigers Radio Network and its 30 affiliate stations to publicize alternative routes that would help drivers avoid construction delays. The radio announcements, combined with a Web site dedicated to providing motorists with updated information on construction projects and alternate routes, reduced traffic in construction zones by 20 percent. The bronze award went to the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) for creating a unique partnership with the media. KDOT gave local television stations access to traffic cameras in exchange for receiving 30-second commercial spots on the stations.

NPHQ recognizes that partnerships, such as the one KDOT developed with the media, improve public service. "The 'Making a Difference' awards recognize people who make partnering more than a word," said Templeton. Two of the five award categories—"Partnering" and "State Quality Partnership"—honor groups that collaborated with other organizations to the benefit of the public. A formal partnership between the Utah Department of Transportation and the Associated General Contractors resulted in a gold award in the "State Quality Partnership" category. Critical outgrowths of the partnership include significant taxpayer savings and the development of a field guide to ensure consistency in how highway projects are approached.

The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) took home a gold award in the "Partnering" category for a contraflow plan (all highway lanes converted to one direction) that led to a successful evacuation of more than a million individuals affected by Hurricane Katrina. Virginia and West Virginia, meanwhile, tied for the silver award. The Virginia Department of Transportation partnered with contractors and Federal, State, and local agencies to complete the Route 1 Interchange project on time and under budget. The interchange project was done in conjunction with the replacement of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge outside of Washington, DC. The West Virginia Division of Highways (WVDOH) partnered with a coal company, Premium Energy, to reduce construction costs on King Coal Highway. This public-private partnership used the excess material from the mountaintop coal mining operation to construct highway fills. WVDOH saved millions of dollars and provided motorists with a new highway years earlier than anticipated. Honored with a bronze award was the Montana Department of Transportation for partnering with local resource agencies to complete the $16 million restoration of Beartooth Highway in less than 5 months.

A photo of Louisiana Department of Transportation and  Development Secretary Johnny B. Bradberry (right) speaks with team leaders of the department's change management program. This process improvement initiative brings together employees and stakeholders who suggest changes that result in better productivity, winning Louisiana an NPHQ bronze award for Risk Taking.
Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Johnny B. Bradberry (right) speaks with team leaders of the department's change management program. This process improvement initiative brings together employees and stakeholders who suggest changes that result in better productivity, winning Louisiana an NPHQ bronze award for Risk Taking.

The "Breaking the Mold" category recognizes savvy thinking and creative problem solving. The Minnesota Department of Transportation took the gold award for developing a computer model that quantifies the economic benefits of accelerating projects, particularly when using the design-build contracting method. GDOT's groundbreaking use of roller-compacted concrete to pave highway shoulders tied for the silver award with the Texas Department of Transportation's (TxDOT) innovative construction practices in building the State's first five-level interchange in Dallas. These practices included using one contractor instead of the conventional multicontractor approach, incorporating financial incentives and disincentives into the contract, and partnering with an Italian firm to build a remote-control erector for placing bridge segments. The Washington State Department of Transportation's (WSDOT) creativity in using 100 precast concrete panels and an innovative panel transport system to replace the deck on the historic Lewis and Clark Bridge earned the bronze award. With construction time limited to nightly 8-hour bridge closings, WSDOT successfully removed existing panels overnight, installed new ones, and opened the bridge in time for morning traffic.

"Customer service was the driving force behind all of these innovations."

WSDOT also won a gold award in the "Risk Taking" category. To mitigate the multitude of issues associated with resurfacing I-5 in downtown Seattle, the decision was made to perform the work over four weekends. This timetable averted a potential 19-km (12-mi) backup. Aggressive construction schedules, around-the-clock traffic management, and extensive public outreach were keys to the project's success. TxDOT won the silver award for streamlining data management for more than 10,000 Texas-based motor carriers. The project team developed a Web-based application to synchronize Federal and State motor carrier data and automate the registration process. The Louisiana DOTD received the bronze award for its agency-wide change management program. The goal of the ongoing program is to streamline existing processes and improve effectiveness and efficiency.

"Customer service was the driving force behind all of these innovations," said Templeton. "As demonstrated by these projects, partnering is a win-win situation, not only for the transportation industry, but for the taxpayers who want to see their roads built in the most efficient and cost-effective manner."

To learn more about the 2006 award winners, visit Also now available on the NPHQ Web site is the nomination form for the 2007 National Achievement Award. This award recognizes breakthrough projects that have significantly improved highway quality and customer service. Nominations are due by May 7, 2007. For more information about NPHQ, contact Bob Templeton, 512-301-9899 (fax: 512-301-9897; email:, or Ken Jacoby at FHWA, 202-366-6503 (email:

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Updated: 02/20/2015

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