U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590

Skip to content

Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology
Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations

Public Roads
This magazine is an archived publication and may contain dated technical, contact, and link information.
Public Roads Home | Current Issue | Past Issues | Subscriptions | Article Reprints | Author's Instructions and Article Submissions | Sign Up for E-Version of Public Roads | Search Public Roads
Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-12-002    Date:  January/February 2012
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-12-002
Issue No: Vol. 75 No. 4
Date: January/February 2012


Every Day Counts

by Wendy McAbee

This FHWA initiative aims to identify and deploy innovations that can shorten project delivery time, enhance roadway safety, and protect the environment.

Workers on a Wisconsin Department of Transportation project on State Highway 55 in the Menominee Indian Reservation are constructing an overlay using the Safety EdgeSM, one of several technologies FHWA is promoting through Every Day Counts.
Workers on a Wisconsin Department of Transportation project on State Highway 55 in the Menominee Indian Reservation are constructing an overlay using the Safety EdgeSM, one of several technologies FHWA is promoting through Every Day Counts.

Today, the transportation industry faces an unprecedented list of challenges. The public wants greater accountability for how tax dollars are spent. Tighter budgets mean highway agencies need to work more efficiently, do more with less. To succeed in a tough economic climate, highway agencies need to make greater use of promising technologies, and minimizing congestion demands finding innovative ways to shorten project delivery times. At the same time, agencies continue to look for ways to make roads safer, work better, and last longer, while preserving the country's natural resources for future generations.

To help meet these challenges, Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez launched the Every Day Counts initiative in November 2009. The initiative is an effort to bring a better, faster, and smarter approach to highway and bridge construction.

"The President has challenged us to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world in order to 'win the future,'" Administrator Mendez says. "[The President] indicated that infrastructure is at the heart of that effort and that we can't move people and goods safely and efficiently or compete with other economies if we don't have a transportation network that's up to the job."

Every Day Counts acknowledges that a strong infrastructure is vital to winning the future. Infrastructure projects create jobs today and can enable people and goods to move efficiently in the 21st century. To help stakeholders across the country implement Every Day Counts initiatives, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has adopted a new mindset that Administrator Mendez calls "leaning forward." He describes this mindset as similar to a waiter who not only presents the menu but makes recommendations and solicits feedback from diners.

FHWA presented its "menu" of initiatives and recommendations during 10 regional innovation summits held across the country in fall 2010 engaging transportation stakeholders, such as Federal, State, and local agencies, as well as industry partners. Following the summits, all 50 States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the three FHWA Office of Federal Lands Highway divisions identified a selection of Every Day Counts initiatives to implement.

Shortening Project Delivery

FHWA organized Every Day Counts around three main objectives: shortening project delivery, enhancing the safety of roadways, and protecting the environment. With these objectives in mind, FHWA program offices, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and other partners and stakeholders collaborated to develop a toolkit containing approaches that could shorten project delivery, identified innovative contracting methods, and highlighted initiatives that could help to deploy market-ready technologies rapidly.

The toolkit for shortening project delivery aims to eliminate time-consuming, duplicative efforts in the planning and environmental review processes and to expand the use of regulatory flexibilities afforded under current laws. This toolkit includes the following initiatives.

Use of in-lieu fee programs or mitigation banking credits can help mitigate adverse impacts on wetlands, such as this one, and expedite delivery of highway projects.
Use of in-lieu fee programs or mitigation banking credits can help mitigate adverse impacts on wetlands, such as this one, and expedite delivery of highway projects.

Expanding the use of programmatic agreements. The continued and expanded use of programmatic agreements, where procedures have been standardized and agreed upon, has proven effective in saving time. For example, the Nevada Department of Transportation worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a programmatic agreement to provide biological opinions (BOs) for their transportation projects. The process of completing a BO generally required 135 days. The programmatic BO was recently applied to two projects saving 97 days and 85 days respectively. The goal of this initiative is to identify and assist in the expansion of new and existing programmatic agreements at the regional or national levels.

Use of in-lieu fees and mitigation banking. In projects that will affect U.S. waterways, the permitting process under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act currently constitutes a major component of the project development and delivery process. In order to save time and expedite project delivery, this initiative proposes expanded use of in-lieu fees and mitigation banking. In-lieu fees are those charged to a permittee to perform various environmental enhancement activities throughout an entire watershed rather than at one particular site. Mitigation banking is restoration, establishment, enhancement, or preservation of wetlands, streams, or other resources for the purpose of offsetting unavoidable adverse impacts related to a highway project. Through this initiative, FHWA is encouraging highway agencies to use both of these approaches where allowed under existing statutes, FHWA regulations, State laws, and court decisions.

Legal sufficiency enhancements. Decisions made early in planning and project development often are the root cause of problems identified later in the environmental review process when National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Section 4(f) (of the Department of Transportation Act of 1966) documents undergo legal scrutiny. Consultation with FHWA environmental attorneys at early decision points can help decisionmakers avoid problems later, saving time and costs.

Enhanced technical assistance. FHWA will provide additional technical assistance to identify major challenges facing ongoing projects requiring environmental impact statements and implement solutions to resolve project delays where feasible. Teams will focus on facilitating interagency coordination and collaboration to resolve outstanding issues and provide peer-to-peer activities, workshops, training, and specialized onsite assistance.

Clarifying the scope of preliminary design. This initiative identifies the amount of design work allowable under current law prior to completion of the NEPA environmental review process, regardless of the contracting mechanism. FHWA has issued Order 6640.1A Policy on Permissible Project Related Activities During the NEPA Process to provide guidance and consistency.

Photo. Shown here is a series of variously sized utility lines placed along the ground between concrete walls at the site of a highway construction project.
Timely identification, verification, coordination, accommodation, and/or relocation of utilities such as the ones shown here are key factors that State and local agencies identify as cause for delays in highway projects. Taking advantage of regulatory flexibilities in utility relocation can help speed up the process.

Planning and environmental linkages. This initiative will set up a framework for considering and incorporating planning documents and decisions from the earliest stages of project planning into the environmental review process. Linking planning and environmental considerations can lead to a seamless decisionmaking process that minimizes duplication of effort, promotes environmental stewardship, and reduces delays in project implementation.

Flexibilities in right-of-way. The right-of-way (ROW) acquisition process is a major component in the project development process. By employing regulatory flexibilities already provided in statutes and FHWA regulations, agencies can achieve significant time savings. For example, waiver valuations allow the State departments of transportation (DOTs) to waive appraisals for properties that are valued at less than an established dollar amount resulting in cost avoidance of the appraisal fee and time savings in the appraisal process. This initiative can underline opportunities for improved coordination of ROW activities with other key project development actions in preliminary design.

Flexibilities in utility accommodation and relocation. FHWA estimates that half of all highway and bridge projects eligible for Federal funding involve the relocation of utility facilities. Construction generally takes longer and costs more when utilities are relocated. The initiative spotlights existing flexibilities under Federal law and FHWA regulations and describes techniques such as master utility agreements and preapproved utility contractor lists that foster effective utility coordination during project development that warrant more widespread use.

According to Brian D. Hasselbach, environmental and ROW programs manager at the FHWA Montana Division Office, his State is undertaking a number of these initiatives, including planning and environmental linkages, streamlining the development of NEPA environmental impact statements, and using flexibilities in the ROW and utilities processes. "Since 2002, MDT [the Montana Department of Transportation] has used corridor studies to provide an effective linkage between its planning and project development processes," Hasselbach says. "The studies typically are crafted with the involvement of a multitude of stakeholders, including Federal and State resource and transportation agencies, tribes, local agencies, and the public. Consequently, they result in a more comprehensive evaluation of the transportation needs in a given area."

He continues, "This approach yields a number of significant benefits. Integration of the planning and environmental processes leads to better, more informed decisionmaking, which reduces duplication of analysis and reduces the time associated with developing a project. The planning studies afford the public a greater opportunity to be engaged in the decisionmaking process and involve resource agencies and other stakeholders much earlier in the project development process. This approach often leads to a more comprehensive analysis of environmental impacts and considerations, and, as a result, leads to more effective outcomes. MDT's planning corridor studies have proven to be an effective tool in streamlining the development of projects, while further enhancing our collective stewardship responsibilities of the natural and built environments."

Accelerating Project Delivery

For the objective of accelerating project delivery, FHWA and its partners settled on recommending two innovative contracting methods that States can adopt as standard business practices.

Design-build contracting. Design-build contracting is a method of project delivery in which the design and construction phases are combined into one contract, eliminating the separate bid phase and allowing certain aspects of design and construction to take place at the same time. This approach can provide significant time savings compared with the traditional design-bid-build approach, where the design and construction phases must take place sequentially.

Construction manager-general contractor. Between traditional design-bid-build and design-build lies an approach known as construction manager-general contractor. In this scenario, the project owner hires a general contractor or design firm to serve as the construction manager, placing responsibility for design review, design modifications, system integration, and construction with that single contractor. As with the design-build approach, agencies can achieve time savings because of the contractor's ability to undertake a number of activities concurrently.

Accelerating Technology And Innovation Deployment

Accelerating technology and innovation deployment is about taking effective, proven, and market-ready technologies and putting them into widespread use. The focus of these initiatives is to advance 21st century solutions to improve safety, reduce congestion, and keep people and goods moving. With support from stakeholders, FHWA culled the following technologies from a list of more than 30.

The Safety EdgeSM. A simple but extremely effective treatment for pavement edges, called the Safety EdgeSM, can help save lives by enabling drivers who stray off the road to return to the travel lane safely. Rather than leave a vertical dropoff at the pavement shoulder, the Safety EdgeSM shapes the edge of the pavement to an angle between 30 and 35 degrees, which makes it easier for errant drivers to reenter the roadway safely.

This digital rendering shows cranes lowering prefabricated bridge elements-an accelerated construction technology-into place on a bridge project on I–93 in Massachusetts.
This digital rendering shows cranes lowering prefabricated bridge elements—an accelerated construction technology—into place on a bridge project on I-93 in Massachusetts.

Donna J. Hardy, the safety programs engineer with the West Virginia Department of Transportation's Traffic Division, says the Safety EdgeSM is "a much needed technology" for the safety of roadways in her State. "Many of West Virginia's roadways are literally cut into the side of mountains, and runoff from the mountains creates deep roadside ditches," she says. "Motorists have little area to recover once they leave the roadway, but the Safety EdgeSM can significantly reduce the occurrence of a severe crash."

According to Hardy, the department is working with industry to test two variations of a performance specification to achieve the Safety EdgeSM. "We have either awarded or are currently bidding eight projects with the two specifications -- four of each -- and will use the lessons learned to develop a final specification and policy for 2012," she says.

Prefabricated bridge elements and systems. With prefabricated bridge elements and systems, many time-consuming construction tasks no longer need to be completed sequentially. An old bridge can be removed overnight and the new bridge put in place the next day.

Geosynthetic reinforced soil, integrated bridge system. Unlike conventional bridge support technology, the geosynthetic reinforced soil (GRS) integrated bridge system (IBS) uses alternating layers of compacted granular fill material and fabric sheets of geotextile reinforcement to provide support. The technology offers advantages in the construction of small bridges (less than 140 feet or 42.5 meters) in particular, including reduced construction time and cost savings from 25 to 60 percent compared to conventional construction methods. A GRS-IBS can be built using traditional equipment and materials, and facilitates design flexibility conducive to construction under variable site conditions, including soil type, weather, utilities and other obstructions, and proximity to existing structures.

Warm-mix asphalt. Warm-mix asphalt (WMA) is the generic term for a variety of technologies that enable construction crews to produce and then place asphalt on the road at lower temperatures than is possible using conventional hot-mix methods. In most cases, the lower temperatures result in significant cost savings and reduced greenhouse gas emissions because less fuel is required to achieve and maintain the temperatures for warm-mix paving. WMA also has the potential to extend the construction season, enabling agencies to deliver projects faster. By September 2011, more than 40 States had constructed WMA projects, with 14 adopting specifications to accommodate the technology.

Adaptive signal control technology. Conventional traffic signal systems use preprogrammed, daily signal timing schedules. But poor signal timing can contribute to traffic congestion and delay. Adaptive signal control systems coordinate the control of traffic signals across a signal network by adjusting the lengths of signal phases based on prevailing traffic conditions. This improves travel time reliability, reduces congestion, and creates smoother traffic flow.

Regional Summits

After deciding which innovations to promote through Every Day Counts, FHWA's first hurdle was preparing to deliver these innovations. This step required finding champions within the agency, assembling deployment teams, training the teams on the technologies and best practices to deploy the innovations quickly, and building an implementation plan. The next hurdle was how to deliver the information to State DOTs and industry partners. The solution: A series of 10 regional summits organized to bring together agencies experiencing similar challenges and with common interests and needs. FHWA invited Federal, State, and local agency leaders and technical experts, the industry, and other stakeholders and partners with direct involvement in the delivery of Federal-aid projects to participate in each 2-day summit. The emphasis was on inviting key frontline officials directly involved in the project delivery process.

Day one of each summit opened with a plenary session that included a welcome message from Administrator Mendez. He provided an overview of Every Day Counts and described the agency's vision for the anticipated outcomes. Next, Deputy Administrator Greg Nadeau introduced the initiative more fully, explaining the Every Day Counts model and the importance of partnerships and performance-based outcomes. Then, representatives from AASHTO's leadership discussed what the States could expect from Every Day Counts in terms of tangible benefits to their DOTs and highway users. The opening plenary session concluded with a question-and-answer period. The afternoon sessions featured concurrent presentations by representatives from each of the FHWA deployment teams made up of employees from various program offices, who shared information on their respective initiatives, including the benefits and current deployment status.

TThese workers are constructing a geosynthetic reinforced soil bridge abutment, one of the technologies FHWA is encouraging for rapid deployment.
These workers are constructing a geosynthetic reinforced soil bridge abutment, one of the technologies FHWA is encouraging for rapid deployment.

Day two began with concurrent presentations on the various initiatives, followed by caucus meetings specific to each State. All attendees from a given State -- whether from the DOT, local agencies, consultants, or contractors -- sat down to discuss which initiatives they thought would most benefit their respective State. The FHWA division administrators facilitated the caucuses for their States.

Each attendee at the regional summits walked away with homework, too. Their assignment was to form State Transportation Innovation Councils to provide leadership for the Every Day Counts initiative in each State. The division administrator for each State and his or her equivalent at the State DOT will lead the councils, which will consist of a diverse representation of local stakeholders. The councils will provide leadership to the individual initiative teams, ensure deployment of the selected initiatives, and monitor performance.

In keeping with the Administrator's "leaning forward" approach, the FHWA division offices are responsible for supporting the State DOTs by offering recommendations to help the States in their Every Day Counts activities. As members of deployment teams, the division offices work with FHWA headquarters and Resource Center personnel to provide training and guidance directly to the State DOTs to help them achieve the goals laid out in their action plans.

"The Florida DOT and the Federal Highway Administration have a great track record of working together to bring groundbreaking concepts into the Federal-Aid Highway Program," says Karen Brunelle, director of planning and the environment in the FHWA Florida Division Office and that State's Every Day Counts coordinator. "Florida has already taken a proactive approach by placing 580,000 tons of warm-mix asphalt, saving $1.5 million [$3.50 per gallon average fuel price] on 428,695 gallons of fuel. In addition, Florida's Efficient Transportation Decision Making Tool has saved the State $16.3 million and 48 years of project development time. And the design-build contracting method has helped speed the delivery of dozens of traffic safety projects. The Florida DOT is already working with the FHWA Florida Division Office on statewide policy changes regarding the Safety EdgeSM and identifying projects for the implementation of prefabricated bridge elements and systems and GRS."

Getting the Word Out

In addition to the regional summits, FHWA is using a variety of other avenues to deliver training and guidance on Every Day Counts. For example, the team that is focused on accelerating project delivery is using a format similar to the regional summits and hosting peer exchanges on the construction manager-general contractor initiative. A recent peer exchange in Denver, CO, brought together 65 attendees from the Western States to hear perspectives and best practices from DOTs with experience using the construction manager-general contractor approach. Attendees examined case studies and participated in group exercises.

A second construction manager-general contractor peer exchange is in the works for the Eastern States and their partners. In addition, FHWA hosted a similar workshop in the Northeast in early 2011 regarding the use of the design-build method.

Implementation Status of Every Day Counts

Bar chart. This chart shows the status of implementation of the various Every Day Counts initiatives across the United States. The green bars represent the number of States, territories, and Federal lands divisions actively deploying the specified technology initiatives, while the yellow bars represent the number actively deploying the indicated initiatives to shorten project delivery. The red bars show the number of initiatives that are fully implemented and currently meet the national performance goal set for that initiative. The data are as follows: Adaptive Signal Control, 38 actively deploying; 0 deployed. Geosynthetic Reinforced Soil, 33 actively deploying; 0 deployed. Prefabricated Bridge Elements, 46 actively deploying; 1 deployed. Safety Edge, 52 actively deploying; 15 deployed. Warm-Mix Asphalt, 53 actively deploying; 9 deployed. Design-Build Contracting, 11 actively deploying; 0 deployed. Construction Manager–General Contractor, 18 actively deploying; 0 deployed. Flexibilities in Utility Relocation, 30 actively deploying; 1 deployed. Flexibilities in Right-of-Way, 30 actively deploying; 4 deployed. Clarifying Scope of Preliminary Design, 36 actively deploying; 7 deployed. Legal Sufficiency Enhancements, 17 actively deploying; 5 deployed. Planning & Environmental Linkages, 40 actively deploying; 5 deployed. Enhanced Technical Assistance, 8 actively deploying; 3 deployed. In-Lieu Fees, 20 actively deploying; 10 deployed. Mitigation Banking, 23 actively deploying; 6 deployed.
The green bars represent the number of States, territories, and Federal lands divisions actively deploying the specified technology initiatives, while the yellow bars represent the number actively deploying the indicated initiatives to shorten project delivery. The red bars show the number of initiatives that are fully implemented and currently meet the national performance goal set for those initiatives.

Also, the FHWA Resource Center is using webinars to expedite dissemination of information on the prefabricated bridge elements and systems initiative. The 2-day webinar consists of a series of 12 modules that cover everything from decisionmaking tools to design examples and connection details. The target audience for this training includes bridge and construction engineering staff from State, regional, and local transportation agencies, as well as consultants and the contracting industry. States can arrange one-on-one training and guidance for any of the initiatives by contacting their FHWA division office.

Making It Stick

Not every initiative will add value to every project. But having access to the flexibilities and technologies available through Every Day Counts can help highway agencies add value or expedite project delivery where appropriate. The long-term goal of Every Day Counts is to institutionalize these flexibilities and innovative technologies by incorporating them into the standards, specifications, and manuals that highway professionals use every day. Many of the initiative's national performance goals reflect the effort to institutionalize these approaches.

For example, a performance goal for the geosynthetic reinforced soil initiative is to have 20 States adopt the GRS-IBS specifications and special provision within their standard bridge documents by June 2012. Similarly, the planning and environmental linkages initiative seeks to implement a questionnaire or equivalent into standard operating procedures in 50 percent of State DOTs by December 2011.

FHWA is measuring progress toward these milestones on a quarterly basis using Microsoft® SharePoint®. The software's online survey tool enables users to answer a string of questions that can gather both qualitative and quantitative data, with each successive question being determined based on a user's answer to the previous question. In this way, users answer only those questions that are applicable to their particular situations.

In the end, Every Day Counts is about embracing a culture of innovation. Not just leaning forward, but looking forward, soliciting feedback, measuring success, and making every day count.


Wendy McAbee is coordinator of the Every Day Counts initiative in the FHWA Office of the Deputy Administrator. She works with the FHWA initiative deployment teams, program offices, division offices, and the Office of Federal Lands Highway in support of the Every Day Counts initiative. She earned a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Saint Martin's University in Washington State and is a licensed professional engineer and certified project management professional.

For more information, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/everydaycounts or contact Wendy McAbee at 202-366-6006 or wendy.mcabee@dot.gov.




Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000
Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center | 6300 Georgetown Pike | McLean, VA | 22101