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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-15-003    Date:  March/April 2015
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-15-003
Issue No: Vol. 78 No. 5
Date: March/April 2015


Leading With Innovation At The Helm

by Michael W. Hancock

Kentucky uses practical, right-sized solutions to meet its transportation needs. Check out the benefits—they’re significant.

This rendering shows the new Downtown Crossing bridge for I–65 northbound traffic between Louisville, KY, and Jeffersonville, IN. It is adjacent to the John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge, which now carries I–65 and will carry I–65 southbound upon project completion. KYTC and INDOT used innovative solutions to reduce costs and shorten project delivery time.
This rendering shows the new Downtown Crossing bridge for I–65 northbound traffic between Louisville, KY, and Jeffersonville, IN. It is adjacent to the John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge, which now carries I–65 and will carry I–65 southbound upon project completion. KYTC and INDOT used innovative solutions to reduce costs and shorten project delivery time.

Innovation leadership is a mindset rooted in a desire for continuous improvement at the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC), the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s transportation department. As the cabinet seeks to satisfy the needs of transportation customers, innovation leaders throughout the agency strive to be more efficient across the spectrum of transportation programs it delivers.

KYTC is responsible for overseeing the development and maintenance of a safe, efficient, multimodal transportation system throughout the Commonwealth. The cabinet manages more than 27,000 miles (43,450 kilometers) of highways, provides direction for 230 licensed airports and heliports, and oversees licensure for motor vehicles and for more than 3 million drivers.

To improve the quality of these facilities and services while using transportation dollars more efficiently, KYTC embarked on a journey more than 10 years ago that focuses on customer service, visionary leadership, performance measurement, and management by fact (that is, measuring and analyzing performance data to guide decisionmaking). Using these principles, KYTC has successfully implemented customer-oriented, innovative solutions--from development of a customer service center in the Department of Vehicle Regulation to incorporation of nonemergency Medicaid transportation services into transit programs. In addition, the cabinet has developed ways to promote and assist with rail, waterway, and aviation projects despite limited funding for nonhighway programs.

Within KYTC’s highway programs, the application of quality principles to both services and products led the cabinet to embrace context-sensitive solutions. Over the years, the agency expanded context-sensitive solutions to become “practical solutions,” in which it considers project cost a primary context. Through practical solutions, KYTC has been able to improve the quality of projects by right-sizing them to address their intended purpose appropriately.

The application of practical solutions, such as those associated with the second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP2) or the Federal Highway Administration’s Every Day Counts initiative to accelerate innovation deployment and cut project delivery times, is manifested in Kentucky’s highway program in many ways. What follows are examples of innovations that KYTC has implemented in recent years as the cabinet sought practical solutions for all projects, regardless of size.

Ohio River Bridges

For nearly 40 years, Kentucky and Indiana sought to complete an eastern highway loop around metropolitan Louisville, KY, by constructing an east-end crossing over the Ohio River and connecting I–265 in Kentucky with I–265 in Indiana. Then, in 2003, the National Environmental Policy Act process for the proposed project yielded a record of decision that included both a new East End Bridge and the reconstruction of the I–65 downtown crossing and its companion I–65/I–64/I–71 Kennedy Interchange on the Kentucky side of the river in Louisville. Linking the two major projects was deemed essential to the defined purpose of the project, which was to enhance cross-river mobility in the region. Accordingly, the focus became “two bridges, one project,” and the year-of-expenditure cost estimate for the total project was $4.1 billion.

Construction of the new I–65 cable-stayed bridge is shown here well underway in downtown Louisville, KY, with the older steel truss bridge behind the new structure.
Construction of the new I–65 cable-stayed bridge is shown here well underway in downtown Louisville, KY, with the older steel truss bridge behind the new structure.

In late 2011, KYTC applied the practical solutions metric and trimmed more than $1.1 billion from the Kentucky portion of the project. The savings was accomplished primarily by scaling back the single most costly section of the project--reconstruction of the Kennedy Interchange. Rather than building a new interchange, the cabinet decided to reconstruct the existing interchange, essentially softening its curves and reducing the severity of traffic weaves. Further savings came from eliminating a flyover ramp on the Indiana approach and relocating pedestrian/bicycle access to an adjacent unused railroad bridge.

The wreckage of the destroyed span of the U.S. 68/KY–80 bridge is shown wrapped around the front of the large ocean-going vessel that struck it. The rest of the bridge is visible and still standing.
In January 2012, a span of the U.S. 68/KY–80 bridge over Kentucky Lake was destroyed in a late-night collision involving an ocean-going vessel navigating the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.

KYTC also worked with the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) and FHWA to further decrease the $4.1 billion cost of the overall project to $2.6 billion by reducing the width of the new East End Bridge from six travel lanes to four, but with sufficient right-of-way to allow for expansion to six lanes by restriping. KYTC and partners reasoned that four lanes would meet traffic demands for several years. They also envisioned a design-build approach to shorten the completion timetable from 2024 to 2018.

The two States ultimately decided to bifurcate the procurement process for financing, with Kentucky procuring the $1.3 billion downtown portion and Indiana procuring the $1.3 billion east-end portion.

Indiana used a public-private partnership with an availability payment mechanism on the East End Bridge. Under an availability payment system, the public sponsor makes periodic payments to the private concessionaire on the condition that the facility meets defined performance specifications.

Kentucky used nonrecourse toll revenue bonds and bond anticipation notes sold through the Kentucky Public Transportation Infrastructure Authority, with no State-supported backstop for debt. Kentucky also was successful in obtaining a $452.2 million Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan to round out its financial package.

When the two design-build procurements were completed in November 2012, the result was an even further reduced total project cost of $2.3 billion--$1.8 billion less than the original $4.1 billion cost--and a further improved project completion date of December 2016, 8 years ahead of the initial schedule.

The two States and FHWA intertwined their innovative procurement and financing processes to produce this result. In addition, both then Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, who jointly led the cooperative effort, were essential to getting the project done.

Both Ohio River bridges and approaches are proceeding on schedule to be finished in late 2016. Upon completion of the project, the agencies will apply tolling equally at each bridge location. The tolling proceeds will be combined and split equally as well--half to Kentucky, half to Indiana--to provide the necessary revenue streams to support both States’ financial packages.

The technical and financial innovations used in the Ohio River Bridges Project yielded positive results (such as drastically reduced cost and timeframe for completion), but they were not the only innovations applied to the project. Other initiatives included creation of a minority workforce development program, Bridges to Opportunities. The program set up a partnership of contractors and trade unions with local and Commonwealth agencies and educators to develop a trained minority workforce that could be hired for construction projects now and in the future. The innovative partnership that formed Bridges to Opportunities provides avenues for employment that were previously unavailable to the local people.

Milton-Madison Bridge

The U.S. 421 bridge over the Ohio River between Milton, KY, and Madison, IN, is another example of bistate cooperation and applied innovation. The 1930s-era bridge underwent major rehabilitation in 1997, but in 2009 it was necessary for KYTC to post a 15-ton (13.6-metric-ton) weight limit. The need for a replacement span became clear.

Recognizing that time was a factor, the two States and the communities of Milton and Madison agreed that the replacement bridge should remain in the same location. Again applying the principles of practical solutions and Every Day Counts, KYTC proposed that the existing piers be used for the new bridge, if possible, eliminating the need to build new piers in the river. After verifying that the old piers were suitable for use, KYTC made plans to strengthen them and close the Milton-Madison U.S. 421 crossing for 1 year while it removed the old structure and constructed a new, wider bridge on the strengthened piers.

Using INDOT’s design-build authority, the two States let the project to construction. The winning contractor proposed building a 2,428-foot (740-meter)-long superstructure on temporary piers next to the old bridge and then sliding the new bridge onto the strengthened permanent piers. Surprisingly, the cost of this approach was lower than the proposed costs of other bidders. Also, using the bridge slide approach, the contract required that the U.S. 421 Milton-Madison river crossing be closed for only 10 days instead of 1 year. The bridge slide project would be the longest ever undertaken in North America.

Although construction circumstances dictated that the actual bridge closure was 41 days rather than 10 days, it still represented a considerable improvement over the original estimate. Reopened to traffic in April 2014, the project is a testament to both practicality and innovation as the partners worked seamlessly to minimize the disruption that a longer bridge closure would have caused for local road users.

Kentucky Lake Bridge

In western Kentucky, U.S. 68/KY–80 extends through the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, a well-known destination for sportsmen and vacationers. On a late evening in January 2012, an ocean-going vessel using the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway to haul rocket parts from Decatur, AL, to Cape Canaveral, FL, struck a span of the 3,495-foot (1,065-meter)-long Kentucky Lake bridge. A 322-foot (98-meter)-long span of the 83-year-old bridge collapsed in seconds. The incident did not cause any injuries or fatalities, but it did necessitate a 42-mile (68-kilometer) detour around the closure and severely threatened the viability of the summer tourist season for the region.

Here, a crane is lifting the new replacement span into place.
KYTC constructed the new replacement span on land, floated it to the bridge site, lifted it into place, poured the concrete deck, and reopened the U.S. 68/KY–80 Kentucky Lake bridge to traffic before Memorial Day 2012.

Once KYTC determined the extent of the damage, the cabinet developed a design and replacement project to build a new span onto the existing structure. Using innovative construction techniques (including prefabricated elements), the contractor assembled the span at the Eddyville, KY, river port and floated it upstream to the bridge site. There, the contractor lifted the span into place on May 15, and the bridge opened to traffic on May 25, 3 days before Memorial Day, which was the start of the 2012 recreational season at the Land Between the Lakes. When the Governor initially announced the construction timetable to complete the project by Memorial Day, local road users cheered. Through its innovative and practical approach, KYTC succeeded in reopening the Kentucky Lake bridge in just 4 months.

High-Friction Surface Treatment

Roadway departure incidents account for nearly 70 percent of crashes on Kentucky highways. Because these crashes are frequently severe and may lead to injury or death, KYTC has made it a top priority to identify and treat those areas where they occur most often. Over recent years, KYTC has applied high-friction surface treatments (HFST) to numerous horizontal curves where crash data indicated that enhanced skid resistance may help to reduce crashes.

KYTC also installed HFST to address rear-end crashes. In one example, at the intersection of U.S. 25 and KY–1629 in Knox County, KYTC applied the friction treatment only in the southbound lane of U.S. 25, which has a downhill approach to the KY–1629 intersection. During the 3 years before the installation, there were 6 wet-weather crashes and 27 dry-weather crashes--an average of 11 crashes a year--at this location. Most were rear-end crashes. During the 16 months after the installation, the location saw a decrease in crashes to 2 wet-weather crashes and 5 dry-weather crashes, an average of 5.38 crashes a year.

Another HFST project addressed a horizontal curve on KY–22 in Oldham County that had a higher-than-average crash rate. Before the installation of the HFST, the location saw 53 wet-weather crashes and 3 dry-weather crashes over a 3-year period, an average of 18.67 crashes a year. In just over 3 years after KYTC applied the HFST treatment, 5 wet-weather crashes and no dry-weather crashes occurred, an average of 1.57 crashes a year.

KYTC considers its use of this technology a success based on observed decreases in crash rates at the vast majority of locations where KYTC applied HFST.

Warm-Mix Asphalt

KYTC also demonstrated innovative leadership when it partnered with the Plantmix Asphalt Industry of Kentucky to adopt warm-mix asphalt (WMA). WMA is produced and installed at lower temperatures than traditional hot-mix asphalt. By producing a product that is of equal or greater quality while using less energy, contractors are able to help KYTC deliver pavement surfaces in a more environmentally sound manner. In addition, the ability to haul WMA for longer distances has increased pavement quality for some of the most rural areas of Kentucky and has improved the density of the asphalt mix, leading to more durable pavements. The organizations worked together to integrate the technology quickly to the benefit of both contractors and the public.

Widespread use of WMA began in Kentucky in 2008, when KYTC applied about 160,000 tons (145,000 metric tons). Annual quantities of WMA have steadily increased since then, with more than 4.1 million tons (3.7 million metric tons) of WMA applied in 2013.

Kentucky now embraces WMA as a standard specification and allows several methods of producing the asphalt, including the water-injection method to create asphalt foaming and the use of chemical additives. In 2014, more than 50 percent of the asphalt applied to the Commonwealth’s highway system was WMA.

The use of high-friction surface treatments, as shown on this two-lane road, has become widespread in Kentucky where slippery pavements have been a contributing factor in roadway departure crashes. As a result, crashes have decreased dramatically at the treated locations.
The use of high-friction surface treatments, as shown on this two-lane road, has become widespread in Kentucky where slippery pavements have been a contributing factor in roadway departure crashes. As a result, crashes have decreased dramatically at the treated locations.

The benefits of use in Kentucky include reduced emissions and burner fuel use at asphalt plants, higher levels of asphalt mix density, and the ability to pave in cooler weather and to haul the mix over longer distances. WMA also provides a benefit to workers: The mix can be worked at a cooler temperature, a plus for crews in close proximity to the asphalt paving operation.

SHRP2 Product Implementation

KYTC is using opportunities presented by SHRP2 to bring new technologies and concepts to the Commonwealth. KYTC applied for implementation assistance for SHRP2 products through FHWA and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and is deploying those products on Kentucky projects. The products touch many KYTC processes, from planning with reliability data and analysis tools to maintenance and preservation.

With the help of the SHRP2 Innovative Bridge Designs for Rapid Renewal (R04) product, KYTC is working with its District 11 office to evaluate the use of an innovative bridge design in Knox County on KY–6 at the Stewarts Creek Bridge. Using accelerated construction techniques will enable KYTC to reduce closure time on small structure replacements by 75 percent or more, minimizing the effect on the traveling public.

Keys to Success in Innovation

Inspire innovation throughout the entire organization. Innovation cannot be limited to one specific area or office. Employees across the entire spectrum should be encouraged to find a better way to do things and then celebrated when they do. The need for innovation must be built into the organization’s business strategies, reflecting that this is a basic principle of operation.

Have an engaged leadership. Organization leaders cannot simply announce that they support innovation. They have to live it as an example to others. They have to actively, constantly look for opportunities to show their support for innovation.

Understand the customer. Realize that innovation will only be good for the organization if it is ultimately good for the customer. Learn as much as possible about the customer, either through formal surveys and polls, or through email, letters, phone calls, and other communications received from customers. Also, when implementing an innovation that will benefit them, let customers know about it through various communication channels.

Partner with other individuals and organizations. Doing so can often bring about change much faster. The more people who are using an innovation, the faster it will reach the tipping point and become a standard practice. Getting others involved in championing an innovation will supercharge the efforts.

Take advantage of the experience and support of others. Find someone who has already used an innovation that the organization is considering, and learn from his or her experience. Ask him or her to talk frankly about what worked and also about any difficulties encountered along the way.

Overcome resistance to change. Be prepared to deal with resistance and do not get discouraged when change does not happen overnight. With patience and persistence, people will begin to embrace the idea of change and to see its benefits.

KYTC also is evaluating new ways to backfill behind bridge end bents and abutments to ensure maximum long-term stability through the SHRP2 GeoTech Tools (R02) product. Through use of this product, KYTC is considering methods to minimize pavement settlement at bridge ends. Improving the stability of these areas will reduce costly periodic maintenance for resurfacing and will improve performance for the traveling public by eliminating “bumps” at the start and end of bridges.

Using Pavement Renewal Solutions (R23), KYTC plans to evaluate methods for keeping existing pavement structures in place when constructing rehabilitation and renewal projects. One method the cabinet will consider is the use of a paving grid as a crack-relieving interlayer. This method would enable KYTC to use the existing pavement structure instead of rebuilding the roadway from the subgrade to the surface. Quantifying the benefits of this and other techniques will help KYTC maximize the effectiveness of limited rehabilitation dollars.

In addition, through the Identifying and Managing Utility Conflicts (R15B) product, KYTC will incorporate a utility conflict matrix into the Kentucky Utilities and Rail Tracking System. The matrix will provide a centralized venue for project-specific data sharing between affected agencies and utility companies. Reducing utility delays and associated costs for project delivery will result in faster delivery of critical transportation projects.

 KYTC also plans to use Reliability Data and Analysis Tools (L02/L05/L07/L08/C11) to evaluate the reliability of key transportation corridors in three areas in Kentucky. By implementing these products, KYTC will evaluate proposed solutions to congestion and reliability challenges that have the potential to increase efficiency for road users.

Lastly, KYTC is evaluating six preventive maintenance products to develop guidelines for preservation activities on high-volume roadways by using the Guidelines for the Preservation of High-Traffic Volume Roadways (R26) product. Preventive maintenance treatments can extend the service life of the Commonwealth’s infrastructure, making efficient use of limited financial resources, as well as reducing traveler delays from construction activities.

Looking Ahead

As KYTC looks to the future, the cabinet will continue to seek value in practical solutions. The successful implementation of more efficient and innovative tools and processes has enabled the agency to demonstrate the delivery of timely, quality projects to the public, Commonwealth legislature, and members of the U.S. Congress.

KYTC is working to develop performance metrics that will assist the cabinet in communicating needs and successes to the public. Growth in public trust will help ensure that the agency is able to allocate resources to projects that are critical to maintaining, reconstructing, and widening roads and bridges; managing traffic through intelligent transportation system technologies; and adding roadways where there is technical and community consensus to do so.

Whether the cabinet uses the Kentucky Public Transportation Infrastructure Authority to pursue other toll revenue-based megaprojects, such as the I–75/I–71 Brent Spence Bridge between Covington, KY, and Cincinnati, OH, or it seeks innovative ways to deliver off-system bridge replacement projects more efficiently through the expedited bridge replacement program, it will do so with a desire for constant improvement. Because at KYTC, innovation leadership is a mindset.

Michael W. Hancock, P.E., is Secretary of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and immediate past president of AASHTO. His experience with KYTC includes 10 years in rural and urban transportation planning, 10 years leading the cabinet’s program management function, and 8 years as deputy State highway engineer for program planning and management. In addition, Hancock currently serves as chairman of the AASHTO Standing Committee on Planning and as a member of the Executive Committee of the Transportation Research Board.

For more information, contact Michael Hancock at 502–564–5102 or michael.hancock@ky.gov.



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