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FHWA Promotes Cost- and Time-Saving Techniques

Image of prefabricated bridge elements
The FHWA is promoting time- and cost-saving techniques—including such prefabricated bridge elements as those used in the Interstate 85 interchange project in Troup County, Georgia—as part of a new initiative to help state departments of transportation manage their road and bridge projects. Courtesy of FHWA 

The FHWA reveals a second round of innovation initiatives that will improve safety, streamline regulation, and quicken the delivery of projects. 

August 21, 2012—The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) unveiled the second round of the Every Day Counts (EDC) initiative recently in advance of a series of regional workshops in the fall to promote 13 cost- and time-saving measures to state and local transportation officials.

The EDC was initiated in 2010, inspired by the Senate confirmation process of the FHWA’s administrator, Victor Mendez. Mendez met with senators in their offices, and many had stories about delayed project deliveries.

“Senators told stories about certain projects that took years to deliver,” says Greg Nadeau, the FHWA’s deputy administrator. “The time it was taking to deliver projects was obviously front and center in their minds, particularly when resources are growing more and more constrained. They wanted to know what we could do about it.”

The FHWA, working with state department of transportation (DOT) officials and such stakeholders as the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, developed an initial list of initiatives on which they have focused for two years. States chose which initiatives they want to pursue, and the FWHA provided access to technical expertise.

“Some states are more aggressive in adopting initiatives because their circumstances allow it,” Nadeau says. “Some states may not be able to implement as many as they’d like. Most importantly, all states participate on some level. It’s not a numbers game.”

One of the more successful initiatives from round one was Safety Edge, a paving process in which the edges of roads in primarily rural areas are compressed at a 30-degree angle rather than left at an unfinished 90 degrees. Research indicates that 90-degree drop-offs are a factor in approximately 20 percent of rural traffic accidents.

“Safety Edge was not well known in the industry when we rolled out EDC in 2010,” Nadeau says. “Our goal was to have 40 states adopt it as standard practice by December 2012, and we are currently near 30 states. In a little more than two years we have gone from a safety feature that was little known to more than half of the country having adopted it as a standard specification.”

Nadeau attributes the success of the EDC to the collaborative nature of the initiative, combining input from the FHWA, state DOT officials, trade groups, and private industry stakeholders.

Nadeau says that the EDC has been well received in part because of the challenging economic environment in the country, which has pushed state DOTs to find new ways to deliver projects in less time and for less money.

“The timing is great for innovation,” Nadeau says. “Everyone is looking for answers. Because you don’t have more money doesn’t mean that the demand goes away. The infrastructure continues to age. The demand on that infrastructure continues to grow. It’s not discretionary. We have to deal with it.”

This is tempered somewhat by the cautious nature of the engineering and construction industries, which prefer to rely on tested and proven techniques. The EDC is designed to provide evidence of innovations that are proven. Prefabricated bridge elements and systems and geosynthetic reinforced soil are both accelerated bridge construction methods, and were carried over from round one to the second as the FWHA continues to champion the time savings provided.

“I spent seven years as the deputy commissioner of the Maine DOT. I have been here three years,” Nadeau says. “The last thing in the world I want is a cavalier bridge engineer. I want my engineers to be critical and cautious. They want to see the effectiveness, and that is really what this is all about. The EDC engages the engineering community and accelerates critical conversations on new innovations.

“Once you convince a bridge engineer by demonstrating effectiveness, you are not going to have a better champion,” Nadeau adds.

The new initiatives list includes:

Programmatic Agreements II—This is a streamlined approach for environmental requirements that are often repeated on a project-by-project basis. An example is determining what mitigation actions are required when a particular endangered species is affected, and then taking those actions on any project that impacts the species.

Locally Administered Federal-Aid Projects—This initiative is designed to reduce state oversight by educating local agencies on the complexities of the Federal-Aid Highway Program’s process and requirements.

3-D Modeling for Construction Means and Methods—Combining construction equipment utilizing Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers with 3-D modeling of a project can deliver accurate grades on the first pass, increasing productivity by 50 percent.

Intelligent Compaction—Combining GPS with machines using vibrating compaction rollers and accelerometers to measure density improves the consistency of pavement.

Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC)—The FWHA is concentrating on three techniques—prefabricated bridge elements and systems, side-in bridge construction, and geosynthetic reinforced soil—to reduce traffic disruptions on bridge projects. (To read Civil Engineering magazine’s feature on ABC, see “Spanning the Nation”.)

Design/Build—In this process a team bids on and accepts responsibility for the design and construction of a project, streamlining the process.

Construction Manager/General Contractor—States are changing laws and regulations to allow a contractor to be hired during the design process, acting as a consultant to offer innovations and cost reduction strategies.

Alternative Technical Concepts—By allowing contractors to propose alternatives during the design phase, states can be presented with innovative ideas that save time and money.

High Friction Surfaces—This safety measure adds a high-friction surface to curves, which make up only 5 percent of highway miles in the United States but account for 25 percent of fatalities, according to the FWHA.

Intersection and Interchange Geometrics—This explores safety innovations to reduce conflict points between motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists.

Geospatial Data Collaboration—This innovation explores a cloud-based geographic information system platform that allows data sharing between stakeholders.

Implementing Quality Environmental Documentation—This initiative reduces the size and increases the readability of the National Environmental Policy Act to accelerate project delivery.

Strategic Highway Research Program 2 (SHRP2) National Traffic Incident Management Responder Training—Seeking to reduce the 4.2 billion hours and 2.8 billion gallons of gasoline motorists waste stuck in traffic because of accidents, disabled vehicles, and debris in the road, this initiative offers a national training program for first responders.



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