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FHWA Launches Broad Innovation Website

Self-propelled modular transporter to remove the superstructure of a bridge in Utah under the FHWA’s Highways for LIFE program
Crews used a self-propelled modular transporter to remove the superstructure of a bridge in Utah under the FHWA’s Highways for LIFE program, one of several initiatives that can be found under one digital roof on the FHWA’s new innovation website. FHWA

The Federal Highway Administration has launched a consolidated website as a one-stop location for information on innovative highway design and construction.

November 5, 2013—This fall, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) launched a consolidated website it calls “Accelerating Innovation” as a one-stop shop at which design and construction professionals can find a wide variety of information and resources regarding innovations in highway design and construction.

The site links to videos, webinars, publications, and such programs such as the FHWA’s “Highways for LIFE” and “Every Day Counts” initiatives. The former is a congressionally funded program designed to help stakeholders deploy innovations faster throughout the federal highway system; the latter is similarly focused but aimed at the state level.

“The new Accelerating Innovation website provides our stakeholders with one place where they can find the information they are most interested in, whether it be grants, case studies, webinars, or workshops on an innovation,” said Hari Kalla, the director of the FHWA’s Center for Accelerating Innovation, who wrote in response to questions posed by Civil Engineering online. “It’s designed to provide users with what they need when it comes to innovation deployment, quickly and simply.”

Such innovations can make a tremendous difference in both the schedule and cost of highway projects. For example, winners of the 2013 America’s Transportation Awards Competition—sponsored by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), AAA, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce—all illustrate time and cost savings derived from innovative techniques, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s official blog, Fast Lane. An October 23, 2013, post written by Victor Mendez, the administrator of the FHWA, points out that the winning projects offer a glimpse at the future of project delivery in which roads, highways, and bridges are produced faster and more efficiently.

The Utah Department of Transportation was selected as a grand-prize winner of the competition for its $1.7-billion I-15 Corridor Expansion Project, which was completed two years ahead of schedule and at a remarkable cost savings of $260 million using innovations from the Every Day Counts initiative, according to Mendez. The project used such design innovations as divergent diamond interchanges and preconstructed bridge segments, such construction innovations as paving and grading equipment that was operated through a wireless three-dimensional imaging program, and such planning techniques as a strong social media program that kept the public informed and traffic moving.

The competition’s People’s Choice Award also honored innovations from the Every Day Counts initiative, according to Mendez. Missouri completed more than 800 bridge projects, approximately 250 of which were rehabilitation projects, more than 12 months ahead of schedule as part of its Safe and Sound Bridge Improvement Program.

The new website includes practical information on potential design innovations that designers can implement, and includes an “Innovation of the Month” feature to showcase the latest developments. The highlighted innovation for October, for example, was accelerated bridge construction (ABC), an FHWA initiative aimed at minimizing the impacts to traffic as bridge construction proceeds. (See “Spanning the Nation,” Civil Engineering, March 2012, pages 56-71 and 78.)

The FHWA offers a quick overview and side-by-side comparison of various construction methods on the site, plus a video of the Colorado Department of Transportation’s successful implementation of slide-in bridge construction, a method of ABC that is being used with greater frequency.

“The website is a great tool to find innovations used by and for our stakeholders faster,” Kalla said. “What used to take four clicks to find now only takes one.”

Collaborative learning is also available via the website: online meetings and training opportunities are listed, as well as social media accounts so stakeholders can track news as it becomes available. Visitors can also sign up to receive a digital newsletter to keep up-to-date on new developments.

Eventually, the website will also host grant and event information, although those pages are not yet active. The FHWA’s Center for Accelerating Innovation was launched in 2012. Its Every Day Counts program was initiated in 2010 and updated in 2012. (Read “FHWA Promotes Cost- and Time-Saving Techniques” in Civil Engineering online.)



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