Two high-profile transportation projects took home the top honors in the 5th annual America's Transportation Award competition. The awards were announced Sunday during the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials annual meeting in Pittsburgh.
AASHTO, AAA, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sponsor the America's Transportation Awards competition, which recognizes outstanding transportation projects in three categories: Ahead of Schedule, Under Budget, and Best Use of Innovation.
The Florida Department of Transportation claimed the People's Choice Award for its A. Max Brewer Bridge Replacement project. A record 712,000 online votes were cast for the top 10 projects selected by a panel of transportation judges. The California Department of Transportation earned the judges' Grand Prize award for its I-405/Sepulveda Pass—Mulholland Bridge Demolition project (better known as "Carmageddon").
"We are honored to recognize these projects, both of which demonstrate all the hard work our state DOTs are doing to deliver transportation projects to the public ahead of schedule, under budget, and showing the very best uses of innovation," said John Horsley, AASHTO executive director. "Our state DOTs know just how important it is to save taxpayer dollars and minimize inconvenience to the public while delivering vital transportation projects that improve safety for all on the road and eliminate congestion so that drivers can get to their destinations faster."
"The U.S. Chamber congratulates the California and Florida DOTs for their pursuit of innovative solutions to their transportation needs," said Janet Kavinoky, executive director of transportation policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "In California, by embracing communications as a key strategy in transportation project management, Caltrans set the standard for public outreach. In Florida, the DOT showed it could not only serve the needs of commuters and the vitality of local businesses, but also benefit the environment. We are proud to highlight projects like these that are at the leading edge of best practices in modernizing and expanding the nation's transportation network."
"Each of these award winning projects, while serving local and regional needs, is a critical component of the vital transportation network that provides benefits to all users," said Jill Ingrassia, managing director of government relations and traffic safety advocacy at AAA. "AAA joins AASHTO and the U.S. Chamber in congratulating the California and Florida DOTs for a job well done."
AASHTO presented $10,000 cash prizes to both of the winning transportation departments. The money will be used to support the charity or academic scholarship program of their choice.
Florida DOT rebuilt the structurally deficient A. Max Brewer Bridge over the Indian River in Titusville, Florida, making sure the new $44.8 million bridge included improvements to cut down on congestion in the area. The original swing bridge regularly delayed commuters heading to work and tourists checking out nearby attractions. The rebuilding resulted in a new fixed span bridge with upgrades for both motorists and boaters. The project also dealt with many environmental challenges, as the bridge stretched across a sensitive environmental area that featured protected sea grass and manatee winter migration paths. Florida DOT paid special attention to the environmental impacts using innovative project management, all while eliminating the constant chokepoint in Titusville.
Caltrans utilized a $5 million communication campaign to help drivers plan for and survive a scheduled shutdown of a portion of heavily traveled I-405 in Los Angeles last year. By holding multiple news conferences in the months before the closure, conducting almost daily media interviews, creating a countdown clock on a project website, using social media, and utilizing celebrities (such as Erik Estrada) in Public Service Announcements, Caltrans was able to reach the public to get them to plan ahead or just simply stay off the roads if possible during the closure. Due to the communications plan, traffic was greatly reduced in the project area, which allowed Caltrans to reopen the very busy highway 17 hours ahead of schedule.
A total of 49 projects from 34 states were entered in this year's America's Transportation Awards competition. More information about all the projects is available at AmericasTransportationAward.org, and a video showcasing the 10 national finalists is available at bit.ly/ATA2012Top10.