Every Day Counts in Building Transportation Infrastructure
In a time of constrained resources, governments at all levels are looking for ways to give taxpayers maximum value for every dollar. Transportation is no exception. The public expects and demands enhanced transportation infrastructure to improve safety and support the Nation's 21st century economy. In fall 2009, Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez launched an initiative called Every Day Counts to bring a greater focus on innovation in the way the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) approaches the challenges of building and maintaining the highway system in today's economy.
To support the initiative, FHWA launched the "Every Day Counts" Web site at www.fhwa.dot.gov/everydaycounts in September 2010. The goal of the Web site is not only to inform transportation professionals about specific initiatives but also to help with implementation. Administrator Mendez also has established a strong partnership with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and other key stakeholders to join FHWA in this effort. State and local transportation agencies, as well as private sector contractors, will be critical to accelerating the deployment of innovations across the Nation.
"Highways impact our communities in so many ways," says Administrator Mendez. "By making driving safer and reducing congestion, we contribute to more livable communities. Because highways are vital to our economic well-being, they must be able to facilitate trade and the movement of goods. And the way highways are constructed and perform has a direct impact on air quality and our ability to conserve energy. These are important challenges that not only need to be addressed, but approached with a real sense of urgency."
Built on Two "Pillars"
Every Day Counts is built on two pillars. The first involves a number of specific strategies designed to help shorten the time it takes to deliver major projects. Although there is some debate about the exact figure, the general thinking is that a major highway project takes an average of 13 years to go from concept to ribbon-cutting. Every Day Counts offers a range of strategies and tools for reducing that time, while continuing to protect the environment and deliver quality projects.
In general, these strategies attempt to eliminate duplication of effort in the planning process and encourage the use of flexibilities in current laws and regulations. These tools also offer innovative contracting solutions that engage the contractor earlier in the process, which helps provide a better handle on costs, risks, possible problems, and potential solutions.
The second pillar focuses on deploying five effective technologies into widespread use. One is adaptive signal control, which is a technology for adjusting the timing of traffic lights to accommodate changing traffic patterns. Another is geosynthetic reinforced soil in an integrated bridge system, which uses alternating layers of compacted granular fill material and fabric sheets of geotextile reinforcement to provide bridge support. The third technology is prefabricated bridge elements and systems. The fourth is the safety edge, a solution that paves the edge of the roadway surface at angles of 30 degrees, making it easier for drivers to regain control if they start to leave the road. The fifth key technology is warm-mix asphalt.
Some of the technologies enhance safety, while others reduce construction time or save energy. The goal is to move these technologies off the shelf and into daily use.
Navigating the Web Site
The home page of the Every Day Counts Web site sets out the two pillars, with sections on shortening project delivery and accelerating technology deployment. In each section, site users can link to the specific strategies or technologies to learn more. For example, clicking on the "Flexibilities in Utility Accommodation and Relocation" link under "Shortening Project Delivery Toolkit," pulls up a page with best practices, training, and Federal laws, regulations, and policies relevant to utilities.
In addition to information-gathering functions, the site enables the transportation community to share feedback and ideas. The "Innovation Box," featured on the home page, is a direct link to FHWA where site visitors can send ideas for shortening project delivery or recommend new technologies.
"We must find better, faster, and smarter ways of delivering projects, enhancing safety, making our communities more livable, enabling commerce, and sustaining our environment," Administrator Mendez says. "The Every Day Counts initiative is an important first step in responding to that challenge, and the Web site lays out the route ahead."
Gregory G. Nadeau is deputy administrator of FHWA and leads the Every Day Counts effort.