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Public Roads - Mar/Apr 2007

Mar/Apr 2007
Issue No:
Vol. 70 No. 5
Publication Number:
Table of Contents

Along the Road

Management and Administration

Along the Road is the place to look for information about current and upcoming activities, developments, trends, and items of general interest to the highway community. This information comes from U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) sources unless otherwise indicated. Your suggestions and input are welcome. Let's meet along the road.

New Federal Grant to Help Cut Construction Timeline

Iowa, Minnesota, and South Carolina will be the first States to each receive a $1 million grant under the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Highways for LIFE program to help develop new approaches that can cut highway construction schedules in half, FHWA Administrator J. Richard Capka announced on October 31, 2006.

The program encourages States to build roads faster, while making them longer lasting and less costly to maintain. "The program is part of transportation legislation President Bush signed last year," Capka said. "Using new building methods and materials can improve travel, save money, and make our roads safer."

Capka emphasized that the program's goal is to reduce work zone congestion by cutting the time needed to build and repair highways. The program stresses innovation and promotes novel operational and contracting approaches that can shave off time from construction projects.

Capka noted that Iowa will use the grant to fund the reconstruction of an interchange in Council Bluffs using prefabricated bridge sections that can be built away from the roadway and installed overnight, sparing drivers months of onsite road work. Minnesota will reconstruct a portion of Highway 36 in north St. Paul using a full-road closure for 5 months to complete the project faster. South Carolina will use a "no excuses" clause in a construction contract for meeting the specified completion date for a bridge project in Kingstree.

Federal Officials, Tribal Leaders Sign Historic Agreement

Record highway funds will be spent by 2010 to improve road safety on reservation lands, thanks to a historic agreement signed on September 27, 2006, in Washington, DC, by leaders of four Native American tribes and FHWA.

The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) substantially increased funding for the Indian Reservation Roads (IRR) Program, which funds road projects on reservation lands. The new law provides IRR with $1.86 billion over 5 years for road construction and safety training, while its predecessor, the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, provided $1.6 billion over 6 years. SAFETEA-LU authorized USDOT to enter, for the first time, into government-to-government agreements with qualified tribes to administer the IRR Program. Previously, the fund was managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Funding for the IRR Program is critical because motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of deaths among Native Americans between 4 and 44 years old. In fact, although fatal crashes in the United States fell slightly between 1975 and 2002, they increased by 51 percent on reservation lands over the same period.

FHWA Executive Director Frederick "Bud" Wright attended the signing event with President Leo Lee Pino of the Ramah Navajo Chapter of the Navajo Nation; President Alex White Plume of the Oglala Sioux Tribe of the Pine Ridge Reservation; Chairman John Morales and Vice-Chairwoman Roxanne Gourneau of the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Reservation; and Councilmen David Bird, Archie Fool Bear, and Matthew Lopez of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Though only four tribes were represented at the ceremony, all recognized tribes will benefit from the IRR Program, according to a formula based on the tribes' populations, volume of travel, and transportation needs.


Seated at the table during the signing of the agreement are (from left to right) President Alex White Plume, Oglala Sioux Tribe; Vice-Chairwoman Roxanne Gourneau, Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes; President Leo Lee Pino, Ramah Navajo Chapter; and Councilman Archie Fool Bear, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.


FHWA Announces Excellence In Highway Design 2006 Award Winners

From urban roadways that celebrate the communities around them to stunning modern structures, FHWA's Excellence in Highway Design Awards Program recognizes the best in roadway design. The 2006 award winners improved safety, project management, and mobility while creatively enhancing the environment. The awards for Excellence, Merit, and Honorable Mention in 11 categories were announced at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials' (AASHTO) Annual Meeting in Portland, OR, on October 28, 2006.

Category 1, "The Urban Highway," honored the San Francisco Department of Public Works and California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) for their work on the Octavia Boulevard/Central Freeway Project. Category 2, "The Rural Highway," recognized Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT), District 1, for the Minnesota Trunk Highway 38 (Edge of the Wilder-ness National Scenic Byway). The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) won Category 3A, "Major Highway Structures (Over $15 Million)," for its work on Cooper River Bridge, North America's longest cable-stayed span bridge. Category 3B, "Major Highway Structures (Under $15 Million)," went to the City of San Diego, CA, for the North Torrey Pines Road Bridge at Los Peñasquitos Creek located at the Torrey Pines State Beach.

Category 4, "Environmental Protection and Enhancement," honored the New Mexico Department of Transportation for decreasing the impact of construction on the environment and preserving and protecting valuable natural resources on the Pojoaque Corridor. Category 5, "Historic Preservation," was awarded to the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department for preserving the historic integrity of 70-year-old Cotter Bridge while improving safety. Category 6, "Highway Related Projects," went to the New York State Department of Transportation for the Allegany River Rest Area near the Allegany Indian Reservation.

Category 7, "Intelligent Transportation Systems," was awarded to Mn/DOT for MnPASS which alleviated congestion and delays on the I-394 corridor in Minneapolis, MN. Category 8, "Intermodal Transportation Facilities," was presented to the City of Greensboro, NC, for its work on the J. Douglas Galyon Depot, which has been renovated to serve as a multimodal transportation complex, now called the Greensboro Multimodal Transportation Center. Category 9, "Highway Improvements on Publicly Owned Land," honored Yellowstone National Park's Grand Loop Road, Canyon to Tower Phase 1. Category 10, "Project Development Process," went to the Massachusetts Highway Department for its Project Development & Design Guide, a set of guidelines that encompass nationwide best practices. Finally, Category 11, "Project Management," honored the Montana Department of Transportation for Beartooth Highway emergency repairs completed just 5 months after major mud and debris slides severely damaged the road in May 2005.

For more information on the awards program, visit


Policy and Legislation

USDOT Signs Record of Decision For St. Croix River Crossing

On November 20, 2006, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters announced that USDOT signed a Record of Decision (ROD) for the St. Croix River Crossing to connect Washington County, MN, and St. Croix County, WI, clearing the way for progress on the long-planned bridge.

Secretary Peters said a unique collaborative process aimed at speeding decisions on important transportation projects around the country led to the breakthrough for the St. Croix River Project, which was selected in 2002 to be part of the environmental streamlining process. That process, created as a result of an executive order signed by President Bush, requires Federal, State, and local officials to complete difficult environmental and regulatory permitting reviews as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

"After years in limbo, this project is moving forward because everyone was able to work together, cutting through red tape while at the same time being good stewards of the environment. This project is showing the Nation that you can ask hard questions, apply rigorous standards, and still make tough decisions in a reasonable amount of time," Secretary Peters said.

Minnesota Lt. Gov./Transportation Commissioner Carol Molnau said, "This project will help meet the transportation needs for both States, while protecting our truly remarkable natural resources along the wild and scenic St. Croix River."

"Today is truly a great day for the States of Minnesota and Wisconsin," said Secretary Frank Busalacchi of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. "We have broken through years of gridlock through a stakeholder process that brought all parties together to find a solution that we can all be proud of."

For more information on the St. Croix River Crossing Project, visit


Public Information and Information Exchange

VDOT Marks 10th Anniversary of National Work Zone Awareness Week

Bunky Johnson, an 18-year maintenance crew member in the Virginia Department of Transportation's (VDOT) Norfolk Residency, knows firsthand how important it is for drivers to use caution when driving through a work zone. And he has the video footage to back up that knowledge.

Johnson was clearing drains on I-264 in Virginia Beach in 2005, when he looked up to see the bottom of a truck hurling over the median barrier directly at him. Coincidentally, 13 News, the local ABC TV station, was recording a traffic story using VDOT's traffic cameras that happened to be aimed where Johnson was working. Reporters later told Johnson that the truck missed him by only about a foot.

These are the kinds of stories that Virginia's newest drivers hear when VDOT and Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance employees visit high school driver education classes to make presentations on work zone safety. During the first half of the 2006-2007 school year, about 160 volunteers spoke to nearly 8,200 students. More than 79,000 teens have heard the message since the statewide program's inception in 2003.

"It is so important that we reach out to these young drivers and share the lesson of work zone safety awareness — not just during April in observance of National Work Zone Awareness Week, but year-round," said VDOT Commissioner David S. Ekern.

VDOT has been observing National Work Zone Awareness Week in April each year since 1997. To see the video of Johnson's narrow escape and for more information, go to


Caltrans Employees Recognized for Biking to Work

Employees at Caltrans logged 55,658 kilometers (34,584 miles), the most of any employer in the area, during the Sacramento Region Bike Commute Month/Million Mile May event. Similar regional events across the State encouraged increased use of bicycles for commuting, errands, and recreation.

"This shows that Caltrans employees are not only interested in keeping in shape but in finding alternate ways of commuting to work and looking for ways to keep congestion off our highways," says Caltrans Director Will Kempton, who rode his bike from Folsom, CA, to Sacramento on May 17, 2006. Event organizers recognized Caltrans employees Kenny Kwong, who logged the largest individual distance — 3,959 kilometers (2,460 miles) — and Michael Pope, who rode 2,607 kilometers (1,620 miles), all within the month of May. Pope, a senior bridge engineer, commutes from his home in Auburn to Sacramento twice a week, a round trip of 148 kilometers (92 miles).

In a brief ceremony at Caltrans headquarters, Director Kempton accepted the department's awards for sponsorship and total miles logged and acknowledged several Caltrans bicyclists for their achievements.


Maine Opens Cable-Stayed Bridge to Public

Less than 3 years after breaking ground for the new Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory, the Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT) held a bridge walk on October 14, 2006, allowing about 15,000 visitors to walk across the 646-meter (2,120-foot) long bridge for the first time. Maine's first cable-stayed bridge, the Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory, is located between Prospect and Verona, ME.

The bridge opened to motor vehicle traffic in December 2006, said Gregory Nadeau, deputy commissioner for policy, planning, and communications of MaineDOT. It will take a few years and millions of dollars to remove the deteriorating old bridge, Nadeau said.

The $85 million cable-stayed bridge, with an observatory 128 meters (420 feet) in the air, is one of just three bridges in the world that have an observatory built into the design. The other two are in Slovakia and Thailand. The bridge was constructed in half the time it usually takes for a project of its magnitude.

For more information, visit the MaineDOT "Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory" Web site at



Caltrans employees logged more bicycle miles than any other employer in the Sacramento region during the Million Mile Month. Director Will Kempton is shown here riding from Folsom to Sacramento, CA, on May 17, 2006.



Victor Mendez Appointed AASHTO Vice President

Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) Director Victor Mendez was recently appointed by fellow transportation directors in the Western Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials to be placed in line as the next president of AASHTO. In a conference call on September 8, 2006, the AASHTO Executive Committee confirmed the appointment. Mendez filled the vacancy caused by AASHTO Vice President David Sprynczynatyk's voluntary departure from the North Dakota Department of Transportation to become adjutant general of that State's National Guard. Sprynczynatyk was in line to assume the AASHTO presidency when then-President Harold Linnenkohl's term ended in October 2006. Linnenkohl represented the Southern States as commissioner of the Georgia Department of Transportation, and the presidency was slated, under AASHTO's bylaws, to go to a director from the Western States.

Mendez, who has been with ADOT since 1985, was named director in 2001. Prior to his appointment as director, he served as agency deputy director, deputy State engineer for the Valley Transportation Group, assistant State engineer with Statewide Project Management, transportation engineering supervisor, and transportation engineer. He has overseen the accelerated schedule for the Valley regional freeway system, advancing its completion from 2014 to 2007. During his tenure as deputy director, an ADOT team completed the first major design-build project in Arizona — the $80 million widening of I-17 — and launched ADOT's largest project to date, the widening of the Superstition Freeway.

Mendez previously worked as a civil engineer with the USDA Forest Service in Oregon and Flagstaff, AZ, before joining ADOT. He holds a B.S. in civil engineering from the University of Texas at El Paso and an M.A. in business administration from Arizona State University. Mendez also is a registered professional engineer in Arizona and a member of the American Public Works Association.