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Public Roads - November/December 2013

November/December 2013
Issue No:
Vol. 77 No. 3
Publication Number:
Table of Contents

A Look Back At Moving Forward

by Hari Kalla and Kristine Garfield

From start to finish, the first round of Every Day Counts challenged States to embrace innovations in their highway projects. And that’s exactly what they did.

The Linn Cove Viaduct, part of the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, hugs Grandfather Mountain and is recognized internationally as an engineering marvel. The bridge was built using prefabricated bridge elements and systems, one of the innovations championed in the first round of FHWA’s Every Day Counts initiative

It is generally accepted that major highway projects take 10 to 15 years to complete, with costs sometimes soaring over budget and driver frustration steadily increasing. But with today’s transportation network facing unprecedented challenges, including deteriorating infrastructure, overcrowded roadways, and severely restricted public sector budgets, working more efficiently is more important than ever.

To address these issues and speed up the completion of highway projects, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) launched the Every Day Counts (EDC) initiative in November 2009. EDC encourages the use of proven technological innovations and enhanced business processes to solve such challenges and facilitate doing more with less at the State and local levels. FHWA chose the name “Every Day Counts” to capture the driving public’s urgent need for better transportation facilities delivered faster. More information is available on the EDC Web site at

Through the EDC initiative, FHWA works with State departments of transportation (DOTs), local governments, tribes, contractors, universities, industry groups, and other stakeholders to identify a new collection of innovations to champion every 2 years. The innovations all share common goals: to shorten project delivery, enhance the safety and durability of bridges and roadways, reduce traffic congestion, and protect the environment.

After identifying the EDC technologies and methodologies, senior transportation leaders from across the country gather at regional summits to discuss the innovations, share best practices, and commit to finding opportunities to deploy the technologies that make the most sense for their jurisdictions’ needs. State Transportation Innovation Councils (STICs) also play a key role in the program and serve as active partners throughout the process. For more information on STICs, see “Implementing Innovations” in the July/August 2013 issue of Public Roads.

Since EDC’s inception, every State transportation agency in the country has used at least one of the promoted innovations. The high level of participation is largely due to the focus on State-based ownership and a spirit of continuous improvement, driven by an industrywide cultural change where innovative thinking becomes the norm.

The first cycle of EDC, known as EDC1, was a resounding success, according to Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez. “By working in partnership with States, local governments, and the private sector in Every Day Counts, we now have thousands of people all across the country who are thinking about innovation and putting it to work.”

Most of FHWA’s initial technical teams, each assigned to one of the selected EDC1 innovations, completed their cycle in December 2012. But what did they accomplish? Here is a look at what the teams achieved, what they learned along the way, how States played a crucial role in implementation, and what happened to the innovations upon completion of their 2-year term with EDC.

Accelerating Technology Deployment

Adaptive signal control. Poor traffic signal timing contributes to traffic congestion and delays. Conventional signal systems use preprogrammed daily timing schedules to control the cycling of red, yellow, and green lights. Adaptive signal control technology instead adjusts the timing of each signal phase to accommodate changing traffic patterns throughout the day. This flexibility can decrease traffic congestion, improve travel times, and reduce vehicle emissions.

When EDC began, approximately a dozen agencies were purchasing adaptive signal control systems. At the end of 2012, 90 systems had been implemented with another 46 identified in transportation improvement programs to be implemented in the future. For example, in 2011, the city of Topeka, KS, installed adaptive signal control technology on its 21st Street corridor between Fairlawn Road and Wanamaker Road. The installation will save drivers an estimated 123,000 gallons (465,600 liters) of gasoline and 191,000 pounds (86,640 kilograms) of carbon dioxide per year. Crashes also dropped by nearly 30 percent along the corridor during the system’s first year of operation.

The technical team supporting adaptive signal control recently presented four pilot courses on the topic through FHWA’s National Highway Institute (NHI). The courses are 133122 Traffic Signal Timing Concepts, 133123 Systems Engineering for Signal Systems Including Adaptive Control, 133124 Performance Management of Traffic Signal Systems, and 133125 Successful Traffic Signal Management: The Basic Service Approach. The team also offers workshops on request for funded projects.

This display in the Baltimore Traffic Management Center shows multiple camera views of the arterial system and enables real-time oversight of traffic management of its adaptive signal control technology.

Geosynthetic reinforced soil–integrated bridge systems. This technology uses alternating layers of compacted granular fill material and fabric sheets of geotextile reinforcement to provide support for a bridge. The technology also affords a smooth transition from the roadway to the bridge, alleviating the bump at the start and end of the bridge caused by uneven settlement.

Before EDC, only two counties in two States used geosynthetic reinforced soil–integrated bridge systems. Since the start of EDC, 35 States have built more than 100 bridges using the technology.

The technical team continues its work as part of a group focused on accelerated bridge construction under the second phase of EDC, known as EDC2. The team is providing workshops, training, showcases, conference presentations, and white papers, as well as participating in panel discussions.

Geosynthetic reinforced soil–integrated bridge systems, a simple construction method used to build this bridge in Paulding County, OH, can lower costs, slash construction time, and improve durability.

Prefabricated bridge elements and systems. Prefabrication, which involves the manufacture and assembly of components or entire structures offsite, is solving many constructability challenges. The technology is revolutionizing bridge construction by greatly reducing onsite construction time, minimizing traffic disruptions, and improving work zone safety because of the reduced number of onsite workers exposed to moving traffic.

Since October 2010, agencies have designed or constructed more than 2,500 replacement bridges using prefabricated bridge elements and systems. In addition, nearly half of all States report that since October 2010 more than 25 percent of their replacement bridges have had at least one major prefabricated bridge element or system.

The technical team supporting this technology continues to do so under the EDC2 group focused on accelerated bridge construction. That team is developing a training course that uses segments of film culled from hours of detailed video showing construction of a real-world bridge.

Safety EdgeSM. This paving technique creates a sloped pavement edge that enables vehicles to more easily return to the roadway if they run off. The Safety Edge provides a simple and cost-effective solution to help reduce the likelihood and severity of crashes that occur when vehicles drive off the edge of the pavement. The slope also increases the durability of the pavement edge.

To date, 49 DOTs and all 3 Federal Lands Highway (FLH) divisions have used the Safety Edge on paving projects. Since October 2010, agencies have initiated more than 1,170 Safety Edge projects.

“Working under the Every Day Counts umbrella brought national attention to the Safety Edge technology, especially at the leadership and decisionmaker levels,” says Cathy Satterfield, coleader of FHWA’s Safety Edge team.

The team now is focusing on the local level by working with the Local Technical Assistance Programs and the National Association of County Engineers, and giving presentations and demonstrations. The team also is conducting studies to quantify the safety and longevity of the improvements.

Warm-mix asphalt. Technologies that enable producers of hot-mix asphalt pavement to mix the material at lower temperatures make it possible to do paving jobs using warm-mix asphalt (WMA). Warm-mix methods, including lowering the temperature, reduce costs and fuel consumption, extend the paving season, improve asphalt compaction, enable asphalt mixes to be hauled longer distances, and improve working conditions by reducing exposure to fuel emissions, fumes, and odors. WMA technologies also enable the increased use of recycled materials in asphalt.

Use of WMA has increased significantly in recent years. Since 2010, 47 States and all FLH divisions have added specifications or contractual language that allows the use of WMA. In 2012, WMA represented an estimated 30 percent of the total asphalt market, resulting in a 5-percent reduction in overall air emissions, or the equivalent of taking 160,000 vehicles off the road. According to estimates by the National Asphalt Pavement Association, by 2020 WMA will represent 80 percent of the total market, which will reduce emissions by around 15 percent, or the equivalent of taking more than half a million vehicles off the road each year.

Shortening Project Delivery

Clarifying the scope of preliminary design. This initiative identifies the amount of design work a DOT can do prior to completion of activities required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), regardless of contracting mechanism. Through this initiative, FHWA provides guidance regarding the flexibilities available to States to perform certain types of preliminary design work, such as soil borings, topographic surveys, and preliminary traffic control plans, before or concurrently with the NEPA phase.

Taking advantage of these flexibilities enables the project team to streamline the time from project conception to completion by doing much of the design work upfront. The initiative also helps improve decisionmaking, reduces risk, and ensures the integrity of the NEPA process.

After FHWA developed interim guidance in October 2010 and presented multiple webinars, 34 State DOTs and 1 FLH division accepted the initiative, meaning they committed to at least trying the innovation on a project. Thirteen State DOTs implemented it, making it a standard option for projects, under EDC1. States have the flexibility in how they incorporate the preliminary design guidance into their project development process, meaning they can choose what activities make most sense in their locality.

The technical team remains available to provide support to agencies who have implemented the guidance.

Design-build contracting. This type of contracting combines the design and construction phases of a project into a single contract, unlike the traditional design-bid-build approach, which takes these steps in sequence. Using design-build contracting, DOT project managers can procure one firm that is responsible for both design and construction. The contractor is involved early in the design, so the designer can tailor plans to the contractor’s capabilities from the onset.

According to the Design-Build Institute of America, legislation expanding the authority of design-build contracting was introduced in 36 States within the first hundred days of 2013, and more than 30 have been signed into law. In an earlier example, the New York State Legislature passed the Infrastructure Investment Act in December 2011. The legislation enables the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) and the New York State Thruway Authority to employ design-build contracting for 3 years. NYSDOT used this contracting method on the Kosciuszko Bridge Project and the Thruway Authority used it on the Tappan Zee Hudson River Crossing Project to advance the construction stage of both projects more quickly than the traditional design-bid-build project delivery method would have allowed.

The design-build contracting team continues its work under the umbrella of EDC2’s initiative focused on alternative technical contracts.

EDC-sponsored demonstration projects, such as this one using the Safety Edge in Dodge County, MN, offer the opportunity for local officials to learn about innovations firsthand.

Construction manager/general contractor. In addition to traditional design-bid-build and design-build contracting, there is another method known as construction manager/general contractor. With this contracting method, a public owner hires a construction contractor during the design phase to propose innovations, conduct constructability reviews, provide pricing feedback, identify and mitigate risks, and optimize the construction schedule. Construction manager/general contractor differs from design-build in that the designer and the contractor are contracted separately, giving public owners more flexibility and influence over design decisions.

“Through the construction manager/general contractor contracting method, the public owner can make more informed decisions during design based upon contractor-identified risks and pricing feedback,” says John Haynes, who leads FHWA’s construction manager/general contractor team. “This in turn reduces project costs and schedules. With this type of early contractor involvement, unforeseen conditions are identified early on and avoided during construction, which results in a win-win for both parties.”

Sixteen State DOTs and all three FLH division offices have adopted this initiative under the first round of EDC. The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) recently used this contracting method for its I–70 Twin Tunnels project, which will alleviate congestion in the I–70 mountain corridor near Idaho Springs. By using the construction manager/general contractor delivery method, the project team cut the delivery time in half, successfully managed risks in the blasting phase, and delivered items with long lead times ahead of schedule. These results helped CDOT reduce the cost associated with the tunnel expansion by sharing risk and working with the contractor early during the design phase.

“We have already seen some great success with construction manager/general contractor as it provides for innovation and flexibility,” says Ben Acimovic, CDOT project manager for the I–70 Twin Tunnels project. “As a result, CDOT will continue to pursue this delivery method as a way to bring efficient and effective projects to Colorado.”

The EDC team continues to provide technical assistance to State DOTs and FLH divisions through webinars and workshops, and ongoing promotion will occur under the umbrella of alternative contracting methods in EDC2. Past presentations are available on the EDC Web site at

The I–70 Twin Tunnel project in Colorado benefitted from applying the contracting method known as construction manager/general contractor. Here, workers stand in a blasted section of the tunnel.

Enhanced technical assistance. FHWA has provided technical assistance to identify major challenges for ongoing environmental impact statements and to eliminate project delays where feasible.

During EDC1, teams focused on facilitating interagency collaboration to resolve outstanding issues. They also encouraged peer-to-peer activities, hosted workshops during EDC regional summits, and offered specialized onsite assistance. That assistance ranged from helping project teams address the requirements of various permitting or approval processes to providing additional reviews on technical writeups. The EDC technical team continues to provide assistance upon request.

Expanding the use of programmatic agreements. Programmatic agreements streamline the process for handling routine environmental requirements for common project types. These approaches set procedures for consultation, review, and compliance with Federal laws.

Thirty-seven States currently have at least two active programmatic agreements in place. During EDC1, participating agencies updated more than 100 agreements and initiated more than 50 new agreements. For example, Nebraska recently developed a protected species matrix for the FHWA Nebraska Division, the Nebraska Department of Roads, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to use to comply with both the Endangered Species Act and the Nebraska Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act. The matrix identifies a list of potential effects based on the type of construction activity and the known species and habitats at the site, and standardizes conservation conditions for all State and federally listed species. By implementing the process outlined in the agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission can be assured that Nebraska highway projects are unlikely to adversely affect endangered or threatened species.

The FHWA team focused on programmatic agreements will continue its work under EDC2.

This bridge project on I–4 over the St. Johns River between Sanford and DeBary, FL, involved a number of proven innovations encouraged by the EDC initiative. Examples include planning and environmental linkages, programmatic agreements, and in-lieu fees and mitigation banking to promote environmental stewardship while streamlining processes.

Flexibilities in right-of-way. By using regulatory flexibilities provided in statutes and FHWA regulations, agencies can achieve significant time savings for right-of-way acquisition during project development. For example, waiver valuations allow State DOTs to waive appraisals for properties that are valued at less than an established dollar amount. The waiver results in avoiding the appraisal fee and saving time in the appraisal process.

Another example of flexibilities in right-of-way occurred during the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project, a major I–95 link between Maryland and Virginia, in 2001. The project required the relocation of 403 tenants in adjacent apartment towers. To expedite this process, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) offered a voluntary incentive payment to tenants in addition to the Federal replacement housing payment. Tenants who completed the move within 30 days received a $4,000 incentive. Tenants who moved 31–60 days after the offer received $2,000. Payment offers were staggered to facilitate orderly relocation. All tenants voluntarily accepted the incentive payment and relocated within 8 months, well ahead of the allotted 18 months. The incentive program cost the project an estimated $1.2 million, which was offset by construction savings of $6 million due to starting construction 10 months earlier than planned.

During the first round of EDC, the team supported seminars and presentations, attended committee meetings of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, sent a newsletter to FHWA partners, and developed additional marketing pieces. Twenty-five DOTs accepted the initiative, and eight implemented it under EDC1.

This team continues to provide technical assistance and holds monthly call-ins with participating States.

Flexibilities in utility accommodation and relocation. FHWA estimates that half of all highway and bridge projects eligible for Federal funding require relocation of utility facilities. Relocating utilities generally creates work and space conflicts, extends construction time, and increases costs. This initiative spotlights existing flexibilities under Federal law and FHWA regulations, and describes techniques to speed up utility coordination during project development, such as master utility agreements and lists of preapproved contractors.

Twenty-five States accepted the initiative, and 19 implemented it under EDC1. For example, Washington State entered into an agreement with Puget Sound Energy for a pilot program to improve public safety by relocating utility poles farther off of State roadways more quickly than under the previous system. This agreement will correct all out-of-compliance utility poles within a 10-year period, as well as enhance cooperation, coordination, and communication between the State and the utility.

In support of EDC, the team presented information on flexibilities in utility accommodation and relocation during the EDC regional summits and developed a brochure to provide additional details. In addition, NHI provides a course, 134006 Utility Coordination for Highway Projects, to support more effective utilities relocation.

Legal sufficiency. This initiative encourages early legal consultation to reduce overall environmental review times and to enhance the quality of environmental documents.  Involvement of FHWA environmental attorneys early in the development of large, complex, or potentially controversial projects helps to facilitate early identification of problems in the environmental analysis and enable any needed changes to occur earlier in the project schedule. Better quality documents can minimize or eliminate controversies since concerns are addressed earlier in the decisionmaking process.

During EDC1, 19 States adopted the initiative, and it was implemented on 27 projects. For example, project managers on the Tappan Zee Hudson River Crossing Project sought legal involvement early and commend the initiative because of the time savings realized on the project.

“The [FHWA] Office of the Chief Counsel’s proactive involvement on the Tappan Zee replacement bridge project helped achieve the aggressive project schedule and helped raise the bar on the quality of the environmental documentation,” says John Burns, FHWA’s major project engineer for the Tappan Zee Hudson River Crossing Project. “The Chief Counsel’s Office provided early discernment of critical issues and hands-on guidance of appropriate environmental analysis in numerous resource areas. These early efforts helped decrease the potential for litigation on the project.”

Planning and environmental linkages. This initiative encourages the use of information developed in the planning process to inform the NEPA process. Relevant information includes the purpose and need or goals and objectives statements, the general travel corridor or general modes definitions, and the preliminary screening of alternatives and elimination of unreasonable alternatives. Additional information includes the basic description of the environmental setting, and the preliminary identification of environmental impacts and environmental mitigation. Linking planning and environmental considerations can lead to a seamless decisionmaking process that minimizes duplication of efforts, promotes environmental stewardship, and reduces delays in project implementation. The initiative sets up a framework for considering and incorporating planning documents and decisions from the earliest stages of project planning into the environmental review process.

The FHWA technical team hosted three nationwide webinars with up to 300 participants attending each time. The team also developed Guidance on Using Corridor and Subarea Planning to Inform NEPA and a questionnaire to use as training tools. Some States took the document and used it exactly as presented. Others tailored the concept for their States. Use of the guidance document has become normal operating procedure for many States and continues to gain traction.

“EDC doesn’t provide a cookie-cutter approach, but [it supports] what works locally,” says Spencer Stevens, FHWA team leader for planning and environmental linkages. “It has helped States to see what their peers have done and incorporate that into their own programs. And that was the goal all along. We ended up 5 to 6 years ahead of where we would have been without EDC.”

FHWA continues to host training on planning and environmental linkages through webinars and State-specific workshops. Further, the technical team will work with States to implement the questionnaire. Additional information is available at

Use of in-lieu fees and mitigation banking. In projects that will affect U.S. waterways, the permitting process under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act constitutes a major component of the project development and delivery process. To expedite project delivery, this initiative proposes expanded use of in-lieu fees and mitigation banking. In-lieu fees are those charged to a permit holder to perform various environmental enhancement activities throughout an entire watershed rather than at one particular site. Mitigation banking is restoration, establishment, enhancement, or preservation of wetlands, streams, or other resources for the purpose of offsetting unavoidable adverse impacts related to a highway project.

Nineteen of the 22 States that accepted the initiative have active agreements for mitigation banking programs, and 7 of these agreements extend to local agencies.

FHWA continues to encourage highway agencies to use both of these approaches where permitted under existing statutes, FHWA regulations, State laws, and court decisions.

Building on Best Practices

The EDC1 initiative reached--and in some cases exceeded--many of its goals. To increase awareness, encourage engagement, and bring these topics to the forefront, FHWA used elements of proven change management theories: leadership support, managed expectations, local champions, and regular communication.

The visible leadership support from FHWA Administrator Victor Mendez, Deputy Administrator Greg Nadeau, and other top officials was central to elevating the conversation and brought national attention to the topics at the decisionmaker level. By hosting regional summits, giving presentations across the country, and developing marketing tools and other activities, the FHWA teams spread the word and increased the credibility of the EDC innovations.

“Every Day Counts was a top-down and bottom-up approach combined with an implementation process [that] increased [the] success of the program,” says Eddie Curtis, FHWA team leader for adaptive signal control.

Managing States’ expectations was also important. As States began to implement the technologies and innovations for the first time, they encountered some challenges along the way, such as a lack of expertise, limited funding and staffing, and a need for more detailed information. To overcome these challenges and manage expectations, States attended workshops, project demonstrations, and showcases in others States to see the technologies in use. FHWA also sent experts to walk through the process of implementing these innovations and provided funding for projects using the innovations.

“Once [States] understand the way a technology works, they are more apt to try it,” says Daniel Alzamora, a geotechnical engineer with FHWA’s Resource Center. “And, once the owner does the work on that first bridge using the technology, the fear goes away. There will be costs associated with the learning curve, but the second project always goes better and it’s always worth it.”

Another valuable tactic FHWA employed was the use of local champions, individuals who understand the technology, have experience in implementing the tools, and can help the next implementer. Whether it was sharing experiences or overseeing a pilot implementation, local champions provided much-needed support to States attempting the methods for the first time.

“Having knowledgeable people on the ground, or at least available, was so important to the success of the program,” says FHWA’s Satterfield.

Lastly, EDC1 relied on strategic communications to reach decisionmakers through multiple channels. The summits provided direct interaction between State leaders and opportunities for connecting and sharing information. Through participation in workshops, webinars, demonstrations, and conferences, as well as publishing articles and posting information on the EDC Web site, FHWA’s EDC teams have provided access to a wealth of resources. To continue the conversation, FHWA launched a weekly newsletter, EDC News, in May 2013 to showcase the ongoing activities of all EDC programs and provide examples of how States are putting the innovations into practice. To subscribe to EDC News, visit

Building on EDC, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) includes provisions designed to speed up the project delivery process in several ways. The legislation encourages the use of innovative technologies and practices and enhances contracting efficiencies. It focuses on the environmental review process, providing for earlier coordination, improving the linkage between planning and environmental review, using a programmatic approach where possible, and consolidating environmental documents. MAP-21 also strives to improve the efficiency of project delivery by broadening States’ ability to acquire or preserve right-of-way for a transportation facility before completing the review process required under NEPA.

As the EDC initiative forges ahead promoting a second round of technologies, the original innovations continue to take hold within more State and local jurisdictions. According to Chris Wagner, coleader of FHWA’s Safety Edge team, “We’re passionate about making roads safer and more durable, and we don’t see our transition out of the EDC program as an ending, but rather as a beginning of a brighter future.”

Hari Kalla is director of the Center for Accelerating Innovation. He is responsible for FHWA activities related to deploying strategic innovations. Previously Kalla was FHWA’s team leader for the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, where he was responsible for establishing national standards for all traffic control devices including signs, pavement markings, and traffic signals. Kalla also worked in the FHWA Office of Safety as a transportation specialist and team leader. He started his transportation career with NYSDOT, where he worked in transportation planning and highway design offices. He holds an M.S. in civil engineering from the State University of New York’s University at Buffalo.

Kristine Garfield is a strategic communications and marketing outreach specialist with Booz Allen Hamilton. She has more than a decade of diverse experience working with government agencies, nonprofits, and private corporations. A member of Booz Allen Hamilton’s surface transportation team, she provided support to FHWA’s Every Day Counts initiative. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from Towson University and received her advanced practitioner certification in change management from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.

For more information, visit or contact Kathleen Bergeron at 202–366–5508 or