Building a Culture of Innovation
The fourth round of Every Day Counts will help to drive additional proven practices and technologies into mainstream use.
The highway community’s top priority is a safe surface transportation system. With budget constraints at all levels of government, it is also imperative to get the greatest value for every transportation dollar the American people invest. A nationwide focus on innovation is essential to both.
Since 2009, the Federal Highway Administration’s efforts to further innovation have centered on the Every Day Counts (EDC) partnership with States and other public and private stakeholders to encourage widespread use of proven, market-ready solutions. Through this collaboration, FHWA is advancing innovations that speed project delivery and deploying technologies that save time, money, and--most important--lives.
In 2015, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act included EDC by name, directing FHWA to continue cooperating with stakeholders to deploy new practices and technologies and create a culture of innovation in the highway community. Not only is this a vote of confidence in what EDC stakeholders have accomplished together, but also it ensures that this partnership focused on innovation will remain a driving force to improve program delivery and transportation infrastructure for years to come.
Designed to complement other initiatives focusing on technological advances, EDC plays an important role in helping transportation agencies harness innovation to deliver the best value for every taxpayer dollar. As U.S. Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary Victor Mendez, who launched EDC in 2009, said, “We’ve committed ourselves to a course that will benefit the American taxpayer. Every Day Counts is about fulfilling our mission in a better, smarter, faster way.”
To that end, every 2 years FHWA works with State transportation departments, local governments, tribes, industry, and other stakeholders to identify a new set of innovations that merit widespread deployment through EDC. The fourth round (EDC-4) will advance 11 innovations in 2017 and 2018. This fall, transportation leaders will gather at regional summits to learn about the EDC-4 innovations and commit to implementing those that fit the needs of their highway programs.
Already, the EDC partnership has had a positive impact on the highway community’s adoption of new technologies and processes. Every State has used 10 or more of the 32 innovations promoted during the first three rounds of the initiative. Some have adopted more than 20.
Several EDC innovations are now mainstream practices in many States, enhancing the highway system and benefiting travelers. They include advances such as time- and money-saving methods of accelerated bridge construction, energy-saving warm-mix asphalt, and the Safety EdgeSM paving technique to prevent roadway departure crashes.
In addition, EDC has encouraged the development of State Transportation Innovation Councils (STICs), groups that enable public and private sector stakeholders to collaborate on innovation deployment. STICs--active in all 50 States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Federal Lands Highway--form the backbone of a national transportation innovation network dedicated to creating a world-class highway system through innovation.
STIC partnerships are the heart of EDC. Their mission is to evaluate innovations from sources such as EDC, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Innovation Initiative, and the second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP2) and spearhead the adoption of those that add value to their State highway programs.
“EDC and other technology initiatives have really been critical in helping States save money and save time,” said AASHTO Executive Director Bud Wright.
All STICs work to make transportation innovation mainstream, but their approaches are as different as the States they represent. For example, the New York State STIC emphasizes creating synergy through the use of multiple innovations on a project.
“As powerful as each innovation is in improving project delivery and quality, reducing congestion and costs, and enhancing safety..., the much greater benefit is in combining innovations on a project or program,” said Daniel D’Angelo, deputy chief engineer of the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT),at a national STIC meeting.
He cited the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement, which featured seven EDC innovations, such as design-build project delivery, paperless project management through e-Construction, and prefabricated bridge elements. The project also used three SHRP2 products, one of which was complex project management strategies. “Because of that synergy, we were able to take what we learned on that project and apply it to other projects,” D’Angelo said.
At the same STIC meeting, Shailen Bhatt, executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation, described the Colorado STIC’s focus on using innovations to drive customer satisfaction. His agency delivered a project to replace the Pecos Street bridge over I–70 in Denver using accelerated bridge construction and the construction manager/general contractor method to maximize design and construction efficiency.
A post-project survey of customers found that more than 90 percent were satisfied to very satisfied with the use of accelerated bridge construction to streamline the project, and more than 85 percent were pleased with the overall project. “It’s clear that when you deploy innovation and accelerated construction techniques, the public notices and that buys you credibility,” Bhatt said.
Through the EDC initiative, FHWA demonstrated that having a STIC, defined processes for the deployment of innovations, and engaged leadership lays a foundation for fostering a culture of innovation within States. In addition, with a STIC in every State, the highway industry is creating a workforce adept at putting innovations to work to address transportation challenges and a national innovation network to exchange best practices and share lessons learned. The STIC network is not only critical to identifying and deploying innovation today, but also it will continue to play that role in the future.
Combined, the deployment of new strategies and technologies through each EDC round and the nationwide reach of the STIC network are moving the transportation community closer to the ultimate goal of creating a permanent culture of innovation, one that embraces innovation as the standard way of doing business.
Progress on Innovation Deployment
When State and local agencies use the innovations advocated through EDC, they and their customers reap the benefits of faster project delivery times, enhanced safety, reduced congestion, and even lower costs. An example is the diverging diamond interchange, one of the intersection and interchange geometrics promoted in 2013 and 2014 during EDC-2.
This interchange, with a continuous left-flow design, enhances safety by reducing the number of traffic conflict points and improves traffic flow by decreasing the number of signal phases. After the diverging diamond interchange concept was developed by Advanced Transportation Solutions founder Gilbert Chlewicki and studied at FHWA’s Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center, it began drawing the interest of agencies like the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT).
MoDOT constructed the Nation’s first diverging diamond interchange, which opened in Springfield in 2009. Since then, another 65 have been built in 25 States. More are under construction or at the planning stage.
“The recent, rapid deployment of diverging diamond interchanges across the United States has been quite remarkable,” said Mark Doctor, FHWA safety and design engineer. “This is a real tribute to how this innovation has been transformative in the field of highway engineering.”
The Idaho Transportation Department’s first diverging diamond interchange, built at the intersection of I–86 and Yellowstone Avenue in Chubbuck, has been hugely successful in reducing crashes. Forty crashes were reported from 2010 to 2013, when construction began. Since the new interchange opened in 2014, just three crashes have been reported.
High-friction surface treatments (HFST), another EDC-2 innovation, are cutting crashes, injuries, and fatalities at what used to be safety trouble spots. These pavement overlay systems have exceptional skid resistance not typically provided by conventional paving materials; therefore, they help motorists maintain better control of their vehicles. More than two-thirds of States use HFST--up from 14 before it was named an EDC innovation--and at least 5 have made it a standard practice.
HFST is yielding safety dividends. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), which has applied HFST at more than 200 high-priority crash locations, conducted a followup study of 12 spots in Northampton and Lehigh Counties where HFST was used. PennDOT found a 100-percent drop in fatalities and major injuries. Likewise, when the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet analyzed 43 applications in its HFST program to address roadway departure crashes, it found annual crashes had fallen 73 percent on curves and 78 percent on ramps.
Accelerated bridge construction techniques, part of all of the first three EDC rounds, are now used widely. These techniques enable highway agencies to replace bridges in hours and reduce planning and construction efforts by years, lessening traffic delays and in many cases lowering project costs. One technique States are adopting is slide-in bridge construction, in which a bridge is built next to an existing structure and then slid into place after the old bridge is removed.
In New York, NYSDOT used the slide-in method to replace two bridge superstructures on I–84 during 20 hours over one weekend. The project would have taken 2 years to build with conventional methods and would have required building a temporary road and bridge to channel traffic during construction. Using innovation saved $900,000 in construction costs and $1.37 million in user delay costs. Together, the savings represent 22 percent of the project’s $10.2 million budget.
EDC-3 Success Stories
The success stories have continued in EDC-3, which ends in December 2016. For example, geosynthetic reinforced soil–integrated bridge system (GRS–IBS) technology--another accelerated bridge construction technique--helps agencies deliver low-cost, durable structures that can be built quickly with readily available equipment and materials.
Before GRS–IBS was named an EDC technology in 2010, it had been used on only a few projects. Now the number of GRS–IBS structures is nearing 300 nationwide, and 8 States have adopted the technology as a standard practice.
In New Mexico, a road crew with the Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo used GRS–IBS to replace the White Swan Bridge near Santa Fe. Benefits of using GRS–IBS instead of conventional technology on the project included shorter construction time--2.5 versus 4.5 months--and lower project costs--less than half.
The need for robust connection systems for prefabricated components on bridges is driving interest in ultra-high performance concrete (UHPC), a steel fiber-reinforced material that improves durability and simplifies construction when prefabricated bridge elements are used to accelerate project completion. Seventeen States and Washington, DC, are using UHPC connections on bridge projects or planning to institutionalize use of the technology. New Jersey and Pennsylvania have made UHPC connections a standard practice on bridge projects that use prefabricated elements.
The New Jersey Department of Transportation used UHPC on deck replacements on the Pulaski Skyway rehabilitation project and a project on Route 46 over the Musconetcong River Bridge project. PennDOT has incorporated UHPC into its publications and standards and considers it a tool in the agency’s toolbox.
States also report dramatic savings in time and money when they replace the paper-based approach to the management of construction documents with e-Construction--the collection, review, approval, and distribution of documents in a digital environment. Six States have made e-Construction a standard practice, and an additional 19 States use e-Construction tools, such as digital signatures and collection technologies for field data.
The Michigan Department of Transportation, with a 2015 construction program of $1.2 billion, estimates its use of e-Construction is saving $12 million a year while slashing construction modification times from 30 days to just 3.
Agencies also are finding success with road diets, a low-cost strategy to make roads safer and communities more livable. A road diet reconfigures a roadway cross section to safely accommodate all users--motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians--while increasing mobility and reducing crashes. Road diets are now a standard practice in 11 States and Washington, DC. Another 30 States are installing road diets and identifying potential sites for roadway reconfiguration.
Studies show a 19- to 47-percent decline in crashes when a road diet is installed on a four-lane undivided road. The Virginia Department of Transportation achieved even better results when it reconfigured a 2-mile (3.2-kilometer) segment of Lawyers Road in Reston from four lanes to three with a two-way turn lane in the middle and added bike lanes. A safety study 5 years after the road diet revealed a 69-percent drop in crashes.
FHWA’s call for innovations to promote in the upcoming fourth round of EDC drew a strong response from stakeholders, who offered more than 80 suggestions. After developing a short list and conferring with national transportation organizations, FHWA named the following innovations to the EDC-4 roster.
Accelerating traffic incident management data collection promotes wider use of low-cost, available technologies that speed the collection of data, which supports improved programs to clear incidents from roadways safely and quickly.
Advanced hydraulic modeling tools improve on current modeling techniques used for hydraulic design by depicting physical, environmental, and habitat characteristics more accurately through three-dimensional visualization of flow, velocity, and depth.
Automated traffic signal performance measures can revolutionize traffic signal management by providing the high-resolution data necessary to actively manage performance, improving safety and reducing congestion and costs.
Community connections techniques help planners support revitalization by seamlessly integrating transportation facilities into their community settings and developing designs that best suit the purpose and needs of individual communities.
Data-driven safety analysis, also an EDC-3 innovation, applies the latest generation of crash and roadway data analysis software to determine the expected safety performance of roadway projects more reliably, resulting in fewer and less severe crashes.
The e-Construction and partnering: a vision for the future effort, also an innovation under EDC-3, encourages highway agencies to use paperless technologies to enhance partnering among project teams, improving communication and workflow.
Integrating National Environmental Policy Act and permitting processes promotes techniques for synchronizing the various environmental reviews and permitting procedures needed for construction projects.
Applying a pavement preservation treatment at the right time (when), on the right project (where), and with quality materials and construction (how) can extend the service life of a pavement system. This innovation includes treatments and construction methods to achieve and sustain a state of good road repair in a fiscally constrained environment.
Road weather management--weather-savvy roads promotes the use of Pathfinder Project strategies to provide consistent messaging to travelers on adverse weather and road conditions. This innovation also emphasizes the use of advanced vehicle-based technologies to enable agencies to manage the transportation system proactively before negative weather impacts occur.
Safe transportation for every pedestrian, or STEP, strategies use cost-effective countermeasures to reduce pedestrian fatalities, which account for 15 percent of road fatalities, at uncontrolled crossing locations or intersections with no traffic signal or STOP sign.
Use of ultra-high performance concrete connections for prefabricated bridge elements and systems, also an EDC-3 innovation, creates a simple, strong, and durable connection that enables accelerated, cost-efficient construction of bridges.
At the conclusion of the EDC-4 summits, the Nation’s STICs will evaluate the EDC-4 innovations and decide which to implement in their respective States in 2017 and 2018. As in past EDC rounds, FHWA teams will provide technical assistance and training to help the transportation community adopt the EDC-4 innovations.
FHWA also will offer deployment assistance and incentives through its STIC Incentiveand Accelerated Innovation Deployment Demonstration programs. For more information on the STIC incentive program, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/innovation/stic/guidance.cfm. For more information on the Accelerated Innovation Deployment Demonstrationprogram, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/innovation/grants.
The Future of Innovation in Transportation
Through the collaboration of FHWA, State and local governments, and the private sector, EDC has become a dynamic partnership to deploy innovations rapidly and widely. The national STIC network enhances our ability to deliver a transportation system that will serve our country today--and well into the future.
Despite our success over the past 7 years, the work is not finished. As the FAST Act states, it is in the national interest to establish a culture of innovation in the highway community. The first three rounds of EDC laid a solid foundation for making the use of innovation a way of doing business. But we need to build on the gains we’ve made.
Over the next 2 years, STICs across the country will lead the deployment of the innovationsin EDC-4. These are innovations we already know will enhance the highway system, but they need a boost so more States learn about them, use them, and make them mainstream practices.
Over the long term, it is crucial that we expand on the work done through EDC and the STIC network to ensure the focus on innovation becomes a permanent part of our transportation culture. We need to engage the STIC network more fully than ever and learn from each other’s successes and failures. We need to continue to pursue the broadest range of innovations and adopt those that offer the best opportunity to save time, money, and lives. We can meet America’s future transportation needs only with an organized and ongoing commitment to innovation.
Gregory G. Nadeau is administrator of the Federal Highway Administration. Previously, he served as the agency’s acting administrator and deputy administrator, focusing heavily on the development and administration of the Every Day Counts initiative.
For more information, see “EDC-4: Introducing a New Round of Innovations” on page 2 in this issue of Public Roads or visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/innovation/everydaycounts.