Highway Teams Win National Quality Awards

Staff | September 28, 2010

New Orleans— The National Partnership for Highway Quality has awarded three of its 2006 "Making a Difference" awards to Northwest highway teams whose quality innovations promote roads that are completed more quickly, ride better, last longer, reduce congestion, and improve safety.

Gold Award — The Washington State Department of Transportation won the Gold Award in the Risk Taking category for a $5.1-million project to repave a one-mile section of Interstate 5 through downtown Seattle.

Disruption to traffic on the busiest stretch of interstate in Seattle was a serious challenge. The project also traversed one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the state, where noise would be an issue. To mitigate the multitude of issues associated with the resurfacing project, the decision was made to perform the work over four weekends in the spring. This timetable would lessen the impact on commuter, rush-hour and summer tourism traffic.

Aggressive construction schedules and around-the-clock traffic management, along with extensive outreach, were keys to the project's success. The project served as a testing ground for techniques on future high-traffic volume highway construction projects. WSDOT also learned that by concentrating its construction schedule, it reduced the amount of time and money needed for construction and traffic control by months.

Bronze Award — The Washington State Department of Transportation also captured the Bronze Award in the Breaking the Mold category for its unique methods in replacing a bridge deck on the historic Lewis and Clark Bridge, which connects Longview, Wash., and Rainier, Ore. Because the bridge was the only viable link to the two areas, the contractor was limited to nightly eight-hour bridge closures to remove the existing panels, install the new ones and open the bridge to traffic.

With time at a premium, 100 panels using pre-cast concrete and an innovative Panel Transport System were put in place to accomplish this task. The challenge of mass producing the unique replacement panels was achieved by constructing the panels in two separate staging yards. Their placement was further complicated by the precision required for the fitting of the panels.

Bronze Award — The Montana Department of Transportation earned a Bronze Award in NPHQ's Partnering category for restoring, in record time, the Beartooth Highway. This scenic route begins at the northeast entrance of Yellowstone Park and links the tourism communities of Cooke City and Red Lodge, Mont.

The Beartooth Highway is one of the nation's highest elevation highways and, due to excessive snow and extreme weather conditions, it is closed each winter. When MDT was doing its annual snow clearing in May 2005, highway crews discovered mudslides in 13 locations along a nine-mile stretch. Within 15 days after the mudslides, a request for a proposal was issued and one proposal received from the team of Kiewit Western, JTL Group and HKM Engineering. The notice to proceed was issued within two days.

With the sense of urgency to restore the highway, partnering was taken to a new level. MDT and the contractors, along with the extensive cooperation of the resource agencies, were able to complete the $16-million-plus project in less than five months. Using a traditional contracting process without this level of partnering, a similar project would have taken three years to complete.