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Two Projects in Texas Win Regional America’s Transportation Awards

by: Jessica Hoover
US 281 North Expansion, Segment 1
US 281 North Expansion, Segment 1
Lowest Stemmons Project
Lowest Stemmons Project
Two Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) projects won regional awards in the 2022 America’s Transportation Awards competition, sponsored by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), AAA, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The competition recognizes state DOTs for making a difference in their community, with each project falling into one of three categories: Operations Excellence, Best Use of Technology & Innovation, and Quality of Life/Community Development.

“State DOTs are overwhelmingly focused on innovative solutions to address the transportation issues of today and tomorrow, meeting challenges involving climate change, equity, resiliency, and safety,” said Jim Tymon, Executive Director of AASHTO. “The America’s Transportation Awards program shows just how they’re doing that. Whether on foot, in a vehicle, on two wheels, or by rail or transit, state DOTs are continuing to advance a safe, multimodal transportation system.”

In the Western region, 12 states nominated 22 projects for this year’s competition. The following two projects in the Texas Contractor area were winners of the regional America’s Transportation Awards.

US 281 North Expansion, Segment 1 (Quality of Life/Community Development, Large Category)
This project won in the Quality of Life/Community Development category, which honors projects that better connect people to businesses, jobs, health care facilities, and recreational activities while encouraging a mix of transportation modes. TxDOT’s US 281 North Expansion project addresses one of the most congested and traveled corridors in the San Antonio region by reducing congestion, enhancing safety, increasing mobility, and promoting multi-modal options for the community.

“Through years of planning and regional partnerships, the US 281 North Expansion project brings $228 million of transportation improvements that will provide congestion relief to the over 91,000 drivers who travel the corridor each day,” said TxDOT Public Information Officer Jennifer Serold.

The project spans four miles along the corridor from Loop 1604 to Stone Oak Parkway and included the construction of new highway lanes; a high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane in each direction; a direct ramp to park and ride facilities; flyover ramps at the Loop 1604 interchange; and bike and pedestrian accommodations.

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VIA Metropolitan Transit manages the HOV lanes and utilizes the connecting ramp for direct Express bus service from Stone Oak to Downtown and to the VIA Transit Center at Brooks.

“The rapid growth happening along the US 281 North corridor is driving the growth in our region and the need for more and better transportation options, which this partnership project provides,” said Jeffrey C. Arndt, VIA Metropolitan Transit President/CEO. “HOV lanes offer an alternative to idling in traffic, support transit-oriented communities and economic development, and help keep SA moving. That’s always the goal.”

Lowest Stemmons Project (Operations Excellence, Medium Category)
This project won in the Operations Excellence category, which honors projects that demonstrate the ability to operate the existing transportation system as safely and efficiently as possible. The Lowest Stemmons Project — the first Texas Clear Lanes project to be completed in the Dallas District — took a new approach to reducing traffic congestion on an interstate that had consistently been ranked No. 8 on the Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s Top 100 most congested roadways.

“This corridor was identified as one of the most congested in the state and has about a quarter million vehicles moving through it daily with an average speed of about 12 miles per hour,” Dallas District Engineer Mo Bur, P.E. said. “We found a solution to construct these dedicated connectors without needing to acquire a square inch of right of way. With traffic routed more efficiently, we expect those average corridor speeds will rise to around 50 miles per hour, making this a win for drivers and for safety.”

The $83-million improvement project took place on I-35E between I-30 and Oak Lawn Avenue. Without acquiring right of way, the project constructed new collector-distributor lanes that provide a safer and easier path to and from Woodall Rodgers Freeway and the Dallas North Tollway. The lanes keep traffic flowing and improve safety on the main lanes and on the new connector ramps by reducing the merging and weaving movements that were previously affecting the interstate.

Next Phase of the Competition
The three highest-scoring projects from each regional America’s Transportation Awards competition (a total of 12 projects) will continue on to compete for the national Grand Prize and the People’s Choice Award. The 12 finalists will be announced and online voting for the People’s Choice Award will begin in September. In October, AASHTO will reveal the winners for the Grand Prize and the People’s Choice Award at its 2022 Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida.
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