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Iowa DOT’s Project to add Adult Changing Facilities to Iowa Rest Areas Wins Regional America’s Transportation Award

by: Jessica Hoover
An Iowa Department of Transportation (Iowa DOT) project won a regional award in the 2023 America’s Transportation Awards competition, created by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), AAA, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The competition recognizes state departments of transportation (DOTs) for making a difference in their community, with each project falling into one of three categories: Quality of Life/Community Development, Operations Excellence, and Best Use of Technology & Innovation.

“In addressing the transportation challenges of today and tomorrow, state DOTs demonstrate a strong determination to bring innovative solutions to their communities,” said Jim Tymon, Executive Director of AASHTO. “The America’s Transportation Awards program serves as a testament to their endeavors, and I am excited to kick off the regional awards with MAASTO’s pioneering projects. These projects play a vital role in improving safety, enhancing mobility, and revitalizing transportation resources for drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit customers alike.”

Twenty-three projects in the Mid America Association of State Transportation Officials (MAASTO) region were nominated by state departments of transportation for this year’s competition. The following project in the Midwest Contractor area won a regional America’s Transportation Award.

Adult Changing Facilities in Iowa Rest Areas (Quality of Life/Community Development, Small Category)
To address an often-overlooked issue faced by millions of families, Iowa DOT undertook a project that could transform the travel experience for those requiring assistance with personal care. Many public restrooms today are equipped with accommodations for individuals in wheelchairs, yet these designs often presuppose that the user can manage independently. Many individuals with disabilities require the aid of a caregiver and additional support to fulfill their sanitary needs effectively. Recognizing this issue, Iowa DOT embarked on a $1 million project that installed six adult changing tables at various interstate rest areas in 2022.

Mike Kennerly, Director of the Design Bureau at Iowa DOT, said that leading up to this project, he had the opportunity to meet with an advocacy group to hear their stories. “I was able to talk to these families about their struggles,” he said. “I very quickly moved from my initial idea that, ‘This is the right thing to do’ to ‘We have to do this.’ I left that meeting with tears in my eyes knowing that something most people take for granted can be so difficult for some. It hit me right in the face that we need to make changes so that these families have a place to take care of their loved ones’ most basic of needs.”

The project's execution involved collaboration between various experts, including Steve McMenamin, Iowa DOT Rest Area Administrator, Seana Godbold, Iowa DOT Chief Landscape Architect, and a consultant team from Snyder & Associates and CRW Architecture. Together, they retrofitted the existing modern rest area buildings with adult changing facilities and planned for adequate space in family restrooms in future rest area buildings, ensuring that the facilities cater to the needs of families with older children and adults requiring additional assistance.

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 two national awards, the Grand Prize and the People’s Choice Award. In November, AASHTO will reveal the winners at its annual meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana.
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The Top 12 projects in alphabetical order by state are:

  • Florida Department of Transportation’s Hurricane Ian Sanibel Island Emergency Access
  • Georgia Department of Transportation’s Historic 5th Street Pedestrian Bridge Rehabilitation Project
  • Illinois Department of Transportation’s Jane Byrne Interchange
  • Iowa Department of Transportation’s Adult Changing Facilities in Iowa Rest Areas
  • Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Mayfield Tornado Response
  • Maine Department of Transportation’s The Veranda Plan
  • North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Flood Warning System
  • Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s Emergency Fern Hollow Bridge Replacement Project
  • South Dakota Department of Transportation’s U.S. Highway 83 Corridor Improvements and Reconstruction
  • Texas Department of Transportation’s Mobility35 Initiative to Address Homelessness Program
  • Utah Department of Transportation’s Teamed-Up for Transit: UDOT and UTA Partner to Improve Mobility for Local Community
  • Vermont Agency of Transportation’s Lamoille Valley Rail Trail
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