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Projects in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York Win Regional America’s Transportation Awards

by: Jessica Hoover
I-70 Yukon and Madison Interchanges Improvement Project
I-70 Yukon and Madison Interchanges Improvement Project
I-70 Yukon and Madison Interchanges Improvement Project
I-70 Yukon and Madison Interchanges Improvement Project
Route 71/Shark River Bridge Emergency Repair and Road Diet
Route 71/Shark River Bridge Emergency Repair and Road Diet
Route 71/Shark River Bridge Emergency Repair and Road Diet
Route 71/Shark River Bridge Emergency Repair and Road Diet
Emergency Fern Hollow Bridge Replacement Project
Emergency Fern Hollow Bridge Replacement Project
Emergency Fern Hollow Bridge Replacement Project
Emergency Fern Hollow Bridge Replacement Project
Kew Gardens Interchange
Kew Gardens Interchange
Kew Gardens Interchange
Kew Gardens Interchange
Four state department of transportation (DOT) projects in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York won regional awards 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 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.

“From employing cutting-edge technology to crafting multimodal options in local communities, these winning projects from the Northeastern region of the United States embody the inventive spirit of the transportation sector,” said Jim Tymon, Executive Director of AASHTO. “The America’s Transportation Awards program celebrates state DOTs nationwide as they cater to today’s transportation needs and advance the transportation sector for future generations. These projects make significant strides in boosting safety, promoting mobility, and enhancing transportation assets for all transit users, including drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, and public transportation customers.”

Nineteen projects in the Northeast Association of State Transportation Officials (NASTO) region were nominated by DOTs for this year’s competition. The following four projects in the Constructioneer area were winners of regional America’s Transportation Awards.

I-70 Yukon and Madison Interchanges Improvement Project (Operations Excellence, Medium Category)
In Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, growing traffic volumes and deficiencies in roadway design at the I-70 Yukon and Madison interchanges posed safety concerns. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) initiated a $93 million project to enhance operational efficiency and reduce accidents along the roadway.

The project involved the reconstruction of almost four miles of I-70, which included widening the median and shoulders, extending the ramp acceleration and deceleration lanes at Exits 53 and 54, and introducing an eastbound auxiliary lane between the two interchanges. Additionally, the project encompassed the replacement of four I-70 bridges, one I-70 buried culvert, a new proposed culvert, and maintenance work on one Route 3010 structure.

"Data collection and collaboration with local stakeholders to determine where the need is greatest is imperative to good design," PennDOT Secretary Mike Carroll said. "In Westmoreland County, we were able to create a safer system of interchanges and lanes to support the area's growing communities and commerce."

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The redesigned interchanges have improved accessibility and mobility in the region. They were specifically engineered to handle increased traffic volumes, including the substantial flow of truck traffic on the roadway, positioning the region for anticipated growth and development.

Route 71/Shark River Bridge Emergency Repair and Road Diet (Operations Excellence, Small Category)
In September 2021, a mechanical failure on the 90-year-old Route 71 Drawbridge spanning the Shark River between Belmar and Avon-by-the-Sea in Monmouth County, New Jersey, revealed significant damage to the steel structure beneath the roadway. New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) engineers worked quickly to design and implement a permanent solution that would both preserve the drawbridge and ensure safe operation.

To keep the bridge open, the traffic load needed to be redistributed and balanced properly, so NJDOT implemented a "road diet" across the structure. This involved reducing the lanes from one northbound and two southbound lanes to one lane in each direction. This lane configuration adjustment not only addressed safety concerns but also facilitated the extension of bicycle lanes, which had previously ended in Avon-By-The-Sea across the drawbridge into Belmar.

The extended bicycle lanes were accomplished using a fiber-reinforced-polymer mat on the bascule span, a first-of-its-kind innovation in New Jersey. The mat provides a secure crossing surface for bicycles over the steel-grid deck, enhancing safety for cyclists. In addition to this, signal timings were adjusted, safety improvements were installed at surrounding intersections, and highway signage received upgrades.

The $150,000 Route 71 Drawbridge project over the Shark River resulted in improved traffic flow, increased safety, and reduced congestion in a busy tourist area.

“This award recognizes the outstanding efforts of the men and women of the New Jersey Department of Transportation and our contractors to find innovative and cost-effective solutions to quickly address issues in a way that creates safer roads and bridges,” NJDOT Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti said. “The Route 71 Shark River Bridge project demonstrates how New Jersey is leading the way in delivering projects that improve our infrastructure and enrich our communities for all roadway users.”

Emergency Fern Hollow Bridge Replacement Project (Best Use of Technology & Innovation, Medium Category)
On January 28th, 2022, Pittsburgh’s Fern Hollow Bridge collapsed, plunging more than 100 feet into a park ravine. This severed an important connection between Pittsburgh neighborhoods and the adjacent Edgewood and Wilkinsburg communities, impacting public transit, emergency services, and school travel.

An emergency proclamation enabled a collaborative effort between PennDOT, the City of Pittsburgh, and the Federal Highway Administration to address the severity of the bridge collapse by utilizing all available resources and personnel. Using a progressive design/build delivery process, a new 460-foot, four-lane bridge was substantially completed in under 11 months, a feat that would typically take four to five years to finish. The project delivery process prevented prolonged detours and improved commuter safety for the surrounding communities.

The $25.3 million bridge project also prioritized pedestrian and cyclist accessibility. It incorporated a shared-use path in addition to sidewalk access, increasing the dedicated width for pedestrians and cyclists by 50% compared to the previous bridge.

"The Fern Hollow replacement represents some of the most impressive and demanding work the department has done," Carroll said. "I am proud to have AASHTO recognize the excellence of our team and its efforts in the community."

Kew Gardens Interchange (Best Use of Technology & Innovation, Large Category)
One of New York City’s most heavily traveled corridors, the Kew Gardens Interchange experienced major deficiencies that led to traffic congestion and above-average accident rates. The completion of the $739 million Kew Gardens Interchange project in late 2022 revamped the corridor, creating faster travel times, safer merging and exiting, and more reliable connections for the 600,000 daily vehicles traversing the interchange.

“The transformative Kew Gardens Interchange project has led to less congestion and enhanced safety while improving climate resiliency and promoting multi-modal transportation,” said Marie Therese Dominguez, New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner. “This award belongs to all the dedicated women and men of the New York State Department of Transportation who make projects like this possible and whose focus is to advance safe transportation for all.”

The project featured structural and operational enhancements carried out through multiple construction contracts. It involved the construction of 22 new bridges, rehabilitation of three bridges, wider travel lanes, new lane configurations, updated signage, improved stormwater drainage, an ADA-compliant pedestrian tunnel, and a shared-use path that fosters improved community connectivity on both sides of the interchange.

“The Department of Transportation’s Kew Gardens Interchange project was a massive undertaking that utilized innovation and technology to improve the transportation infrastructure in Queens, all while reducing bottlenecks and helping keep traffic moving," Governor Kathy Hochul said. "To be recognized on a national level for this work is a testament to our efforts to make the lives of New Yorkers better.”

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.

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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