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Three Projects in Illinois and Ohio Win Regional America’s Transportation Awards

by: Jessica Hoover
The Memorial Bridge (Interstate 74 Mississippi River Crossing)
The Memorial Bridge (Interstate 74 Mississippi River Crossing)
Opportunity Corridor Section 3
Opportunity Corridor Section 3
Dorr Street Interchange and Widening of I-475
Dorr Street Interchange and Widening of I-475
Three state department of transportation projects in Illinois and Ohio 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.”

Eighteen projects in the Mid America Association of State Transportation Officials (MAASTO) region were nominated by eight states for this year’s competition. The following three projects in the Construction Digest area were winners of the regional America’s Transportation Awards.

The Memorial Bridge (Interstate 74 Mississippi River Crossing) (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. Led by Iowa DOT, in coordination with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration, the Memorial Bridge connects the states of Iowa and Illinois while significantly improving operations, capacity, safety, and travel times in the Quad Cities.

“I-74 over the Mississippi River is an important east-west link in the nation’s transportation network, carrying more than 45 percent of all traffic in the Quad Cities,” said Ahmad M. Afifeh, PE, Iowa DOT’s I-74 Project Manager. “The 86-year-old bridge was narrow, lacked shoulders, and carried nearly double the amount of traffic it was built to accommodate, leading to major congestion and traffic delays. A new bridge was needed as part of a regional strategy to improve interstate travel. The growing region demanded not just any bridge, but a transformational asset that unifies the communities both symbolically and in other new, exciting ways. The new bridge brings travel on I-74 in the Quad Cities into the 21st century.”

The bridge has four lanes in each direction, a 14-foot-wide bike and pedestrian path with a scenic overlook, and connections to existing paths in Bettendorf, Iowa, and Moline, Illinois. The approximately $1-billion project includes twin river bridges, new interchanges, ramps, and local road reconfigurations.

According to Afifeh, the bridge will attract new businesses, jobs, and opportunities, along with making the Quad Cities a tourism destination. Quad Cities leaders are currently planning new developments such as rooftop restaurants, skate parks, and shopping centers near Memorial Bridge.

“This project is one of the largest investments ever by both Iowa and Illinois, and the local and regional enthusiasm for the project has been incredible,” Afifeh said. “The success of the project was accomplished through vision and perseverance, and the unprecedented collaboration of our states and communities. We are very proud of the extensive coordination, cooperation, and teamwork between the states, local municipalities and organizations, transportation and environmental agencies, bridge designers, construction management specialists, inspections staff, and the contractors to make the new bridge a reality.”

Opportunity Corridor Section 3 (Quality of Life/Community Development, Medium Category)
The final $150-million section of the Ohio Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) Opportunity Corridor Project constructed a new roadway from I-490/East 55th Street to East 93rd Street, improving the roadway network within a historically underserved, economically depressed area of Cleveland. The project aimed to improve roadway access and mobility, along with supporting planned economic development between I-490/I-77 and University Circle.

“This community is already changing for the better because of this project,” said Amanda McFarland, Northeast Ohio Public Information Officer at ODOT. “The new roadway improved access not only between the freeways and University Circle, but also between the neighborhoods and to GCRTA train stations by providing improved access for cars, bikes, and pedestrians by bridging over a ravine and bridging over or under three railroads.”

From 2017 to 2021, developers have invested in nearly $1 billion in commercial, residential, and civic projects within a quarter mile of Opportunity Corridor Boulevard. ODOT also encouraged economic development by demolishing several vacant structures and cleaning up brownfields.

During planning meetings, Cleveland residents expressed the need for jobs and job training, so ODOT took the initiative to provide workforce development opportunities and job training through Ohio Means Jobs, through career and business development workshops, and on the construction site. The project also reached more new, small, local, and EDGE businesses than ever before by setting and achieving high diversity and inclusion goals.

Dorr Street Interchange and Widening of I-475 (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 Dorr Street Interchange and I-475 Widening project has increased safety and reliability and reduced congestion on the west side of Toledo, Ohio, which is home to the University of Toledo and a world-class golf course.
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ODOT widened I-475 by adding a third lane in both the northbound and southbound direction of the interstate from Bancroft Street to Airport Highway. The approximately $47-million project also provided new sidewalks to increase pedestrian safety and constructed four new roundabouts. Two of the roundabouts created a dog bone roundabout interchange at Dorr Street, which was designed to be expandable for a potential future increase in traffic volume. Other improvements included:

  • Widening bridge structures over Hill Avenue and Dorr Street
  • Widening Dorr Street itself from two to five lanes with a center turn lane between Holland-Sylvania Road to McCord Road
  • Constructing a noise wall along Hill Avenue and Dorr Street
  • Constructing wayfinding piers that serve as a gateway into the University of Toledo and Springfield Township

“The Dorr Street area was viewed for decades as untapped potential,” said Pat McColley, Deputy Director, ODOT District 2. “A new interchange has opened this area of Springfield Township and the city of Toledo to economic growth not possible before.”

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. Online voting for the People’s Choice Award has begun, and the 12 finalists were announced this month. The 12 finalists are as follows:
  • Caltrans: 360 Tours Program
  • Illinois DOT and Iowa DOT: The Memorial Bridge, Interstate 74 Mississippi River Crossing Project
  • All MAASTO States (nominated by Iowa DOT): Emergency Divisible Load Management Project
  • Minnesota DOT: Trunk Highway 61 Grand Marais Reconstruction Project
  • New Jersey DOT: Route 495, Route 1&9/Paterson Plank Road Bridge Project
  • New York DOT: State Route 5S and North Genesee Street Multi-Modal Safety and Connections Enhancements Project
  • Pennsylvania DOT: I-579 Urban Open Space Cap Project
  • South Carolina DOT: U.S. 21 over Harbor River Bridge Replacement Project
  • Tennessee DOT: Hernando de Soto Bridge Emergency Repairs Project
  • Texas DOT: U.S. 281 North Expansion, Segment 1 Project
  • Virginia DOT: Chatham Bridge Rehabilitation and Share Use Path Project
  • Washington State DOT: Active Transportation Plan 2020 and Beyond Project

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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