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Two Projects in Texas Win Regional America’s Transportation Awards

by: Jessica Hoover
Mobility35 Initiative to Address Homelessness Program
Mobility35 Initiative to Address Homelessness Program
Mobility35 Initiative to Address Homelessness Program
Mobility35 Initiative to Address Homelessness Program
My35 Waco
My35 Waco
My35 Waco
My35 Waco
Two Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) projects 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 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 WASHTO’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 projects in the Western Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (WASHTO) region were nominated by state departments of transportation for this year’s competition. The following two projects in the Texas Contractor area were winners of regional America’s Transportation Awards.

Mobility35 Initiative to Address Homelessness Program (Quality of Life/Community Development, Small Category)
The section of I-35 that cuts through Central Austin is one of the most congested roadways in Texas. Recognizing the need for improvements, TxDOT embarked on a project to enhance this stretch of the interstate, which included removing elevated structures in downtown Austin for stitch and cap possibilities. However, this plan would displace hundreds of people experiencing homelessness, who used the structures for shelter. To tackle this issue, the $780,000 Mobility35 Initiative to Address Homelessness (IAH) program launched a TxDOT-led coalition to find housing solutions for individuals at risk of displacement due to the I-35 improvements.

In 2019, TxDOT identified a vacant former maintenance yard that could serve as a campsite for people experiencing homelessness. TxDOT converted the yard into a campsite by providing basic amenities such as water and electricity. The Texas Department of Emergency Management assigned camping spaces and distributed essential supplies, and the Texas Department of Public Safety ensured security and safety measures. Residents were allowed to bring personal belongings, including pets, and tents were provided for those without shelter.

In 2020, The Other Ones Foundation — a nonprofit organization with a focus on humanitarian aid, case management, and employment opportunities — stepped in to serve as the community service coordinator for the campsite, known as Esperanza community. The organization managed daily operations, introduced facilities like showers and laundry, and collaborated with donors and the local community to build housing structures. The IAH program helped over 130 individuals successfully transition to permanent housing, with improvements seen in their overall health and employability.

My35 Waco (Operations Excellence, Large Category)
In response to the steady growth in Central Texas, TxDOT has undertaken the $350 million My35 Waco 4B Construction project, aimed at alleviating traffic congestion while enhancing safety in Waco and Bellmead. The reconstruction of the six-mile stretch of I-35 included widening the main lanes to four in each direction, improving frontage roads and ramps, reconstructing bridges, improving interchanges, adding U-turns, and improving bicycle and pedestrian access.

Throughout the project, TxDOT actively engaged with the community, deploying an array of communication tools to keep travelers informed about the construction process and safety measures. This communication strategy involved in-person meetings, live stream cameras, a continuously updated project website, automated emails, and text alerts.

The My35 Waco 4B Construction project has provided improved mobility and safety along the I-35 corridor, benefiting both commercial freight and personal vehicles. The enhancements introduced through this initiative have not only made travel more accessible but have also contributed to the area's tourism potential.

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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