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Four Projects in Virginia, West Virginia, and South Carolina Win Regional America’s Transportation Awards

by: Jessica Hoover
Chatham Bridge Rehabilitation and Shared Use Path Project
Chatham Bridge Rehabilitation and Shared Use Path Project
I-66 Inside the Beltway Eastbound Widening Project
I-66 Inside the Beltway Eastbound Widening Project
Oakwood Road R-Cut Project
Oakwood Road R-Cut Project
U.S. 21 over Harbor River Bridge Replacement Project
U.S. 21 over Harbor River Bridge Replacement Project
Four state department of transportation projects in Virginia, West Virginia, and South Carolina 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.”

Twenty-two projects in the Southern Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (SASHTO) region were nominated by nine states for this year’s competition. The following four projects in the Construction area were winners of the regional America’s Transportation Awards.

Chatham Bridge Rehabilitation and Shared Use Path Project (Quality of Life/Community Development, Small 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. Prior to its rehabilitation, the 80-year-old Chatham Bridge was classified as poor on the National Bridge Inspection Standards scale for its bridge superstructure and substructure, and was facing a severely deteriorated bridge deck that was accelerated by record-setting rainfall in 2018.

In 2020, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) began a $23-million rehabilitation project on the Chatham Bridge that widened the previously 4-foot-wide sidewalks into a 10-foot-wide shared use path for bicycles and pedestrians, connecting the bridge with a Stafford County trail along River Road. The wider, more accessible path provides safe crossing between residential and commercial areas in Stafford and Fredericksburg.

“It’s connecting the two communities, the city of Fredericksburg and Stafford County, through trail networks. It’s really a focal point for the community,” said Michael Coffey, PE, District Construction Engineer at VDOT, Fredericksburg District.

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Other improvements included a more expansive bridge deck, new LED lighting, and a scenic overlook of the Rappahannock River. The project also allowed the prior 15-ton weight limit to be removed, permitting legal loads and heavier emergency response equipment to cross the bridge, which improved efficiency and emergency response for the community.

I-66 Inside the Beltway Eastbound Widening Project (Quality of Life/Community Development, Medium Category)
As part of VDOT’s Transform 66 Inside the Beltway program, the Eastbound Widening Project transformed a choke point on eastbound I-66 and created a safer, more predictable commute with reduced delays. The bottleneck existed inside the Capital Beltway in Arlington, Virginia, where four lanes of traffic merged into two lanes in a short distance, causing congestion during the morning rush hour and on evenings and weekends.

Completed in August 2021, the Eastbound Widening Project moved more travelers efficiently through the corridor by adding an additional travel lane along approximately four miles of eastbound I-66 from the Dulles Connector Road to Fairfax Drive. The $105-million project also constructed a new direct access ramp to the West Falls Church Metro Station, which helped remove vehicles from the adjacent roadway network, including two nearby schools.

A safer, faster grade-separated crossing — the Washington and Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail Bridge — was also built for pedestrians and bicyclists in the heavily-traveled area over Langston Boulevard (Route 29), adjacent to I-66 and the East Falls Church Metro Station. Additional improvements included the replacement of approximately 12,000 linear feet of dilapidated noise walls and a new pedestrian and bicyclist roundabout.

“The project was more than just an interstate widening project — there was a focus on offering flexibility and choices for drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users,” said Mark Gibney, PE, PMP, DBIA, Design-Build Project Manager at VDOT’s Northern Virginia District. “The new W&OD Trail Bridge over Route 29 and the Custis Trail improvements make traversing as a pedestrian or bicyclist a more viable and desirable option and helps to connect residents to work, shopping, and recreation.”

Oakwood Road R-Cut Project (Operations Excellence, Small 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 West Virginia Department of Transportation (WVDOT) saved taxpayers an estimated $25 million using an innovative Restricted Crossing U-Turn (R-Cut) design to alleviate congestion, ease driving times, and improve safety on Interstate 64 in downtown Charleston.

The new R-Cut intersection will eliminate left-hand turns and through traffic off of Oakwood Road, greatly improving traffic flow at the intersection. Drivers at the previous intersection on both Oakwood Road and Corridor G had to wait for the left turn arrows, which caused congestion and increased wait times at the traffic light. This project marks the first time the R-Cut design was used in West Virginia.

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Along with cutting the wait time at the intersection from three minutes to one minute, the nearly $6-million R-Cut project also allowed WVDOT to save a significant amount of money by using existing roadways and right of way, requiring less roadway widening, and limiting the infrastructure required for the project.

“It’s [the project is] one of the best examples of how engineering can really save the taxpayer money,” said Jimmy Wriston, West Virginia Secretary of Transportation. “We had a project planned there that was in excess of $30 million and would have required a lot of right of way acquisition from businesses. … By avoiding all of the right of away and bringing the job in cheaper, we’re still maintaining a level of service that was better than what we had planned. That’s just a win-win all the way around.”

U.S. 21 over Harbor River Bridge Replacement Project (Best Use of Technology & Innovation, Medium Category)
This project won in the Best Use of Technology and Innovation category, which recognizes new technology and/or innovative solutions implemented by a state DOT as part of a transportation project. For over 80 years, the Harbor River Bridge was the only means for vehicular access from three barrier islands to the mainland in Beaufort County, South Carolina. The deteriorating swing-span bridge required ongoing repairs and maintenance and sometimes would not close, stranding motorists until technicians could repair the bridge.

The new $70-million, 3,353-foot-long Harbor River Bridge is a high-level crossing, allowing vessels to pass underneath it without interruption. To keep traffic moving throughout construction of the bridge, the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) created an innovative design-build delivery plan that used segmental barges to create a wide access road across the salt marsh and open water. Made of smaller barge sections that connect to make large work platforms, segmental barges are easily disconnected, moved, and reconfigured.

SCDOT employed several solutions to minimize the project’s environmental impacts and participated in the department’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprises Program. The project also involved extensive coordination with resource agencies and stakeholders.

"We are extremely honored to accept this award as an example of some of the great work by the South Carolina Department of Transportation," said Christy A. Hall, South Carolina Secretary of Transportation. "SCDOT continues to lead the way in innovation for both operations and project designs."

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