AASHTO Reveals Transportation Finalists


The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials recently named 12 finalists for the 2022 America’s Transportation Awards competition. Earlier this year, 37 state Departments of Transportation submitted a total of 80 nominations via four regional contests.

The transportation projects in the final round will now compete for the Grand Prize and People’s Choice Award, with prizes of $10,000 cash for a charity or transportation-related scholarship of the winners’ choosing.

About the Awards

Now in its 15th year, AASHTO stated that the America’s Transportation Awards helps to “showcase why transportation infrastructure–and why properly funding it–is so vital.” The awards are sponsored by the Association, the American Automobile Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“Transportation infrastructure plays a significant role in everyone’s life – getting us to our jobs and connecting communities – creating the quality of life that has come to define our nation. America’s best transportation projects make a difference for the people and businesses who use them,” wrote the Association.

The yearly competition evaluates projects in three categories, including:

  • Quality of Life/Community Development;
  • Best Use of Technology and Innovation; and
  • Operations Excellence.

According to AASHTO, projects in the first category evaluation should provide a better solution to connect their communities to businesses, jobs, health care facilities, and recreational activities while encouraging a mix of transportation modes. Priority is given to projects that enhance and support transit and non-motorized transportation.

For Technology and Innovation, this category recognizes new technology and/or creative and innovative solutions implemented by a state department of transportation as part of a transportation project.

Finally, Operations Excellence project nominees should demonstrate the ability to operate the existing transportation system as safely and efficiently as possible. 

Additionally, projects are sorted by size from small (costing up to $25 million), medium (costing between $26 million to $200 million) and large (costing more than $200 million).

2022 Finalists

This year’s finalists include transportation projects in California, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington State.

“The Top 12 finalists represent this competition’s very best,” said Jim Tymon, AASHTO’s Executive Director. “These projects earned the highest scores for making communities safer and people’s lives better by adding bicycle and pedestrian facilities, deploying innovative solutions to improve efficiency, and replacing aging infrastructure with as little disruption as possible. 

“These projects are excellent examples of how state DOTs are delivering more equitable, resilient, multimodal infrastructure for our communities.”

In California, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) developed a $250,000 interactive, web-based interface that allows stakeholders to explore a construction project using virtual reality. The tool, 360 Tours, allows website visitors to “zoom in” on areas of interest and view simulations of impacts like seal-level rise on existing or future roadways.

Illinois and Iowa DOTs are joint finalists for the Memorial Bridge, an Interstate 74 Mississippi River Crossing project. The $981 million bridge, which reportedly carries more than 45% of all traffic in the Quad Cities, received an upgrade for improved operations and capacity.

The Iowa DOT also nominated all 10 Mid America Association of State Transportation Officials (MAASTO) states for their joint work on identifying acceptable emergency divisible load truck weights and proactively agreeing to expedite these shipments across state lines during presidentially declared disasters through a memo of understanding. According to the project, flooding, tornadoes and COVID, among other disasters, demonstrated the need for the seamless movement of lifesaving emergency supplies.

The Minnesota DOT reportedly improved pedestrian mobility and safety for the people along the north shore of Lake Superior through a $19.2 million land use project, which included narrowing the roadway, building better biking and pedestrian facilities and creating an environment where highway traffic would slow down so crossing the roadway would be safer. AASHTO reports that the “innovative” project created an attractive roadside environment and still preserved the dark sky environment in the area.

In New Jersey, the DOT restored the Route 1&9/Paterson Plank Road Bridge in an $88 million project without having to close down the crowded corridor throughout repairs. Additionally, improvements were made for NJ Transit and pedestrian infrastructure.

New York received a nomination for its State Route 5S and North Genesee Street Multi-Modal Safety and Connections Enhancements, which aimed to reduce the crash rate in Utica by improving traffic flows and reducing vehicle speeds. The $23 million project utilized a safety strategy known as a “road-diet” to replace outdated roadways with appropriately scaled, modern intersections and a roundabout.

Next, the Pennsylvania DOT’s project features the I-579 Urban Open Space Cap in the City of Pittsburgh’s Lower Hill District neighborhood. The $30 million project not only reconnected a neighborhood to downtown, but also provided an opportunity for redevelopment in the area by bridging the interstate with a new park that includes art designs from neighborhood artists, an outdoor classroom, performance and green spaces and more.

The next finalist spot went to South Carolina’s $70 million U.S. 21 over Harbor River Bridge Replacement Project. Because the original low swing-span bridge was deteriorating and would sometimes not close, SCDOT developed a design-build delivery plan to keep traffic moving throughout construction using barges to create an access road.

Tennessee’s project, the Hernando de Soto Bridge Emergency Repairs, took place after the bridge was abruptly shut down in Memphis in May 2021 after a routine inspection uncovered a severe fracture in a steel-tied arch structure. A multi-phased emergency repair operation, which utilized drones, allowed for the bridge to be reopened just 83 days after the fracture was discovered.

In Texas, a $228 million route expansion addressed a congestion issued for a corridor that reportedly experienced over 743,000 hours of annual travel delays, according to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. The U.S. 281 North Expansion included new High Occupancy Vehicle or HOV lanes, a direct connection to park and ride facilities, bike and pedestrian accommodations, and new flyover ramps for better driver connections.

The Chatham Bridge Rehabilitation and Shared Use Path was undertaken by the Virginia DOT to fix severe deterioration in the bridge deck, as well as narrow pedestrian walkways. With VDOT’s repairs, the vehicle weight limit was lifted on the bridge, in addition to “significantly” transforming the area with 10-foot-wide shared use paths and other features.

And, finally, Washington State received its finalist nomination for its Active Transportation Plan that is anticipated to provide better and safer infrastructure for those who walk and bike to their destinations around the state.

An independent panel of transportation industry experts will reportedly select the Grand Prize winner. The public will vote to decide the People’s Choice Award winner, weighted to each state’s population to allow for greater competition between states with larger and smaller populations. 

Online voting has been opened and will end at 11:59 p.m. EST on Oct. 21. Individuals can cast no more than one vote per day.

The winners will be announced during AASHTO’s annual meeting in Orlando, Florida, on Saturday, Oct. 22.

Previous Winners

Back in 2018, a congestion-alleviating fix for an interchange in Chicago and a bikeable, walkable greenway that connects neighborhoods in the north part of Atlanta were named the winners of the AASHTO’s America's Transportation Awards that year. The grand prize went to Chicago's $135 million Interstate 55 and Lake Shore Drive Interchange project, while Atlanta's $9.3 million 400 Trail project was chosen as Socrata People’s Choice Award winner.

Chicago’s Interstate 55 and Lake Shore Drive Interchange project reduced congestion, increased safety and cut down on drive times, while also providing a new route option to a major interstate and an urban expressway, further residents and visitors to nearby entertainment and educational options.

Atlanta’s multipurpose walkway was a move toward reclaiming what had previously been a highway-only corridor. With the new walking and biking option, residents can take advantage of the critical connection that links 8,000 people together in a 10-minute walking distance.

“We applaud all of this year’s nominees, especially the Georgia Department of Transportation for receiving the highest number of online votes and taking home this year’s Socrata People’s Choice Award,” said Patrick Farley, Director of Government Affairs, Data and Insights for Tyler Technologies Inc. “GDOT’s 400 Trail project is bringing communities in Atlanta closer together in a healthy and sustainable way.”

Both winners each took home a $10,000 cash prize that will be put toward a charity or transportation-related scholarship program.


Tagged categories: AASHTO; Awards and honors; Bridges; Bridges; Completed projects; Department of Transportation (DOT); Infrastructure; Infrastructure; Mass transit; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Roads/Highways; Transportation

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