AASHTO Presents 14 Honors for Excellence in Transportation Work

AASHTO Journal, 21 October 2011

DETROIT — The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials presented 14 major awards during its recent annual meeting:

The Thomas H. MacDonald Memorial Award

Christine Reed
Illinois Department of Transportation

The Thomas H. MacDonald Memorial Award was created in 1957 to recognize a state transportation professional who has rendered continuous outstanding service over an extended period of time or who has made some exceptional contribution to the art and science of highway engineering. The recipient is selected by a committee of three state DOT chief executive officers.

This year’s recipient of the Thomas H. MacDonald Memorial Award is Christine Reed, director of highways and chief engineer for the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Ms. Reed was appointed highways director in November 2007. She is the first woman to hold the position in Illinois. Throughout her career, Ms. Reed has been consistently expanding the role of women in leadership positions through her significant achievements in the field of transportation.

She began her career in 1989 in IDOT’s Bureau of Materials and Physical Research. In 2003, she became one of the first women ever to be named a district engineer for the department. She later served as a region engineer before her promotion to highways director. She currently oversees one of the largest state highway systems in the nation.

During her tenure, IDOT has made significant strides toward making Illinois’ road network one of the most safe and efficient transportation systems in the United States. Her focus on improving the safety of road and bridge designs has helped Illinois lower the number of traffic fatalities by more than 26% since 2007. During the past two years, Ms. Reed has led the Division of Highways to implement its largest capital program in the history of the agency.

Ms. Reed is a member of AASHTO’s Standing Committee on Highways and serves as chairwoman of the association’s National Transportation Product Evaluation Program Oversight Committee.


Alfred E. Johnson Achievement Award

Randy Hopmann
Texas Department of Transportation

The Alfred E. Johnson Achievement Award was created in 1973 to honor a state transportation official in middle management who has made outstanding contributions in engineering or management. The recipient is selected by a committee of three state DOT chief executive officers.

This year’s recipient of the Alfred E. Johnson Achievement Award is Randy Hopmann, Tyler district engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation.

Mr. Hopmann has distinguished himself as an exceptional leader in the transportation industry. His leadership in deploying TxDOT’s “One-DOT” concept — a culture change of shared vision, goals, and information — led to significant department cohesiveness and focus. He is at the leading edge of TxDOT’s efforts to provide effective transportation systems. His innovations and contributions truly exemplify outstanding service in management.

As Tyler District engineer, Mr. Hopmann guides a staff of 280 in the design, construction, maintainence, and operation of the transportation system in an eight-county area. He also serves as a regional leadership team chairman for the North Region, comprising of eight TxDOT districts covering 68 counties.

Mr. Hopmann helped develop the “One-DOT” plan, which was a response to a need for the department to share services and best practices embedded in fully decentralized districts while eliminating redundancy. Fiscal realities drove the department to change its internal organizational structure to function more as “One-DOT.” Support centers were created for districts to share services and regional leadership teams were established where district leaders could develop priorities, review production, apply resources, and operate together.

The “One-DOT” plan has become a model of efficiency, accountability, and transparency. Mr. Hopmann’s efforts led to the reduction in field operations staff from 11,783 in 2007 to less than 9,700 this year, saving more than $100 million annually.


Francis B. Francois Award for Innovation

Massachusetts Department of Transportation

Francis B. Francois served as AASHTO executive director from 1980 to 1999. The association created this award in 2000 to honor his achievements and continue the legacy of innovation that he embodied. The award winner, a state transportation department that has implemented an outstanding innovative program, receives a $10,000 graduate fellowship to bestow on a state university student pursuing an advanced transportation-related degree. The recipient is selected by AASHTO’s Standing Committee on Performance Management.

This year’s recipient of the Francis B. Francois Award for Innovation is the Massachusetts Department of Transportation for its Accelerated Bridge Program.

In 2008, Massachusetts faced a difficult problem: 543 of its bridges were structurally deficient. To remedy this, ABP was signed into law in August 2008. MassDOT took on the mission of improving infrastructure rapidly, replacing bridges efficiently, using innovative management practices, and reducing construction-related impacts. The state allocated $3 billion to the program, which MassDOT used to reduce the number of structurally deficient bridges by almost 16% in the first two years.

ABP uses innovative program management, project development, and construction technologies and methods. MassDOT has undertaken its most ambitious bridge project by replacing 14 bridges on Interstate 93 north of Boston using a Prefabricated Bridge Element System. At least one bridge each weekend was rebuilt during this year’s construction season. The department is also building the first folded steel plate girder bridge in the country, nicknamed the “bridge in a backpack.”

By using these innovations, MassDOT is not only saving time but establishing a “new normal” way of doing business. In just three years, ABP has provided incredible benefits to the public, measured by metrics evaluating each new construction technique, procedure, and policy. Once a pilot bridge project proves successful, it is deployed throughout MassDOT.


The George S. Bartlett Award

Jack Basso
American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials

Since 1931, the George S. Bartlett Award has been conferred annually upon an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to highway progress. The recipient is selected by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, and the Transportation Research Board.

This year’s recipient of the George S. Bartlett Award is Jack Basso, director of program finance and management at AASHTO.

Mr. Basso joined AASHTO in 2001. He oversees the management of a nonprofit organization representing the interests of state transportation departments. He develops new member services and aggressively markets technical services provided to AASHTO members. He works closely with congressional staff and other associations who have mutual interests in transportation funding issues. Mr. Basso is a nationally recognized expert on transportation finance.

Mr. Basso has helped advise state DOTs through difficult financial times in the past three years, beginning in August 2008, when they were abruptly notified that federal highway reimbursements would be delayed for the first time because of insufficient revenue. Having long warned Congress of this approaching crisis, Mr. Basso provided invaluable expertise to congressional transportation leaders and worked tirelessly with other transportation colleagues to resolve the shortfall and restore the federal-aid highway program to normal operation through legislation transferring $8.1 billion into the Highway Trust Fund. Mr. Basso then worked with Congress in 2009 and 2010 to secure additional deposits of $7 billion and $19.5 billion, respectively, which has kept the Highway Trust Fund solvent to date.

Prior to joining AASHTO, Mr. Basso served as assistant secretary for budget and programs as well as chief financial officer for the U.S. Department of Transportation. He previously held numerous positions in administration and management with the Federal Highway Administration.


The President’s Special Award of Merit

Carlos Braceras
Utah Department of Transportation

The President’s Special Award of Merit, established in 1979, is conferred upon an individual who has made outstanding and exemplary contributions to the work of the association.

This year’s recipient of the President’s Special Award of Merit is Carlos Braceras, deputy director of the Utah Department of Transportation.

Mr. Braceras is recognized for his efforts as AASHTO secretary/treasurer and his many contributions to the AASHTO mission through his work on several committees, all while pursuing excellence in his role with UDOT. Since joining UDOT in 1986, Braceras has served as the chief geotechnical engineer, the chief value engineer, and the Region 2 roadway design engineer. He also was UDOT’s Region 3 director, and he worked on the Legacy Parkway/Interstate 15 North Project, where he was responsible for development of the environmental documents, design/build contracts, and construction management. In 1998, he was named “State of Utah Governor’s Manager of the Year” and received the “UDOT Leader of the Year” award. At AASHTO, Mr. Braceras currently also serves as chairman of the Subcommittee on Maintenance and is a member of four other committees. He leads the Advisory Board for the AASHTO Center of Environmental Excellence and is a member of its Steering Committee on Context-Sensitive Design.


The President’s Transportation Awards

These awards recognize individuals or teams who have performed exemplary service that benefits transportation regionally or nationally. Recipients are selected by the presidents of AASHTO and the four regional associations of state highway and transportation officials.


Wounded Warriors Transportation Job Training Team
Idaho Transportation Department

The team has helped 10 wounded combat veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq train for jobs in the transportation field. ITD undertook this pilot program after learning that combat veterans face steep unemployment after leaving the military and returning home, and those who were injured at war have a 41% unemployment rate upon coming back to America.

ITD’s team applied for and received federal economic recovery grants to start the transportation training program — offering Idaho’s wounded warriors training, supporting their families, and contributing to the health and vitality of the state’s transportation industry. ITD team members Mary Harker, Michelle George, and Chris Ramos — along with Gus Shanine of the Federal Highway Administration — collaborated with the Idaho Department of Labor to help injured veterans find meaningful employment in the transportation field. A $99,000 pilot program in southwestern Idaho helped veterans pay college tuition, daycare and transportation costs, and commercial driver’s license fees. It also helped them obtain flagging certification to work on construction projects.

Of the 10 veterans who graduated from the first 11-week-long program, six quickly found full-time employment. ITD has since applied for a $440,000 FHWA grant to expand the program statewide.


John Shambaugh
Washington State Department of Transportation

Mr. Shambaugh, a senior planner in WSDOT’s Aviation Division, successfully led a three-year Washington State Long-Term Air Transportation Study using his extensive knowledge of long-range planning, experience with public outreach, and ability to keep projects on time and on budget. His strong leadership helped to produce recommendations that will impact Washington state’s aviation system for years to come.

The study represented the first comprehensive review of Washington state’s aviation system in more than two decades. As project manager, Mr. Shambaugh worked diligently to ensure the study was a strategic effort that engaged stakeholders and produced meaningful results. He initiated several innovative public-outreach sessions and oversaw the governor’s appointment of a 10-member Aviation Planning Council to make final recommendations.

The project stayed on budget and on schedule thanks to Mr. Shambaugh’s careful management. After the study concluded, Mr. Shambaugh planned and initiated implementation strategies including production of the Airport Information System database. It provides detailed information on each airport in the state. He also is leading a follow-up study regarding the economic impacts of aviation, revising airport land-use and planning guidelines, and working on a five-year State Capital Improvement Program for airports.


Bridge Permitting Expedition Team
Oregon Department of Transportation

The Oregon Transportation Investment Act of 2003 tasked ODOT with delivering a 10-year, $1.3 billion program to repair or replace 365 bridges statewide. Using traditional procedures, obtaining permits from numerous regulatory agencies to work on this large number of bridges could have taken up to 50 years. ODOT instead formed a team to expedite the permitting. It developed a quicker process that set a single set of environmental performance standards to allow maximum flexibility while focusing on outcomes.

Variances established during the expedited process allowed ODOT to make more significant contributions to the environment than required, such as restoring the habitat for Oregon chub and bull trout as well as identifying a prairie that will be home to Fender’s blue butterfly, a federally-listed endangered species. Of the 365 bridges slated for improvement as part of the 10-year plan, ODOT negotiated variances to expedite 206 of the projects. The modified process has improved long-term environmental outcomes through avoidance, minimization, and mitigation.

ODOT team members are Geoff Crook, Hal Gard, Raymond Mabey, and Thomas Lauer. They worked with six members of a contracting group known as Oregon Bridge Delivery Partners to combine more than 14 separate environmental statutes and permits into a single set of standards.


Office of Intercounty Connector Project
Maryland State Highway Administration

“Team ICC” performed exemplary service in delivering the first phase of the $2.6 billion Intercounty Connector, a tollway in southern Maryland near the nation’s capital. The ICC is the third all-electronic toll road newly built in the United States, and it is already having a positive impact on regional transportation.

The ICC, when completed, will run 18 miles from the Interstate 270 corridor in Montgomery County to the Interstate 95/U.S. 1 corridor in Prince George’s County. The initial seven-mile segment opened to traffic in February 2011. Team ICC used an innovative approach for constructing the connector, dividing the highway into four separate delivery contracts. Individual joint-venture design/build contractors — comprised of design and construction firms — have been managed by Team ICC, keeping each segment on schedule and budget.

The Intercounty Connector provides a travel alternative to overcrowded county roads and delivers reliable travel times, helping relieve congestion and improve safety on the local street systems in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. Once fully completed by early 2012, the ICC is anticipated to generate peak-period travel-time savings of at least 30% in the first full complete year of operation. A trip between Gaithersburg and BWI Airport, for instance, is anticipated to be 30 minutes faster using the connector compared to the current travel times of 60-70 minutes during peak periods on existing roads.

Highway Traffic Safety

Student Neighborhood Access Program Team
Utah Department of Transportation

UDOT developed the SNAP Team four years ago to help school districts create and distribute maps indicating the safest routes for students to walk or bike to school. The team provided consistent statewide resources to educate and encourage children to safely walk and bike to school following their school’s safe-route maps. It created Web-based software that enables school administrators to create consistent maps and utilize innovative tactics to encourage walking and biking to school.

In addition, the team developed a musical assembly called “SNAP, Walk, ‘n Roll” to teach students how to walk and bike safely using a SNAP map; produced a 30-minute video based on the assembly; and started a statewide annual challenge, “Walk More in Four,” which encourages students to walk to classes in the four weeks leading up to International Walk to School Day in October.

As a result of their efforts, 74% of Utah schools now issue SNAP maps — more than 500 schools. More than 80,000 Utah students have participated in the assembly at more than 100 schools. Subsequent focus groups with students showed an increased knowledge and retention of safety rules. Robert Hull, Cherissa Wood, and Scott Jones lead UDOT’s SNAP Team.

Performance Excellence

I-94 Corridor Operations Partnership
Michigan Department of Transportation

MDOT formed the partnership to improve traffic operations and system reliability along the Interstate 94 corridor statewide. The corridor operations partnership is focused on two major efforts: predicting and reducing travel-time delays due to construction projects; and calculating and reducing user delay costs experienced during delays caused by incidents, winter weather, and work zones. The partnership, in preparing for the 2011 construction season, established a 40-minute travel-time delay maximum for travelers between the Indiana border at New Buffalo and the Canadian border at Port Huron. Plans for the maintenance of traffic and staging schemes for two metro Detroit projects were reconfigured to reduce predicted delays that were deemed intolerable. I-94 travelers’ delays were then measured, mitigated, and reduced.

Setting performance benchmarks helped the partnership monitor the impact of 14 construction projects along the interstate. User delay-cost data, measured traffic speeds, and time taken to return to free-flowing traffic after incidents and snowstorms were analyzed weekly to determine and initiate mitigation opportunities. MDOT worked with emergency responders along the I-94 corridor to quickly clear incidents that obstructed traffic flow. It also monitored the performance of snowplow operators during the winter season to reduce delays caused by inclement weather.


Planning Division
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet

The division has taken a new approach to defining project scope by examining a project’s “DNA” — data, needs, and analysis. During the planning phase, a “DNA pre-design scoping study” is performed on all projects that have been approved for funds in the legislatively-approved Kentucky Highway Plan. The intent is to better define the purpose and need of a road improvement by compiling existing data and known information about the project prior to entering the design phase or advertising for a consultant.

KTC’s Planning Division, led by Keith Damron and Kevin Damron, has saved both time and cost by eliminating alternatives that would not satisfy the project’s purpose and need, preventing a project from ballooning beyond what is needed. In addition, DNA scoping studies have helped identify issues that need immediate attention at the beginning of the preliminary engineering phase.

The division has also reduced the time to complete a project. Unlike traditional scoping studies, which can take six to 12 months, DNA scoping studies are intended to quickly and efficiently document existing characteristics and facts about a project. Staff members are encouraged to take no more than 15 business days to compile information, present to the project team, and compile a report containing relevant information and comments.

Public Transportation

Ron Epstein
New York State Department of Transportation

Mr. Epstein is nationally recognized as a leading voice on public-transportation issues. He has spent his career developing, managing, and coordinating policy, legislative, and funding strategies pertaining to state and federal transit programs. He is the current vice chairman of AASHTO’s Standing Committee on Public Transportation and recently served as chairman of the team advising the association regarding reauthorization of federal transit programs.

In addition to his work at NYSDOT and AASHTO, Mr. Epstein has participated extensively on reauthorization efforts with the American Public Transportation Association. He is a member of APTA’s Board of Directors, Legislative Committee, and State Affairs Committee. Through his involvement in transit policy development for both of these national organizations, Mr. Epstein has helped ensure virtually identical reauthorization proposals were sent to Congress from state transportation departments and transit authorities.

Mr. Epstein has contributed to several technical publications on transportation finance and transit infrastructure investment requirements, including guiding and supporting the analysis for the public-transportation sections of the last three AASHTO “Bottom Line” reports. He currently serves on several Transportation Research Board Transit Cooperative Research Program panels, including a national forum held last year on performance-based planning and programming, an effort to develop measures to ensure accountability for transportation agencies.


Darlene Goehl
Texas Department of Transportation

Ms. Goehl, a pavement/material engineer for TxDOT’s Bryan District during the past 14 years, is a national leader in developing methods to restore road texture using ultrahigh water pressure. Test results show astounding improvements in wet-weather skid resistance after the treatment is applied to asphalt, improving roadway safety. The method Ms. Goehl developed is also saving TxDOT money, costing 80 cents per square yard compared to $3.60 per square yard for asphaltic concrete pavement overlay.

This endeavor began in 2007, when she led a TxDOT research project on maintenance solutions for bleeding and flushed pavements. Asphalt in such condition becomes slick during wet weather, and can be difficult to brake on. Partnering with Texas Tech University, Ms. Goehl’s research identified ultrahigh water pressure water cutting as an option. This process blasts water under an extreme pressure of 33,000 psi. The slick asphalt is removed from the surface to expose the aggregate and restore texture of the driving surface, reducing skid risk.

Water blasting had been used for various types of work in the United States, but until recently not for asphalt surfaces. Ms. Goehl found a Pennsylvania contractor to perform a demonstration project in Grimes County, Texas, in March 2010, which was so successful TxDOT began a pilot program in four districts using the new method to improve safety and reduce maintenance costs.

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