Three Caltrans projects received top honors this month from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ (AASHTO) Western Region. The 11th annual America’s Transportation Awards competition, sponsored by AASHTO, Socrata, AAA, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, recognizes transportation projects in three categories: Quality of Life/Community Development, Best Use of Technology and Innovation, and Operations Excellence.
“California’s transportation system is the backbone of our state’s livelihood. Our residents and commerce depend on it,” said Caltrans Director Laurie Berman. “I’m proud of Caltrans’ work to make sure that the state highway system is safe and efficient for the traveling public, and these projects are just a sample of our innovation and hard work.”
For Quality of Life/Community Development, Caltrans won the large category (projects costing more than $200 million) for its SR-91 Corridor Improvement project in Riverside County. State Route 91 has a long-standing reputation as one of the nation’s worst commutes. The $1.4 billion project extended the 91 Express Lanes to Riverside County from Orange County to provide the first tolling facility in Riverside County. The project also added one new general purpose lane in both directions for added capacity, a new 15/91 Express Connector, and improved six local interchanges.
The Highway 1/Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge Replacement in Monterey County tied for first place in the Best Use of Technology and Innovation small category. In February 2017, the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge, built in 1968, was determined to be beyond repair and needed replacement following severe storm damage. At that point, Highway 1 access to the Big Sur community was cut off from the north but also from the south due to rock slides near Lucia and Gorda. Caltrans replaced the Pfeiffer Canyon bridge with a new $24 million single-span steel girder bridge and opened it to the public just eight months after the original concrete structure was condemned, a process which would normally take about eight years.
“State DOTs are committed to making America safer, better and stronger by improving connections between communities both large and small, urban and rural,” said John Schroer, president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. “The transportation projects in this competition are part of a national multimodal network that is moving millions of people and tons of goods where they need to go every day.”
In the Operations Excellence category, Caltrans’ Route 191 Realignment Project in Butte County won in the medium category. The $29 million project improved safety and shortened travel time for motorists on the road to Paradise, a small Northern California foothills community. A time-saving and innovative technology deployed for the first time by Caltrans played an instrumental role in completing construction one year ahead of schedule and under budget. A 1.8-mile windy, steep stretch of roadway was flattened and straightened, and needed extra space was added to the shoulders. The realigned roadway improved safety while preserving an historic watering trough, riparian habitat and nearby Valley Oaks critical to this community’s allure.
Winners in the three remaining AASHTO regions will be announced throughout summer, and the three highest-scoring projects from each region will be included in the “Top 12.” Those 12 projects will compete for the Grand Prize, selected by an independent panel of industry judges, and the Socrata People’s Choice Award, chosen by the general public through online voting. The top two winners also receive $10,000 cash awards, to be donated to a charity or scholarship of the state DOT’s choosing. Online voting begins Aug. 30. The winners of the top two awards will be announced Sept. 23, at the AASHTO Annual Meeting in Atlanta.
Learn more about the nominees and the competition at www.AmericasTransportationAwards.org.