Projects that helped reduce traffic congestion and improved mobility in the major metropolitan areas of St Louis (Missouri) and Atlanta (Georgia) have won the top prizes in this year’s America’s Transportation Awards competition.
Sponsored by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), AAA (American Automobile Association), and the US Chamber of Commerce, the 12th annual competition evaluated projects in three categories: Quality of Life/Community Development; Best Use of Technology & Innovation; and Operations Excellence. Overall, 39 state Departments of Transportation (DOTs) nominated 81 projects in four regional contests, with the four highest-scoring projects in each region comprising the list of 12 national-level finalists that competed for the top two prizes. Presented at the AASHTO Annual Meeting in St Louis, the Grand Prize and the People’s Choice awards each come with US$10,000 cash prizes to be used to support a charity or transportation-related scholarship program chosen by the winning state DOTs.
The Grand Prize in the 2019 America’s Transportation Awards competition was won by the Infrastructure Improvements to Downtown St Louis project, a collaboration between the Illinois and Missouri DOTs that delivered major multimodal enhancements to both states. The US$801m project dramatically improved travel times and provided a new connection to the iconic St Louis Arch. The collaborative Illinois/Missouri DOT scheme involved relocating an interstate to the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge; a four-lane cable-stayed bridge that opened in 2014. The new bridge gave the region some much needed ‘breathing room’ and allowed the states to make significant improvements to the Poplar Street Bridge, including new lane ramps leading to and from the bridge, as well as an extra lane between St Louis and St Clair County in Illinois. A park then replaced the previous interstate location, with bicycle and pedestrian access points added to the banks of the Mississippi River. With these improvements, St. Louis witnessed up to a 30% increase in traffic across the river, helping improve the economy and tourism across the city.
The People’s Choice award was won by Georgia DOT’s Northwest Corridor Express Lanes project, which received the highest number of online votes in the competition. GDOT’s US$834m scheme to reduce traffic congestion, along the I-75 and I-575 corridor in Atlanta added two additional lanes along I-75 as well as an additional lane to I-575, creating approximately 30 miles (48km) of new reversible express lanes, six new express interchanges and bridge improvements. Motorists now have more access points to the express lanes network, giving them the option of paying more to bypass traffic congestion, while giving an extra boost to the state’s economy.
“This annual competition is tough,” said Jim Tymon, AASHTO’s executive director. “All 81 of this year’s project nominees demonstrate the many ways transportation improves the quality of people’s lives. Some of these projects increased mobility by giving commuters more travel options, including biking and walking. Others spurred economic development, cut traffic congestion, or improved safety. And while we honor today’s champions, the biggest winners are by far the American people.”