By Anthony Foxx
Last Friday, I had the opportunity to visit the Oklahoma DOT's I-235/I-44 Interchange Reconstruction project. Thanks to my hosts U.S. Senator James Inhofe, Governor Mary Fallin, and Oklahoma Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley, I learned a lot about the cutting-edge work that's changing how the state delivers roads, bridges, and other projects. And it's clear that Oklahoma is a hotbed of highway high-tech.
At the I-235/I-44 interchange project, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) is using two innovative technologies from the Federal Highway Administration's Every Day Counts toolkit.
Asphalt Safety EdgeSM is installed during paving or resurfacing projects and allows drivers who drift off highways to return to the pavement safely. Warm-Mix Asphalt (WMA) is a building material used to create more durable pavement at less cost and with fewer emissions. Oklahoma's use of WMA isn't just a fad. From 2009 through September 2012, Oklahoma placed 329,100 tons of it, and 65 of the state's 73 asphalt plants have been modified to take advantage of the technology.
Near Mannford, the state plans to replace the structurally deficient Cottonwood Creek Bridge on SH-51 using another Every Day Counts innovation, Accelerated Bridge Construction. The project will use prefabricated bridge elements and systems to build the superstructure next to the existing bridge. Then, crews will slide it into place. This approach allows for fewer roadwork-related delays on the highway while the bridge is being assembled. It's the first time this bridge-moving methodology has been used in Oklahoma to advance construction.
The EDC innovations Oklahomans are using to build, repair, and replace critical infrastructure aren't limited to these efforts. The state has a number of agreements in place to complete projects faster. And Oklahoma is the first state to `train the trainers' who will teach authorities optimal traffic incident management. The state is also developing a high friction surface treatment project and a wetland mitigation bank. And down the road, the state envisions rolling out two more EDC innovations: 3D modeling and intelligent compaction.
The fact that Oklahoma also has a well-organized, multi-disciplined State Transportation Innovation Council in place bodes well for the future.
As a former mayor, I can tell you that building better, faster, and more efficiently is something that people notice, and from what I saw in Oklahoma City last Friday, state residents appreciate what ODOT is doing to bring the benefits of Every Day Counts to the people traveling the state's highways. Better roads, sooner--that's the kind of success we'll see from coast to coast as more states across the nation adopt more Every Day Counts innovations.