FHWA recognizes HDR projects for Environmental Excellence

Omaha, Neb. — The Federal Highway Administration recognized two HDR projects with biennial Environmental Excellence Awards. Each award recognizes a project that strengthens transportation networks while demonstrating outstanding environmental stewardship. Both projects earned awards in the “Human Environment” topic area.

I-70 Mountain Corridor Eastbound Peak Period Shoulder Lane, Colorado

For Context Sensitive Solutions — Winding through the eastern Rocky Mountains, Interstate 70 experienced debilitating congestion during weekend peak periods in Clear Creek County, Colo. At times, traffic moved fewer than four miles an hour as visitors left recreational areas to return to the Denver metro.

The Colorado Department of Transportation’s solution involved repurposing the eastbound shoulder as a peak period managed toll lane. The new lane uses dynamic toll pricing; tolls fall to encourage drivers to use the lane and rise as it nears capacity. HDR led design and environmental documentation for this 13-mile, roadway improvement project.

The project team’s context-sensitive-solution process included robust outreach efforts with community groups, regulatory agencies and elected officials. This led to an innovative solution that repurposed existing infrastructure, negating the need to widen the roadway in an already tight corridor — and without impacting historic properties and wetlands nearby.

The new lane opened in late 2015. During its first year, it reduced peak-period travel time between 26 and 52 percent, enhancing quality of life for people who live and work adjacent to the corridor, and improving access to residential areas, recreation and businesses. In addition to improving flow, the project bolstered wildlife connectivity by modifying median barriers. It also enhanced a community park and improved pedestrian and bicycle facilities.

In a letter to CDOT, Acting Deputy Administrator for the FHWA, Walter Waidelich Jr., commended the department for its sustainable planning and design. “Specifically, we recognize CDOT’s creativity in shaping effective transportation solutions while preserving the natural environment and enhancing neighboring communities,” Waidelich said.

U.S. 26 Outer Powell Transportation Safety Project, Oregon

For Demonstrated Advances in Nondiscrimination, Including Environmental Justice — Oregon Department of Transportation is addressing safety and a lack of transportation amenities along a roughly 4-mile section of Outer Powell Boulevard in East Portland, Oregon. This busy state highway runs through one of the most diverse, lower-income areas of the city. Its lack of contiguous sidewalks, bike lanes and turning lanes make traveling the corridor hazardous for pedestrians, cyclists and road users.

HDR is leading final design and public involvement for the safety improvement project. To involve the multilingual population surrounding the corridor, outreach materials are being translated into Cantonese, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese. Using faith-based outreach, paid community organizers, translated corridor walks and community-sponsored events, ODOT is moving a highway project forward while establishing strong community relationships and goodwill.

When complete, the project will introduce turning lanes, buffered bike lanes, ADA-compliant sidewalks, green infrastructure for stormwater capture and improved channelization, illumination and signalization. Construction of the first mile of the project is scheduled to start in 2018, and to take roughly two years to complete.

FHWA’s Waidelich praised the project’s planning and development strategies that improve quality of life for minority and low-income individuals. “The dedication by ODOT staff and project partners to make sure all communities were consulted and represented is a shining example of environmental justice,” he said.