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Illinois and Georgia earn top awards in the national transportation competition.

An innovative fix for a congestion-plagued interchange connecting people to some of Chicago’s most popular destinations and a bikeable and walkable greenway that connects neighborhoods in Atlanta’s north side were honored as the winners in the 2018 America’s Transportation Awards competition.

The path was built on the right-of-way of GA 400 and public land adjacent to Metro Atlanta Regional Transit Authority, reclaiming what was previously a highway-only corridor and creating a multimodal trail by turning underutilized gray infrastructure into useable green space.

The Illinois Department of Transportation’s (IDOT) $135 million Interstate 55 and Lake Shore Drive Interchange project earned the Grand Prize, while the Georgia Department of Transportation’s (GDOT) $9.3 million 400 Trail (PATH 400) project was voted the Socrata People’s Choice Award winner in the 11th annual competition sponsored by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), AAA, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Socrata, part of Tyler Technologies.

IDOT’s Interstate 55 and Lake Shore Drive Interchange project increased safety, reduced congestion, and cut drive times. The new interchange now connects a major interstate and an urban expressway near some of Chicago’s most popular recreational and educational destinations. Several creative solutions were used during construction, such as building a temporary bridge to accommodate interstate traffic to avoid closures and detours.

“We are proud to bring this award home to Illinois for the first time,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn. “The innovation that made this project stand out represents IDOT’s enthusiasm and commitment for creating and maintaining a safe and efficient transportation system for travelers statewide. Our employees strive to find creative solutions each and every day in everything they do to keep Illinois moving.”

GDOT’s 400 Trail project earned the highest number of online votes cast in the Socrata People’s Choice Award competition. The multi-modal pathway, built on the right-of-way of GA 400 and the public land adjacent to Metro Atlanta Regional Transit Authority, reclaimed what was previously a highway-only corridor. PATH400 connects neighborhoods, offices and retail locations and provides users with an easy way to explore, exercise, commute and engage. The pathway brings together 8,000 residents within a walking distance of 10 minutes.

“This is truly a proud moment for Georgia. The project was built through local funding only – no state or federal funds were used,” said GDOT Commissioner Russell R. McMurry, P.E. “The partnership between the PATH Foundation, Livable Buckhead, the Buckhead CID and Georgia DOT resulted in unused right-of-way property being transformed into a beautiful and functional pedestrian-friendly path. You may not even realize that you are right next to a major highway.”

The new $135 million interchange has improved a critical connecting point in Chicago and greatly improved traffic flow.

The 2018 competition attracted 79 project nominations from state departments of transportation in 35 states. Four regional competitions were held and the three projects from each region receiving the highest ratings competed for the final two awards. An independent panel of industry judges selected the Grand Prize winner; the project receiving the highest number of online votes earned the Socrata People’s Choice Award.

Presented at the AASHTO Annual Meeting in Atlanta, the Grand Prize and Socrata People’s Choice awards each came with $10,000 cash prizes to be used to support a charity or transportation-related scholarship program. IDOT said its prize money will be given to the Special Olympics, which debuted 50 years ago at Chicago’s Soldier Field, just north of the I-55 and Lake Shore Drive Interchange. GDOT said it will donate its prize money to Livable Buckhead to help complete the trail. Livable Buckhead is a nonprofit organization that is spearheading construction of PATH400 in Buckhead.

Learn more about the America’s Transportation Awards and this year’s entries at www.americastransportationawards.org.


Information provided by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (www.transportation.org), the Georgia Department of Transportation (www.dot.ga.gov), and the Illinois Department of Transportation (www.idot.illinois.gov).   

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