The HDR-designed Interstate 579 Urban Open Space Cap project in Pittsburgh has earned the Grand Prize in the 2022 America’s Transportation Awards competition. The annual awards are sponsored by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, AAA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The I-579 cap, completed in late 2021 for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and City of Pittsburgh, reconnects the historically African-American Lower Hill district to downtown, restoring direct access that had been lost when the interstate was constructed in the late 1950s. The cap covers about 300 feet of interstate with a 3-acre park that features rain gardens, art, story walls, an outdoor classroom, an amphitheater and integrated seating. The project was informed by extensive community listening meetings to ensure the final structure reflects longtime residents’ vision for the space.

HDR’s experts supported the project from beginning to end, providing early project planning, bridge design, grant support and public engagement services, as well as preliminary and final design and construction support.

For the award, the I-579 cap topped 80 projects from 37 states and was selected by an independent panel of transportation industry judges, who considered the project’s benefits to the community, anticipated economic benefits, customer focus and quality process. The award was presented to PennDOT in October at the 2022 AASHTO Annual Meeting.

“Projects such as Pittsburgh’s cap over I-579 show the power of purposeful infrastructure to strengthen communities and bring neighbors together,” said HDR Transportation President Thomas McLaughlin. “It’s rewarding to be a part of such meaningful and transformative projects and gratifying when our industry recognizes their impact.”

This is the second year in a row that an HDR-designed project has won the top award given out by state DOTs. The 2021 Grand Prize winner was the reconstruction of I-40 Business through downtown Winston-Salem, North Carolina. HDR was the lead designer for that design-build effort.