Kansas City, Mo. — HNTB Corporation received two 2014 Honor Awards from the American Council of Engineering Companies for two highly complex transportation projects. During the Engineering Excellence Awards Gala, April 29, 2014, ACEC announced HNTB had received an Honor Award for the design of the 495 Express Lanes in Northern Virginia and another for the tunnel portion of the Sound Transit’s University Link Light Rail Transit Project, which constructed twin bored tunnels beneath Interstate 5.

“Receiving recognition from our industry peers is deeply gratifying,” said Rob Slimp, HNTB Corporation CEO. “They recognize, as we do, that complex transportation projects are valuable investments in our nation’s quality of life and economic competitiveness.”

495 Express Lanes: Dedicated to improving mobility for commuters in this region, HNTB and Fluor-Lane in 2002 developed and presented the Virginia Department of Transportation with an unsolicited public-private partnership proposal. The design-build proposal recommended reconstructing eight general-purpose lanes and adding four express lanes along a 14-mile section of I-495 in northern Virginia. This heavily traveled 64-mile circumferential beltway passes through Northern Virginia’s environmentally sensitive and most economically vital areas and connects to three major interstate highways, limited access roadways and high capacity primary and secondary routes.

The 495 Express Lanes, which also are known as priced managed lanes, offer drivers options for beating congested roadways in the Washington, D.C., area.

As the project’s lead designer, HNTB was charged with delivering designs for the four new express lanes and the complete reconstruction of the existing facility, including 57 new or replacement bridges, reconstruction of 12 interchanges, new or replacement sound walls, tolling technology and retaining wall structures. The design also had to coordinate with a new Metrorail Silver Line being built through part of the 495 Express Lanes project area and with other busy highways and arterials that repeatedly cross and connect with this section of I-495.

Benefitting from fast-track design and coordinated efforts between VDOT, Fluor-Lane and HNTB, the 495 Express Lanes opened in November 2012, a month ahead of schedule. Under the P3 agreement, Transurban will operate and maintain the express lanes for 75 years. The new toll lanes are among the first in the United States to double as high-occupancy vehicle lanes, bringing new travel choices and guaranteed mobility to the most-congested roadways.

University Link Light Rail Transit Project Tunnel: The route from Pine Street in downtown Seattle to the University of Washington is one of the most congested in the Pacific Northwest. Crushing traffic often stretches the three-mile bus trip into a 30-minute crawl. Sound Transit considered options to improve trip times and reliability along the route. With surface options exhausted, only one alternative was left: go underground.

Using a tunnel boring machine under busy Interstate 5 in Seattle was a huge technical challenge.

By threading the University Link Extension through the new tunnels, the agency could circumvent surface traffic instead of competing with or adding to it. In collaboration with Sound Transit and Washington State Department of Transportation, HNTB coordinated and prepared design engineering for the I-5 Undercrossing Construction Pits contract of the project. The tunneling project faced many obstacles. Most notably, the design-build team had to bore through I-5’s massive retaining walls — twice. To support the walls, HNTB designed four structural concrete boxes that held partially demolished retaining walls in place underground while the tunnel boring machine mined through the boxes to create the light rail tunnels.

The $1.9 billion U-Link project will provide citizens with a highly efficient public transportation option and reduced travel time from 30 minutes to six. Current projections have the total project tracking to be completed $100 million under budget and as much as six months ahead of schedule — largely due to the successful tunnel boring under I-5 and related construction.

Considered the “Academy Awards” of the infrastructure industry, the national American Council of Engineering Companies’ Engineering Excellence Award honors consulting engineering firms for projects that demonstrate a high degree of achievement, value and ingenuity. This year’s event was held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Honoring its 100th anniversary throughout 2014, HNTB and its award-winning projects also consistently rank among Engineering News-Record’s best. The firm’s projects have won numerous awards over the years, including the 1990 Grand Conceptor Award for the Dames Point Bridge in Jacksonville, Fla.