In the past two and a half years, I've been fortunate to see many terrific projects. From basic surface repair on a quiet stretch of road in New Hampshire to the stunning new Pat Tillman Bridge at the Hoover Dam crossing, every project has been a testament to the skills of America's construction workers, engineers, and designers.
But last weekend, Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez observed one of the most ambitious projects we've seen, the Fast 14. This bold approach to replacing 14 different bridges on I-93 in Medford, Massachusetts, in a single summer, demonstrates perfectly the ability of American innovation to respond to transportation challenges. And the work he witnessed proves that America is ready, willing, and able to dream big, and build big.
In this video from MassDOT, FHWA Administrator walks viewers throught the Fast 14 project
The challenge was tremendous; last summer gaping holes opened up in bridges along the crucial I-93 corridor near Boston. It was clear that the superstructure--the concrete decking and steel beams--of the aging bridges was failing and had to be replaced. Unfortunately, with conventional techniques, closing lanes to replace the 14 structurally deficient bridges on this primary commuter artery would likely tie Boston-area traffic in painful knots for four long years.
The Massachusetts DOT design-build team proposed to cut that four years down to 14 weeks by prefabricating the superstructure pieces off-site then quickly fitting them into position. Rather than close lanes for the weeks it would take to fabricate a bridge's superstructure on-site, lane closures could be limited to weekends when the pre-fab superstructure could be lowered into place. Preparatory work, they suggested, could be done in advance without disrupting the flow of traffic.
In this video, MassDOT design-build team leader Christine Mizioch explains the Fast 14 process
Several of the innovative practices involved in this amazing project, including the pre-fabricated bridge pieces, were pioneered by the Federal Highway Administration's Every Day Counts initiative. In 2009, knowing that economic circumstances would put extra pressure on state and local governments to shorten project delivery time, the FHWA asked a simple question: Why can't we build durable road structures faster, without disrupting people's lives?
In the summer of the Fast 14, the answer is clear: we can.