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2013 DOT Year in Review: FHWA keeps road projects moving

2013 DOT Year in Review: FHWA keeps road projects moving

Photo of Victor MendezThe end of the year is a good time for reflection and looking back, 2013 was filled with accomplishments for the Federal Highway Administration. The new I-5 bridge over the Skagit River in Washington State is a good example of the outstanding work done this year by FHWA in partnership with state and local transportation agencies and the private sector.

Just four weeks after the old bridge collapsed on the Thursday night before Memorial Day weekend, the Washington State DOT put a temporary span in place.  And fewer than four months after the collapse, a permanent span was open for business on a route that’s vital to motorists and freight movement in the Pacific Northwest. This work is a fitting representative of FHWA, because it shows how our commitment to using innovative tools and solutions is paying off.

But that’s just one example. Throughout the year, we’ve made progress on many key initiatives.

First, we’ve worked aggressively to implement MAP-21, a law that is improving safety, rebuilding our infrastructure, and strengthening our economy.  MAP-21 also includes a number of provisions to speed project delivery. That puts men and women to work on projects more quickly and delivers the benefits of new and improved roads faster.

Second, we continue to work with our partners through our Every Day Counts (EDC) innovation initiative to implement new project delivery practices that are also saving time, saving money, and saving lives.  EDC encourages states to deploy new technologies, including the new bridge technology that proved so important in Washington State.

2013 was also a year of significant progress in moving major projects forward through innovative approaches to financing. That includes the New NY Bridge that will replace the Tappan Zee Bridge and the Ohio River Bridges project between Kentucky and Indiana; both projects are leveraging loans from our TIFIA program to secure non-federal investment.

Third, I’m especially proud of the way FHWA responded in 2013 when Americans were hit by a disaster.  We’ve made it easier for states to receive quick release Emergency Relief funds more quickly so the recovery process can begin sooner.  We provided ten states a total of $48 million in quick release ER funds to help rebuild vital roads and bridges right after floods, hurricanes, and other disasters.  We also provided $1.2 billion in ER Funding to 39 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, and American Samoa.

But along with much-needed funding, FHWA brought expertise, partnership, and hope to communities struggling to recover from the unexpected. Often those efforts had national implications.  That was the case with the work done by our Federal Lands Highway Division to help reopen Liberty Island, which was badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.  The reopening of Liberty Island last summer on July 4 was a logistical achievement and a symbolic statement that our nation stands together to help each other in times of emergency.

All of this work was extremely satisfying to the men and women of FHWA, which was recently named the 5th Best Place to Work in the Federal Government among agencies of similar size in a survey by the Partnership for Public Service.  And we look forward to a year of continued service in 2014.

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Ia there nothing but Highways ( and airways)?