AASHTO: America’s Best Transportation Projects Are All Highways

Are you ready to be inspired?

Well, good, because the American Association of State Highway and Transportation just released its list of finalists for the “America’s Transportation Award” Grand Prize. These ten projects span every sector of the transportation world, from enormous highway projects to … less enormous highway projects and highway bridges.

Maryland's Intercounty Connector, built "for 20 years of future sprawl," is an AASHTO favorite. Photo: dougtone/Flickr via GGW

Voting is open through October 19. Who will win the top prize?

One candidate is Maryland’s $2.4 billion Intercounty Connector, a “19-mile multimodal highway.” This road was “designed for 20 years of future sprawl,” wrote Greater Greater Washington, and today its wide asphalt expanses are a testament to how little the region needed this project to be built. Here’s an actual headline from a local radio station: “Why does ICC seem so empty?

Then there’s California DOT, a.k.a. Caltrans, which was nominated for its $5 million “carmageddon” communications campaign. It saved Los Angeles from complete meltdown when one portion of I-405 was closed last summer. Either that or the short-term closure of a single highway isn’t the end of the world after all.

Another highway AASHTO honors is the I-270 project in St. Louis, which “redesigned and reconstructed” three roadway projects and came in under budget. The goal of this project? To reduce congestion. Never mind that the Texas Transportation Institute ranks St. Louis third from last in congestion, or that as the scourge of congestion has been systematically eliminated in this city, people have actually spent more time behind the wheel.

Not a single transit, bike or pedestrian project makes AASHTO’s list. Is there any better indication that the majority of America’s state DOTs still view job number one as building highways?

Jake Lynch at the Rails to Trails blog was disappointed, given AASHTO’s recent guidance on the importance of accommodating bike and pedestrian travel:

[Of all the projects on AASHTO's top 10 list] the Max Brewer Bridge replacement project in Florida comes closest to serving those many millions of Americans eager to embrace active transportation as a better way to get around; it does include a bike and pedestrian pathway. (This was not, however, listed by AASHTO in their description of the project’s successes.)

AASHTO executive director John Horsley said these projects were remarkable for their “innovation and discipline.” Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, and our peers in the new Partnership for Active Transportation, will be working hard in the coming decades to enlighten this restricted understanding of what the term “transportation” actually means to millions of Americans.

America’s Transportation Award is given jointly by AASHTO, AAA, and the US Chamber of Commerce.