to success, supported by an effective strategy for enhancing the environment, improving economic vitality, and achieving social goals (see Box 5-1). Also needed are tools for estimating the outcomes of decisions and communicating those expected outcomes to the public and decision makers. Implementation of the results of these efforts will require commitment to change by the nation’s departments of transportation

Box 5-1


This project is an example of a collaborative decision-making process in which the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), the Grand Valley Metro Council (a metropolitan planning organization), the chamber of commerce, local Indian tribes, adjacent property owners, and commuters formed a partnership for compromise and success.

In 1998 MDOT discovered that a pier supporting a downtown bridge was sinking. An “as is” replacement strategy was not acceptable to the community; many preferred to have the S-curved bridge straightened for safety and capacity reasons. This solution was not feasible because of cost and right-of-way constraints. MDOT proposed a widened, safer, and more aesthetically pleasing S-curve structure, with demolition and reconstruction being accomplished in one season. Businesses and the public compromised on the design but felt that the one-season plan was tantamount to closing the downtown area. MDOT initiated an extensive and transparent community involvement program, developed an aesthetic look for the bridge, identified detour routes early on, and responded carefully to comments and questions. MDOT fit the new structure into the original right-of-way; an environmental assessment revealed that this approach would allow the project to avoid a lengthy environmental impact analysis, an estimated 7-year process. Extensive archeological and historic preservation issues still arose, but they were addressed successfully in the environmental assessment.

Through collaboration on the design concept, aesthetic appeal, environmental strategy, and construction schedule, a wider, safer, and more pleasing structure was built with the available budget. Within 33 months of the detection of a sinking bridge pier, a new bridge was opened to traffic. The project won the National Quality Initiative Bronze Award for partnering in 2000.

SOURCE: Grand Rapids, Michigan, US-131 S-Curve Bridge Replacement (case study prepared for SHRP 2 Project C01 by ICF International, 2008).

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