The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials announced its new leadership, selecting Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer as the association’s president and Carlos Braceras, executive director of Utah DOT, as vice president.
Scott Bennett, director of Arkansas DOT, was elected Secretary-Treasurer.
The announcements were made Sept. 28.
Schroer, who previously served as chairman of AASHTO’s Standing Committee on Finance and Administration, said that a transportation bill and technologies such as connected vehicles are among his chief priorities.
AASHTO, which represents all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, elects its leaders on a rotating basis every year.
“It is an honor to be elected by the AASHTO board to serve as president of our association,” said Schroer. “One of my goals will be to make sure that AASHTO is on the cutting edge of innovation, to ensure states are ready to meet the many challenges that new transportation technologies will bring.”
In addition to naming new leaders, AASHTO also recently unveiled the victors of its transportation awards.
Colorado Department of Transportation’s $487 million project to add express lanes along U.S. Route 36 won the grand prize, while the Idaho Transportation Department’s $11.2 million project to improve the safety measures of an interchange on U.S. Route 20 won the People’s Choice Award.
Both winners will receive $10,000 in cash, which they are directed to earmark for a charity or transportation-related scholarship program. Jason Minzghor, an eastern Idaho district engineer, said that the department will donate its winnings to the Idaho/Utah Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Amy Ford, spokeswoman for CDOT, said the department is still deciding where to dedicate its winnings. CDOT’s project added express lanes to either side of U.S. 36, an east-west route that connects Boulder to Denver. Additionally, CDOT installed intelligent transportation systems to monitor incident management, tolling, transit and traveler information. The department also replaced eight bridges and widened five others.
CDOT worked with regional transportation representatives and the Plenary Group, an international infrastructure developer, on this project. Ford said it was CDOT’s first public-private partnership. Simon Stachnik, project manager for the Plenary Group, said the express lanes have alleviated congestion on U.S. 36.
“For the trucking community, having that reliability when they’re pressed for hitting a delivery time [is] important to them,” Stachnik said. “Certainly, your day-to-day commuters value their time, but probably differently than truckers do.”
Thornton Interchange via Idaho Transportation Department on YouTube
Idaho Transportation Dept.’s project addressed the Thornton Interchange, which is located in eastern Idaho and links traffic between Idaho Falls and Sugar City. The interchange opened in November 2016.
The Thornton Interchange takes the place of an intersection between U.S. 20 and a country road that crossed the divided highway, according to Jason Andrus, chief financial officer of Doug Andrus Distributing.
Doug Andrus Distributing is based in Idaho Falls and manages a fleet of 260 trucks and 500 trailers.
According to Andrus, several of his company’s trucks pass through that corridor every day. Before the interchange’s construction, Andrus said trucks would execute turns onto U.S. 20 after visiting potato sheds on the country road. These improvements reduced serious-injury crashes by 75% and cut fatalities to less than one per year, according to the Idaho Transportation Department.
“It was always kind of a safety issue,” Andrus said. “It’s a significant improvement to the safety of that highway by having that interchange there.”
The Thornton Interchange is the last of seven interchanges built along the 34-mile strip of U.S. 20, marking the capstone of a safety improvement project that Idaho has been working on for 16 years.
“This type of commitment is exactly what we need to see in the trucking industry,” Idaho Trucking Association President Julie Pipal said.