17 minute read



Recognizing the accomplishments of transportation planning and design


The annual Georgia Partnership for Transportation Quality (GPTQ) Awards represent an opportunity to feature outstanding areas of work across ten categories of transportation engineering. Done in partnership with the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), the American Council of Engineering Companies of Georgia (ACEC Georgia), and the Georgia Highway Contractors Association, nominators are able to acknowledge the work of their respective engineering firms. Ten categories are showcased, ranging from Innovative Solution to a Design Problem to Right of Way, with an overall Grand Prize winner selected from the ten category winners.

Across a wide range of structural and civil engineering topics, project achievements were honored. From scouring trails for pre-Civil War artifacts to optimizing bus route performance on higher ridership corridors and a Georgia first of a twin hybrid roundabout intersection control at a diamond interchange, engineering firms designed, led, and achieved in endeavors statewide.

This year the Grand Prize and Category 5 awards were won by WSP for its I-20 at Savannah River Bridge Replacement project. Read on to learn more about project wins across all categories and what those involved had to say about the experience.




Category 5 | Exceptional Bridge and/or Structural Design

WSP won the Category 5 and Grand Prize awards for their I-20 at Savannah River Bridge Replacement Project. Interstate 20 over the Savannah River is a major connection point between Georgia and South Carolina. Distributors, the military, tourists, and the general traveling public use this crossing on a regular basis. Continued and reliable access at this location helps support the local and state economy, helps maintain military readiness, promotes tourism, and is responsive to GDOT’s commitment to a safe and reliable transportation network for the people of Georgia.

The project is being implemented under a bi-state agreement between Georgia and South Carolina through a design-build (DB) initiative. It includes replacing and widening the existing I-20 bridges over the Augusta Canal and Savannah River, as well as widening I-20 from approximately 800 feet west of the Augusta Canal bridges in Richmond County, Georgia, to the first interchange (Exit 1, West Martintown Road) in Aiken County, South Carolina.

WSP’s innovative design approach allowed two travel lanes in each direction to be maintained at all times during construction. Denny Meier, P.E., Design Manager and Vice President, Georgia Transportation Leader at WSP, shares, “Our design team has been dedicated to developing unique design solutions, including our several ATCs, and innovative ideas to streamline phasing and minimize disruptions to the traveling public by using stage construction. The design team approached the bridge elements of the project with a focus on simplicity, ease of construction, and the most economical solution to achieve an aesthetically pleasing bridge.”

With the challenge of crossing the Savannah River and the historic Augusta Canal, the design team dug into beam-type studies. It determined that these crossings would benefit from different beam types – reducing material costs, construction effort, and schedule. By tailoring the project to the unique field conditions, the design team was able to reduce environmental impacts and schedule while still maintaining travel lanes throughout the construction process. Maximum efficiency has been achieved through smart bridge layout by eliminating a number of bents in the water and optimizing span lengths by implementing correct choice of materials, integration of cost saving elements and employment of the latest methods with proven performance.



Category 1 | Innovative Solution to a Design Problem/Best Use of New Products

Category 1 was won by Michael Baker International for the Brumbelow Road at Tuckerbrook Lane Medianettes project. This innovative solution addressed the specific problems present at this intersection with a design that had minimal costs, no impacts on utilities or surrounding properties, and a short construction duration. “Michael Baker International is proud to help deliver this innovative, cost-effective, and practical design solution for the City of Johns Creek,” said Al Bowman, P.E., S.E., Vice President and Georgia Operations Manager at Michael Baker International.

“The City is a proud supporter of ACEC Georgia and GPTQ and enjoys the relationships built through these events and the collaboration that allows projects like these to happen,” offered Chris Haggard, P.E, Public Works Director at the City of Johns Creek and the nominator/project ownerer International. “Our project goals were to reduce vehicle speed and improve sight distance for drivers entering the roadway at this intersection. Through stakeholder engagement, it became apparent that traditional solutions to these problems would not be supported. The engineering team was able to listen to the public and find a solution that accomplished the project goals and, in the end, had fewer property impacts and a much lower project cost.”

It offers a reminder to focus on project needs and create a design tailored to correcting them. The feedback received from the public involvement process guided the owner and the engineer to reconsider the plans and create something new that met the needs of the overall traveling public and the nearby property owners most affected by the project.



Category 2 | Planning & Design of an Alternative Mode Transportation Facility

MARTA’s Arterial Rapid Transit program is an important initiative that will set the standard for what “Arterial Rapid Transit” in the region can be. It will serve as an example for other transit agencies. Paul Kelley, P.E., PMP and Project Manager at HNTB says, “MARTA has developed an innovative approach to optimizing existing local bus route performance on higher ridership corridors. Arterial Rapid Transit is a new mode of transportation to be offered by MARTA providing similar stop amenities to standard “Bus Rapid Transit” stations, but with the spacing of stops optimizing access to the local community.”

This new mode of transit will improve mobility, safety, and livability for the residents of these corridors and encourage economic development in the area. The design team developed innovative solutions that will help shorten construction schedules and reduce capital costs. Since the length of the corridors limits the feasibility of using fiber optic communications, the design team incorporated cellular communications between vehicles and MARTA. Solar powered shelters alleviated the costs of local power meters for more than 85% of stop locations.

Specifically, “Cleveland Ave and Metropolitan Parkway were targeted for quick implementation of ‘Arterial Rapid Transit’ service routes based on ridership and geographic studies.” The study data shows that these two routes will provide better and more equitable transportation solutions for a historically underserved community. Kelley says, “HNTB is excited to be working with MARTA to push out this first-ofits-kind solution in Atlanta.”



Category 3 | NEPA, Environmental Protection, Preservation, Restoration, and/or Enhancement

The Kennesaw Mountain Multi-Use Trail Pedestrian Improvement Project benefits both the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park and surrounding communities. Not only does the project provide additional recreational opportunities, but it also acts as a continuation of the existing National Park Service, Cobb County, and City of Marietta trails.

Charles Clayton, Communications Manager at Cobb County DOT, says, “The Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park is the most visited Civil War Park, according to the National Park Service (NPS). Major construction in and around this national park required extensive coordination with NPS to ensure that critical sites were left undisturbed.” The project was done in collaboration with GDOT, FHWA, National Park Service, and the City of Marietta. Care was devoted “to avoid certain areas and minimize construction at other areas while providing the historical analysis to document no impacts to the resources in and around the park.” These resources included historical and archaeological items such as battlefield and pre-Civil War artifacts.

Most notably, numerous coordinating groups walked the trail to identify artifacts. Cobb says, “Early in the development of the trail alignments, personnel from Cobb County DOT, Bonnie Bynum, the environmental consultant of Arcadis, a design consultant from Heath and Lineback and the National Park Service’s Chief Ranger and Historian walked all parts of the proposed trail.” Bonnie Bynum, CPM, NEPA, Planning, Permitting & Comms Group Leader, ARCADIS, says, “The collaborative manner in which all parties worked together exemplifies success when we all work as one team sharing the same vision and outcome.”

Bynum wanted to further credit Rhonda Tilt. Together, they facilitated “multiple early coordination meetings” to meet environmental compliance with Federal Highway Administration and National Park Service requirements. This resulted in “an agreement to accept one environmental document that encompassed specific requirements of each agency.” Clayton says, “This trail has been received well by the community and utilized by nature lovers and historians alike from around the region.”



Category 4 | Context Sensitive Planning and Design Including Public Participation Plan

The Streetcar East Extension project will extend the existing streetcar route to run along Edgewood Avenue to the BeltLine at Irwin Street and up to the PonceyHighland neighborhood, near MARTA’s King Memorial and Inman Park-Reynoldstown Transit Stations. The project will connect the existing streetcar alignment to the Atlanta BeltLine Corridor, including one of the BeltLine’s largest activity centers: Ponce City Market and the PonceyHighland neighborhood.

Kenyata D. Smiley, MPA and Transit Planning Manager at HNTB (who nominated MARTA), says, “MARTA understands the importance of engaging the public within the contextual limits of the Streetcar East Extension project.” With approximately 50 identified key stakeholders, clear lines of communication were necessary. Regular meetings between the City of Atlanta, the Atlanta Beltline, MARTA, and stakeholders established open discussions around minimizing impacts on the surrounding neighborhoods.

MARTA made the “decision to go to the local neighborhoods and the communities to meet the residents and businesses where they live and work during the public participation process.” These stakeholder meetings occurred during the height of the pandemic, requiring the project team to create virtual platforms for the public to engage and provide feedback. Smiley says, “HNTB is honored to have partnered and stood with MARTA as they diligently engaged the public both in-person and virtually, sought their feedback, and ensured the voices of those touched by the project were heard.”

As a result of this successful public involvement, the streetcar extension project has been well-received by the community, leading the way for future transit projects and extensions in the region. N



Category 6 | Traffic Safety and/or Intersection Design

Category 6 was won by Heath & Lineback Engineers for the State Route 144 at I-95 interchange project. As part of a GDOT Task Order Contract, Heath & Lineback provided complete engineering design services and construction documents for operational improvements and pedestrian facilities at the State Route 144 at I-95 interchange. GDOT Project Manager Sonja Thompson, who worked in tandem with the project, shared, “It was a pleasure to be part of the GDPT Project Management team and work with the design team of Heath-Lineback to get the project ready for the needed safety improvements.”

The project is now open to traffic and serves as an aesthetic gateway to the city of Richmond Hill. Rudolph L. Frampton, P.E., Senior Engineer and Assistant Georgia Operations Manager at Heath & Lineback, says, “We’re always excited when given the opportunity to solve a transportation problem because we understand how important these transportation improvements are to the residents.”

This project was the first in Georgia to implement twin hybrid roundabout intersection control at a diamond interchange. Most importantly, it meets the goal of improving safety and mobility while serving to spur economic growth in the area. Frampton says, “We provided a quality design that improved the commuting needs (both vehicular and pedestrian) in the area and positively impacted the daily lives of the residents. We are also honored to have played a major role in improving the aesthetics of the site, which now serves as a gateway to the city of Richmond Hill.”



Category 7 Winner - Highway Design – Urban

Issued from the County’s Major Roads Demand Services category, the proposed improvements along Spalding Drive from Winters Chapel Road to Holcomb Bridge Road included widening of the existing two-lane corridor to four lanes, replacement of a functionally obsolete bridge over Crooked Creek, modification of two traffic signals, and the addition of curb-and-gutter and sidewalks.

Kevin Ergle, P.E. at Kimley-Horn, said, “The success of the Spalding Drive project lies in the collaboration that occurred throughout the design lifecycle. From an early constructability and maintenance of traffic workshop, through numerous design touch-points in preliminary and final design, and finally working with property owners through both Gwinnett County and the City of Sandy Springs to minimize impacts, the collaborative partnership allowed us to navigate all of these obstacles such that the final design achieves the goals of the involved stakeholders.”

Stakeholders included multiple agencies in Gwinnett, Fulton, and DeKalb Counties, two cities, an adjacent residential development, and Georgia Power Transmission. The team at Kimley-Horn prepared concept layout alternatives, construction staging alternatives, cost estimates, preliminary and 90% design and bridge plans, right-of-way plans, and held two design coordination meetings. “For us specifically, the best part was working with a dedicated Gwinnett County staff with a vested interest in seeing the project succeed and having them give us the tools and guidance to improve the mobility of the users in this area of the County,” Ergle said.

In particular, design services included preparing a stormwater management report and a hydraulic/ hydrologic report. They utilized the Design Policy Manual (DPM), GDOT Standards and Details, Bridge and Structures Design Manual, Driveway and Encroachment Manual, and Plan Presentation Guide (PPG). N



Category 8 | Highway Design – Rural

The SR 3/US 19 widening project involved roadway widening from the existing four lanes with a center turn lane to a fourlane urban typical section with a raised median, including the addition of continuous sidewalks throughout the corridor. All intersections and side roads were proposed to remain on existing locations, with the exception of Delray Road, which was realigned with Jimmerson Road at a new signalized four-legged intersection. GDOT District 3 Preconstruction Engineer Adam Smith noted that “this project was originally programmed by District 3 to address operational and safety issues of this heavily traveled corridor, which had crash rates that were well above the statewide average due to heavy congestion and numerous turning movements and conflict points.”

A major challenge of this project was the avoidance and minimization of environmental resources, high-dollar utilities, and right-of-way impacts. Rajeev Shah, Project Manager with Parsons, shared, "All proposed improvements were integrated with value engineering to minimize and avoid costly impacts. This included strategically utilizing retaining walls and pedestrian handrails throughout the corridor.” The collaborative effort between Parsons, GDOT, and major stakeholders contributed to the development of design optimizations along with context-sensitive and practical design solutions, which improved operations and safety of the corridor while achieving significant cost and schedule savings. This project also provided value-added economic development through improved pedestrian connectivity and access management to residential, commercial, and recreational land uses. This corridor improvement project ultimately enhanced the area and created a gateway to the local Thomaston community.

Ahmet Urgen, Georgia Office Manager for Parsons, says, “We are proud of our successful award selection for this project and of our continuous collaboration with GDOT. We look forward to more successes in the future as we continue connecting communities across the state!”



Category 9 | Design Build

This project constructed 4 Dynamic Message Signs (DMS) and associated components across multiple locations throughout the State. Closed Circuit Television cameras were installed to allow monitoring of the messages displayed on the DMS. Ashlyn Morgan, PE, Project Manager at Atkins, explains, “The installation of dynamic message signs (DMS) is not something you would usually expect to see as the sole scope of a design build project; however, they are an important piece of ITS infrastructure that aid in moving people and goods throughout our state.”

All DMS and CCTV were connected to the GDOT Transportation Management Center for traffic management operations. The project provides additional DMS coverage at key locations identified by GDOT and will provide important travel time and motorist advisory messages to the traveling public. The two signs in Savannah will serve freight traffic heading toward the Port. The one near Cumberland Mall in Cobb County will provide motorist info for the new Akers Mill Express Lanes ramp currently under construction. And the single sign on Sixes Road in Cherokee County will provide Express Lane info for motorists entering I-575 from Sixes Road.

Morgan says, “Atkins is proud to have participated in the firstof-its-kind ITS design build project with Brooks-Berry-Haynie and Georgia DOT. We hope the success of the Statewide ITS DMS Deployment Design Build project will pave the way for future statewide and large corridor ITS implementations using the design build approach.” N



Category 10 | Right of Way

During the height of the pandemic, Gresham Smith met the challenge of acquiring right-of-way for 44 diverse parcels along a key corridor that will allow traffic to move more efficiently from Bouldercrest Road onto the I-285 interchange. Ruthie Jones, Georgia Right of Way Acquisition Department Leader at Gresham Smith, says, “It’s an honor to be recognized by our industry for leading an efficient right-of-way acquisition process for the widening and improvements of Bouldercrest Road near the intersection with I-285 and I-675.”

As a GDOT “turnkey” contract, Gresham Smith managed and delivered the right-of-way acquisition process from beginning to end, evaluating and incorporating efficiencies and innovation throughout the life of the contract, including obtaining a design variance that helped the state save over $4 million in right-of-way costs. “Gresham Smith’s specialized team met the challenge of acquiring rights to multiple parcels in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and successfully managed the process from start to finish. We are proud that our work supports the widening of the corridor that provides an improved connection for vehicular traffic.”

Ultimately, the right-of-way acquisition for this project came in under budget, and the condemnation rate came in under the notto-exceed rate of 10%. Jones says, “This win is truly a team effort, and we thank our clients for their continuous support.” A