Revving Up Growth | THINK

Page 1

Re ving Growth

Issue 23 | 2023
Accelerating Infrastructure Delivery

See and hear accelerated transportation in motion. Scan the code at left with the camera on your mobile phone then hover over the front cover of THINK.

How to scan HNTB’s augmented reality code on your iPhone

1. Open the camera app on your iPhone.

2. Point your phone at the AR code to scan it making sure that all four corners of the code are in view. Once your phone sees the code a pop-up notification will appear.

3. Tap the notification and then begin to scan the cover of THINK magazine.

How to scan HNTB’s augmented reality code on your Android phone

1. Go to the home page.

2. Open the camera or QR app.

3. Point your camera at the QR code.

4. Tap the pop-up notification and then begin to scan the cover of THINK magazine.


This edition of THINK continues our exploration of how transportation agencies are driving change and optimizing their systems with greater funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and their own state and regional funding initiatives.

4 8 12

Texas: Value Beyond Ridership

Sanjay Ramabhadran, Board Chair, Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County Texas (METRO) discusses the bold mobility projects that are transforming how people move and thrive across a sprawling 1,300-square-mile service area.

Minnesota: Shared Vision

Nancy Daubenberger, Commissioner of Minnesota’s DOT, explains how the state is investing to reduce traffic fatalities and enhance sustainability – building from an enduring foundation of partnership.

Massachusetts: Designing the Future

Dr. Luciana Burdi, Director of Capital Programs & Environmental Affairs for Massport, shares how her team is reshaping the Authority’s busy air and sea facilities with deep client and customer collaboration.

THINK is published by the Corporate Communications Department of the HNTB Companies.

Patricia Mosher, senior vice president,

Phyllis Schallenberg, vice president, editor,

HNTB is an equal opportunity employer M/F/V/H.

© 2023 HNTB Companies.

All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited.

Issue 2023 Re ving Growth Accelerating Infrastructure Delivery
THINK Issue 23 | 2023 3
THINK also is available to view on both Apple® and Android™ devices through the HNTB app. Access HNTB publications, thought leadership and more. Download from the App Store® and Google Play.™


Houston’s METRO transit agency is delivering on its voter mandate to expand and enhance mobility options, with efficiency, universal accessibility and sustainability at the forefront.

The transit system in greater Houston is in the midst of unprecedented investment in system expansion and improvements, all aimed at expanding mobility and opportunity for the people in all of our communities. The METRO transit system is vast – covering 1,300 square miles — and we are moving forward rapidly to catch up with the region’s current demands and prepare for significant population growth. For our community to grow and thrive, we will need responsive public transportation services that are safe, reliable, frequent, accessible and equitable. We are committed to accelerating system enhancements to meet that demand.

METRO provides transportation services, across several modes, to Houston, large parts of unincorporated Harris County and more than a dozen surrounding cities. In 1978, Houston-area voters had the foresight to approve a one-cent sales tax, which funded the creation of METRO and began to establish a much-needed public transportation system.

Yet, even as this work advanced there was a parallel and far more intense focus on building out our region’s highway network. As a result, greater Houston now has more than 4,000 lane-miles of highway and holds title to the nation’s only 26-lane highway.

Resounding Mandate for Transit

The investment gap between highway and transit assets, and our current mobility constraints, presented our region’s leaders with questions as we entered the new millennium, such as:

• How can we support an appealing quality of life for the people who live here?

• How will we provide transportation options and social equity and mobility for everyone?

• How can we attract and retain businesses and new talent in the years to come?

It has long been METRO’s contention (and that of most transit agencies) that a well-funded, responsive public transportation system can play a powerful role in answering those questions. So, we took our better-transit proposition to Houston-area voters in November 2019 in the form of our METRONext Moving Forward Plan. This plan called for $3.5 billion in bonding authority to move forward with a range of major public transit projects, new construction and improvements, over the next 20 years.

The result: Nearly 70% of voters supported our plan at the ballot box. Houstonians clearly looked at our extensive plan, reflected on their current mobility challenges, and acknowledged that we could not stay on our current track — all options had to be on the table.

Demonstrating Action

The public’s approval of METRONext in 2019 has given our agency the fuel to accelerate certain long-envisioned projects.

First, we are making bus rapid transit — and buses, generally — the keystone of our public transit approach. We have significant rail assets, which continue to serve us well and which we will build out to their logical conclusions to provide optimal service. METRO has already begun work on three of our most significant BRT projects presented in the 2019 referendum:

• METRORapid University Corridor BRT – This project will create a fully accessible BRT corridor that is 25 miles long, which will be the longest in the nation, and will benefit people in a range of residential, business and education centers. METRO has been working with the community for several years to develop this project. The University Corridor is so named because it connects multiple campuses of the Houston Community College system, Texas Southern University, University of Houston and University of St. Thomas.

• METRORapid Inner Katy Corridor BRT – This project will improve the connection between Houston’s Uptown and Downtown, which are two of our biggest employment and activity centers. The BRT service will augment and improve upon existing local bus service on the city streets and recently completed Silver Line, METRO’s first BRT service. It’s a muchneeded enhancement because Inner Katy is one of Houston’s most congested roadways and which, because it has lacked an HOV lane, has long presented a challenge both to motorists and our agency’s Regional Express/Park & Ride buses.

• METRORapid Gulfton Corridor BRT – This project serves a highly transit-dependent community and ties one of the most dense, diverse and highest propensity transit riders anywhere in the region. It brings critical north-south connectivity for commuters seeking to avoid traffic congestion.

We will improve experience and efficiency on many of our most utilized local routes. The 82 Westheimer is one of the most heavily used bus routes in Texas — and a true workhorse

4 THINK Issue 23 | 2023 THINK Issue 23 | 2023 5

of METRO’s transit system. We recently were awarded $5 million in federal funds, which will help us improve accessibility upgrades, build new bus shelters with real-time service information and better synchronize traffic signals.

Almost half of the 75 miles of BRT improvements will be in the process of being designed / built within the first five years since the 2019 referendum passed. This demonstrates our very real sense of urgency.

METRO places a high priority on access and inclusion in our planning. Of the 25 miles in the METRORapid University Corridor, for example, 10 miles are accessible to underserved neighborhoods. We also are installing Bluetooth beacons to help visually impaired customers navigate our system more easily when they get close to a bus stop or transit center. Under the Universal Accessibility initiative, we have upgraded over 4,000 bus stops to go above and beyond the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

We also think about neighborhoods where the narrow roads cannot accommodate large buses, and in certain parts of the city offer curb2curb, a personalized, on-demand service that lets passengers get picked up, transported and dropped off within a specified zone (a bit like Uber) and also connect to our broader transit network.

We are reimagining our Park & Ride facilities and transforming them from concrete parking lots to destinations with mixed use, transitoriented development.

Climate Action, Houston Style

By its very nature, transit can have a lower environmental impact than many other transportation modes. METRO’s plan calls for making our system even more environmentally friendly in the years ahead. In early 2022, we were among the first transit agencies in the

country to adopt a Climate Action Plan that supports both Houston’s and the nation’s strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions through innovation. We’re putting that plan into practice on a number of fronts. One standout initiative is the introduction of electric buses into our fleet mix, which can meaningfully improve environmental performance. As a start, METRO ordered 20 electric buses, thanks to a $21.6 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration. And, since it takes skilled mechanics to work on these new zero-emissions buses, METRO was fortunate to receive $1.2 million from Harris County to broaden our apprenticeship program and provide education and hands-on training opportunities.

The METRO Board has resolved to buy only zero-emissions buses after 2030, and in the interim will use a mix of clean-diesel, electrichybrid and compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles. We are proceeding deliberately because we provide not only transportation but also a public service. In particular, we live in a hurricane-prone region so we must be ready to help our customers when they need it most. We need CNG buses and the redundancy of CNG-fired generators to be able to charge electric buses if the grid is down. Also, we are planning to leapfrog into hydrogen fuel cells with a pilot program in the next year. As we move forward, Houston will become one of the country’s largest hubs of hydrogen fuel production.

Value Beyond Ridership

At METRO we understand that we are in the mobility business, but we also see ourselves as being in the socio-economic mobility business. Achieving socioeconomic mobility requires having transportation connections between all of the vital resources you need — education, housing, jobs, services and everything else you need to live and thrive.

For this reason, I contend that transit ridership numbers tell only part of the story of what a strong mobility network delivers. The bigger part of the story is value — the sometimes-unquantifiable benefits that accrue to individuals, families, neighborhoods and society as a whole when people can connect safely, quickly and affordably. It’s value beyond ridership, value beyond revenue, and value beyond mobility. It’s the value of connecting people to opportunity, economic vibrancy and quality of life.

All of us at METRO are proud to contribute to the future success of every Houstonian, and to deliver on the public’s mandate to make our public transit system among the world’s very best.

Sanjay Ramabhadran, PE, is chair of the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (METRO) of Harris County, Texas, having been appointed in February 2022 by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

Prior to becoming METRO board chair, Sanjay chaired the agency’s Capital & Strategic Planning Committee, where he helped to oversee the planning, design, construction and launch of major projects that enhance mobility throughout the region. A registered Professional Engineer, he has served in senior executive and board roles with global and regional firms delivering transportation, water and flood mitigation projects for 25 years.

Sanjay’s leadership roles with Houston’s influential civic and business organizations have uniquely positioned him to help steer METRO’s future. He has served as president of The Texas Lyceum, chaired the board of directors of Leadership Houston, is a senior fellow of the American Leadership Forum, and also served as resident of the HESS Club and the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston. In 2012 he was recognized as among the Ten Outstanding Young Americans by the U.S. Junior Chamber.

A graduate of BITS-Pilani and Texas A&M University with executive education at the Harvard Kennedy School, Sanjay and his wife live in Houston and their sons attend public schools.

THINK Issue 23 | 2023 7 6 THINK Issue 23 | 2023


Minnesota’s transportation program is driving forward with a vision for safer, more equitable systems and a spirit of collaboration across federal, state, local and tribal partners

Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes and 145,000 center-lane miles of roads – constituting the fourth-largest roadway system in America. This vast road network across nearly 87,000 square miles of rural, urban, forest and water features represent a major opportunity.

Funding Breakthrough

In late May, the Minnesota Legislature passed, and Gov. Tim Walz signed into law, a transportation omnibus bill with several new dedicated revenue sources and additional funding for transportation in capital investment bills. Together, these bills will provide a $2.6 billion funding increase for our roads, bridges, rail, airports, waterways, active transportation and transit infrastructure. For one of the dedicated transportation revenue sources, the legislation will index the state’s gas tax to inflation to help bolster revenues for transportation over time. The gas tax will be updated each year to align with the Minnesota Highway Construction Cost Index, keeping revenues aligned with the actual costs of building and maintaining our systems.

In addition, through a supplemental bill enacted early in the legislative session, our agency was given budget authority to access additional federal funding through the Infrastructure

Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). With this authority, along with state matching funds to unlock those federal dollars, MnDOT can now move forward with planned projects that were relying on that additional funding. The anticipated transportation revenues, along with projected needs, will be reflected in MnDOT’s 20-year Minnesota State Highway Investment Plan (MnSHIP), which focuses specifically on anticipated costs for building and maintaining the state’s highways and interstates.

Public Safety and a Zero-Fatality Vision

Minnesotans have a very strong sense of community and it is reflected in our emphasis on roadway safety. We have historically managed land development and transportation network development in a coordinated manner, and it’s helped us reduce safety risks for all users, whether they are driving, bicycling, rolling or walking. We’ve built sidewalks and pedestrian facilities along much of our roadway system in urban and suburban areas, and our state is well known for its regional and statewide trail system. Additionally, we were an early adopter of a statewide Complete Streets policy, which guides us in considering the needs of all users when we’re planning system improvements.

We’re proud of our accomplishments in making travel safer, but still have much more work to do. One aspect of this work is our Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) program, which we started in 2003. TZD in Minnesota is a coordinated effort among MnDOT, the state’s Department of Health and Department of Public Safety, as well as transportation partners at the local levels — with the goal of reducing Minnesota traffic fatalities to below 225 per year by 2025.

8 THINK Issue 23 | 2023 THINK Issue 23 | 2023 9

The TZD program encompasses four “Es”: Enforcement, Education, Emergency Services and, of course, Engineering. On the Engineering front, we have been emphasizing low-cost, high-benefit, systematic safety solutions such as rumble strips, cable median barriers and enhanced pavement markings. Additionally, we have introduced J-turns also known as Reduced Conflict Intersections which help to reduce broadside crashes at intersections, on fourlane divided highways. With such intersections, drivers entering the highway always make a right turn, which can be followed by a U-turn to reverse direction. They cannot drive straight across or drive halfway across the highway to make a left turn. This design reduces the potential for deadly T-Bone crashes and means less of a wait time for drivers on the side streets before entering the highway.

MnDOT also is working with local agencies on their traffic safety plans to position them to take advantage of federal funding opportunities, such as the Safe Streets for All grant program. We’re also excited that our state legislature recently established an Advisory Council on Traffic Safety in Minnesota, which will bring new perspectives into TZD and the overall safety conversation.

Climate and Equity

Beyond our coordinated efforts to enhance traffic safety, in December MnDOT and our local and tribal partners released an update to the Statewide Multimodal Transportation Plan (SMTP), which is the highest-level transportation plan for Minnesota. This update drew on recommendations from local and tribal leaders, significant public engagement and a holistic analysis by multiple working groups of how to make our transportation modes work together more effectively.

As part of this process, we and our partners dug deeply into climate impact, with an emphasis on decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. Our discussions led us to envision having a goal to reduce the vehicle miles traveled (VMT) across Minnesota, per capita, based on population

factors in different areas of the state. Our Sustainable Transportation Advisory Council suggested the target of reducing VMT by 20% per capita by 2050 (14% by 2040).

Also, MnDOT continues to factor equity into its transportation planning to help ensure that we meet the needs of all members of our community. We are building internal capacity to analyze and evaluate how we select and develop projects, and we’re collaborating with our partners to evaluate and address equity impacts of transportation investments and policies. One outcome of the legislative process has been to establish working groups for key topics, and to analyze greenhouse gas impacts and potential VMT reductions for expansion projects.

Getting the Job Done

With the additional federal and state money coming our way, MnDOT has been planning for an augmented program, but this poses a critical question: How do we engage the right talent and resources to manage such a program?

We know it’s going to be more demanding for MnDOT’s workforce, as well as for our consultants and extensions of our staff, to deliver these ambitious projects and programs. Attracting and retaining talent is a challenge. We’re all working with intensity to address this challenge.

Our industry is taking a concerted action to develop the professional workforce required to deliver the transportation infrastructure of the future. Specifically, we are looking at ways to get people interested in civil engineering, as well as planning and maintaining public projects. Part of enhancing such appeal is through technology, which is an area of interest for a lot of people coming into the workforce today. We are offering more opportunities to work with 3D design and planning, and to learn how to deliver projects more electronically.

MnDOT visits schools as part of a STEM outreach effort to let students know about

this career field with the goal of striking a chord with them. We highlight the broad opportunities in this industry and emphasize that this is both a career and a way to make a difference in their communities by providing the transportation options to move about the state and to have things they need transported to them efficiently. I believe that it’s critical to demonstrate that our workforce represents the communities in which we work and live. That way, community members see themselves reflected in our workforce and may want to enter the transportation field or even work for MnDOT itself.

Partnership Makes It Happen

I have worked for MnDOT for almost 24 years, across various positions, and in nearly every one of them it took close collaboration with our local transportation partners and our tribal partners to achieve success. As I’ve noted, whether it’s traffic safety and TZD, climate and equity, and any number of other initiatives, we all understand the importance of working together.

MnDOT will continue to look at our system holistically with an eye toward lifting our partners, moving programs forward and combining our efforts to bring federal transportation dollars to Minnesota and to improve transportation options for all.

Nancy Daubenberger, PE, is Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), having been appointed to this role in 2022. As Commissioner, Nancy leads more than 5,000 professionals to develop and administer the state’s policies, plans and programs for state highways, aeronautics, transit and several other transportation modes, while collaborating with local and tribal entities and agencies to enhance their mobility assets.

Commissioner Daubenberger has served MnDOT nearly 24 years, serving in engineering and management positions, including two years as Deputy Commissioner and Chief Engineer before assuming her current role. Earlier in her MnDOT career, she served as the Assistant Commissioner for Engineering Services, the State Bridge Engineer, and served in planning, project management and design roles for the MnDOT Bridge Office and Metro District. Before joining MnDOT, she worked in consulting for about six years, in both bridge and road design.

In mid-2022, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials named Nancy the chair of its Committee on Right of Way, Utilities, and Outdoor Advertising Controls. In early 2023, Nancy also became a member of the Executive Committee of the Transportation Research Board (TRB).

Nancy is a Minnesota native and holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering degree from North Dakota State University as well as a Master of Civil Engineering degree (with a structural emphasis) from the University of Minnesota. Nancy and her husband reside in Woodbury, Minnesota, where they raised their daughter and son.

THINK Issue 23 | 2023 11 10 THINK Issue 23 | 2023


As the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) makes historic investments in its assets and services, its designs and innovations are guided by key principles inspired by deep customer and client insights.

This is a very exciting period for Massport. In 2022, we saw passenger activity at our largest facility, Boston Logan International Airport, rise to about 95% of pre-pandemic levels. All of us at Massport are confident about the future because we have ambitious plans, strong partners and more robust funding and resources to move our vision into reality. For example, the Massport Board of Directors just approved the largest Capital Investment Plan in the agency’s history — $2.7 billion for fiscal years 2023 to 2027 — to help us improve Boston Logan and our other facilities, Conley Container Terminal, Flynn Cruiseport Boston, Worcester Regional Airport and Hanscom Field.

At Boston Logan, we soon will be having a grand-opening our newly renovated and enhanced Terminal E. It will offer major upgrades for passenger comfort and convenience, and will have four additional gates that will improve capacity and serve international travelers. More broadly, we are upgrading baggage handling systems, renovating ticket counters, upgrading HVAC systems and jet-bridges and making other terminal improvements. We also have improved the connections between terminals and transportation hubs, with the opening of our new Terminal B to C connector last year, and expanded mass transit options to ease roadway traffic and improve sustainability.

The support from our federal partners has been crucial. For example, we received $50 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law grant to fund existing Terminal E improvements. Additionally, more BIL funds and other federal grants will contribute greatly to our momentum in the coming years.

Delivering in the Right Ways

Our Capital Programs team moves forward deliberately, works diligently to understand client needs and ensures that we deliver exceptional value and experience to our customers, the passengers.

A few guiding principles or practices that are helping us deliver our projects include:

1. Collaboration: Get Clear on What Clients Need

Before we launch an initiative, we collaborate closely with the leaders of the operating units to get at the heart of their needs. The more time we spend planning and understanding the challenge of the client’s situation, the faster things will go when we start to design and move through the rest of the project.

The formal name for this approach is architecture “programming”, but it’s fundamentally a way to make more informed planning decisions based on in-depth discussions and data. The right decisions help to prevent rework, which will cost time and money.

2. Observation: Learn from Customers’ Behaviors

The work we do is grounded in understanding the customer, and in our case the passenger. What do they need? Where are they trying to go? I enjoy watching passengers because I see how they experience a particular space. If they pause and they look around, I think they might be puzzled. Why?

Signage is everywhere, but it can only do so much. The building should naturally lead the passenger to where they’re supposed to go. So our team is always trying to make the customer experience better and more intuitive.

12 THINK Issue 23 | 2023 THINK Issue 23 | 2023 13

Observation leads to insights. We observed passenger behavior as part of our work on the future parking garage for our Terminal E transportation center. We tracked when and where the passengers were coming out and where they were looking and turning. We asked questions. Where are they trying to go? Why were they looking over there? We incorporated these findings in our new design.

3. Investigation: Don’t Let Assumptions Kill Creativity

When we are planning changes to facilities, we must think about a complex network of rules, regulations and requirements. Federal partners such as the Transportation Safety Administration, Federal Aviation Administration and Customs & Border Protection all have certain rules, and it is our job to follow them carefully.

Such rules often are baked into infrastructure plans as “fundamental requirements,” which means that the planning team assumes these rules cannot be questioned. But, like all things, federal regulations and rules are always changing.

The lesson is that rules evolve. It is best to start with what is possible, then do the research to see if there is a conflict between the agency’s plan and the rules in effect. This approach helps to ensure that we are generating the best ideas to build for the future.

4. Empowerment: Make Tech and Data More Accessible

Decision-making is driven by knowledge-sharing across the organization and providing dashboards and visualization tools that everyone can use in their work. This is a huge interest of mine because I believe that even though people have different data visualization skills, most people appreciate the output of dashboards. This is why our department is developing multiple powerful dashboards so that project management and other senior leadership are able to have on their fingertips answers to the most common and the most urgent questions.

We also are undertaking a larger effort to collect data on buildings and utilities, to understand the condition of these assets and present that information so that people can digest the information and make better decisions. The name of this larger-scale project is the Massport Infrastructure Condition Assessment (MICA), which is our first integrated technology and data assessment of our infrastructure. We completed our proof-of-concept phase for MICA in February.

5. Innovation: Draw on Diverse Talent and Viewpoints

It’s our practice to involve a range of different consultants in our projects, so that we have diverse ideas, thoughts and perspectives from the beginning. Relatively small projects, in particular, give us the flexibility to bring in a new consultant that might have different experiences, especially from other airports. We keep an open perspective, always looking forward to starting a dialogue.

Diversity is a definite priority. We are proud that our team is 40% women, who are involved in everything from planning and design to construction and maintenance. This percentage is much higher than the 27% representation of women in architectural, engineering and related services, as reported by the federal government in 2021.

6. Sharing: Contribute to Collective Learning and Industry Advancement

Our MICA system, for example, is a very new concept for the industry, so I have received many requests from sister agencies and other organizations to give presentations about this work. Massport’s learnings primarily aim to improve how our agency serves airplane passengers, cruise passengers or other customers. But, these learnings can be adapted by other agencies to create better infrastructure and services for their customers. They can continue from where we left off, rather than from scratch, which can result in better allocations of funds and more value for their investments.

Sharing innovation and people’s perspective can create better outcomes for people, agencies and the industry as a whole.

Taking the Time to Think

At Massport we remain focused on a deliberate process of collaborating fully at the beginning so that we can deliver the best results later. Our clients are used to us saying, What is the question you’re trying to answer? Or, What is the problem you’re trying to solve? And our customers are used to us asking, Where are you trying to get to? And What would be easier for you?

These collaborations give us insights and inspiration to ensure that we are building the best possible facilities and services for the future.

Dr. Luciana Burdi is Director of Capital Programs and Environmental Affairs for the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport), the first woman and first architect to hold this position. Dr. Burdi oversees the management of the Massport’s capital investment program, safety program, utilities management, in-house project design and environmental permitting and management.

Before being appointed to this position in January 2021, she served as Deputy Director for the same department. Earlier, Dr. Burdi spent eight years at the state’s Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, serving in several positions.

In 2019, she was recognized by the Boston Society for Architecture with the Women in Design Award for her contribution to the “world of design and to the community at large.” In 2015, she received the (Construction Management Association of America) CMAA National Award in New Technologies techniques in CM for advancing the use of valuable new technologies in construction management. Dr. Burdi was a member of the CMAA National Board of Directors, and chaired the organization’s Emerging Technologies Committee. She is currently a Board Member for the Lean Construction Institute (LCI)

She was born and raised in Italy, where she earned a master’s degree from the Instituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia in Venice. In the U.S., she was a SPURS Fellow (Special Program in Urban and Regional Studies) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and subsequently earned her DDes (Doctor of Design) from Harvard Graduate School of Design. Dr. Burdi lives in Massachusetts with her husband and three children.

14 THINK Issue 23 | 2023
HNTB Companies Infrastructure Solutions

Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.