Winners of 2021 America’s Transportation Awards Named

A community-inspired multimodal improvement project that vastly improved safety and travel options in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and a critical traffic interchange redesign and replacement project in Kansas City, Kansas, were selected as the top prize winners in the 2021 America’s Transportation Awards competition.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation’s $101.6 million Reconstruction of Salem Parkway (U.S. 421/I-40 Business) project earned the Grand Prize. Meanwhile, online voting determined that the Kansas Department of Transportation’s $30.3 million Turner Diagonal: Partnering for Growth project won the People’s Choice Award.

Victoria Sheehan (at left), AASHTO’s 2020-2021 president, with Jim Tymon at right.

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, AAA, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sponsor this annual contest.

“This competition recognizes the effort and dedication that goes into planning, building, operating, and maintaining America’s vast multimodal surface transportation network,” said Jim Tymon, AASHTO executive director, in a statement.

“This vital work didn’t stop during the pandemic and it continues today because transportation is essential for our quality of live and economic vitality,” he added. “In addition, these winning projects reflect a commitment on the part of state DOTs to work closely with their communities to ensure projects meet the needs of the people who use them.”

NCDOT’s Reconstruction of Salem Parkway project represented the first significant improvement to this historic roadway, which opened in 1958 as the first section of Interstate 40 in North Carolina. Decades later, NCDOT prioritized improvements along a 1.2-mile stretch of the route, redefining it as the gateway into downtown Winston-Salem.

The project features a series of safety upgrades and multimodal improvements, including a multi-use path, reduced interchanges, rehabilitated pavement, reconstructed shoulders and ramps, 10 bridge replacements, bike lanes, and two new signature pedestrian bridges.

Due to residential and commercial development and historical properties adjacent to the freeway, this project entailed a significant amount of agency coordination and collaboration and extensive public involvement and outreach. This broad public outreach campaign began in 2006 to ensure robust participation in the environmental process and continued throughout the project’s planning, design, and construction phases.

The Kansas DOT’s Turner Diagonal: Partnering for Growth project in Kansas City brought together public and private partners to re-imagine a decades-old interchange in order to improve safety, reduce congestion, promote development, and provide better access to public transit.

Built in the 1960s, the original design of the Turner Diagonal Interchange incorporated tollbooths. However, they were never installed – leaving behind miles of obsolete and hazardous ramps, cutting off land prime for development. This project re-designed the interchange and, in addition to making travelers safer offering greater transit access, provided immediate economic benefits and the creation of thousands of new jobs.

The 2021 competition included 80 project nominations from 35 state departments of transportation. The three highest-scoring projects from four regional competitions competed for the final two awards. An independent panel of industry judges selected the Grand Prize winner, while the project receiving the highest number of online votes from the public (weighted by state population) earned the People’s Choice Award.

Presented at the AASHTO Annual Meeting in San Diego, the Grand Prize and People’s Choice awards each came with $10,000 cash prizes to be used to support a charity or transportation-related scholarship program of the winning states’ choosing.

Related articles