Every Innovation Starts With A Conversation
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The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) operates one of the best transportation networks in the country. TDOT is frequently recognized for its initiatives, highway design, and innovative approach to transportation. 

The agency recently received the 2022 American Transportation Award for “Best Use of Technology & Innovation.” This award was presented by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) at their annual meeting last week in Orlando, Florida. 

With four facilities across the state, the agency employees over 3,400 people and maintains more than 14,467 miles of highway. TDOT is a multimodal agency that oversees a myriad of aviation, public transportation, canal, railroad, cycling, and walking routes. 

Using Innovative Technology for Rapid Bridge Repair 

In May 2021, during a routine inspection of the Memphis based Hernando De Soto bridge, inspectors from Michael Baker International noticed a fracture in one of the structure’s most critical tie girders. As a result, the bridge, which is one of only two structures that connects Tennessee and Arkansas, was immediately closed to the traveling public. 

Jumping into action, the Michael Baker team used unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or drones, to assess the damage. Inspectors used the drones’ footage to take measurements of the fracture and set-up a live video feed that they could incorporate into their online meeting with design engineers. This allowed members of the team to ask questions and discuss possible solutions in real time. 

The use of this innovative technology allowed the TNDOT to reopen the bridge’s eastbound lanes ahead of schedule and westbound lanes on time. The entire process, from the time the fracture was discovered to the bridge opening back up to traveling public, only took 83 days.  

A full fracture investigation was completed in October 2021. The findings from the investigation provided extensive insight into the repair process and timeline. 

An animated rendering of repairs is available on YouTube.  

Prioritizing Pedestrian Safety Using STEP 

Pedestrian safety is often compromised at uncontrolled crossing points and signalized crossings because they frequently give preference to automobiles. For example, accidents can occur when pedestrians see a walk sign, and cars in the turn lane see a green turn signal.  

The Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian (STEP) initiative, a Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Every Day Counts round 5 program, has helped states develop budget friendly solutions geared toward improving pedestrian safety. Countermeasures outlined in the STEP initiative include: rectangular rapid flashing beacons, crosswalk visibility enhancements, and leading pedestrian intervals. 

In response to a string of deadly pedestrian collisions in Nashville in 2017, TDOT installed a temporary mid-block crossing. The agency was able to design, plan, and construct the crossing in less than 3 months. The crossing featured improved signs and markings, temporary medians to form pedestrian refuge islands, and solar-powered flashing beacons. 

Read the agency’s pedestrian laws and learn more about what the state is doing to keep residents safe.