One doesn't usually associate traffic engineers with having groupies, but Massachusetts Dept. of Transportation's Neil Boudreau gained rock-star status by keeping traffic smartly flowing as crews demolished and rebuilt 14 bridges along Interstate 93 in just 10 weekends. "He was really the person who made the project happen," says Erik Maki, the senior project manager at Tetra Tech, which was the job's lead designer and civil, traffic and environmental engineer.
In fact, Boudreau's traffic management solution for the I-93 Fast 14 Rapid Bridge Replacement project was so successful that Medford, Mass., residents lined up lawn chairs along the interstate to watch these bridges being built in record time.
The interstate carries about 200,000 vehicles a day. Boudreau addressed both the interstate traffic and the surrounding detour routes with a system that included "smart work zones" and social media. Under his plan, 35 message boards were placed in key areas along the interstate to notify drivers of road closures. Further, traffic sensors monitored traffic volume and speed; if speeds were sustained below 30 mph for more than five minutes, the message board would encourage drivers to use an alternate route.
Keeping the public informed of changes was critical and helped boost credibility for the project team, Boudreau says. To that end, he used Twitter, a subscription-based text-messaging service, and e-mail to blast the latest traffic news to subscribers. He also made more than 40 presentations to chambers of commerce in the state. "It was like I was on tour," Boudreau says.
Initially, the public was skeptical but eventually recognized "that we were confident in our plan," Boudreau notes. The proof of that recognition was particularly evident as word of the project spread and the "groupies" made their way to the sidelines to watch the crews in action.
"A lot of people sat out there. Everyone wanted to see what was going on," Boudreau says. "It was just good to see someone appreciate what we were doing."
Boudreau adds that the project has helped MassDOT demonstrate its abilities and show that it can effectively perform accelerated construction projects.