The recently renovated Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge in New Haven is in the running for one of the nation’s most prestigious awards for transportation infrastructure.
On Sept. 9, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials announced that the bridge, which carries Interstate 95 over the Quinnipiac River, was among 12 construction projects chosen out of 84 to advance to the Grand Prize competition in the America’s Transportation Award. The award is an annual effort to recognize outstanding engineering feats in the field of highways and transportation and will be announced on Nov. 14.
“The new Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge is a beautiful, welcome new feature in [New Haven]; its pleasing aesthetics are as enjoyable as the undeniable traffic improvements,” Mayor Toni Harp said in a statement to the News. “It’s more evidence of a city moving forward, making New Haven even more attractive to new residents, businesses and visitors.”
The bridge — referred to as the “Q-bridge,” in reference to the river it spans — gained attention among experts in the transportation community in July 2015 after renovations to replace the old six-lane girder bridge with the new, uniquely designed 10-lane bridge were completed. Those renovations, which started in 2008, constituted the biggest project ever undertaken by the Connecticut Department of Transportation to date and employed a modern design new in the U.S., according to the State Department of Transportation project engineer Matthew Briggs, who has worked on the bridge for the past eight years.
On June 7, AASHTO recognized the new bridge for its “best use of innovation” in the competition’s “large project” category. For that earlier award, the bridge was selected from projects in the northeastern U.S., while the final round of awards underway now considers projects from across the country.
This is the ninth year America’s Transportation Award is shining light on transportation projects across the nation. The organization has teamed up with the American Automobile Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in a joint effort to highlight the importance of transportation infrastructure.
“The competition was created to showcase those transportation projects that the public never really notices despite the fact that they’re improving safety and making travel safer and more reliable,” AASHTO Manager of Media Relations Tony Dorsey said.
He pointed out that approximately 300 million trips are taken on America’s roadways each day and added that the wellbeing of such infrastructure has implications for the economy and the population’s productivity.
The Q-bridge is now in the running for two final awards from the organization: the People’s Choice Award and Grand Prize. The recipient of the former is decided based on the number of online votes, which can be cast by anyone who wishes to do so, while the recipient of the latter is chosen by a panel of transportation experts and indicates “the best of the best,” according to Dorsey. Both prizes will be awarded alongside a $10,000 grant to be donated to a charity chosen by the respective state’s DOT.
When the old Q-bridge was erected in 1958, it was the also the longest bridge of its kind in the western hemisphere. It could accommodate 40,000 trips per day, which Briggs said was impressive for that era. As traffic volume has risen over time, however, the structure started failing to accommodate the 140,000 vehicles that now rely on its service.
The new bridge boasts four more lanes than its predecessor and can accommodate an estimated 160,000 vehicles per day. Briggs told the News that Connecticut was able to complete the renovations in time and under budget, with the project’s cost totaling about $416.7 million.
“It’s a magnificent bridge,” Briggs said. “We believe it to be the signature bridge of the state of Connecticut and a gateway to southern New England.”
He added that the department is proud to have been recognized for their work but that the nomination only validates what he and his team “knew all along” — that the Q-bridge is a special bridge.
The Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge spans approximately 4,200 feet.
Correction, Oct. 28: Due to an editorial error, a previous version of this article misstated the total cost of the Q-bridge’s renovation.