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Don Conway Partnering Awards

Highlighting the importance of mutual trust, shared goals and open communication on highway road and bridge projects, the Don Conaway Partnering Awards were announced on the opening day of Conaway Conference 2023. In its 11 years of celebrating partnering efforts among ODOT and OCA, 20 heavy/highway contracting companies and 11 of ODOT’s 12 districts have been honored.

This year’s Don Conaway Partnering Awards featured first time and veteran-winning companies as well as introduced a new award category highlighting partnering efforts on Local Public Agency (LPA) Projects.

The 23 nominations for 2023 Don Conaway Partnering Awards yielded category winners in:

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  • Category 1 Projects Under $5 million
  • Category 2 Projects Between $5 million-$20 million
  • Category 3 Projects More than $20 million
  • Category 4 Local Public Agency

Determination of the winners were by the ODOT/OCA Partnering Steering Committee, comprised of ODOT employees and OCA and contractor members.

Winning projects were based on:

  • Taking a proactive approach to partnering as opposed to reactive
  • Utilizing the Dispute Resolution Process including Verbal Written Notice
  • Solving issues at the project level
  • Displaying original minutes from partnering meetings, and
  • Showcasing correspondence letters from various project stakeholders complimenting the partnering process

Here is a look at the 2023 Don Conaway Partnering award and honorable mention-winning projects:

Category 1: Projects Under $5 Million

Partnering efforts among personnel from ODOT District 1, Vernon Nagel Inc. and 17 subcontractors made Van Wert County’s first roundabout project not only a successful one, but also an award winner.

The roundabout project at U.S. Route 127/U.S. 224 and Marsh Road, which included the structure rehabilitation of an adjacent bridge, competed with eight other nominated projects in the category. It was Vernon Nagel’s first Conaway Partnering Award while it was ODOT D-1’s fifth win in the Projects Under $5 million Category.

The project, which began October 2021 and was completed on schedule and under budget in December 2022, included construction of the roundabout, new drainage, traffic control, striping, curb and gutter work and rehabilitation of the nearby bridge’s deck and approaches.

Because the intersection improvement would result in the county’s first roundabout, a community awareness event organized by project partners was held for area high school students to illustrate how to maneuver through a roundabout. Partnering efforts such as this helped the project team overcome obstacles such as unidentified and mis-identified utilities as well as tight schedules for road closures and tight working conditions due to the number of subcontractors.

Category 2: Projects Between $5 Million & $20 Million

The second first-time winner in the 2023 Conaway Partnering Awards was in the Projects Between $5 million & $20 million Category, as Allard Excavation LLC and ODOT D-10 were selected for demonstrating the best partnering efforts among the category’s six nominated projects.

The $8.2-million project consisted of the major rehabilitation and pavement replacement of nearly five miles of S.R. 7 in Gallia County. In addition to removing the existing concrete pavement and replacing it with an asphalt pavement, ODOT D-10, which captured its second partnering award in the category, and Allard Excavation overcame several obstacles to complete the project on schedule.

Due to the poor road base, extensive stabilization was needed to repair S.R. 7, which is said to have been constructed in the 1940s. The vast amount and varying ranges of cement stabilization needed called for the project team to locate material suppliers as far away as Toledo and Pittsburgh. Along with providing access along S.R. 7 to residents and local farmers, and in addition being restricted from certain areas of the project due to a nesting Bald Eagle, the project crew worked day/night shifts and weekends to make up for lost time and remain on schedule. Also prompting the project team to keep to the aggressive schedule was that the project detour’s steep incline/decline and 90-degree curve was thought to be too dangerous to handle heavy traffic during winter months.

Despite these obstacles, facilitated partnering efforts allowed for the road to re-open to traffic in nine months and to be fully completed in June 2022.

Category 3: Projects More than $20 Million

The design/build partnership of ODOT D-12, Kokosing Construction Co. Inc. and designer Michael Baker International not only was the finishing phase of Cleveland’s nearly $275-million Opportunity Corridor, but the award-winning work provided by Kokosing Construction and ODOT D-12 allowed both to earn another Conaway Partnering Award in the Projects More than $20 Million Category. For Kokosing Construction and ODOT D-12, it was the fifth and third partnering awards in the category, respectively.

The more than $150-million, Phase 3 project was the finishing piece of the more-than-six-year construction of Cleveland’s Opportunity Corridor. Opportunity Corridor provides a new roadway between I-490/East 55th Street and East 105th Street and includes new pedestrian bridges, bicycle paths, bright lighting and more. Among other items, Phase 3 centered on construction of new roadway from I-490/East 55th Street to East 93rd Street and 11 interchanges.

Setting this more than three-year project apart from the partnering category’s two other nominations was Kokosing Construction and ODOT D-12’s commitment to community relations and increased diversity and equity. Construction boasted 42% diversity among the 134 local subcontractors utilized on the project. The Phase 3 project team relied heavily on its facilitated partnering in coordinating with the regional transit authority, more than 20 utility groups and two rail companies. Obstacles overcome by the project team ranged from construction schedule, utility and environmental impacts – which included nearly 600 known utility conflicts and $2 million in removal costs of unregulated materials from underground storage tanks – as well as agreeing on asphalt admixtures to complete paving in colder temperatures.

Category 4: LPA Projects

A new partnering category was added this year with the addition of the Local Public Agency (LPA) Award. With the ODOT Local Let Program expected to top $500 million in 2023, the Don Conaway Partnering Awards Selection Committee believed it was time to recognize LPA projects and their partnering efforts.

From an inaugural group of five nominated projects, the first LPA Partnering Award highlights the work of the Franklin County Engineers, Strawser Paving Company and consultant The Mannik & Smith Group Inc., which oversaw the project on a day-to-day basis. The award winning project was a $1.7-million reconstruction of an intersection located in southern Franklin County at S.R. 317/London-Groveport Road and Lockbourne Road leading into the Rickenbacker Air Force Base and Rickenbacker International Airport.

The unsignalized, two-way stop intersection had been the location of prior accidents and injuries, so a roundabout was decided upon to minimize conflict points among passenger vehicles, trucks and pedestrian travelers. To assist the CATEGORY 4: LPA Projects CATEGORY 3: Projects More than $20 million 32 Ohio Contractor number of heavy trucks utilizing the intersection, an oval roundabout was decided upon compared to the traditional circular design. Through value engineering and partnering, the project team overcame the tight, 45-day road closure schedule, utility relocation, drainage and detour issues as well as material delays to complete the work – and extra work – on time and under budget.

The LPA Partnering Award winner was selected by representatives of ODOT, OCA and the County Engineers Association of Ohio.

Honorable Mention

The John R. Jurgensen Company’s and ODOT D-7’s construction and partnering efforts on the major rehabilitation and widening of I-70 from U.S. 68 and S.R. 72 in Clark County received only the sixth honorable mention honor in the 11 years of the Conaway Partnering Awards.

The honorable mention award honors non-category winning projects that best fulfill the partnering awards’ criteria.

This was the final phase of the more than seven-year reconstruction and widening of I-70 from the existing four-lane roadway to six lanes. This portion of roadway accommodates nearly 70,000 motorists daily. The approximately 3.5-mile, $50-million portion of I-70’s widening in each direction included replacing existing pavement and six bridges as well as construction of noise walls, improved drainage and installation of cable barriers in the median.

Due to the high-rate of traffic and drive-time congestion, partnering and communication efforts by John R. Jurgensen and ODOT D-7 maintained a high bar of coordination, as on-time completion of the project’s multiple bridges and use of temporary traffic shifts were key in maintaining traffic flow through the busy corridor.

This was John R. Jurgensen’s first and ODOT D-7’s third honorable mention award.

Individual Partnering Awards

For the second year, the ODOT-OCA Steering Committee recognized individuals who continue to be champions of partnering and embody the culture of partnering that defines the Conaway Conference. The annual award honors an OCA member and ODOT employee who have made careers out of partnering with counterparts and demonstrate a “project-first” mentality

OCA members on the Steering Committee selected Bulent Bilgin as the 2023 ODOT Individual Partnering Award winner, while ODOT members on the committee selected Pete Kinzer as this year’s OCA Individual Partnering Award recipient.

Bilgin is a 35-year ODOT veteran who has served as a District 4 area manager since 2013. He has been a partnering advocate since starting at ODOT as a graduate engineer and has worked on several major projects in northeast Ohio. Bilgin has a general passion for working with highlycollaborative teams and mentoring young engineers. The second consecutive winner of the ODOT Individual Partnering Award from D-4, Bilgin is an avid runner who is playing more and more golf in his free time.

Chosen by ODOT members of the Steering Committee, Kinzer’s ability of bringing good energy to the project, seeing the big picture and carrying a project-first mentality were noted as making him this year’s award recipient.

A project manager at Shelly & Sands, Kinzer is a 31-year veteran of the heavy/highway construction industry. He has also served as a project engineer, estimator and precast plant engineer for Shelly & Sands. Kinzer is an active association member who regularly represents the industry’s legislative efforts at the annual Washington D.C. Fly-in events and serves as an industry team coach in OCA’s Estimating Competition. Kinzer also enjoys staying in shape and playing guitar in a local band.

ODOT Individual Partnering Award:

  • 2023–Bulent Bilgin, District 4;
  • 2022– Jason Young, D-4 OCA

Individual Partnering Award:

  • 2023–Pete Kinzer, Shelly & Sands Inc.;
  • 2022–Dan Smith, John R. Jurgensen Co.


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