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Louis Berger Group, Inc. Receives ASCE Award

May 13, 2004

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) presented the Louis Berger Group, Inc., with a special “Improving the Quality of Life” award for their repaving of 389 km of war torn roads in Kabul-Kandahar, Afghanistan in only 230 days. The award was presented at the fifth annual Outstanding Projects and Leaders (OPAL) awards gala dinner held May 12, 2004.

In September 2002, the journey from Kabul to Kandahar took approximately 18 to 19 hours and for security reasons required an overnight stop along the road. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) tasked Louis Berger Group, Inc. with cutting down travel time and increasing safety as a part of the overall rebuilding of Afghanistan’s infrastructure. Originally the assignment called for repaving only 49 kilometers by December 2003, but in April 2003 President Bush promised Afghani President Karzai that the entire Kabul-Kandahar Road would be repaved by December 2003. Recognizing the technical, financial and security constraints, Louis Berger committed to developing a rehabilitation and reconstruction plan. By July 2003 travel time had been cut in half.

“The road repaving project is a civil engineering marvel not only for its resourcefulness and pioneering techniques, but also for its contribution to the security and well-being of the Afghani people,” said ASCE President Patricia Galloway, P.E., F.ASCE, PMP. “Utimately, it will assist in unification and strengthening national and regional governance.”

Improving traveling conditions for the public has not only decreased travel time and vehicle operating costs, but it has also increased safety by allowing the trip to be made entirely during daylight, when the opportunity for banditry is reduced. Lane-striping has increased traffic safety by designating lanes for each direction, and widened, paved shoulders allow broken down vehicles to pull off rather than blocking the road and creating a potential hazard. Dust reduction provided by the new paved road has diminished air pollution and its resulting potential health problems. In addition, local farmers and tradesmen have been given greater access to commercial centers, which will bring new opportunities for economic growth.

Given that Afghanistan has the highest density of landmines in the world, the most important innovation used was the landmine detection method. Traditional methods were notoriously slow, so Louis Berger brought in armored, mechanized, GPS controlled vehicles to collect air samples from alongside the highway. The samples were then sent to a lab where mine-detecting dogs were allowed to sniff the samples. If the dogs detected the presence of a mine, teams were sent to the site to remove it using the traditional method. This process resulted in a 400 percent increase in the de-mining rate, which increased safety not only for the construction teams, but for the residents as well.

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