Moves to Slash Project Delivery Time
By John Latta, Tina Barbaccia and Mike Anderson
Could the Stimulus continue to bring the highway industry benefits long after its funding pool has run dry?
“One thing I believe we’ve learned from the Recovery Act is the importance of bringing a greater sense of urgency to that work,” says FHWA Administrator Victor Mendez, who addressed the Transportation Construction Management (TCM) conference in Florida last month.
One area where that urgency just might bring about some significant — and valuable — changes is in dramatically shortened project delivery times. Mendez wants practices that can make us wait for more than a decade for a big transportation infrastructure project to go from idea to everyday use. So does John Mica, the new chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Mica wants to cut that time in half, as did his predecessor as chairman, former Minnesota Democrat Jim Oberstar.
What’s more, Mendez and Mica have had meetings since the Florida Congressman took over the committee, and indications are that the two men work easily together.
For Mendez, an initiative he introduced last year called Every Day Counts (EDC) would be the scaffolding with which to build shorter project delivery times.
“I see Every Day Counts as an innovation initiative,” he says. “It introduces new technologies, new ideas and new ways of thinking. It challenges the way we’ve been doing business and proposes a better, faster and smarter approach for the future.”
EDC is built on “two pillars,” Mendez continues. “First, we have a number of specific strategies designed to shorten project delivery time, which currently stands at about 13 years for a major project. We’re looking at ways to shorten delivery time on the planning side and the construction side.
“On the planning side, we intend to guide state and local agencies in using under-used flexibilities in the law, in being more tolerant of risk, and in minimizing some of the duplication of effort that currently delays projects. We can do all that while still protecting the environment and delivering top-quality work,” he told the TCM conference.
“On the construction side, we’re advancing new forms of innovative contracting – like Construction Manager/General Contractor (CM/GC) – that bring the contractor to the table earlier in the process.”
CM/GC also offers a better handle on costs, risks, possible problems and potential solutions, according to FHWA. Mendez also sees a potentially significant project delivery time saving, “by doing some things concurrently that under the traditional approach have to be done in sequence.”
The second pillar of the EDC initiative addresses another Mendez priority: increasing the use of under-used technologies, ones that he says “have been languishing on the shelf – so to speak.” Officially, EDC is focusing on:
pre-fabricated bridge elements, which allow bridges to be built off-site, and then assembled onsite like a giant Lego set;
safety edge, an adjustment to paving equipment that shapes the edge of the road at a 30-degree angle, so it’s easier to steer back on, if you start to drive off;
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