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Environmental Challenge Stewardship Approach to Project Development
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Problem or Issue Addressed:
SHA's often run into difficulty processing environmental documents for significant highway projects. In Maryland, SHA had developed two Draft EIS's for the $2.45 billion Inter County Connector (ICC) project in 1982 and in 1997, resulting in so much controversy that the project stalled. Resource agency and environmental groups opposition to the project had been formidable. Meanwhile development in the immediate project area that had been planned in anticipation of the project continued, and congestion of discontinuous east-west roadways in the project area became intolerable.
In order to move this critical project forward Maryland State Highway Administration (MSHA) and the FHWA DelMar Division adopted an environmental stewardship approach. This approach emphasized consultation, community involvement, avoidance (where possible), and mitigation (including engineering solutions). The new project development process involved:
- A proactive interagency involvement process that relied on professionally facilitated, regularly scheduled coordination meetings with resource agencies at the working level and the management level;
- A project development schedule negotiated with resource agencies to follow a pre-defined conflict elevation process, if necessary;
- Extensive effort to evaluate secondary and cumulative effects of the project;
- Extensive sharing of preliminary draft environmental and technical documents with resource agencies for their review and comment;
- Commitment to incorporate environmental stewardship in the project scope, looking at bridging floodplains to maximize stream valley park use and wildlife passage;
- Retrofitting under-designed storm water management systems that were impacted by past development activities adjacent to the project area;
- Extensive coordination with local park officials to identify appropriate replacement properties and commitment to provide extensive replacement parklands;
- Extensive public involvement program, including multilingual project website, convenient and periodic public open house venues, as well as individual neighborhood outreach meetings;
- Continuous coordination with project legal team to identify and respond to potential liabilities in the project development process.
The end result of taking a fresh and proactive, environmentally sensitive approach to a controversial project in an area of sensitively perceived environmental impacts, is the issuance of a Final EIS within 31.5 months after the Notice of Intent, and issuance of a ROD within 35 months of the Notice of Intent.
Issue: Co-Location– During the preparation of the RFP it was necessary to determine whether or not the Administration would require the D-B to co-locate with the ICC Team. There was some pressure from potential design company D-B Team members to allow the design to be done from remote or home offices. An additional complication for the ICC project was that there were three mainline contracts anticipated, and a review of the office space availability showed that there was no location in the mid project vicinity that would suffice for the number of ICC Team members and design and construction staff for all three D-B Teams.
Action: The RFP documents were issued with requirements for co-location of Key Staff, including lead designers, together with the ICC Team. Most design leads were required to be present full-time during the primary design phase, and allowed to work remotely except for meetings during the construction phase. The Design Manager was required to be co-located at all times. Also, the Quality Control, Environmental, and Construction Management staff of the DB were required to be co-located at all times.
The RFP for one contract required the DB to procure and provide the office space for their project, while for the remaining two contracts, the space was procured by the owner due to the varying project schedules and the need for space to be assigned to staff (General Engineering Consultant) not designated to any specific contract (the Project Management Office (PMO)). The result was that there were three â€œHubâ€� offices, and a PMO that was located near two of the three hub offices. Thus, one contract had its hub office at the opposite end of the corridor from the other offices.
Lesson Learned: The decision to co-locate the DB staff and the ICC Team staff that had project-specific assignments was found by almost all participants to be very useful. The co-location of design staff varied in quantity and duration from contract to contract. The need for specific staff attendance was agreed at the contract level. The inability to have one central locus of co-location for all three contracts created some difficulties for the one contract that was not near the Project Management Office. While that contract had all of its project leaders at a central hub, some staff perceived difficulties associated with the lack of co-location of the top management.
- Co-location is a must, being together did help in resolving issues.
- Co-location of the teams worked very well on the Project and should be continued on future projects.
- Co-location during the height of design helped to keep the communication path informal and frequent. As the design progressed and folks moved to home offices the communication became more sporadic. Meeting and communication needed to continue until the end.
- Co-location with construction staff and designers was invaluable. I had daily impromptu discussions with a variety of folks about design details or construction approaches to accomplish the design. These never would have been discussed if I had been remotely located. This holds true for ICC Team members as well as D-B Team members.
- Over the shoulder design reviews between the ICC Team and the DB were helpful in catching general issues with the design and helped expedite the review once the plans were formally submitted. This was made more efficient when the owner and the DB were co-located in the same building so that details could be discussed as they came up.
Issue: QC Performance by D-B Teams On the ICC Project, the DB Teams were required to perform Quality Control (QC) for both design and construction, while the ICC Team performed Quality Assurance (QA) activities. The General Provisions required systematic approaches (ISO 9000) to design and construction QC operations. Some detail was provided as to process requirements and activity levels, but full details were left for development by the DB.
For materials testing, a detailed Frequency Guide was provided in the contract. This was an area of notable success for QC activity levels.
Lesson: Throughout the projectsâ€™ implementations there was a tendency for the QA staff of the ICC Team to decry the level of attention being provided by the QC staff of the DB Teams. The pervasive feeling of the QA staff was that the QC requirements in the contract needed to be more prescriptive. This was true of both design and construction QC requirements. In addition, for construction, it was felt that the number of QC personnel at the site was often less than desirable for the level of work underway.
One of the most favored concepts discussed for improvement of construction QC operations was the potential of having QC for materials testing performed by the DB, and the remainder of construction QC operations performed by staff reporting directly to the Owner. This is counter to the general tendency of shifting QC operations toward the DB for design-build projects, but was considered to be the best way to ensure that the level of QC met the high expectations of the Administration.
- Owner Design QA must to be very robust, especially in the structures, signing & lighting, signals and environmental elements of the design since the Design Builder performs his own QC. With the designer being under enormous pressure to process design packages so the construction can proceed, lots of elements were initially missed.
- While the construction QC efforts were conducted fairly well on the Project, it was not always performed in the best interests of the Project/Owner. The number of QC personnel was determined by the Design-Builder. There were times QC coverage was inadequate. Solution: The owner should keep the QC function. However, material testing and acceptance should be given to the D-B. There is very little risk with this.
- Need to better define level of coverage on operations by QC. If you want 100% inspection, say so in the Contract.
- The establishment of a reduced Limit-of-Disturbance (LOD) during planning and preliminary design minimized impacts. However, obtaining NEPA clearance within the entire right-of-way, even if the proposed LOD is set inside the ROW, would allow for changes to the LOD during detailed design and construction without the need to do re-evaluations for minor changes. NEPA clearance could identify critical resources that would still require coordination before LOD adjustments are allowed. Extending the NEPA clearance up and down existing intersecting roadways (for signage and utility work) would also be helpful in reducing the quantity of re-evaluations during the design-build phase.
- Having permits issued at the same time as the ROD was issued streamlined the timeline and helped to establish the permit conditions that the design-builder (DB) had to meet.
- Interagency coordination meetings are an excellent way to communicate during planning, design, construction and post construction. Regulatory and resource agencies were better informed and in turn were able to expedite plan reviews and permit modifications during the design-build phase.
Erosion and Sediment Control
- Institution of the SHA erosion sediment control incentive/disincentive program encouraged the DB Teams to strive for high grades. The incentive program led to DBâ€™s proposing multiple dedicated teams for each contract, which proved to be one of the greatest assets for project compliance. Dedicated ESC Teams should be required on any project where ESC is a priority.
- The use of active water filtration systems and flocculants were helpful in areas with high clay content in the soil. Though this concept is relatively new in the regional construction industry, multiple units from two different companies were used on site, both very effective. Though use of the systems cost more than traditional sediment filtration devices a superintendent on one project stated that the project would not have been completed on time without the use of the mobile filtration systems.
Concern for Wildlife
- Small and large mammal crossings worked effectively along the ICC corridor. Giving the DB the opportunity to develop creative solutions for culverts and wildlife crossing led to use of an innovative bottomless arch on one of the contracts. This solution far exceeded the requirements in the RFP.
- The ICC project installed turtle exclusion fence on the LOD and then scoured the interior to locate and remove box turtles, 910 in total. Trained dogs are most effective in finding turtles. This relocation effort continued into the construction phase. Educating construction crews about the turtles led to numerous turtles and other animals being relocated out of the job site unharmed when personnel found them within the LOD.