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Environmental Commitments - Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project

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Issue or Need Identified/Addressed:

Large construction projects reputedly give little care or attention to environmental sensitivity. From the planning of this 12-lane Interstate 95 drawbridge with four adjacent major interchanges, through design and during its first six years of construction, an ongoing key to the continuing success has been its environmental management group.

Strategy or Best Practice:

Throughout the planning phase, both the public and regulators warned of substantial environmental degradation stemming from construction. After all, the massive project would be built in the Potomac River, its tributaries and fragile wetlands along its corridor. To address these legitimate concerns, the Project's public sponsors (Federal Highway Administration, Virginia Department of Transportation, Maryland State Highway Administration, and District of Columbia Department of Transportation) called on the general engineering consultant to assemble an Environmental Management Group (EMG).

EMG includes three integrated teams:

Leadership Team
Responsible for agency coordination, environmental design, permitting, monitoring of all environmental commitments, and achieving success of the $65M compensatory mitigation package.
Mitigation Team
Which manages the environmental enhancement contractors responsible for building wetlands, planting trees and underwater grasses and restoring streambeds.
Environmental Inspection Team
To address environment-related issues arising from construction of the drawbridge and interchanges.

Results:

The EMG has provided continuity, initiative and flexibility. We know of no other mega-project environmental effort integrated to this degree.

The flexible EMG model holds major promise for achieving positive environmental outcomes on virtually any infrastructure project – from the largest mega-project to projects of much smaller scale.

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.

Idea/Best Practice:

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:

Results:

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.

Project Management:

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 “Hub” 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.

Quality Management:

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 projects’ 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.

Environmental:

NEPA Processes

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Erosion and Sediment Control

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Concern for Wildlife

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