Accelerating Project Delivery Methods
Utah DOT Case Study
Adopting accelerated project delivery methods brought amazing results to the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT). Challenged by staff shortages, heavy workloads, and tight timelines, UDOT did more than just slash costs and project completion time. It improved staff morale and project safety.
Accelerated Project Delivery Pays Huge Dividends in Utah
Like many Departments of Transportation (DOT), the UDOT was challenged by staff shortages and heavy workloads. Crucial construction projects had to be completed in tight timelines. The Utah legislature and public demanded cost-effective results at what seemed to be impossible speeds.
Traditional project delivery processes could not meet this need. UDOT met the challenge by adopting innovative project delivery methods that brought amazing results. The Department succeeded not only in slashing time and cost for major projects; it improved staff morale and project safety.
The challenge was met by employing two accelerated project delivery methods championed by the FHWA: Construction Manager/General Contractor (CM/GC), and Design-Build (DB). Over the last decade, these methods have helped UDOT streamline production, reduce risk, and cut costs on many projects.
DB streamlines production by combining the design and construction phases into a single contract. When UDOT needed to complete a $1.5 billion project to rebuild a highway in time for the Salt Lake Winter Olympics, it is estimated that DB accelerated project completion by more than 4 years.
Design Overlap and Fast Completion
UDOT also found success with CM/GC, which accelerates project delivery methods by allowing the owner to contract with a CM/GC firm early in the design process and proceed to construction later in the design process. As with DB, the contractor and designer work together during design to identify and minimize future construction risks. The design and construction phases often overlap, leading to faster project completion.
On the Interstate 80 widening job, UDOT's forward-thinking use of CM/GC resulted in user savings of $25 million on a $140 million project. That project included 14 bridges and used self-propelled modular transporters to move bridges into place quickly.
Jim McMinimee, a UDOT retiree, refers to CM/GC as "design-build on steroids." A former Director of Project Development and Chief Engineer, McMinimee also had a keen appreciation for the cost savings involved. As he notes, "CM/GC is fast, but it is also cheap."
Bid Prices Allow Faster Contractor Completion
Bid prices with accelerated project delivery methods have been better, on average, than with the traditional Design-Bid-Build (DBB) method. Because UDOT awarded evaluation points based on speedy construction schedules, the lower bid prices were matched by faster timelines. Contractors quickly learned that speed was rewarded: the largest CM/GC project was awarded to the contractor with the most aggressive schedule.
Agency personnel have embraced these changes, which have come from the top down. Involving personnel at all levels has been critical here. A UDOT research group helped identify and implement new technologies and track improvements. Improvements were made visible to end users of facilities. In this way, UDOT staff members have shared in the success of the program and are recognized for their role in this success. New technologies are implemented more smoothly and easily.
The improved communications initiated by UDOT extend to the entire project teams. All team members provide input into the project approach, from the designer to UDOT senior staff and outside stakeholders. Innovative delivery methods such as CM/GC and DB work best with close collaboration between design and construction, something rarely seen in traditional DBB.
UDOT's close working relationship with the Associated General Contractors of Utah focuses on partnering and DB boilerplate development. The partnering process is used on all UDOT projects, and a 12-hour commitment to partnering training is required for all UDOT staff and contractor project managers and superintendents.
Better working relationships have also led to an unexpected benefit: reduction in claims. Partnering metrics indicate that claims have been reduced from 10 in 2003 to one or two in 2009.
As UDOT Executive Director John Njord commented, "It is no longer acceptable in Utah to take months and in some cases years to build our structures. Finding ways to accelerate that process has become paramount and essential for the Utah Department of Transportation to be successful." By employing accelerated project delivery methods, UDOT has achieved that success.