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A more comprehensive, innovative approach to managing complex projects

Project Management Strategies for Complex Projects (R10)


Complex highway projects come in a variety of sizes and use various financing mechanisms and delivery methods. Work on such projects often involves navigating complex logistics, new construction methods, controversial stakeholder issues, and restrictive regulations. Each of these components requires careful planning and execution. Similarly, underestimating cost, schedule, or disruption can negatively affect budgets, increase delays, and undermine public confidence.

Project management has long focused on three elements—cost, schedule, and technical requirements (scope, design, quality, and integrated delivery). However, complex projects, particularly those in the rapid renewal area, need something more robust to be successful.

Moving beyond traditional approaches requires stronger partnerships among transportation agencies, contractors, consulting engineers, and external stakeholders. Better strategic planning and execution must occur from startup through construction. The Guidebook for Project Management Strategies for Complex Projects provides practical tools and techniques to optimize innovation, minimize schedule and budget risks, and build better projects.


Project Management Strategies for Complex Projects (R10), expands the three-dimensional analysis typically used by departments of transportation. It creates a model that facilitates project management in five areas: cost, schedule, technical, financial, and context. Methods for assessing complexity factors will help managers make rational resource allocations and guide planning and implementation.


The complex management product is a methodology that takes a project through a deliberative process that begins with an overview of complexity mapping. This process then follows five distinct steps for addressing the five dimensions.

The steps are:

  1. Define critical project success factors
  2. Assemble project team
  3. Select project arrangements
  4. Prepare early cost model and finance plan
  5. Develop project action plans

Application Tools

The guidebook also contains the following:

  • 18 case studies including 15 in the United States and 3 international
  • Forms to conduct exercises to apply the 5 methods and 13 project management tools recommended in the product
  • Other application tools that will assist transportation agencies in using the product

The companion training program will assist State and local transportation agency staff in obtaining the skill sets necessary to follow the process.


This deliberative process addresses and enables a systematic management approach that speeds decision making, addresses complex issues, and expedites government approvals for rapid renewal projects.


  • Provides a five-dimensional project management (5DPM) approach to account for external factors.
  • Considers projects to be iterative rather than linear.
  • Schedules projects to create value; encourages innovation, hybrid contracting, and relational partnering.
  • Emphasizes that each complex project has its own set of performance goals

This method represents an evolution in current project management practices. The R10 product can be applied to highway projects of varying sizes and types to help project managers proactively identify, plan for, and manage their projects to reduce the schedule and cost impacts. The context for projects changes from linear to dynamic by encouraging innovation and relational partnering; emphasizing that each complex project has its own distinct set of performance goals.

The complex management methodology can be "self-implemented" after project managers or facilitators have been trained. It will also guide managers through a process to fully integrate project teams across the entire life cycle, a foundation of project success. Projects using this approach may also consider using the guidebook for Managing Risk in Rapid Renewal Projects (R09) at the appropriate point in the project development process, since the two products are complementary.

In the Field

State Project Description Activity Contact
Alaska Implementation Assistance Program – The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (ADOT&PF) will receive assistance via a demonstration workshop for a project in the central region of the state. This workshop will be to assist with an urban repaving project involving Americans with Disabilities Act requirements and context complexities. ADOT&PF is interested in developing checklists and other project management tools, and updating their Preconstruction Manual. User Incentive Carolyn Morehouse
Arizona Implementation Assistance Program – The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) Phoenix Construction District will receive assistance through a demonstration workshop for the US60 (Grand Avenue) and Bell Road Traffic Interchange project in Maricopa County. The workshop will aid in defining the methodology for improving stakeholder communication, identifying project needs and assigning tasks appropriately. ADOT is interested in incorporating the R10 methods and tools into their Project Development Process Manual, specifically with respect to the design-build project delivery process. User Incentive Madhu Reddy
California Implementation Assistance Program – Federal Lands Highway is applying strategies to the Fanny Bridge Community Revitalization project in Tahoe City, CA. Lead Adopter Victoria Peters
Federal Lands Highway Division
Georgia Implementation Assistance Program – GDOT is applying strategies to I-75/I-575 Northwest Corridor project. Lead Adopter Darryl VanMeter
Georgia Department of Transportation
Iowa Implementation Assistance Program – The Iowa Department of Transportation (IADOT) will receive assistance through a demonstration workshop for a project in the Council Bluffs Interstate System (CBIS). IADOT is interested in developing a statewide policy for managing complex projects using some or all of the strategies outlined in R10 and a Project Management Plan for the CBIS project. User Incentive Mitchell Dillavou
Massachusetts Implementation Assistance Program – MassDOT is applying strategies to Route 20 project in Charlton and Oxford. Lead Adopter Muazzez Reardon
Massachusetts Department of Transportation
Michigan Implementation Assistance Program – Michigan DOT is applying strategies to the I-75 and I-94 projects. Lead Adopter Sue Datta
Michigan Department of Transportation
New Hampshire Implementation Assistance Program – The New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) will receive assistance through a demonstration workshop for expansion of the F.E. Everett Turnpike. NHDOT will receive assistance to incorporate R10 methods and tools into their highway design manual. NHDOT is interested in a second demonstration workshop to highlight the successes of the application on the first workshop and identify strategies to implement R10 on another complex project. User Incentive Keith A. Cota
New Mexico Implementation Assistance Program – NMDOT is applying strategies to the Silver City complex project. Lead Adopter A.J. Romero
New Mexico Highway and Transportation Department
North Carolina Implementation Assistance Program – The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) will conduct a demonstration workshop for the U-5324 project from east of SR 1110 in Chapel Hill to NC 55 in Durham. The project involves transit considerations, bike lanes and sidewalks. The goal of the workshop will be to improve project delivery within budget and schedule, and to improve quality control for all complex project phases. Technical assistance will be offered to guide NCDOT in defining the appropriate scope of U-5324, facilitate the pre-scoping process, and set clear project objectives. User Incentive Majed Al-Ghandour
Washington mplementation Assistance Program – The Washington State Department (WSDOT) of Transportation will receive assistance through a demonstration workshop on the Multimodal Terminal at Colman Dock Project, Pier 52 in Seattle. Based on information gained from the workshop, WSDOT will review and update their guidance documentation and policies on complex project delivery. WSDOT is also interested in developing a project delivery selection process using the tools from R10. User Incentive Mark Gaines
Wisconsin Implementation Assistance Program – The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) will receive assistance through a demonstration workshop for the I-94 East-West Corridor project. The workshop will provide the project team, including regional and central office bureau experts with a better overall understanding of the process and how it can be applied to a WisDOT project. WisDOT is interested in a train-the-facilitator session to train their staff on strategies and techniques of R10 and help develop the skills necessary for facilitating the R10 workshops on various projects. WisDOT also plans to update portions of their design manual to incorporate the R10 process. User Incentive Michael Treazise

Several training sessions and workshops were piloted during the research phase. Training sessions were held in California, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, and Texas. Pilot workshops were conducted in Colorado and Washington.

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