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|Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 76 · No. 5 > Every Day Counts: The Second Phase|
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-13-003
Every Day Counts: The Second Phase
by Kathleen Bergeron
FHWA champions a new round of innovations to reduce delivery time for highway projects and increase safety.
In June 2009, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works met during the confirmation hearings for Victor M. Mendez, then nominee for Federal Highway Administrator. At that time, then Senator Christopher Samuel “Kit” Bond (R-Missouri) shared his concerns about the state of the highway construction process with his fellow committee members. “We can’t afford to continue on the path where it takes 10 to 15 years to deliver highway projects,” Bond said. “It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that such an impediment means project costs tripling, congested highways, decreased productivity, and compromised road safety.”
The committee agreed that something needed to be done to complete highway construction projects faster. As Bond further pointed out, “the cost of transportation projects around the country [is] increasing, while contractors, municipalities, and State DOTs [departments of transportation] wade through the mess of bureaucracy that is our current project development process.”
At that same hearing, Mendez addressed these concerns, explaining that he planned to “encourage the use of innovation, research, and technology to solve our transportation problems.” He also added that there is a “need to identify and develop innovative environmental, congestion, and finance solutions, and share best practices in the delivery of projects and in other areas of importance to transportation stakeholders.”
The committee and the Senate as a whole confirmed Mendez as administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) shortly after the hearings. So what has happened in the past 4 years to address Senator Bond’s plea to find ways to shorten delivery times?
One of the administrator’s key tools in responding to this challenge is an FHWA program called Every Day Counts (EDC). In reflecting on his decision to set up the program, Mendez said at the Transportation Research Board’s annual meeting in January 2011, “The general consensus out there is that major projects take about 13 years. I established a goal for all of us: How can we reduce project delivery time by 50 percent?”
Naturally, there were skeptics. But Mendez stressed persistence, plus insistence on looking at how to get there. “Maybe we don’t get to 50 percent; that’s still my goal, but we have to look at it. We can’t just say, ‘It can’t be done.’”
The EDC Difference
Since its inception, FHWA has championed innovations. From sand-clay roads in the 1890s, to standardized signs in the 1920s and the interstate highway concept in the 1930s, the agency always has focused on building better, safer roads and bridges. In 2004, the agency established a legislatively funded initiative called Highways for LIFE. The program pioneered a process for developing marketing plans to assist teams of subject matter experts in getting innovations into use by as many State DOTs as possible in as short a time as possible. Sixteen years before Highways for LIFE, the highway community fostered an initiative called the Strategic Highway Research Program, which developed and deployed innovations such as Superpave™ (SUperior PERforming Asphalt PAVEments) and improved winter maintenance practices. A second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP 2) is underway now.
The new EDC program also aims to move lesser used innovations and processes into mainstream use quickly. But EDC exhibits significant differences from previous initiatives. First, the level of leadership involvement differs. Because Administrator Mendez initiated EDC, he remains engaged in the effort. FHWA Deputy Administrator Greg Nadeau also is closely involved on a day-to-day basis, as are other leaders within the agency. Although prior programs have had leadership’s blessing, few have had this level of official involvement.
A second difference between EDC and similar initiatives is the process for selecting focus innovations. For the Highways for LIFE program, the heads of FHWA offices for construction, safety, and maintenance nominated innovations that could stand to benefit from intensive promotion. With EDC, the call for critically needed innovations goes out to virtually every area of the highway community. The result is a much broader spectrum of suggestions. Once a group of initiatives is selected, teams of specialists develop marketing or implementation plans, and then carry them out over a 2-year period. At the end of that time, the innovations are no longer given the high-profile level of promotion via EDC but are still supported by their respective FHWA offices.
Finally, EDC is a State-based initiative. That is, the key decisions as to which innovations to use are made in the State itself. EDC set up an organizational unit called the State Transportation Innovation Council. Each State has its own council that is cochaired by the head of the State DOT and FHWA’s division administrator for that State. Members of the State Transportation Innovation Council include individuals representing contractors, consulting firms, local agencies, and Federal resource agencies. These councils provide State-based leadership that helps facilitate deployment of EDC initiatives and engage stakeholders at the State and local levels.
But how do these key differences affect the success of innovation deployment into mainstream use? Here is a look at implementation rates for the first phase of EDC, known as EDC1, and an overview of innovations introduced in the second phase, known as EDC2.
Results of EDC1
A previous article, “Every Day Counts,” published in the January/February 2012 issue of Public Roads, outlines how the EDC initiative works and discusses in detail the first wave of innovations under EDC1. In December 2012, this first round hit the end of its 2-year lifespan. At that point, FHWA responsibilities for managing the innovations returned to the offices from which they originated. For example, responsibility for promoting the use of warm-mix asphalt transferred back to the pavements program within the Office of Infrastructure.
EDC1 focused on 15 processes and methods for shortening project delivery, including planning and environmental linkages, programmatic agreements, and design-build contracting, plus specific technologies such as the Safety EdgeSM. Thus far, 21 States and Federal Lands Highway divisions have implemented planning and environmental linkages, and 44 have at least two active programmatic agreements. With regard to design-build contracting, 29 States have full design-build statutory authority and 14 States now have laws or policies enabling them to use the construction manager/general contractor method for project delivery. In the last 3 years, 20 projects have used the construction manager/general contractor approach, and 25 more are planned over the next 2 years.
As for specific technologies, 40 DOTs adopted the Safety Edge into their standard operating procedures, and 50 States and Federal Lands Highway divisions have specifications and/or contractual language enabling them to use warm-mix asphalt. Regarding adaptive signal control technologies, 44 agencies representing 64 project locations are in various stages of implementation. Fifteen bridges have been designed or constructed on the National Highway System using geosynthetic reinforced soil–integrated bridge systems, with 72 more off the National Highway System since October 2010. Forty-five States and Federal Lands Highway divisions have used prefabricated bridge elements and systems in at least one bridge project, and 2,497 replacement bridges have been designed or constructed using prefabricated bridge elements and systems since October 2010.
“My overall sense is that we’ve been very successful in bringing a greater focus on innovation to the transportation community,” says Mendez. “Now our challenge is to keep the momentum going and make our better, faster, smarter approach a permanent part of the transportation culture.”
Moving on to EDC2
In the summer of 2012, FHWA announced 10 new innovations for EDC2 and 5 carryovers from EDC1. Together, these innovations make up EDC2. EDC2 has the same goal as EDC1 -- to implement specific initiatives on a national level for a 2-year period.
Programmatic Agreements. This concept of establishing a streamlined approach for handling routine environmental requirements considers repetitive actions on a programmatic basis rather than individually, project by project. Programmatic agreements builds upon efforts made during EDC1 and applies some of the established agreements to new States or expands them to include entire regions. For example, in 2012, the Washington State Department of Transportation and FHWA finalized a statewide programmatic agreement for Endangered Species Act Section 7 consultation, which serves as a companion document to two programmatic agreements already in existence with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Washington now has statewide programmatic coverage for species under National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service jurisdiction, including projects that may adversely affect covered species.
Locally Administered Federal-Aid Projects. To help local public agencies through the complexities of the Federal-Aid Highway Program’s requirements, FHWA developed a three-pronged strategy. The three strategies are certification/qualification programs, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (ID/IQ) consultant contracts, and stakeholder committees. Having a certification/qualification program for local public agencies better ensures that they follow Federal regulations and guidelines, and are better able to manage their projects. The ID/IQ consulting services provide additional resources for lowering project costs and shortening project delivery. And stakeholder committees, consisting of State DOT, FHWA, and local agency representatives, can help to create dialog, provide appropriate training, and refine project development and delivery processes. Implementing these strategies can reduce the amount of oversight States need to provide and help local agencies become more capable of adhering to Federal regulations and guidelines.
Three-Dimensional (3D) Engineered Models for Construction. Although contractors are widely using 3D modeling technology on buildings, processing plants, and large site-development projects, the potential in highway applications is just now being realized. An overall benefit is an increase in productivity and efficiency of construction operations. For example, GPS-enabled construction equipment, when combined with a 3D terrain model, can run all day and night while achieving accurate grades on the first pass. These technologies together can increase productivity by up to 50 percent for some operations.
Intelligent Compaction. Compaction, one of the most important processes in roadway construction, is needed to achieve high quality and uniformity of pavement materials. Quality and uniformity in turn enhance and extend performance. Processes using conventional compaction machines may result in inadequate or nonuniform material densities, which could lead to premature pavement failure.
Intelligent compaction takes a modern approach through the use of special vibratory rollers equipped with an integrated measurement system, a map-based GPS, and an onboard display and computer reporting system. By integrating all components, the use of intelligent compaction rollers can accelerate project delivery as well as improve pavement quality. Intelligent compaction rollers also collect enough data to display continuous records of the number of roller passes, measurement values for material stiffness, and the precise location of the roller. The overall result is a more consistent pavement.
Accelerated Bridge Construction. These technologies enable transportation agencies to replace bridges faster and more safely. The accelerated project times reduce traffic delays and road closures to hours, rather than months or years in some cases, and potentially can reduce project costs. Accelerated bridge construction also can increase safety because construction workers are not required to work alongside active traffic for as long as they would have to with traditional approaches. And, because bridges or their components are manufactured offsite, in controlled environments, quality increases and bridges last longer.
EDC2 is promoting three particular accelerated bridge construction technologies. One is prefabricated bridge elements and systems, continued from EDC1, where entire structures or their components are manufactured and assembled offsite and moved into place in a matter of hours. A second technology is slide-in bridge construction, a technique for deploying prefabricated bridge elements and systems where a bridge is built adjacent to an old structure and slid into place once the old facility is removed. The third is geosynthetic reinforced soil–integrated bridge systems, also continued from EDC1, in which closely spaced geosynthetic reinforcement and granular soils are used as a composite material to build enhanced abutment and approach embankments.
Design-Build Contracting. Conventional highway construction projects use three phases. The process begins with the design of a facility, followed by a request for contractors to bid on constructing the facility, and finally, the construction phase. Known as design-bid-build, the process can lead to lengthy delays because it must be completed in sequential order and delays can occur from a lack of communication or knowledge transfer between the designer and contractor.
An alternative method, called design-build contracting, continued from EDC1, accelerates the process dramatically. In the design-build process, a State DOT identifies what it wants constructed, accepts bids, and then selects a contractor to assume the risk and responsibility for both the design and construction phases. With design-build contracting, agencies generally have the option of selecting a contractor based on a best-value basis, which enables DOTs to consider other factors, such as maintenance costs over several years, beyond lowest price.
Construction Manager/General Contractor. The construction manager/general contractor process consists of two separate contracts that occur during the design and construction phases. During the design phase, the contractor, designer, and public owner work together to identify and minimize risks, provide pricing feedback, improve constructability, and optimize the construction schedule. This process enables the owner to make more informed decisions on design options based on the contractor’s feedback. When the design is complete, the contractor then has an opportunity to bid on the project. If the owner, designer, and an independent cost estimator agree that the contractor has submitted a fair price, the owner then issues a construction contract. By engaging the contractor early in the process, owners have the opportunity to reduce risks, and deliver a more constructible design with better cost certainty and an improved schedule. This delivery method also enables the owner to leverage contractor expertise during design, deploy innovations, and select design options that offer the greatest cost-benefit. This partnership helps both the owner and contractor deliver the project on time and within budget, while minimizing impacts to the traveling public.
Alternative Technical Concepts. An alternative technical concept is a suggested change by the contractor to the contracting agency’s basic configuration design, scope, or construction criteria. The proposed change provides a solution that is equal to or better than the requirements in the request for proposal document. If a proposer’s concept is acceptable to the contracting agency, the proposer may incorporate that concept in its technical and price submittal. Alternative technical concepts provide competing teams with the opportunity to suggest innovative, cost-effective solutions, which can benefit both contractors and State DOTs. For example, about 10 years ago, the two-lane Mitchell Gulch Bridge located southeast of Denver, CO, carried nearly 12,000 commuter vehicles a day. When the Colorado DOT requested bids for replacing the structure, the construction concept it proposed would have required about 2 months to complete. The contractor took another look at the design and proposed an alternative, using precast construction. The result was a new bridge that opened to the public 46 hours after construction began. The bridge won several design and construction awards. This project, and several others like it, helped agencies recognize a need to formalize the process.
High Friction Surface Treatments. Critical locations such as hazardous curves make up a small percentage of U.S. highways. For example, in 2008, horizontal curves made up only 5 percent of the Nation’s highway miles. Yet, more than 25 percent of fatal crashes occurred on horizontal curves. High friction surface treatment is an emerging technology that has the potential to reduce crashes dramatically and immediately, as well as the related injuries and fatalities. By applying high-quality aggregate with friction values far exceeding conventional pavement friction to existing or potential high-crash areas, highway agencies could help motorists maintain better control in dry and wet driving conditions.
Intersection and Interchange Geometrics. Intersections and interchanges are points at which motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists can cross paths, and may sometimes collide. Several innovative alternative designs now are available to reduce crossover and other conflict points, or move the conflict points away from the main intersection. These designs foster safer, more continuous travel for motorists and other road users. FHWA studies, such as Alternative Intersections/Interchanges: Informational Report (AIIR) (FHWA-HRT-09-060), of alternative intersection and interchange designs implemented within recent years show an immediate and significant reduction in the total number of crashes, both injury and fatal crashes (up to 53, 42, and 70 percent, respectively).
Roundabouts, diverging diamond interchanges, and intersections with displaced left-turns or variations on U-turns are proving to be a few of the effective alternatives to traditional designs.
Geospatial Data Collaboration. Currently, most GIS and Web-mapping applications at Federal, State, and local agencies are housed internally. Building on current organizational and technical capabilities, this initiative will use innovative cloud-based GIS services to improve data sharing both within transportation agencies and among project delivery stakeholders. Collaborative analyses and rapid updating of shared common maps will lead to faster consensus building and improved decision support.
Implementing Quality Environmental Documentation. This initiative seeks to implement existing recommendations and recent experience to improve the quality and, at the same time, reduce the size of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documents. The initiative improves the quality of NEPA documents by making them more effective in disclosing to the public and participating agencies (including regulatory agencies that have permitting or reviewing responsibilities) the information used as a basis for making project decisions. By improving the quality and readability of NEPA documents, FHWA and project proponents will accelerate project delivery and achieve better environmental outcomes. The initiative will promote recent best practices and build upon prior efforts, including recommendations from the May 2006 report, Improving the Quality of Environmental Documents: A Report of the Joint AASHTO/ACEC Committee in Cooperation with FHWA.
National Traffic Incident Management Responder Training. Traffic incidents, including those caused by crashes, disabled vehicles, and debris on the road, create unsafe driving conditions that put motorist and responder lives at risk. These incidents account for approximately 25 percent of all traffic delays. For each minute that a freeway travel lane is blocked during peak use, an estimated 4 minutes of delay result after the incident is cleared. This estimate accounts for 4.2 billion hours per year in delays nationwide and more than 2.8 billion gallons of gasoline wasted every year while vehicles are stuck in incident-related traffic.
This initiative offers the first national, multidisciplinary training program in the management of traffic incidents. The training for first responders promotes a shared understanding of the requirements for safe, quick clearance at traffic incident scenes; prompt, reliable, and open communications; and motorist and responder safeguards.
MAP-21 Inclusion And Conclusion
The new surface transportation law passed in July 2012, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), P.L. 112-141, encourages the widespread use of innovative technologies and practices. The law enhances contracting efficiencies, focuses on streamlining the environmental review process, and strives to improve efficiencies in project delivery. In fact, the law mentions by name several of the EDC initiatives, such as design-build contracting and construction manager/general contractor approaches.
So, what conclusions can be drawn from all of this? “It’s obvious the EDC initiative has been effective and embraced by our partners,” says FHWA Deputy Administrator Nadeau. “It’s also clear that a lot of outstanding innovations are in use, and many more are waiting to be promoted. The highway industry today is more innovative and more open to new ideas than ever before.”
Just over 2 years after Senator Bond challenged Administrator Mendez to reduce project delivery times, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) opened a new bridge over the Missouri River, a full 9 months ahead of schedule. The award-winning structure, called the Christopher S. Bond Bridge in honor of the senator, features innovative design and construction methods espoused by the EDC, such as design-build contracting and prefabricated bridge elements and systems. These features, which reflect the focus on innovation the Administrator promised to deliver during his confirmation hearing, saved MoDOT up to $89 million and more than 5 years of construction-related traffic congestion.
Kathleen Bergeron is a marketing specialist with FHWA in Washington, DC, and works at the agency’s new Center for Accelerating Innovation, coordinating communication efforts for the Highways for LIFE and EDC programs. Prior to joining FHWA, she managed communications and marketing programs for consulting engineering firms and transportation agencies at the State and local levels. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and a master’s degree in transportation management from San José State University.
For more information, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/everydaycounts or contact Kathleen Bergeron at 202–366–5508 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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