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Subject: INFORMATION: Quality Assurance (QA) in Materials and Construction Followup Discussion Date: July 2, 2008
From: King W. Gee
Associate Administrator for Infrastructure
Reply to Attn. of:
To: Directors of Field Services
Federal Lands Highway Division Engineers
Acting Resource Center Director
Division Administrators

The FHWA's national review report, "Quality Assurance in Materials and Construction" dated June 2007 covered the review of FHWA, oversight of State QA programs. The report identified weaknesses in FHWA's oversight in the QA area, and outlined a series of recommendations that FHWA should undertake to address these weaknesses.

This memorandum identifies followup actions that the Office of Infrastructure (HIF) will be undertaking to address the issues identified in the national review report. Many of these activities will be accomplished with involvement from various field offices.

  1. Increased Emphasis on QA:

    The national review stressed the need for greater emphasis on construction and materials QA activities by the FHWA. Several actions are currently underway to address this need:

    • The fiscal year 2009 FHWA Strategic Implementation Plan is being updated to include a new National Performance Objective - "Improve Materials and Construction QA." It is anticipated that the new performance objective will consist of biannual evaluations of State QA programs, which will be used to identify needs in the area of QA and to capture national trends in QA program effectiveness.
    • In fiscal year 2009, HIF will be providing guidance on recommended content and frequency of Division/State QA reviews. This guidance is intended to assist the Divisions in planning and implementing effective QA reviews with their State counterparts. The guidance materials will be developed jointly by various Headquarters and field office representatives.
  2. Expand QA Assessment Efforts:

    Building off existing QA Stewardship Reviews, the FHWA should expand QA assessment efforts to meet unique State needs and to look beyond the regulatory requirements contained within 23 CFR 637 in providing guidance for an effective program.

    • The HIF has conducted a number of material QA stewardship reviews over the last 5 years. These reviews have resulted in significant findings in terms of both successful practices and areas for improvement. A summary of the findings are available at https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/pavement/materials/stewardreview2007.cfm. These reviews will be continued in future years, and will be enhanced to include followup reviews with the States to evaluate program improvements that have been implemented.
    • In fiscal year 2009, HIF will be implementing a series of national construction stewardship reviews to focus on Federal-aid construction program delivery, and FHWA/State consistency with applicable Federal laws and regulations. An implementation team has been established to guide this effort.
    • The HIF is currently developing metrics/measures for evaluating QA programs. These metrics are intended to be used by Divisions and States to monitor their local QA program activities and to identify areas for local improvement. The data from the metrics will also be aggregated and used at a national level to assess nationwide trends in QA program effectiveness. The initial survey for developing the metric was initiated in April 2008. The HIF will be establishing a new task group to review the results of the survey and evaluate the effectiveness of the metrics. This task group will include Headquarters and field FHWA representation.
    • A second task group is being established by HIF to examine current QA policy and regulations for the construction and materials inspection areas. This task group will assess the need for policy changes and will provide recommendations on actions that HIF would need to initiate to support future regulatory or policy changes. Members for this task group will also include Headquarters and field FHWA representation.
  3. Provide Additional Guidance and Tools:

    The national review emphasized the need for more QA-related guidance and tools to assist Divisions and States. In response to this need, HIF is planning to develop the following guidance document and tools to improve QA nationally.

    • The FHWA currently has a number of different Web pages that provide QA related information. In fiscal year 2009, the HIF will be consolidating the content of these Web pages into a single comprehensive Web site to improve access to QA information. Part of this Web site will provide a topical Web-based manual on QA. This "QA Manual of Practice" will provide a single point of reference for QA-related information on a program-wide basis and will be formatted to match the six critical QA elements identified in the national review. The manual will also include evaluation guidance to assist Divisions and States in evaluating the effectiveness of their local QA programs.
    • The HIF has developed a new computer program to analyze percent-within-limit (PWL) construction specifications. The software will be rolled out with Web based training in the summer of 2008. The "SpecRisk" software will allow highway agencies to analyze the performance of their existing highway materials acceptance plans and to develop new acceptance plans that are fair and equitable to all parties.
    • Through FHWA's Pavement and Material FALCON activities, HIF is identifying current gaps in the QA program and will be targeting additional tools or guidance as needed to address these gaps.
    • As part of the QA Web page development, HIF will be providing a contact list of FHWA employees with detailed knowledge in the area of QA. The contact list will identify primary areas of QA program responsibility within Headquarters and the Resource Center and will provide a focused source for Division offices and States to obtain timely program and technical advice and support on various QA related topics.
  4. Enhance the Technical Capability of FHWA Staff in the area of QA and Maximize Use of FHWA Resources:

    Improve the proficiency of FHWA staff resources to meet QA needs nationally. Operate more efficiently within FHWA and make better use of available staff resources to assist Divisions in QA related activities.

    • There are a number of training opportunities for the Divisions in QA that currently exist. These opportunities are shown below and will be highlighted on the updated FHWA QA Web site.
      • The NHI Course 134042, "Materials Control and Acceptance" – This course is available in 2-day and 4-day versions, and provides participants with an understanding of statistically based QA, and techniques for collecting, organizing, analyzing, and interpreting data used in acceptance plans.
      • The NHI Course 134064, "Transportation Construction Quality Assurance" – This is a new course that will be offered starting in the fall of 2008. The course provides program-wide training in QA practices and procedures.
      • The PWL Workshop – This is a 1-day introductory workshop on PWL. The workshop provides an overview of quality measures, details on how PWL works, and specifics on computing PWL.
      • Warranty Workshop – This is a 1-day introductory workshop on warranties. The workshop provides the basic information to States that are initiating pavement warranties or improving their pavement warranty programs. The workshop also provides specifics that are needed for State verification and subsequent improvements to their programs.
    • In addition to the current training identified above, HIF will be implementing several new training courses in fiscal year 2009. These include:
      • "QA for Field Engineers" training sessions – These training sessions will provide programmatic training in QA covering the six critical elements of a QA program. These training sessions will be offered as a series of online training courses or webinars and will be targeted at the FHWA Division field engineers and appropriate State personnel.
      • The NHI Course 134070, "PWL Specifications: A Risk Analysis Approach" – This online training course will provide an introduction to statistical analysis and the development of statistically valid QA specifications. The course will also provide participants with instruction on the use of the SpecRisk software.
    • The HIF will also be initiating several additional activities in fiscal year 2009 to maximize the use of agency resources and augment the skills that exist within FHWA's staff in the area of QA.
      • The HIF will be establishing a process to facilitate discussions of QA topics between personnel from various State DOT's, as well as their Division office counterparts. This will allow State and Division staff to share QA expertise and gain knowledge of successful QA practices.
      • The HIF will also be establishing the baseline core competencies for FHWA staff in regards to QA and will evaluate the merits of developing a QA certificate program or similar activities to motivate employees and enhance staff knowledge.

These new quality assurance products will provide valuable tools for raising overall agency emphasis on QA, building staff knowledge and expertise, and ensuring program effectiveness. Updated information concerning these activities and products will be transmitted as it becomes available and will also be included on the QA Web site. For more information about these and other available QA products, please contact Ken Jacoby at 202-366-6503 or Lee Gallivan at 317-226-7493.

Updated: 06/27/2017
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