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Construction Program Management and Inspection Guide

1. Introduction

The Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA's) field responsibilities and extent of involvement in project details have changed considerably over the years. Construction inspection procedures and techniques have undergone a number of changes to keep pace with changing times. Recent efforts to maintain a competent level of engineering awareness within the agency have prompted another change in direction. The wide variety of programs and reductions in staffing without a commensurate reduction in FHWA responsibility have further served to complicate the issue.

The role of FHWA field staff as stewards of Federal requirements is to ensure compliance by supporting continuous quality improvement, promoting innovation and new technology, and providing value-added technical support. These responsibilities are best accomplished by developing professional relationships with our State counterparts in State transportation agency (STA) headquarters and in the field. The FHWA engineer should strive to be a value-added element in the administration of the Federal-aid program.

Traditionally the front-line FHWA engineer was known as the "area engineer." With reorganization, construction oversight responsibility is now carried out by field staff with a variety of titles, including "transportation engineer," "field engineer," "construction engineer," and similar designations. For the purposes of this Guide, these terms are used interchangeably.

FHWA's ultimate responsibility for stewardship and oversight of the Federal-aid highway program is affirmed in several sections of the United States Code. 23 USC 114 states: "The construction of any highways or portions of highways located on the Federal-aid system shall be undertaken by the respective State transportation departments or under their direct supervision. ...such construction shall be subject to the inspection and approval of the Secretary." Subsection (c) of 23 USC 106, Project Approval and Oversight, provides for the States to assume some responsibilities of the Secretary for certain projects. However, subsection (d), Responsibilities of the Secretary, further states that "...nothing in this section, section 133 [Surface Transportation Program], or section 149 [Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program] shall affect or discharge any responsibilities or obligations of the Secretary under (1) section 113 [Prevailing rate of wage] or 114 [Construction], or (2) any Federal law...."

This Guide highlights FHWA roles and resources to assist the State in delivering a quality construction program. The Guide is intended to complement experience gained on actual construction sites. States have established processes and procedures to administer contracts and monitor successful program delivery. These procedures include monthly contract status reports, material testing, change order and claim evaluations, and other contract administration reporting that provides program-level information on contract delivery. These project documentation and source records should be readily available at the project site on all Federal-aid projects. FHWA engineers should make full use of all documentation to monitor the program and identify the potential areas of risk.

This Guide has been developed to assist FHWA field engineers in maintaining and improving technical competence and in selecting a balanced program of construction management techniques. The intent is to carry out this program using an appropriate level of risk management. It is FHWA's responsibility to ensure that the public is getting the best value for its expenditure of public resources in all of its programs.

The Guide serves to highlight technical features and techniques for making construction inspections that have proven to be effective. The Guide has several purposes:

  • Providing familiarization for newer employees
  • Serving as a refresher for veteran employees
  • Assisting field offices in developing a balanced construction program by considering the relative merits of using a variety of construction program management and inspection techniques
  • Highlighting technical elements to be integrated in construction inspections to provide a reasonable level of quality assurance in the construction program area

The following section provides a brief review of the history of the FHWA's project construction inspection practices and the current management of FHWA's construction monitoring program. This review serves as a background for discussing the construction program management and inspection responsibilities of FHWA field engineers.

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Updated: 06/27/2017
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000