U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590

Skip to content U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway AdministrationU.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration


<< PreviousContentsNext >>

Construction Program Management and Inspection Guide

3. Construction Program Management


By inference from 23 USC 114, FHWA has oversight responsibility for Federal-aid construction work: "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." The purpose of FHWA's construction monitoring program is to facilitate the division administrator's evaluation of the State's use of Federal-aid funds and to provide support for the disbursement of Federal funds based on State policies, practices, and staffing. For the purpose of construction program management, the term construction pertains primarily to all post-award activities. However, knowledge of pre-award activities such as plans, specifications, and estimates (PS&E) development, mitigation measures, and the project award process is necessary. (Refer to 23 USC 101 (a)(3) for a definition of "Construction.")


In evaluating the division's construction management program, consideration should be given to current agency emphasis areas and the findings of past years' programs. This evaluation should be incorporated in the division's risk assessment procedures. As appropriate, the risk assessment should provide for evaluating various phases of the STA program on a cyclic basis. For more information, see the "Risk Assessment Guide" on the FHWA Intranet: http://intra.fhwa.dot.gov/programadmin/risktoc.htm.

Program areas where no major problems exist may not require detailed review. As a part of the division's risk assessment, the basis for not making reviews should be documented in the division office files. Program areas having major problems and those where insufficient information is available for drawing conclusions are candidates to be included in the review cycle.

A fundamental component of construction program management is an understanding of contract administration and construction quality. Contract administration is broadly defined as taking a PS&E and producing a desired end product. Construction quality management involves traditional quality assurance measures employed to control and verify construction, material, and product quality. It also encompasses broader topics of continuous quality improvement such as optimization of decision-making processes, innovative contracting practices for enhancing quality, performance feedback mechanisms, and specification improvements and design refinements.

Quality construction is critical to a successful STA construction program. Completed construction projects represent tangible products by which the public measures the success of the STA in delivering its program objectives. The public ultimately defines the success of construction projects based on the level of delivered quality, which may include a variety of issues such as safety characteristics, operational efficiency during and after construction, materials quality and long-term durability, and financial value. The proper use and knowledge of effective construction quality management applications, at the program and the project level, can provide FHWA with confidence that completed, federally funded construction work meets the above objectives for success.

Most STAs are now using some form of statistical quality assurance specifications for their highway construction work. Statistically based specifications are an effective means of ensuring a quality product, and they are a fundamental component of construction quality management. Many STAs are also using other quality improvement methods, such as obtaining and using highway user feedback, developing performance measures and goals, and using various processes during construction to ensure quality workmanship. All of these quality improvement techniques fall within the broader context of construction quality management.

Quality assurance (QA) is the systematic processes necessary to ensure sure the quality of a product is what it should be. Quality assurance is an all-encompassing term that includes quality control, acceptance, independent assurance, dispute resolution, and the use of qualified laboratories and qualified personnel.

All STAs are required by the Code of Federal Regulations (23 CFR 637) to have a quality assurance program for Federal-aid highway construction projects on the National Highway System. Each division's construction program management activities should include elements for encouraging and assisting the STA in implementing or refining their QA program, and for assessing project level implementation of the program requirements. See Appendix B, Quality Assurance Resources, for additional guidance on quality assurance program elements.

Program Elements

FHWA's division-level construction management program should include both process and project-level involvement. A program should be developed to define the type and frequencies of inspections that can best be combined within the limits of available resources and the needs of the construction program.

The program should be designed to define the required level of periodic involvement and to encourage and maintain a professional working relationship with STA personnel who are responsible to assure continued and improved quality of highway construction. Construction program management includes both pre-award and post-award activities. The program should be flexible but should provide direction for FHWA field engineers.

The division administrator is responsible for developing a construction management program for evaluating the Federal-aid construction programs of the STAs and local governments. This Guide should be used as a tool in developing the program's elements: determining the level of inspection coverage, performing the inspections and reviews, preparing and distributing reports, monitoring findings, preparing special reports, and documenting the division's program.

Determine Frequency and Type of Inspections

Each division is responsible for determining the degree and intensity of inspection coverage necessary to administer the division's construction management program. In determining what constitutes "sufficient reviews or inspections," the division administrator needs to consider a variety of factors including the qualifications and capabilities of STA management, project staff, and contractors; the STA's operating procedures and internal review programs including local program oversight; previously identified problem areas; and unique project conditions.

Perform Inspections and Reviews

The division office is responsible for performing the inspections and reviews outlined in its construction management program. The division is encouraged to solicit the participation of headquarters and the Resource Center in reviews of new or unusual features or practices and for other assistance as appropriate. Reviews that are made jointly with headquarters, the FHWA Resource Center, or State personnel who have similar responsibilities should also be included in the division office's program.

Prepare and Distribute Reports

Workers laying concrete at an intersectionThe division office is responsible for preparing and distributing copies of construction inspection and other reports. It is desirable that the report's content and distribution consider the views of potential readers as well as the potential use of the report. Preparation and distribution of reports will be discussed in greater detail later in this Guide; however, the importance of quality inspection documentation must be acknowledged. Documentation is essential to meet several program objectives:

  • Define progress and quality of work
  • Establish FHWA presence in the Federal-aid construction program
  • Identify project or program problem areas
  • Document resolution of identified concerns
  • Share innovations and new technology
Monitor Findings

Division offices should document findings and resolutions from construction reviews and inspections. These findings should be used as input into subsequent risk assessments.

Prepare Special Reports

The program should encourage FHWA field engineers to prepare or assist their State partners in preparing reports on special or innovative construction materials, methods, and procedures. The FHWA field engineer should ensure appropriate circulation of reports as a technology-sharing activity.


Division offices should document the effectiveness of their construction management programs. Documentation should include observations, findings and resolutions, and any special reports. This evaluation should also discuss quality management initiatives and summarize the capability and performance of the STA in carrying out its Federal-aid construction program. Additional detail is provided in the sidebar "Construction Management Report."

skip Construction Management Report sidebar

Construction Management Report

Possible Items Suitable for Inclusion

Number and value of contracts awarded by type.

Number and value of active projects by type and area.

Field engineer workload-project complexity.

Number of inspections and reviews made by type and area.

Process/Statewide Reviews by phase.

Selected Emphasis Reviews by phase.

Summary of reviews-objectives, findings (including frequency and significance), conclusions, recommendations, and disposition or actions taken.

Overall review of accomplishments as they relate to the division's "risk analysis."

Program modifications with supporting explanations.

  • Impact of the construction inspection program: Does it make a difference?
  • Productivity of reviews: What is effective?

Areas of concern: construction improvements needed or achieved.

  • Adequacy of specifications and plans.
  • Adequacy of construction supervision: manpower management, construction workload.
  • Comments on State's construction manual.
  • Comments on construction practices attributed to contract documents or bidding practices.
  • Number of documented concerns with resolution.
  • Program developments, such as materials sampling and testing by contractor, experimental projects and recycling, new methods and equipment, new specifications.
  • Project cost or time creep trends.
  • Environmental mitigation measures accomplished during construction.

Areas needing added emphasis-future construction inspection program needs.

Suggested program changes-program management, directives, etc.

Use of quality-level analysis.

Frequency and documentation of project contacts.

Activities that are not project-specific, such as State, district, or laboratory contacts and relationships.

Construction-related promotional activities.

Training received by State employees and its effectiveness and usefulness (not restricted to FHWA training).

FHWA and State organizational changes-functions and individuals.

Final assessment of the acceptability of the State's construction program.

Recommendations for reviews to be considered in the next fiscal year's risk analysis.

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