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Construction Program Management and Inspection Guide

4. Inspection and Review Activities

The inspection and review process involves several steps: advance preparation, data gathering, conducting the physical review itself, evaluating and communicating the findings, writing and presenting the report, and distributing and archiving the report and related documentation.


The work required in preparing for a review will depend on the type of review that is to be performed. However, the inspecting engineer should have a review objective and a review plan for every inspection.

Review Objective

The first step in making any review should be to determine what is to be accomplished and why. Initially this will help to determine the type of review to be made. The review objective should be continually checked during the planning and guideline preparation phase, during the review, and prior to concluding it, to assure that the reviewer is still on track and that the objective is being accomplished. Articulating and checking the objective may be as simple as the inspecting engineer asking the questions, "What do I intend to accomplish by being here?" and "Am I accomplishing this in an effective and efficient manner?" A more complex review may require a more formal approach.

Review Plan and Guidelines

In addition to a defined objective, a review plan and review guidelines should be prepared. In the case of an IID or PR/PE, the plan and guidelines should be in written form and may be in some detail. The plan may vary from a very detailed one all the way to a simple mental image in the case of some routine project inspections. For routine project inspections, it is important for the reviewer to know ahead of time the activities underway on the project. This information will help the FHWA engineer prepare for the review.

The plan must be flexible to accommodate unanticipated conditions that are frequently encountered in the field, but the reviewer needs a starting point and direction, some checkpoints along the way, and some basis for making an ongoing evaluation to determine where adjustments should be made.

An FHWA short course on process reviews is available to provide further guidance as well as generic samples of reviews undertaken in various states. Refer to the material contained in the short course and other references on the FHWA Construction Management Web page (Appendix E, Technical References and Resources).

Preliminary Data Gathering

Prior to an on-site review, the inspecting engineer should contact the project engineer and get acquainted with activities underway and major issues on the project. To improve efficiency and effectiveness, reviewers may prepare themselves by reviewing the following items:

  • Correspondence, change orders, and material testing quality levels
  • Previous reviews and progress reports
  • Pre-award issues
  • Plans and specifications, with emphasis on activities underway
  • Bid tabulations
  • Construction inspection program and emphasis areas
  • State policy and procedures manuals
  • Organization, staffing, and authority
  • Applicable Federal and State regulations

Prior to undertaking an IID or PR/PE on a particular construction phase or process, it is recommended that appropriate National Highway Institute (NHI) or industry training materials be reviewed as a technical reference. If possible, a refresher course should be considered.

Conducting the Review

Many items can be reviewed during a construction inspection, and the list of possible concerns about each item reviewed is also extensive. The amount of detail to be covered depends on the scope of the inspection and the time available. All data gathering and analysis should relate to the objectives of the inspection. The list in the sidebar "Items to Consider for Review" shows some of the main items to be considered in conducting the reviews (refer also to Appendix C and Appendix D).

It is not necessary that all items shown on the list be covered on every inspection. Checklists are useful tools to assist the reviewer, however, inspecting engineers are cautioned against using solely a "checklist" approach to conducting any review. The engineer should have sufficient knowledge of the review subject to be able to obtain review information through observation, general discussion, and file review in lieu of using a checklist on site. Checklists tend to be confining, and their use can result in critical areas being overlooked if care is not taken.

skip table - items to consider for review

Items to Consider for Review

1. Inspection Coverage

  1. Progress and quality of work
  2. Materials and quality control
    1. Project sampling and testing program
    2. Project special provisions
    3. Computation and use of quality levels analysis
    4. Product acceptance
    5. Innovative materials
  3. Workmanship
  4. Construction operations and features
    1. Adequacy of provisions for safety and traffic handling (traffic management plan, traffic control plan, public information and outreach, etc.)
    2. Accelerated techniques
    3. Innovative processes and procedures
  5. Project records
    1. Field checks by project personnel and others
    2. Quantity and quality of materials delivered, used, and rejected
    3. Construction work performed
    4. Methods and frequencies of checks on scales and other measuring devices
    5. Adequacy of field notes, diaries, and records supporting pay quantities
    6. Subcontracting
    7. Labor compliance, Equal Employment Opportunity, Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), and on-the-job training
  6. Changes and extra work including time extensions
  7. Compliance with environmental and American With Disabilities Act commitments and permit stipulations (erosion/pollution control-EPA-NPDES, 106 Cultural-SHPO, 404 permit-COE, Section 7-FWS, etc.)
  8. Staffing, inspector qualifications, facilities, and project control
  9. Claims and potential claims
  10. Compliance with contract requirements with respect to physical measurements (number of lanes, width of roadway/shoulders, clearance on structures, etc.)

2. Review of Work Items

  1. Right-of-way clearance, demolition
  2. Utilities
  3. Clearing and grubbing
  4. Earthwork and grading
  5. Environmental
    1. Erosion and sediment control
    2. Dust abatement
    3. Construction noise
    4. Other environmental commitments
  6. Drainage and minor structures
  7. Major structures
  8. Subbase and base
  9. Work zone
    1. Traffic management and traffic control planning
    2. Installation, and maintenance of traffic control devices
    3. Work safety
  10. Paving
    1. Flexible
    2. Rigid
  11. Roadsides
  12. Appurtenances
    1. Signs
    2. Signals
    3. Lighting
    4. Fencing
    5. Guardrail and other hardware
  13. Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Performance
    1. Verify that DBE on the job matches DBE as proposed in bid
    2. Performing in accordance with contract commitments
    3. Directing its own activities
    4. Performing a commercially useful function
  14. Miscellaneous
  15. Cleanup
  16. Intelligent transportation system features
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Updated: 06/27/2017
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