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 >>

Performance Specifications Strategic Roadmap: A Vision for the Future

Chapter 5. A Viable Contract Option

Time changes things. Resources change. Performance requirements for products change. And roles and responsibilities change. The Performance Specifications Strategic Road Map began by describing what all good specifications should address:

  • What do we want?
  • How do we order it?
  • How do we measure what we ordered?
  • How do we know we got what we ordered?
  • What do we do if we don't get what we ordered?

The first bullet is the most critical. If that question is not answered clearly and succinctly, a specification writer may go down a technical path that could lead to a waste of time, effort, and resources.

Today, transportation agencies must evaluate the very nature of the procurement process for products and services and must describe what they want in a different way. The people have changed, the experience is lacking, and the need for innovation and creativity in the construction process must include contractors and suppliers. From design-build and best- value contracting to warranties, contract maintenance and beyond, highway agencies are looking for innovative ways to deliver highway products in partnership with contractors, suppliers, and designers.

Start with the fundamental question of "what do we want?" A stone? Asphalt and stone? A mixture of asphalt and stone? A pavement composed of mixture? Or a transportation platform that is quick to place, strong for heavy loads, comfortable to ride, aesthetically pleasing, quiet, safe, and durable for the next 20 years? The procurement journey starts here.

The communication mechanisms for construction are plans, estimates, and specifications. Connecting the design intent to the eventual performance of a product requires a clear description of the product desired. Once that is defined, the technology, science, and computer power can be unleashed. Then mix this with a whole lot of business savvy.

The overall vision of this plan is that performance specifications become viable contract options. The plan outlines the first five years of activities. Will all of the work be accomplished in that time? Of course not. But if the plan is successful, the highway industry will have the momentum to continue to make progress. A fully operational organizational structure will be in place. First-generation model specifications in select technology areas will be established. New and innovative test procedures will be designed. Some surprise products may even be ready to evaluate. We may even see evidence that innovation is occurring as desired. And the industry will be in a better position to determine if performance specifications are viable contract options.

The Performance Specifications Strategic Road Map ends the way it opened:

"To attain our goals of quality, improved product performance, and a better environment for contractor innovation, we cannot simply identify and test those construction and materials factors that best determine product performance.

"We also must address roles, responsibilities, risks, and specification language, as well to determine how best to deliver that product. Freedom to innovate with accountability to deliver is the driving force behind the performance specification movement."

Let the journey continue.

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