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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Focus > July/August 2000 > DC Streets: An Innovative Partnership for Better Roads
July/August 2000Publication Number: FHWA-RD-00-060

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DC Streets: An Innovative Partnership for Better Roads

Asset management is coming to city streets, thanks to a new partnership among the District of Columbia Department of Public Works (DCDPW), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and the highway industry. In an initiative known as "DC Streets," DCDPW and FHWA are contracting with VMS, Inc., to preserve and maintain approximately 75 miles of the major streets and highways in the District. These roads make up the District's portion of the National Highway System and are heavily used by residents, commuters, and tourists.

Washington, DC, mayor Anthony Williams
Washington, DC, mayor Anthony Williams (top) and Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater were among the dignitaries at the June 19 launch of the DC Streets project.
Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater
DC Streets poster

The innovative contract calls for performance-based work, in which a desired outcome is specified rather than a material or method. This differs from traditional maintenance contracts, which typically mandate what materials and techniques are to be used. "Instead of the District looking to see how many people we have on the job or how many tons of asphalt we use, they'll look at the results of what we do, such as the rideability of the pavement. They'll see if we meet the standards," says Preston Kelley of VMS.

The new contract reflects the increasingly popular concept known as asset management, which emphasizes the preservation, upgrading, and timely replacement of highway assets through cost-effective planning and resource allocation decisions.

The project will cover not only pavement maintenance, but also upkeep of such assets as tunnels, bridges, roadside features (including curbs, gutters, sidewalks, and retaining walls), and pedestrian bridges. Starting in the winter of 2001/2002, snow and ice control will also be part of the contract.

"Under this new partnership, major roads and neighborhood streets will be better maintained, which will benefit residents as well as visitors," said FHWA Administrator Kenneth Wykle at the June 19 ceremonial signing of the contract. "We're using an innovative method of contracting that will save time and money and is based on outcome, not bureaucratic process."

In addition to saving time and money, the new contract brings the added benefit of freeing up DCDPW employees to spend more time improving and maintaining the more than 1,400 miles of additional roads and neighborhood streets in the District. "This will be a real plus for the city," says Luke DiPompo, project manager for the new contract at DCDPW. "Because we have a shortage of personnel, being able to redeploy our staff to other streets will be a main benefit."

VMS has worked on performance-based contracts in States such as Virginia, Texas, and Oklahoma, with its 1996 contract with the Virginia Department of Transportation being the first time a private firm assumed full responsibility for comprehensive maintenance of significant portions of a State's Interstate highway system. The DC project, however, "is the first time a city has done this on such a large scale," says Kelley.

The $70-million, 5-year contract is the largest transportation investment in DCDPW's history. It also represents the first time that FHWA has teamed directly with a city government on a program to preserve its highway infrastructure. FHWA's role will include providing management advice and assisting in evaluating the work of VMS annually, using objective measures evaluated against the baseline and targets set in the contract.

For more information, contact Jim Sorenson at FHWA, 202-366-1333 (fax: 202-366-9981; email: james.sorenson@fhwa.dot.gov).

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Updated: 04/07/2011

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