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

Skip to content


Federal Highway Administration / Publications / Focus / September 2003

Accelerating Infrastructure Innovations

Publication Number: FHWA-RD-03-021
Date: September 2003

Value Engineering 2003: Conference Features Success Stories, Lessons Learned

Value engineering (VE) success stories and lessons learned from across the United States and worldwide were in the spotlight at the 2003 American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials'/Federal Highway Administration (AASHTO/FHWA) Value Engineering Conference. Held in Tampa, Florida, from July 15-18, 2003, the conference drew 145 attendees, including many international participants. The event featured three tracks: Case Studies, Starting and Maintaining a VE Program, and Advanced Tools and Techniques.

"The conference was good for the people just getting into value engineering and also useful for the long-term practitioners," noted Jim St. John, Division Administrator in FHWA's Florida Division Office. "You could see a lot of mentoring going on during the sessions. It was really a community of practice." In addition to the State highway agencies that participated, engineers came from Greece, Japan, India, Canada, Korea, and other countries to learn more about the VE concept and process.

Using the VE process, a highway agency reviews a project's features and looks for ways to improve quality, foster innovation, and lower owner costs. A VE study typically takes 4-5 days to perform and involves a multidisciplinary team. At the concept stage, this team might include planning and right-of-way staff, environmentalists, and private citizens. A study done during the design phase of a project might involve a team of construction, design, traffic, and maintenance staff.

Conference sessions looked at everything from the basics of VE to setting up a VE training program to incorporating VE with design-build contracting. A presentation on the Florida Turnpike's Orlando South Interchange looked at how VE analysis was used to improve this often confusing interchange, which connects two freeways and three surface streets. Eight of 12 recommended VE alternatives have been accepted to date, at an estimated cost savings of $48.4 million. In Ottawa, Canada, meanwhile, VE review of the planned rehabilitation of King Edward Avenue identified significant potential cost savings. King Edward Avenue is a main arterial route in Ottawa that also leads across the Ottawa River to the Province of Quebec, serving as the primary interprovincial link for car and truck traffic. The VE analysis was performed in the planning stage of the project. An independent team identified $6 million in potential savings from the original project budget of $18 million. The VE recommendations included making modifications to the interchange design at the North End of the project.

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) highlighted lessons learned from its Caltrans Value Analysis (VA) Program. Over the last 7 years, Caltrans has completed 175 VA project studies, resulting in cost savings of $870 million and a return on investment of 92:1. Other benefits of the Caltrans VA process is that it saves on project development time, provides a method to quantify the project scope, and helps in building consensus among project stakeholders. Key project performance criteria that are analyzed include the highway operations, system preservation, and environmental impact aspects of a project, as well as the project schedule. "The VA program assures the project stakeholders that viable alternatives have been thoroughly considered and evaluated," said George Hunter, the VA Program Director for Caltrans.

Ken Smith of the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) reported on the many resources available in AASHTO's VE Toolbox, which can be found on the AASHTO VE Web site at www.wsdot.wa.gov/eesc/design/aashtove. The toolbox includes VE evaluation and criteria matrixes and a cost model. Also available are Caltrans' Value Analysis Report and Team Guide and the WSDOT's VE Study Template, information on Value Engineering for Small Transportation Projects, and a Value Engineering Workbook Template.

The conference also featured the presentation of the FHWA Value Engineering Outstanding Achievement Awards, which recognize accomplishments by State highway VE programs over the past 2 years, and the AASHTO National Value Engineering Awards, which honor outstanding VE projects. The FHWA awards were presented to Florida, New Jersey, Tennessee, and West Virginia (see sidebar).

The AASHTO awards were given for the Most Value Added Project and the Most Innovative Project in the categories of Design Engineering, Process Improvement, and Construction (see sidebar).

To learn more about the 2003 VE Conference, visit the AASHTO VE Web site at www.wsdot.wa.gov/eesc/design/aashtove. Presentations and abstracts from the conference have been posted on the site. For more information on VE, contact Donald Jackson at FHWA, 202-366-4630 (fax: 202-366-3988; email: donald.jackson@fhwa.dot.gov) or check the FHWA VE Web site at www.fhwa.dot.gov/ve/index.htm.

FHWA VE Outstanding Achievement Awards

FHWA's 2003 Value Engineering Outstanding Achievement Awards recognized Florida, New Jersey, West Virginia, and Tennessee for their overall VE accomplishments. The Florida Department of Transportation has been a leader nationwide in VE since it started its program in the mid 1970s. Over the past 8 years, Florida has conducted more than 450 VE studies and realized nearly $1.3 billion in implemented cost avoidance recommendations. The average return-on-investment rate of the VE studies is 110:1. To better share its VE results, Florida is developing a new informational database that will be accessible through the Internet.

The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) created its VE Unit in 1989. A Department reorganization in 1996 then led to an expanded VE group. Since 1999, NJDOT has saved more than $60 million annually from preconstruction VE studies. Starting in 2000, the VE Unit also began evaluating road user costs to determine the most cost-effective staging for projects. These analyses have led to VE recommendations that minimize road user delays and costs.

The West Virginia Division of Highways (DOH) first offered VE training to engineers and managers in 1978. Over the years, it has incorporated VE into its project development and construction processes, reporting in 2002 that it had saved $70 million as a result of VE proposals made over the previous 2 years. The DOH is currently building on its VE success by developing a new VE Handbook.

While the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) has been conducting VE studies for almost 16 years, the appointment of a full-time VE coordinator in 1999 helped to revitalize its program. In 2002, Tennessee conducted 20 VE studies and realized more than $4 million in savings. TDOT is implementing a database system this year to track all VE studies and their recommendations and has also started a VE Web site.

AASHTO National VE Awards

In the construction category, the Ohio Department of Transportation received the Most Value Added award for its work to completely remove and rebuild an eight-span continuous steel girder and concrete deck bridge over the Ashtabula River in Ashtabula, Ohio. The VE recommendations changed the superstructure from steel girders to precast concrete beams; added one more beam line; redesigned the bridge deck; and changed the substructure by adding one pier, redesigning all piers, and eliminating the drill shafts. Following these recommendations saved $962,744 off the original contract price of $10,699,682.

The Florida Department of Transportation was honored with the Most Innovative Construction award for its project on SR 60A from Agricola Road to Broadway Avenue in Bartow, Florida. The project originally called for constructing two bridges with a center island that separated the West Bartow Front Porch Community from the rest of the town. The Value Engineering Change Proposal (VECP) submitted by the contractor proposed a single structure, eliminating the center island and reconnecting the West Bartow Front Porch Community with the rest of the town. This VECP reduced the construction time by 125 days and saved approximately $77,876.

NJDOT received the Most Value Added Engineering Award for its work on Route 1 & 9T and Route 7. This major artery handles port traffic and local and commuter traffic within the northern New Jersey and New York City region. The project will realign Route 1 & 9T and temporarily reconfigure the connection to the Route 7 bridge over the Hackensack River. Among other accomplishments, the VE recommendations have improved the construction staging, reduced the construction duration, and minimized road user costs. In all, the VE analysis reduced the $188.3 million project cost by $13.6 million.

The Most Innovative Engineering award went to the Texas Department of Transportation for its widening of US 82 from US 259 to IH 30. This 17.7-km (11-mi) section is a two-lane roadway with limited shoulders. The project will widen the road to four lanes, with a continuous flush median and 16-km (10-ft) outside shoulders. VE recommendations saved $1.5 million on the $25 million project.

Caltrans was honored with the Most Value Added During Process Improvement award for its VA study of the District 11 Right of Way Decertification Process. Typically, the process for decertifying State property for sale to the public takes about 20 months. VE recommendations for reducing this timeline shaved nearly 7 months off the process.

The award for the Most Innovative Process Improvement proposal went to WSDOT for its North Spokane Corridor Project. This $1.4 billion, 16.7-km (10.4-mi) initiative will connect I-90 to US 395. The VE study results included improved design schemes, reduced impacts on city parks, and preservation of existing ramp structures. The VE study also allowed for public input into the design process, which increased community acceptance of the project.

Back to Articles in this Issue

PDF files can be viewed with the Acrobat® Reader®
Updated: 06/27/2017
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000