The National Academies

NCHRP 20-24(144) [Pending]

Enhancing State DOTs Agility in Project Development and Delivery
[ NCHRP 20-24 (Administration of Highway and Transportation Agencies) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $350,000
Contract Time: 27 months
Staff Responsibility: Trey Joseph Wadsworth
Comments: A research agency has been selected for the project. The contracting process is underway.


Project development and delivery (PDD) for state departments of transportation (DOTs) is increasingly complex. State DOTs strive to maintain assets, increase system reliability, increase the safety and resiliency of their transportation systems, meet customer transportation needs, add mode choices and do so while enhancing equity and sustainability. However, current PDD practices and processes that rely on waterfall project management methodologies are proving to be insufficient for the increasing scope and scale of projects that often have multiple objectives. The linear progression through various gates and approval steps does not allow state DOTs to proactively address or resolve new information or issues learned in PDD without delaying subsequent tasks and, ultimately, the project schedule.

Techniques for accelerating various technical aspects of PDD have been explored and implemented successfully by state DOTs. Examples may include, but are not limited to:

  • Planning and environmental linkage studies, 
  • Alternative procurement mechanisms,
  • State DOTs paid environmental reviewers or permitters at resource agencies, 
  • Planning tools used to assist in the scoping of projects, 
  • Stakeholder involvement during design, or
  • Construction change management.

However, holistic approaches to increase state DOTs agility through the life cycle of PDD are not well documented or not adequate. Further, while approaches such as Agile project management are well developed, the benefits are not presented to state DOTs leadership and staff in highway PDD terms. The implementation experience has sometimes resulted in limited adaptations from other sectors.  

Opportunities to employ novel approaches may include implementing Agile project management with the concepts of design sprints, integrating cross-functional teams across organizational boundaries, and empowering decision-making. Benefits for state DOTs may include maximizing available financial resources and shortening timelines for each stage in the PDD life cycle. Research is needed to assist state DOTs in building a culture of agility to accelerate, enhance, and innovate for better PDD.



The objective of this research is to identify and prepare practical guidelines for state DOTs to implement accelerated and agile PDD practices and methods.

Accomplishment of the project objective will require at least the following tasks.



The sequencing of tasks and deliverable submissions (such as technical memorandums or summary reports) shall be structured according to the precepts of Agile project management techniques. The selected contractor will work with the panel in a team-based Agile environment (inclusive of all approaches under the Agile umbrella). The research team will create and maintain the system architecture, requirements backlog, and roadmaps that will be the basis for the contractor's work. The contractor's team will develop user stories, a release plan, products, and acceptance criteria. 

To align with NCHRP requirements, all proposed deliverables shall be submitted along with quarterly progress reports, though work should be completed in sprints. There will be three project phases and two interim reports with updated research plans. An in-person interim meeting should follow the submission of the first interim report, and a virtual interim meeting to follow the submission of the second interim report. The research plan shall include 1 month for review and NCHRP approval of each interim report. The research agency shall not proceed to the next phase without NCHRP's approval of the interim reports and updated research plans.

An engagement strategy should be developed and presented in the proposal to achieve the research objective. Engagement should occur for two purposes: (1) data gathering and (2) workshopping draft materials to gain feedback from DOT practitioners before inclusion in final project deliverables and eventual dissemination. Proposers may consider the use of focus groups, peer exchanges, workshops, participation in American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials or TRB committee meetings, or other techniques that may be appropriate. NCHRP discourages the use of survey questionnaires for this project. The proposer should be creative and inclusive in devising how to bring together participants from diverse backgrounds and geographies.



The first phase will include kick-off and project initiation activities and shall not exceed two project quarters (6 months). This timeline includes submitting the interim report, the panel review period, and the first interim meeting).  

The following shall be included in the first quarterly progress report:

  1. The "Definition of Done";
  2. Project roadmap;
  3. Project backlog;
  4. Stakeholder engagement matrix; and
  5. Innovation/risk register.

The following acceleration strategies shall be examined for the entire PDD life cycle, from as early as problem identification through construction completion. In the first interim report, the following should be identified:

  1. Agile contracting and procurements;
  2. Agile or Agile hybrid project management approach;
  3. Project assessment matrix (high-risk/high profile);
  4. Team roles, teaming tools, and team charters;
  5. Describe (without naming) cloud-based software tools for state/public/private engagement for collaboration;
  6. Data management tools to reduce knowledge loss during handoffs;
  7. Engagement and collaboration platforms;
  8. Project and team tracking tools (velocity/story points), including identification of metrics for performance management;
  9. Decision-making processes in distributed teams (contract authority, supervisory authority, vs. functional supervision);
  10. Team dynamics (integration, culture building, or psychological safety); and
  11. Optimized organizational charts.

The acceleration strategies above should help develop final project deliverables in subsequent phases. The goal is to comprehensively understand how best practices might be "knit together" for potential concepts or frameworks for a holistic approach for state DOTs to consider implementing along a "PDD Roadmap." The research team might employ a literature review, an accelerated and concise synthesis of practice, direct observation and documentation of practices in action translatable to state DOTs (for development of case examples), or a combination thereof. These activities should serve as a benchmark and point of departure for future improvements in PDD at state DOTs. 



The research team should utilize the roadmap to structure the tasks of Phase II, ultimately demonstrating how the information gained in Phase I could improve each PDD stage. Each project quarter in Phase II (3 months) shall focus upon specific stages in the PDD life cycle and conclude with a summary presented in the quarterly progress report marking the completion of the examination of the PDD stage. 

It is expected that the following stages will be examined:

  1. Project scoping/planning and funding/finance;
  2. Environmental review/permitting;
  3. Design and right-of-way acquisition;
  4. Construction; and
  5. Closing and post-construction.

Phase II shall not exceed five quarters (15 months). In each summary, the PDD stage examined in that quarter should demonstrate (1) where and how strategies should be considered and (2) a detailed enumeration of desired outcomes that can be achieved through implementing the strategies. An interim report shall be prepared and delivered in the final and fifth quarter of Phase II that cohesively encapsulate all project stages. In addition, the research team shall sketch new concepts or frameworks for PDD for state DOTs that may consider bolder approaches rather than incremental improvements or alternatives to the existing typical stages or waterfall methodologies. An example might be the National Association of City Transportation Official's Structured for Success report (found at https://nacto.org/publication/structured-for-success). 



The research team shall focus Phase III on preparing the final deliverables with the information gained in the previous two phases. This phase shall not exceed two project quarters (6 months) in the project schedule. An engagement activity should be identified in this phase, and its desired outcome should be detailed in the engagement strategy presented in the proposal. The final report is envisioned to be organized with the intent for state DOTs to implement findings and include the development or identification of the following:

  1. Case examples with lessons learned from the successful and unsuccessful implementation of strategies for PDD agility from state DOTs and other transportation-focused organizations; 
  2. Guidelines, tools, technologies, and templates; 
  3. Specific work plans on how to implement changes; and
  4. Training along with team and culture-building opportunities.

Anticipated final deliverables include (1) a final report presented in Microsoft Word, (2) a PowerPoint presentation with speaker notes that summarizes the project, (3) a draft article suitable for publication in the TR News (no guarantee of publication is implied), and (4) an Implementation Plan.


STATUS: Proposals have been received in response to the RFP.  The project panel will meet to select a contractor to perform the work.


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