The National Academies

NCHRP 20-73 [Completed]

Accelerating Transportation Program and Project Delivery: Conception to Completion

  Project Data
Funds: $299,960
Research Agency: Jacobs Engineering (formerly Edwards and Kelcey, Inc.)
Principal Investigator: Dennis Keck
Effective Date: 4/2/2007
Completion Date: 2/28/2010

Transportation agencies must continually improve their managerial, organizational, and operational effectiveness; and project delivery--the process that takes new or renewed transportation facilities and services from conception to completion, ready for users--is a primary indicator of an agency's effectiveness. Individual highway and other transportation projects are developed under programs intended to implement agency and legislative initiatives and other public policy. The way programs are organized and managed can determine the speed and efficiency of project development. Accelerating program functions can speed up project delivery.
The delivery process includes planning, programming, design, construction, and related activities. Accelerating delivery entails addressing environmental review issues in a timely manner, acquiring rights-of-way from multiple property owners, developing context-sensitive solutions in design, securing approvals from myriad government agencies, satisfying various community concerns, monitoring project-delivery timeframes, assuring that project-development resources are available when needed, and identifying and reducing impediments to faster decision making. It is not unusual for major projects to take 5 to 7 years in the development phases and then 3 to 4 years more in construction. Many projects take far longer because significant community, environmental, or property-acquisition issues must be resolved. Delayed projects increase congestion and project expenses, adversely affect safety, impose social costs, and impede economic development.

Much research on accelerating delivery has focused on tools and business practices that can speed the completion of particular phases of the project-delivery process. Few, if any, of these studies have addressed the subject of acceleration from a holistic perspective, looking at the full delivery process from initial conception to completion of construction and from program as well as project perspectives. Most agencies are organized to manage the sequential phases individually, without consideration of the overall process. Project development for these agencies entails a series of formal handoffs between organizational units, with each unit responsible only for its own phase. In many cases, however, delays arise as a result of factors that influence several project-delivery phases, such as an agency's internal management procedures, legal requirements, and funding uncertainties. In addition, delays often arise from the way programs are structured and administered. While improvements can be made to expedite completion of each individual phase, there are also opportunities to make improvements through better organization and managment of the delivery process overall .

The objective of this research was to provide examples and other guidance regarding best practices for accelerating program and project delivery while maintaining quality. The research entailed a comprehensive literature review and selected interviews to identify cases representing successful program and project acceleration.   The research team conducted in-depth studies of these cases, eight state departments of transportation (DOTs) that had acheived noteworthy imporvements in their project delivery performance.  From these case studies, the researchers identified common themes, including factors contributing to success; impediments, advantages, and disadvantages of acceleration strategies, techniques, and practices; and organizational and process issues affecting delivery.  

PRODUCT:  The final project report has been published as NCHRP Report 662.  

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