U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
SPOTLIGHT ON SAFETY:
Improving Project Delivery Timelines and Reducing Costs in North Carolina
The NCDOT is evaluating a variety of methods to improve project delivery timelines and reduce the overall cost of delivering HSIP projects. Examples include combining multiple related safety projects in a single contract, the use of the design-build delivery mechanism for fast-track delivery of projects with well-defined scope, and the use of on-call contractors to facilitate immediate delivery of identified projects. Established limited services agreements (LSA) provide an opportunity to use on-call contractors to quickly deploy and conduct surveys (for improved estimates), and to project hearings and expedited designs for safety projects without the need for additional contract advertisement and the associated time and cost impacts. Using consultants for design also helps balance NCDOT staff workloads while addressing budget constraints with effective interim projects in cases where the full recommended project cannot be delivered.
The Alaska DOT&PF established a close working relationship between the regional traffic safety engineers, project development and engineering staff in the three Regions, and the traffic safety practitioners at the Headquarters. This working relationship promotes the highly-focused scoping of projects, resulting in excellent cost control and improved transition of projects from approval and funding into successful construction. Within the DOT&PF, the regional traffic and safety engineers work with design engineers at the Region level to keep HSIP projects targeted at cost efficient safety improvements and on schedule. Design engineers serve as project managers and are responsible for delivering projects from the time the project funds are obligated for advancement through the preparation of construction contract documents. The project managers within DOT&PF also bring the DOT&PF "tunnel vision" approach to safety engineering to public meetings and apply it throughout HSIP project development. The "tunnel vision" approach in Alaska provides for a singular focus on safety outcomes as the driving factor behind infrastructure decisions for HSIP projects, such that project decisions that have outcomes other than safety are not part of the vision.
Coordination between Headquarters and the Regions in Alaska helps with effective scoping of projects, cost control, and the transition of projects from approval and funding to successful construction.
MassDOT has dedicated District project managers responsible for project delivery. These project managers oversee the preparation of reports, preliminary design and final design, the design waiver process for Design Exception Reports, and all other aspects of project development and delivery once a project is approved to advance to design, for all projects delivered by MassDOT. The MassDOT HSIP Program Manager works to coordinate project readiness with advertisement for bid schedules and works closely with the project managers to ensure the timely completion of all of the elements required for project delivery and construction. This working relationship has been the key to obligating HSIP funds to the full programmed amount.
The IDOT Central Office uses one consultant contract to support the implementation of the HSIP through tasks such as data analysis and development of analysis tools, policy and guidance development, and reporting. Having one consultant ensures continuity and provides a common approach in terms of statewide implementation. Districts do have the ability to use their HSIP funding to hire their own consultant. Currently, District 1 in Northeastern Illinois is the only District that hires their own consultant.
IDOT uses one consultant to assist with support of HSIP implementation, providing consistency across statewide implementation.
With the exception of Alaska, the other Host States also referenced the use of consultants to assist with their HSIP:
All States demonstrated a strong ability to manage the HSIP, particularly with regard to tracking funding obligations, project status, and project performance.
SPOTLIGHT ON SAFETY:
Using Program and Project Management Tools to Manage the HSIP in Illinois
The Illinois DOT maintains several tools to help manage the HSIP. This includes the HSIP SharePoint site, a Benefit/Cost Tool, and a Funding Allocation Spreadsheet.
The HSIP SharePoint is used to manage all State and local HSIP projects. Internal IDOT staff created the tool on the internal SharePoint site, sourcing data from the application forms. The SharePoint site has the HSIP application, assigns each HSIP candidate an "HSIP number" for tracking purposes, and incorporates criteria considered in support of the Illinois SHSP (i.e. emphasis areas) and the HSIP implementation. It includes project cost, type of improvement related to the SHSP emphasis area, scope of project, Benefit-Cost, crash data, and supporting documentation. The HSIP assigned number is required to input the HSIP project into IDOT's Planning and Programming System and when entering the project into FHWA's Financial Management Information System (FMIS) for federal authorization. The database generated from the SharePoint site is used to assist with queries on emphasis areas and improvement types for the purposes of HSIP reporting. The elimination of paper applications was necessary to streamline processes. The management tool does not follow the life of the project, a process that occurs at the District level with District tools. IDOT has also developed a statewide GIS layer identifying all HSIP projects which can be used as part of the evaluation process. Additionally, IDOT provides FHWA's safety staff with access to the system so that they can review the scope of work and authorize HSIP funds.
Districts are responsible for maintaining their own project tracking tools. Some Districts, such as District 1, maintain a spreadsheet that includes information on where projects are in the project development process in order to manage their large number of projects. Districts with smaller HSIP programs tend to work on a year-to-year basis and tracking projects in a spreadsheet has evolved over time as those districts have programmed additional projects. The Districts upload all project information from the Districts to the SharePoint site, which can be queried as needed or reviewed to determine if there is a large enough sample size for evaluation of a specific project type or countermeasure.
IDOT used the HSIP consultant team to create the Benefit/Cost Tool, and aid in calculating b/c estimates using crash data and countermeasures proposed. The consultants designed the tool to offer the flexibility of user-defined crashes and benefits while also offering a library of common crash types and countermeasures with attributes that have been validated by research and use. This tool has been provided to other States for their modification and use.
BSE uses the Funding Allocation Tracking Spreadsheet, with a separate tool used in District 1, to determine the funding that has been allocated and obligated to projects. This tool, combined with the strong project development process and preparation of engineering estimates by IDOT staff, ensures that funding obligations are consistent with annual appropriations, facilitating a high obligation rate and reducing the potential lapsed funding.
The Alaska DOT&PF HSIP Funding Plan illustrates anticipated annual obligation by project, phase, and funding source for the current federal fiscal year. All new and on-going HSIP projects appear in the funding plan. It provides a mechanism for aligning projects with funding sources to assure funding sources will be fully utilized during each federal fiscal year. The HSIP Funding Plan is prepared by headquarters Traffic and Safety staff in cooperation with Program Development staff to allocate available funding to scheduled project phases according to priority. When the plan shows applicable funding sources are fully allocated, project phases that remain unallocated are assigned to advanced construction. Advancement on the construction calendar is a process that uses available funding to move projects forward in the bid advertisement schedule, meaning that projects and the corresponding improvements can be delivered sooner. This provides regional decision-makers the option to reallocate funds from one project to another in reaction to changes in project development schedules.
Alaska DOT&PF uses an HSIP Funding Plan and Project Tracking Spreadsheet to manage their HSIP, allocate funding to scheduled project phases according to priority, anticipate future funding needs, and estimate new project funding requirement.
DOT&PF's Project Tracking Spreadsheet is a critically-important element of the success of the HSIP. The Project Tracking Spreadsheet is used to track obligations on all new and on-going projects. DOT&PF develops it in the Fall to align with expected obligations in the HSIP Funding Plan. When a region requests approval to obligate funds on an HSIP project, T&S staff verify the project is identified in the HSIP Funding Plan (or in a previous Funding Plan, in the case of a construction overrun or change order), then record the amount and the funding type in the spreadsheet (along with date and reason). The region then submits the T&S approval along with other paperwork to the staff in Capital Improvement Projects for processing and final funding approval by FHWA.
The Project Tracking Spreadsheet provides a point-in-time snapshot of progress toward DOT&PF's goal of full program obligation. Actual project obligations and timing of the obligations often differ from what is anticipated in the HSIP Funding Plan, so the funding situation during the fiscal year is fluid. The tool gives DOT&PF the ability to anticipate and respond to changes in the plan, for example, needing to request special attention on a High Risk Rural Roads project or railroad crossing project to ensure obligation of those funding types before the end of the fiscal year.
The Project Tracking Spreadsheet is not considered fully accurate as the Capital Improvement Program has the authoritative data and they may alter funding types or deobligate funds without T&S's knowledge after they approve a funding request (and record it in the Project Tracking Spreadsheet). However, it is extremely useful as a tool to follow the annual obligation of funds.
The Project Tracking Spreadsheet also allows the DOT&PF to identify funding that is unallocated, funding to be returned from projects constructed under bid price, and projects being held for future construction. Funds originally designated for HSIP all remain within the Alaska HSIP, providing flexibility in programming work. The DOT&PF Regions are responsible for maintaining a historical listing of HSIP Projects and are responsible for submitting annual reports to headquarters staff.
The New Hampshire DOT developed a spreadsheet-based tracking system for project origination method, scope, progress in project development, HSIP data, and project delivery information. A second spreadsheet-based tracking system was developed to track the funding of HSIP projects. Both of these tools have grown in scope and size, but NHDOT staff continue to manage them in-house, permitting immediate access to data in a structure that is consistent with NHDOT's approach to HSIP program delivery.
New Hampshire DOT maintains two spreadsheet-based tracking systems to help manage their HSIP and track the funding of HSIP projects.
In an effort to manage project cost increases, NHDOT established Cost Thresholds for triggering a review of projects that exceed the obligated amount by a set percentage. The Cost Threshold values and process for handling projects falling within are included in the NHDOT HSIP Manual and Guidance, which is managed by the HSIP Committee and are shown in Figure 18.
Figure 18. New Hampshire DOT cost thresholds.
Being dependent on the size of a given HSIP project, the cost threshold policy divides projects into three size groups and identifies cost thresholds in whole dollars or a percentage of the project. If a project is trending toward exceeding the obligation amount plus the cost threshold, the project is referred to the HSIP Committee for review. The HSIP Committee can recommend changes to the scope of the project, identify issues related to project cost increases, and if necessary, terminate a project that will not provide an adequate return on investment.
UDOT developed the WorkFlow Manager (WFMan) tool, with support from a consultant, to enter, view, evaluate, rank, program, and track all UDOT HSIP applications and projects. Access is provided via a web interface and allows for unlimited users, including UDOT staff, consultants, and local government partners. WFMan provides HSIP funding applicants the ability to submit applications, perform real-time edits and revisions, receive summary notifications, and track the status of each application as it progresses through the evaluation, ranking, and programming process.
UDOT HSIP program managers use WFMan to review and qualify applications based on standardized ranking and eligibility criteria. Once ranked, program managers place applications into a 3-year program and ensure that annual budgets are efficiently allocated. As projects are initiated, WFMan tracks key project information to provide program managers the ability to monitor schedules, track project and program cash flow, document project-related decisions, and inform leadership. Figure 19 shows a screenshot of WFMan.
Figure 19. Screenshot of the UDOT WorkFlow Manager tool.
The Scan Tour highlighted various ways that States include the HSIP in the STIP.
IDOT uses a single category, Statewide Safety, in its STIP for safety projects, including railroad safety projects. This enables them to refer to just one STIP number when receiving federally-authorized funding and eliminates the impediments caused by using line items for safety projects. States often find that it is difficult to spend all available funding when line items are required in the STIP, as projects and programs are constantly changing. 23 CFR part 450.216 describes the use of grouping in the STIP.
Likewise, in Alaska, the HSIP is in the STIP as an "umbrella project," providing broad flexibility to the DOT&PF. In order to encourage flexibility in project development and the highest degree of success in correcting safety deficiencies, HSIP funds in Alaska are available to deliver safety improvements within other projects, provided that the funds are used in compliance with Section 1.4 of the Alaska HSIP Handbook.
Illinois and Alaska use a single umbrella category for HSIP projects in the STIP, while Massachusetts uses a combination of an umbrella category and individually programmed safety projects in the STIP, and Oregon programs individual safety projects in the STIP.
In Massachusetts, the 13 MPOs represent the municipalities and towns in the statewide transportation planning processes. For each MPO, the local Joint Transportation Planning Group determines which projects will be included in the statewide STIP, serving as a bridge between the community and MassDOT. This identification of projects (not just HSIP projects) is based on evaluation criteria in which safety features and anticipated outcomes account for 24 out of 99 points. The projects are ranked by the total score for inclusion in the STIP. In addition, there is an SHSP emphasis area line item included in the STIP as a separate project, dedicating funding to addressing these issues. MassDOT has numerous safety projects that are individually programmed in the STIP. However, they also have a placeholder for "HSIP projects to address SHSP strategies." This enables MassDOT to quickly let projects as they come up from various SHSP Emphasis Area meetings.
In Oregon, under the ARTS Program, most selected projects are programmed into the STIP on an individual basis. ODOT anticipates that all projects under the ARTS Program will be stand-alone safety projects. However, Regions might decide to bundle similar safety projects into larger projects for efficient project development and delivery.
The HSIP is a multi-year program that in any one year simultaneously supports the collection and analysis of data, the identification of highway safety improvement projects, the evaluation of countermeasures, and the design and construction of projects. States that plan and budget for the program on a multi-year basis can better coordinate and leverage all opportunities to advance HSIP implementation efforts and use all available funds efficiently and effectively to reduce fatalities and serious injuries.
SPOTLIGHT ON SAFETY:
New Hampshire's Multi-year Program
New Hampshire delivers systemic projects on a multi-year program, focusing on both infrastructure, behavioral, and data solutions. Upgrading guardrail from cable to beam, barrier end-terminal upgrades, rumble strip installation, and signal improvements including reflectorized backplates are characteristic of New Hampshire's infrastructure-based systemic projects. NHDOT has used the multi-year delivery approach to ensure the completion of projects, even if completed over time, and provide for program flexibility when identifying and funding other needs. In years where HSIP funding is needed for a larger project or group of projects, NHDOT can lower the investment in systemic projects while remaining confident that the projects will be completed over time.
In Utah, the Safety Programs Engineer programs all HSIP projects, working closely with the Department's project development staff. In general, the HSIP is programmed in excess of annual apportionment, with the expectation of returned funds from closed projects and constructed projects with less-than-expected bids. Additionally, programming in excess of apportionment also accounts for delayed projects. The programming of a 3-year STIP provides UDOT with opportunities to advance projects for construction and ensures flexibility for the addition of new projects to address emerging issues. Included in this flexibility is UDOT's preference to deliver projects that are able to be completed quickly, those with a smaller scope and those projects that have completed project delivery checklists for advertising and construction.
In Alaska, a similar statewide multi-year programming approach is taken, with projects being programmed and monitored by DOT&PF headquarters staff. The multi-year plan allows DOT&PF the flexibility to shift project start dates to account for readiness, availability of funding, and other factors, ensuring that multi-year objectives are being met. In addition, DOT&PF recognizes that development of a multi-year implementation for a systemic project can deliver cost efficiencies in project and construction management when larger projects are used for delivery.
The streamlining and coordination of project delivery efforts was a key contribution to HSIP performance in terms of project timelines and cost control. This included efforts such as using contractors/consultants to assist with HSIP efforts, using program and project management tools, programming HSIP projects as an umbrella category in the STIP, and establishing multi-year plans and budgets.
Alaska, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire exhibited strong performance in the coordination with project development staff and project managers. In Massachusetts, close working relationships with project development and Federal Aid program staff ensured that project delivery was not encumbered by the availability of funding or incomplete contract plans. NCDOT is evaluating a variety of methods to improve project delivery timelines and reduce the overall cost of delivering HSIP projects. This includes combining multiple related safety projects in a single contract, the use of the design-build delivery mechanism for fast-track delivery of projects with well-defined scope, and the use of on-call contractors to facilitate immediate delivery of identified projects.
All States demonstrated a strong ability to manage the HSIP, particularly with regard to tracking funding obligations, project status, and project performance. In Illinois, one District created and maintained its own project tracking system, owing to the size of the HSIP obligation in that District. In New Hampshire, North Carolina, Alaska, and Utah, the central office tracks project obligations and status in the interest of ensuring projects continue to progress. New Hampshire also tracks project budgets and has developed a documented means of dealing with projects that exceed the appropriation by a set amount so that a review of the project can be triggered.
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