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16 CHAPTER 4 Accelerating Program and Project Delivery Constraints to Accelerated Delivery expected to simply relocate their facilities to accommodate the state project and are offered minimal compensation for it. In 2000, the FHWA Office of NEPA Facilitation conducted However, utility companies prioritize work that returns a rev- a study to identify the causes of delays greater than five years enue stream for them. Another issue is not that utility com- for transportation project environmental impact statements. panies do not want to "help," but that they are struggling with This nationwide study looked at 89 projects and identified that their own resources; therefore, allocating field personnel to a 57.5 percent of the projects had been active for five to seven DOT project may be difficult if they have other emergencies years, 28 percent had been active for eight to ten years, and to handle. 14.5 percent had been active for more than ten years. The top Another issue is that utility lines are inherently not apparent. four single reasons given for the durations of the projects were It is difficult to determine the exact location and depth of sub- lack of funding (18 percent), low priority (15 percent), local surface utilities--so the actual work of identifying and relocat- controversy (14 percent), and complex project (13 percent). ing utilities is difficult, especially in urban areas. Subsurface (1) While some of these reasons may apply across the board, utilities that were installed decades ago pose their own set of they may be more pronounced in projects that require exten- challenges when it comes to relocating them. sive environmental permitting. This research, in part, attempts to identify elements that derail projects from their onset to the very end. Because derail- Railroad Coordination ing elements were not the focus of the project, no attempt Railroad involvement in many projects continues to pose was made to collect quantifiable data to determine exact time challenges for project delivery. State DOTs are often faced frames for the delays. However, conversations with inter- with the challenge of having to design and construct highway viewees at the eight researched state DOTs indicated some projects across railroad properties. Similarly, railroad project very specific areas where delays were encountered in projects. managers often face difficulty in meeting the state's needs while DOTs have found time and again that certain elements of a operating within their complex operational and organiza- project traditionally cause delays. As a result, these areas are tional structures. Railroad facilities--including tracks, bridges, where states are implementing new processes to help expedite drainage structure, trackside equipment, communication and or facilitate the momentum of the project. Areas of delay were signal systems, warning devices, and electrical/mechanical found to be (a) utility coordination and relocation, (b) rail- housing--have to be incorporated into the roadway plans. Due road coordination and involvement, (c) ROW acquisition, to the extremely high cost of shutting down a railroad line and (d) interagency coordination, and (e) lack of funding. its subsequent economic impact, any encroachment onto rail- road right-of-way (horizontal or vertical) that could potentially affect railroad operations must be thoroughly reviewed and Utility Coordination and Relocation resolved. The most innovative examples of railroad/highway Projects that involve multiple utility relocations often expe- projects involving structures have included methods that rience delays at some point in the project--either during the replace entire bridges and overpasses over active rail lines. design phase, when coordination is instrumental, or more Perhaps because railroads have predominantly operated and typically during construction, when relocations are critical. existed as private entities in the past with little need to coordi- Part of the struggle for DOTs is that utility companies are nate with other agencies, this emerging necessity to begin coop-
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17 erative coordination is a hurdle for many. Transportation differences on key issues lead to negative impacts on the deliv- engineers' experience with or perception of railroad entities ery of the project and may bring the issue at hand--delivering has been expressed as "railroads are difficult to work with." the facility to the public efficiently and at a reasonable cost-- This perception may stem from the fact that railroad opera- to a standstill. While many states continue to build positive tions can rarely be interrupted and public passenger/transit relationships with their local governments and permitting service must be provided at all times. agencies, there remains a gap in seeing the transportation Railroad engineers have different standards, specifications, issues as a mutual concern. State agencies need to work across and requirements from those outlined for roadways. Railroad traditional barriers and find innovative solutions that use col- priorities differ from roadway priorities in many cases. Because laborative techniques to solve transportation problems. Even of these differences, design and constructability issues require though many states have programs that engage and involve much more coordination effort from both parties as early as local participation from both agencies and the public, the com- scoping and concept development. mitment or resources may be lacking to support more intense collaborative efforts. Some states do not have the organizational structure for Right-of-Way a collaborative decision-making process. Such an organiza- Traditionally, delays in ROW acquisition occurred when tional structure is perhaps more frustrating when it limits the ROW function was not integrated during project devel- individuals from making the right decisions that shape the opment. Property owners were unwilling to sell or accept future of their immediate environment. State transportation market value for their property. Projects came to a halt until leaders need to continue to involve the public and agencies in such issues were resolved, which could take months for a the decision-making process so they have ownership and a court ruling. sense of investment in the solutions that are developed. (2) Each state has different legal framework regarding acquisi- tions and property owner rights. Other factors that vary greatly Lack of Funding from state to state and from region to region include popula- tion density, intensity of land use, and local real estate values. Consistently, the research team found a common thread While acquiring acres of undeveloped right-of-way for an across all states that were interviewed: a lack of funding. entirely new alignment may be completely feasible for a DOT The changes that have occurred in the transportation arena in some parts of the country, the dollar cost--or the environ- over the last 50 years are dramatic. The late 1950s through the mental impacts--of obtaining the right-of-way needed just to 1960s were marked by tremendous growth and building of widen a highway, especially in a densely developed area, may the National Highway System. Rarely has an investment been be so prohibitive as to stall the project indefinitely. so profound as to have such a great impact on the citizens of America, their economy, and mobility options. But in that same period, growth in all other facets of American life has Interagency Coordination proven to take its toll on the highway system. Decades of pop- States continue to make great strides in coordinating with ulation growth have resulted in rising mobility needs which in state and federal regulatory agencies and local governments turn have increased the VMT on the roadway network, partic- that may be involved throughout the life of a project. These ularly in urban areas. Table 1 shows the rapid growth in pop- efforts in part stem from traditional long-review time frames ulation and associated demand for VMT. Forecast figures are from permitting agencies, time wasted in "re-dos" because based on the historical trends. reports did not include the right information that the review- ing agency was looking for, lack of frequent communication, Table 1. U.S. population growth and and differing priorities. State DOTs have seen the benefits vehicle miles traveled, 19552055. of proactively coordinating with regulatory agencies (such as the FHWA, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Coast Year Population VMT Guard, state historic preservation offices, MPOs, etc.) to under- 1955 145 million 0.6 trillion stand the issues better and foster trust between them. 2007 300 million 3.0 trillion Programs that include context-sensitive solutions and envi- ronmental streamlining and stewardship have helped create 2055 435 million 7.0 trillion links across agencies and levels of government. However, there Source: Lee, Joung H. Transportation Funding Challenges Facing are still some barriers that prevent transportation programs the United States. Presented at the North Atlantic Transportation Planning Officials 2008 Annual Meeting. Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON. from moving forward when there is a lack of communication, August 2009. http://www.transportation.org/sites/aashto/docs/Lee- coordination, and collaboration between the agencies. These 2008-08-12.pdf