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19 DOT go far to help stakeholders see the complexities and ram- Trends and Challenges ifications inherent in a project; they are less likely to clamor for costly embellishments when they see that trade-offs, compro- Transportation engineering projects and programs are mises, and negotiations are required from all quarters to reach unique challenges in comparison to mass production or the best solution. advanced technologytype endeavors. The difference is that Interagency collaboration is another type of partnership the final product is a one-of-a-kind facility that exists in its sought under the new paradigm. Policies established to pro- own setting--a road that is built through extreme topographic tect the natural and built environment during the interstate features or a bridge or tunnel that is constructed to provide highway era empowered government regulatory agencies with passage for motorists and navigable vessels alike. Each becomes review and approval authority over proposed transportation a hallmark that carries in its history an intense interaction projects. State DOTs have found that treating transporta- between client, consultant, and contractor--a process of nego- tiations (financial, design, and aesthetic), regulatory challenges, tion issues as mutual concerns, not only between the DOT and partnerships with government agencies, and a champion that stakeholders but also between the DOT and these counterpart brings the project or program to maturity and completion. agencies, results in forming peer relationships between the These factors alone make it difficult for DOTs to accelerate agencies involved, with a push toward collaborative leadership. projects and programs. Yet many states have found ways to Compared to an adversarial approach, peer relationships build deliver their programs and projects more quickly. a sense of trust and common ground from which all parties can In the course of preparing case studies, reviewing existing begin a conversation and "speak the same language," because literature, and conducting interviews with representatives of the ultimate goal serves the same public. Information flows the state DOTs, several salient points became evident. Some both ways, and strategies can be aligned in a way that allows of these trends were noticed not only in the DOTs inter- programs and projects to be implemented and constructed viewed but also in the websites of other agencies and various more expeditiously. "Accountability is mutual; transparency other current information sources. Challenges were also noted is valued." (5) Because work flows under the new paradigm because they pose opportunities for improving current prac- are no longer linear in nature, multipronged approaches can tices and give a more realistic glimpse into the future of state be employed to solve today's complex transportation chal- transportation agencies. Many have already recognized and lenges. Collaborative leadership begins with the premise of a identified core areas for improvement and are taking steps shared vision and confronts both the issues and their solu- toward that end. tions by sharing responsibility, authority, accountability, and The following list of trends and challenges is not exhaustive, the successes that result when synergies occur. Everybody in but rather representative of the main points that surfaced. the organization, at all levels, is fully engaged in achieving the Likewise, the order in which they are presented here is not common goal. (6) intended to be indicative of their importance or ranking. Fifth, the new paradigm takes into account the advent of an emerging global economy in which technology and commu- nication are central pillars in any organization that wants to Trends compete in the global marketplace. Many states have invested Performance Measures in advanced technologies, allowing their DOTs to operate more efficiently, obtain real-time data, communicate instan- There has been a deliberate effort by many states to develop taneously, and disseminate information more rapidly than or formalize performance measures. Some states have attained ever before. a level of maturity with their performance measures after The transportation industry has undergone a dramatic years of developing and refining them, while other states are transformation. In comparing the DOT cultures of today just beginning the process and realize that they have a long with the prevailing thought of the 1980s, "the new paradigm journey ahead of them with this undertaking. For the most shifts imply new skills, enhanced relationships, new path- part, all states interviewed have at least established some means ways of accountability, new standards of performance, and of measuring their transportation infrastructure, from some- new criteria for decision making. These imply a very, very thing as simple as logging pavement conditions to develop- different kind of culture than in traditional . . . approaches." ing elaborate online system-wide measures, fully accessible (5) In some instances, paradigm shifts might have been through the Internet. perceived as radical, revolutionary attempts to overhaul the Research carried out for this project indicates that state DOTs. In fact, it is safer to say that they were evolutionary DOTs are increasingly identifying performance measures as changes that brought about new ideas, identities, innova- one of their most pressing needs. More and more states are tions, and ideologies. incorporating performance measures into their operational
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20 procedures and implementing ways to improve their trans- has seen results. Individual performance contracts hold man- portation systems and the operations that create and main- agers accountable for reaching their targeted goals. Managers tain them. From the simplest measure of crash rates from one sign performance agreements for the delivery of their pro- year to the next to more complex outcomes such as measuring grams; their individual job performance is evaluated based customer satisfaction or stakeholders' quality of life, there on their success in attaining these goals. This type of initiative are countless ways of measuring a DOT's performance. Within provides powerful results, lending credence to the maxim, the framework of performance measures is incorporated "what gets measured gets done." policies, systems, programs, financial investment strategies, Performance management has been used at the Maryland and project-level objectives. State Highway Administration (MSHA) for nearly 10 years. The states studied for this project all measure performance-- An in-depth business planning and performance measure- formally and informally--on varied aspects of program and ment (BP/PM) plan includes approximately 400 measureable project delivery. Also varying from state to state is the extent goals. Maryland has used performance measures for budget- to which performance is measured and the purpose for the ing and programming, program management and project measurement. Some states use performance measures for eval- delivery, operations, and monitoring results, feedback, and uating infrastructure conditions, such as pavement surface communication. (7) smoothness or the structural capacity of a bridge. For exam- The way in which performance measures are conveyed to ple, New Jersey has excellent data regarding the pavement con- the public also plays an important role in the public's percep- ditions because it is a relatively easy index to measure. Traffic tion of the agency. For instance, North Carolina displays its congestion and other factors are also measured; these factors organizational performance measures in a dashboard format are then used to classify the condition of the entire transpor- that the public can access on the state website. There is a sim- tation system. These measurable factors are also now being plicity about the gauges on the dashboard; indicators commu- applied to develop New Jersey's asset management approach. nicate to the public where and how--and how effectively-- Some states track the performance of both the trans- their tax dollars are being spent. Behind the dashboard are portation infrastructure and the agency that delivers and numerous real-time data collection and reduction efforts, maintains it. As the name suggests, the Tracker is Missouri's complex logarithms and analyses that convert raw trans- instrument for monitoring how the state is doing in meeting portation numbers into measures that users can relate to. its performance goals on 18 tangible results. It provides a win- California has a similar display featuring an "odometer" dial, dow for the public to view the agency and hold them account- while Missouri uses a multipage report-style format. What is able for attaining the expectations they have set. Measures for quite clear in all of these agencies is that the public has devel- such things as uninterrupted traffic flow, transportation sys- oped a high regard for the direction that their agencies are tem safety, environmental stewardship, and innovative solu- moving in and a sense of trust in the decisions being made. tions are a few of the results that Missourians expect. Published The manner in which performance measures are used, as a printed document as well as being accessible online, the reported, or communicated and the way they are used in measures in the Tracker are updated on a quarterly basis. decision making varies with how formalized their implemen- MaineDOT instituted an internal performance review in tation is and how integrated the program is with the rest of 2004 known as "Quality Assessment of Completed Bridge the DOT's procedures and operations. For example, Caltrans Projects." Work performed on various bridge projects was uses performance measures as a cornerstone for delivering scored on a scale of 1 to 4 ("unsatisfactory" to "exceptional") their programs. It is a formal approach, heavily incorporated in terms of safety quality, environmental compatibility qual- in their policies and procedures. ity, functional quality, cost-effectiveness quality, and overall Outcome-based performance measures require a great deal quality. Maine developed a different measurement system of effort to implement as compared to output-based ones. Out- to track performance on projects identified in the Biennial puts are quantitative units of service regarding a program, for Transportation Improvement Program (BTIP) and Mainte- example, the number of programs funded, projects designed, nance Activity Plan (BMAP). An internal dashboard classifies contracts let, lane-miles constructed, etc. By themselves, num- newly kicked-off projects as green, then as they progress they bers don't always paint a clear picture of the actual impacts/ are indicated as green, yellow, or red depending on how con- benefits/changes to the public, the transportation agency, or sistent they remain with the Scoping Report, how close expen- the highway system--the number of miles driven, for instance, ditures stay within the programmed amount, and how well merely indicates the numerical quantity of vehicle miles trav- they adhere to the schedule. eled in a given period. Outcomes, on the other hand, are the California uses performance measures for strategic plan- impacts/benefits/changes experienced as a result of a pro- ning and management. Upper management at Caltrans has gram's or project's implementation. For example, for a main- focused on strategic objectives and organizational goals and tenance program, an outcome might be "percentage of the
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21 state highway network in overall preferred maintenance project success. Of those seven, public relations, scope, and condition." (Notice that this outcome is quite different than execution planning can be directly related to project success. outputs, such as the "number of lane-miles resurfaced.") Out- While most states do not formally segment their work into comes are usually expressed in terms of having short-term, front-end and back-end tasks, it is safe to say that much effort intermediate-term, or long-term effects. is being expended at the front end. It is relatively simple to populate a table with statistics North Carolina divides highway projects into precon- and then present the information--the output--as a graph struction and construction, akin to front end and back end, or chart. Measuring outcomes, by contrast, mandates itera- respectively. NCDOT managers place much emphasis in the tive, collaborative processes in which problems are identi- planning aspects of a project, particularly in coordinating fied, needs are assessed, attainable goals are established, and efforts with all of the stakeholders and regulatory agencies, a commitment is made to revisit and adjust established goals striving to gain concurrence at critical milestones during the and continue to identify new ones as earlier challenges are met planning and design of a project. New Jersey DOT's pipeline and operational hurdles are overcome. Developing outcome- process follows an activity manual that defines over 60 possi- based performance measures requires the consensus of leaders ble activities in the purpose and need and feasibility assess- and subject matter experts from a transportation agency's var- ment phases of a project alone. Caltrans performs a certain ious divisions, disciplines, and districts, each of whom brings degree of risk assessment at the front end of a project to avoid their unique set of goals, needs, and challenges to the table. costly oversights and budget overruns. Most state DOTs use Performance measures are important because they show- front-end planning to assess the business requirements, select case the tremendous needs state agencies face and build con- the right technologies, define the scope of work, assemble a fidence that the agencies are spending tax dollars wisely. They team, perform a risk analysis, develop the contingencies, and provide a customer-based focus that helps state DOTs address obtain buy-in from the decision makers and stakeholders. public concerns and build public trust. They help ensure cost- In effect, DOTs are stretching out the front end. Time spent effective use of limited funds; provide a tool to improve areas during this period, project advocates have realized, is con- where progress needs to be made; and serve as a barometer on ducive to sound decision making and creating added value. internal performance, delivery, and overall effectiveness. Uncertainties--as well as their solutions--are only revealed over time, through the repeated interaction of stakeholders, A Front-End Approach (Planning, Scoping, specialists, and partners. Successful projects require a front- Purpose, and Need) end process that builds trust among stakeholders and spon- sors in order for all parties to learn from one another and A shift has occurred in the way projects are developed. The maintain flexibility. No one can determine the exact amount traditional approach placed greater emphases in the design of time needed to build trusting relationships at the front end. activities and phases. For instance, the final design and envi- This phase can be a costly component of the project when all ronmental permitting phases of a project often garnered the is said and done, but there is no question that extra time spent most attention and support and were allotted the most time at the front end becomes an ally to project acceleration, afford- for execution. Current project development approaches focus ing flexibility and better decision making, and often expedit- on thoroughly outlining the purpose and need, carefully defin- ing design and construction when the project evolves into a ing the scope to considerable detail, and outlining the front "win-win" during the development phase. end of the project even before the feasibility assessment. In the engineering and construction phases, where expen- The front-end approach involves the development of strate- ditures on a project multiply rapidly, there is little to be gained gic information sufficient for owners to address risk and by waiting. Time erodes value at the back end of a pursuit. commit resources to maximize the chance for a successful This is the place where programs and projects benefit most project. (8) Defining the activities involved in the front end from being accelerated. Speedy delivery of projects at the back differs between state transportation agencies. It is not always end, from the onset of design to revenue generation, is of the clear where the front end ends and the mid-section and back essence. Furthermore, if projects take too long to implement, end begin. For instance, some states consider all planning-, administrations change, policy changes, priorities change, scoping-, and purpose-and-needrelated activities to be part and projects don't get built. It is crucial to strike while every- of the front-end process. The back end constitutes design, one is in agreement. bids received and awarded, and construction-related activ- ities through closeout. Some states include several prelim- Project Management inary design functions in the front-end process. A 2008 study on front-end planning processes found a statistical signif- The Project Management Institute (PMI) has formal pro- icance in the correlation between 7 out of 33 activities per- cesses and procedures stating how a project should be man- formed in planning at the front end that contributed to aged, from project initiation to execution to closeout. More
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22 state DOTs are beginning to use PMI philosophies to deliver have the ability to orchestrate the dynamic interplay that must projects. Project managers are cognizant of the quadruple occur between individuals, work teams, agencies, and stake- constraints of a project (scope, schedule, budget, and quality) holders for an initiative to go from inception to fruition. Lead- and are applying them more and more in their daily program ership at the very top, in many states, is a politically appointed or project management activities. position. The commissioner's or secretary's tenure in office While there are many definitions of a project manager, and ability to effect change are often limited by the duration of essentially he or she is at the center of orchestrating the efforts a given governor's term or political party's majority. In recent and activities required for final deliverables through forming times, the average length of stay for a DOT commissioner in alliances and providing direction, motivation, and leadership New Jersey is three years. while optimizing time, cost, procurement, quality, communi- Unlike many other states, MSHA and Missouri DOT are cations, risk, scope, and human resources. Another definition exemplary in having had a continuity of leadership rather characterizes a project manager as "a businessman, a psychol- than the transitory leadership characterized by politically ogist, an accountant, a technician, part designer, part nuts- based appointments. In Maryland, this continuity and strength and-bolts--a truly rare combination of skills." (9) in leadership has allowed the Intercounty Connector to Over the last two decades, state DOTs have placed a greater advance to construction after five decades of controversy and emphasis on the concept of project management. With for- opposition. Strong leadership at the very top--its direction mal processes adopted for project initiation, planning, execu- and guidance--sets the stage for all other performance. The tion, monitoring, and closing, there is a concerted effort to positive influence, practical optimism, and depth of experi- take a project all the way from its first idea to completion. New ence provides for complex coalitions to be strengthened, Jersey and California DOTs have adopted formal project man- difficult decisions to be made, funding to be secured, and agement approaches to project delivery. Both states use com- solutions to be implemented that culminate in value-added prehensive project management manuals and training pro- final products. grams to groom potential project managers and empower them with the skills to take a project from start to finish. Since 2000, Maine has made changes in its DOT that formalize the Communication, Collaboration, and Cooperation role of the project manager, involving him or her in a project The ability of state DOTs to reach out to their internal from its planning phase through construction. and external stakeholders, regulatory agencies, clients, and Successful project management requires the right orga- elected officials in an effort to advance and deliver programs nizational climate as well. It requires support from upper man- has never been so great as it is with today's technologies. State agement, an alignment of project management processes with DOT employees are communicating laterally and vertically, the goals and missions of the organization, a formal process for project management, and a culture that supports the project collaborating to reach difficult project and program decisions, manager and project management efforts, including training. and cooperating to meet their end goals. This effort has led to MaineDOT has an excellent cross-training program that allows true "partnering" among agencies and the fostering of relation- a project manager to experience first hand all the phases of a ships based on trust. project's life cycle by allowing him or her to follow the proj- If one considers the many external agencies they must col- ect all the way into construction, where the project manager laborate and communicate with on a single project, state trans- assumes the responsibilities of a resident engineer. This pro- portation officials virtually function within an expanded gram provides the individual with exposure, experience, new network. Stronger relationships with agencies such as the skill sets, and a better understanding of the project management FHWA, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Army Corp of Engineers, process, as well as many aspects of a transportation project state regulatory/permitting agencies, and local governments that might previously have been unfamiliar to the individual. have helped to bring about decisions more quickly. North Some state DOTs have also provided project managers with Carolina's Merger 01 process built its foundation on the con- the ability to execute projects more efficiently. Being the single cept of concurrence, with all pertinent partners and stake- point of contact from the inception of the project to its com- holders buying into project decisions at key milestones from pletion allows the project manager to be in tune with every the beginning. Utah's CMGC approach solicits the experi- aspect of the project. The greater advantage is the consistency ence of independent contractors and begins collaborating gained in project delivery. The project manager essentially with them as early as the design phase. These approaches have becomes the champion for the individual project. been found to expedite subsequent aspects of a project's design and construction, eliminating delays and interruptions fre- quently encountered when someone with decision-making Leadership authority "sees a project for the first time" at an advanced stage. Leadership plays a critical role in how quickly programs are When this occurs, the modifications required for such a implemented and executed. Leaders of organizations must person's approval are sometimes extensive, requiring re-work
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23 after considerable time and budget have already been expended Other types of teams are also instrumental in helping state on the design. Time taken to communicate early in the project DOTs achieve strategic goals. For instance, NCDOT's Inter- generally yields gains in owner and user buy-in, as well as in agency Leadership Team works to ensure that delivery strategies the overall schedule. previously agreed upon are being implemented by different In every state, federal funding for transportation projects work groups and that these strategies are generating the desired and programs are channeled through a continuing, coopera- goals. (10) tive, and comprehensive (3C) planning process administered by MPOs. These organizations consist of representatives from Creative Destruction and Realignment local governments and transportation authorities in metro- politan areas. A project does not receive federal funding if The term "creative destruction," coined by economist Joseph it is not in an MPO's Transportation Improvement Plan. Schumpeter in 1942, expresses an entity's or organization's Interviewed state DOTs have demonstrated a concerted effort need for constant re-invention with the idea that "out of to work with their MPOs and participate in a shared vision destruction a new spirit of creativity arises." Used primarily identifying needs and prioritizing projects at the MPO level. in association with capitalism and free market competition, As DOTs are required to allocate increasingly scarce human, the concept of creative destruction can be applied to private financial, and material resources to delivering their backlog and public organizations in the 21st Century when a trans- of transportation projects, it is in a DOT's best interest to formation process takes place, accompanied by innovation. communicate and coordinate with the MPOs in their respec- Economic progress occurs through rewarding individuals tive state. (or entities) that are innovative. The need to produce better The value of partnering with regulatory agencies and incor- quality services with limited resources and environmental porating environmental streamlining and stewardship prac- constraints has compelled state DOTs to examine and make tices into project planning and design is realized in building dramatic changes to their organizational structures in pursuit trust between the agencies and yielding faster turnarounds in of innovative solutions and to empower employees with the the review and approval process. freedom to unleash their creative potential. NCDOT deliberately undertook a process of renewal and realignment in which it dismantled and de-layered many of Team Approach (High-Performance Teams, the organizational silos that discouraged coordination among Change Management) business units. Its new organization relies on performance- The use of high-performance teams, specialized functional based, outcome-driven results and provides DOT-wide checks teams, or self-directed work teams supports the underlying and balances. New Jersey DOT made a major cultural shift to finding that a team approach can lead to accelerated project a project management-based program and project delivery delivery. Other types of teams such as change management system. Even though there is no legislation requiring it to do teams and implementation teams have helped bring about suc- so, Utah DOT is proactively moving to implement an envi- cessful transformations of an organization's structure and/or ronmental approval process for state-funded projects that is culture, resulting in system-wide improvements in program comparable to NEPA. This type of realignment disassembles and project delivery schedules. the old processes so that new ones can be created. It requires These successes cannot be realized without the concerted huge shifts in institutional cultures and takes many years to efforts of many individuals working together toward a com- implement even when it has been formalized. mon goal. State DOTs recognize that a supportive team envi- These shifts in culture require strategic management of ronment drives project performance. Leadership and techni- the changes that individuals must make in adapting to new cal expertise are not sufficient to meet the missions and goals and different ways of doing things. DOT personnel may have of a state transportation agency. This deficit, in part, has led to to adjust to a new way of thinking, modify a process, fine- the development of unified team cultures to address today's tune the very activities they have been performing for years, demanding transportation issues. MaineDOT moved from a and alter their behavior. Because change in general requires silo-based "assembly line" operation to a more inclusive team human effort, cultural shifts are difficult to bring about and approach, accelerating programs through greater communi- require the support of upper management. State DOTs that cation and clearer assignment of responsibilities. Teams have have led the pack in bringing about unparalleled changes have helped MaineDOT to establish real deadlines and achieve taken many years (up to 10 in some cases) to realize these shifts greater transparency and efficiency. This positive environ- in institutional culture. ment creates team spirit, cross-functional cooperation, and To some extent, many state transportation agencies have unified approaches so there is a greater tolerance for ambi- undergone a form of creative destruction with their organiza- guity, risk, and conflict, which give rise to innovations in tional structure and internal processes. Through this process, behavior and approach. an organization voluntarily or involuntarily does away with
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24 established procedures and methodologies to undergo a sort of "layer"--the deputy executive director and two assistant renewal in which new programs and ideas are set up to replace directors--between him and the Department's many divi- the old. In a changing era of new technologies and knowledge- sions, offices, and districts. (12) NCDOT likewise restruc- based management, state DOTs need to think constantly of tured from a tall pyramid to a flatter, wider configuration that how to optimize their assets and deliver quality results. In these required redefining key positions and functions. (13) paradoxical times, what is great today may only be mediocre or The complex environment in which transportation agency obsolete tomorrow. In the long term, organizations that create leaders are required to deliver aggressive programs requires an environment in which creative destruction can occur grow an organization that is responsive to the needs of the public. richer and more productive as a result. State DOTs have found that non-linear, non-hierarchical, more holistic, self-organizing, flexible, diverse, and networked organizational models provide quicker program and project Organizational Profile/Structure delivery. MoDOT's organizational structure is perhaps one of Which organizational structure better lends itself to effi- the most unique and modern arrangements. At the very top, cient program and project delivery, centralized or decentral- it is led by a commission of six members--a chairman, a vice ized? The answer does not lie in any one type of organizational chairman, and four commissioners. No more than three of structure, but rather in how vertical or horizontal the organi- these may be of the same political party. Beneath the commis- zation is. Tall, hierarchical silos are gradually being supplanted sion is a director of transportation who in turn leads a chief by flatter structures that afford more opportunity for commu- engineer and a chief financial officer (CFO). The chief engineer nication and sharing of knowledge across management lines. is responsible for the system delivery team (bridge, design, Organizational structure can be defined as the visible and right-of-way, traffic, maintenance, etc.). But on the organiza- invisible framework that connects and weaves all aspects of tional chart, this system delivery team is pictured on a circu- an organization's activities so that it functions as a complete lar dial, removing any physical representation of hierarchy. dynamic entity. (11) An organization's structure affects its The CFO is responsible for a system facilitation team, also size, strategy, technology, environment, culture, innovation, represented on a dial. Below the commission are only three and partnerships. The 21st century has seen a huge shift in the levels of hierarchy. This organizational structure allows for a way organizations are structured. It is important to recognize fair and equal representation of the state's concerns. But from the highest level of authority, the message is clear that even that with the changing technological environment, organi- from a political perspective, the organization will move for- zations have to adapt quickly in order to be successful. State ward providing equal representation and reduced hierarchi- agencies are no exception to the rule. Classical structures cal levels. organized around delivering size, role clarity, specialization, It is uncertain how state DOTs may restructure themselves and control have transformed to deliver speed, flexibility, in the near future. Few organizations are adept at constantly integration, and innovation. These design principles are evi- changing and adapting immediately to the shifting external dent in the state DOTs that were researched. environment. An organization consists of complex inter- One premise of this research study was to identify whether actions between agents, in which cooperation and competi- an organization's centralized or decentralized structure fos- tion are key elements that shape the organization and drive it ters accelerated program and project delivery. Interestingly, forward. In that composite environment, a complex, adaptive centralization/decentralization was found to have little to do system may be required. One question that arises as organi- with the speed with which programs are delivered. What con- zations begin to make small changes is, does the shift truly tributes more to accelerated delivery is how "flat" (horizontal) occur as a second-order change, where individuals embrace or "tall" (vertical) the structure is. State DOTs affirm that the transformation? The goal of many transportation agencies in order to respond quickly, perform critical functions, make may be to become an organization that supports dynamic, decisions sooner than later, and provide services rapidly, interactive work processes that help make effective decisions more level organizations respond better to the overall goals of while supporting the overall mission and goals of the organi- the DOT. The greatest advantage of a horizontal organization zation. Such a structure allows for a constant flow of informa- is the increased degree of lateral communication that occurs tion horizontally and vertically, thereby allowing employees' across units and management lines. The relative informality everyday responses and decisions to be guided by an overall of a horizontal structure creates more opportunities for dif- sense of direction and purpose. (11) ferent units to collaborate, thereby building trust and mov- ing toward the common goal of delivering a project. TxDOT Regionalization restructured itself at the top level, where the executive direc- tor created a flat, non-traditional organizational structure. States that comprise large geographic areas or experience a More than 40 individuals report to him, with only a single broad range of climatic conditions have found efficiencies in
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25 regionalizing their district offices. Economies of scale and istrators trying to expedite programs and projects. Regardless sharing of resources and information have resulted in better of whether or not a project has full funding, the right design, quality products and services. Regionalization allows for the and minimal obstacles to construction, it can be halted sim- flexibility of district offices to operate independently, while ply because the public feels uneasy about it. One way in which providing the support of a larger office when required. state DOTs have sought--successfully--to gain public sup- Regionalization is not just common to large states with port is by becoming more transparent. By allowing the pub- multiple districts. Certainly California and Texas, with 12 and lic to view the DOT's efforts and have input in some of the 25 districts respectively, have nearly complete operating capa- decisions that are made, transportation agencies are building bilities within each district to plan, design, and construct public trust and gaining the confidence of elected officials and projects. District offices in many states are supported by their constituents. central divisions and offices that help with policies, strategic NCDOT recounted its experience of becoming more trans- management, programmatic guidance, and specialty design parent through the use of an online performance dashboard issues. The reasons for combining district offices into regions that allows the public to see its internal efficiencies. NCDOT are numerous: to share technical expertise and resources; to intends to use performance measures as a promotional tool, enable environmental, topographic, and geographic similar- to help package what it is already doing as an agency and ities to be addressed uniquely; and to accomplish critical tasks showcase its progress to the public. From its perspective, the at a quasi-centralized regional level so that skill sets are not dashboard is a measure of how the North Carolina Secretary unnecessarily duplicated in multiple districts. of Transportation's delivery measures up against the State Although New Jersey, the nation's fourth smallest state, has Transportation Plan. California also recognizes that credibil- a centralized DOT, its DOT has three designated regions-- ity is built by becoming more transparent. Upper manage- North, Central, and South--each with distinct project con- ment executives at Caltrans meet with local officials and leg- cerns. Community cultures, urban fabric and landscapes, and islative representatives on a quarterly basis to keep them up political climates differ between these regions. Likewise, the to date on transportation issues. After four consecutive years 14 districts of North Carolina, a state that spans 500 miles from of delivering 100 percent of the projects on their "Ready to east to west with elevations ranging from sea level to 6,684 feet Let" list, Caltrans has gained a great deal of political and pub- (the highest point east of the Mississippi), are grouped into lic support. This transparency also translates to greater trust three geographical regions--Mountains, Piedmont, and and integrity. As Caltrans continues to experiment with inno- Coastal Plain. vative, out-of-the-box approaches to project delivery, con- State DOTs will continue to function either as centralized gestion management, and construction, the public is will- or decentralized structures. Neither configuration has been ing to be more accommodating on account of Caltrans' shown to be better than the other for accelerating programs proven track record. Missouri's Tracker proclaims to the pub- and projects from concept to completion; however, regional- lic that "this document is your window to MoDOTwarts ization can reap the benefits of each and holds some promise and all. It invites you to hold us accountable for exceeding to deliver projects sooner. your expectation." (14) It is anticipated that as more states begin to develop per- formance measures and incorporate them in their transporta- Transparency tion services, they will opt to provide a window for government Transparency is a concept to which states are becoming officials, stakeholders, and the public to see how they are doing. The intentional use of measures and goals, whether more and more attuned. Transparency is about accountability: for decision-making, planning, tracking, or management being responsible for decisions and actions, liable for per- processes, will provide reporting information of significant sistent problems and unaddressed concerns, and answerable value. The extent to which state DOTs display or provide this to the public for the way taxpayer dollars are spent. Closely information to the external community in a meaningful, user- tied with the adaptation of performance measures, the shift friendly manner will determine their level of transparency. At toward transparency is a natural by-product of developing least in this sector of government, transparency is on the rise. and implementing performance measures and metrics. Trans- parency in an organization is realized when these measures are made available to the public. This frequently involves a Challenges shift in DOT culture as well. The Perfect Storm During the course of interviews, some states expressed concerns about the image portrayed by their DOT or what State DOTs are currently experiencing a "perfect storm." the public's perception was. Even a slightly negative image or Given their aging infrastructure, financial limitations, increas- lack of trust can create roadblocks for managers and admin- ing congestion, system size and complexity, and increasing
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26 population, transportation agencies face demanding and dif- Demographic transitions occurring throughout the United ficult times. They need to look for better ways of doing busi- States and the overall increase in population, largely due to ness and accomplishing more with fewer resources. migration, places more drivers on America's roads. Aging There has rarely been a time when a combination of factors populations, including the maturation of the still very active has created such challenging circumstances for transportation baby boomers, influence travel patterns and continue to agencies. Most states have portions of highway infrastructure demand more and better mobility options. Travel demand that are more than 50 years old. Almost 25 percent of the high- has outpaced population growth due to increasing average way bridges in the United States are more than 50 years old trip lengths, and travel behaviors have changed due to differ- and are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. (15) For ences in work and leisure trips, specialization of labor, and example, the Memorial Bridge carrying U.S. Route 1 from redistribution of people and jobs. (16) This combination of Kittery, Maine, to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is 86 years factors creates the "perfect storm" scenario within which old, and the WaldoHancock Bridge in Bangor is 74 years transportation agencies must work to find unique solutions old. It is safe to say that much of the nation's infrastructure for the mobility needs of tomorrow. has outlived its life cycle and is now in need of repair and rehabilitation--or outright replacement. In light of this, some state DOTs have shifted priorities to catching up on mainte- Outsourcing Pre-Construction vs. nance and rehabilitation projects, placing new capital projects Keeping It in House on hold. There is a great diversity among the researched states in States are also facing difficult economic times. Increases in exercising the option to outsource planning and design of transportation funding have not kept up with increases in the projects vs. keeping the work in house. Some state DOTs have cost of materials and labor for new capital projects. While managed to retain their staffing levels from year to year and some DOTs are looking at innovative ways of increasing their meet their annual program delivery goals. Other states have revenue streams (e.g., tolls, publicprivate partnerships, etc.), undergone significant attrition and have resorted to routinely others have perilously extended themselves, borrowing against procuring professional services consultants as a means of help- the future. States must find ways to stretch their transporta- ing them deliver their programs. The challenge is in finding tion dollars further so that the investments they make today the most cost-effective balance between what and how much will have lasting benefits. to outsource. The size and complexity of a state's roadway network must The following list shows the percentage of pre-construction be factored into how DOT leaders shape the transportation work outsourced by the state DOTs that were researched: system under their jurisdiction. Some DOTs are responsible for operating and maintaining a large share of their state's · California: 10 percent highways and multimodal facilities. Other state DOTs in · Maine: 30 percent charge of smaller systems still have the challenge of maintain- · Maryland: 30 percent ing an aging, often complex infrastructure built over differ- · Missouri: 50 percent ent topographic features and time periods, using a variety of · New Jersey: 80 percent technologies and materials. · North Carolina: 30 percent The problem of increasing congestion that is ubiquitous on the nation's highways places a strain on the infrastructure as · Texas: 60 to 70 percent well as the patience of drivers. Congestion statistics are stag- · Utah: 60 to 70 percent gering, and its effects are most felt in large urban areas where motorists waste time and fuel stuck in traffic. This issue is not DOTs that have maintained their workforces still have the easily resolved. States with a high proportion of urbanized capabilities to perform most of the work in house. However, area cannot easily build new roads or widen the existing ones that is not to say that there is a correlation between a large to accommodate the ever-increasing traffic volumes. Even in work force and the amount of work kept in house. Some states states that are predominantly rural, pockets of congestion still such as Texas outsource a large percentage of their work in exist where capacity is insufficient. An inadequate transporta- order to deliver a large annual program. New Jersey DOT, tion system, with its attendant congestion, compromises the nearly halved through early retirement programs, has been economic prosperity of a region, state, or nation. State DOTs left with a smaller work force. Hence, New Jersey has one of are finding innovative ways to provide connectivity to their the highest percentages of projects outsourced to private con- vital economic generators, but the solutions are more compli- sultants. Because of the broad range of factors involved, it was cated, and even more challenging to implement, than simply not possible to establish a correlation in this study between building new roads or widening existing ones. The option to the proportion of work outsourced and the resulting ability "build our way out of congestion" does not exist anymore. of a state DOT to accelerate a project or program.
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27 Procurement strategies are being modified and imple- value of the property up front, while the ROW acquisition mented so that consultant services can be maintained through- process is just beginning to move forward. out the life of the project, from conception to completion. Utility issues remain a challenge when it comes to reloca- The number of multiple procurements on a project--multiple tion of both above-ground and subsurface features. Even requests for proposals (RFPs) from the agency and multiple with advance notification, planning, and communication, a proposals from the consultants--can be reduced by acceler- utility company's priorities will differ from the state's. Utility ating the overall project development process through task companies must deal with their own limited resources and in orders. TxDOT hires one consultant for select projects to do many cases have seasonal constraints on both doing outdoor/ everything from conception to completion through the use underground work and temporarily shutting down service. of CDAs. New Jersey DOT has begun procuring consultant Franchise or reimbursement agreements, where the state pays services using the same consultant to take a project from the for the cost of the relocation, help expedite the situation, but beginning to the end--scoping and concept development many partnering sessions are required to bring the utility com- through final design. Such agreements reduce the ramp-up panies on board with a project as early as the design phase. efforts and the time it takes for a new consultant to become Railroads appear to pose some of the greatest challenges to familiarized with a project. From the state's perspective, two project delivery. States and railroad companies invariably dif- to three months can be lost every time a new consultant has fer on the valuation of property that may need to be acquired. to be procured for the same project. From the consultant's Their priorities seem to conflict at every turn; each sees the perspective, non-billable time spent responding to RFPs can other as a necessary evil to be dealt with. One participant inter- be reduced if the entire job is awarded through a single selec- viewed for this project noted, "The number one thing I don't tion process. want in my project is a railroad!" Right-of-way, utilities, and railroads continue to challenge highway departments when it comes to program and project Right-of-Way/Utilities/Railroads delivery. Alliance agreements, incentivized utility relocations, and appraisal sharing may be innovative approaches to expe- Perhaps the most difficult phases to accelerate in any proj- dite projects fraught with utility and ROW issues. (17) ect are ROW acquisition and utility relocation. For various reasons, there is no uniform procedure established across the states when ROW and utility issues hold back project delivery. Baselines and Targets Each state DOT must deal with different municipal and re- One of the greatest challenges for states that are moving gional telephone, electric, gas, and cable TV companies, in toward developing and implementing performance measures addition to local water and sewer authorities. Northern city is the gap in available data--or the complete lack of data-- centers often have central heating plants that deliver high- for setting baselines. Without baselines, progress cannot be pressure steam to numerous large buildings via underground evaluated; targets cannot be set. More discouraging is the fact pipelines. Technology centers tie into local suppliers of nitro- that states may not have the technology, resources, or funding gen gas for their clean-room environments, again delivered to collect the complex data required for input into a meaning- through underground lines. Very often, each of these utility ful metric. companies or authorities has their own set of procedures for All state DOTs have traffic data available to them, but if the dealing with highway projects. Railroads present an addi- data does not provide intelligence, it does nothing to help tional set of roadblocks that frequently complicate and delay senior managers make the right decisions. States that have project delivery. begun their journey toward implementing performance mea- Projects that involve ROW acquisition pose challenges sures are finding that determining baselines for the measures for transportation professionals. Eminent domain takings they selected is not an easy task. New Jersey DOT struggles are the most likely activity to cause delays because the litiga- with the tools and techniques currently available because the tion process is so long. But ROW acquisition procedures vary information generated from its measurement systems (e.g., from state to state. Utah uses many methods to keep projects bridge inspection and pavement condition reports, crash data) on track, including passing more of the control and the risk are not mature enough to perform sophisticated analyses. Thus to the contractor. However, UDOT has one of the quickest the quality of the final product or service is only as good as the ROW acquisition processes: when a property goes to litiga- quality of information introduced into the equation. Setting tion, it is typically resolved in approximately nine months; an accurate baseline is important because it is then used as an meanwhile the use of a "right of entry" allows construction evaluative tool for continuous improvements. Once the base- activities to take place in parallel with the negotiation process. lines are determined, goals or targets could be set. TxDOT employs possession and use agreements, beginning When state DOTs were asked what was the average number construction on a property by paying the owner the appraised of months (or years) that a project took to go from conception
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28 to completion, the responses were vague. Data is simply not system better, faster, and cheaper than ever before. MoDOT's collected for this beginning-to-end measure. However, suf- Practical Design effort accomplishes that goal by building ficient information often does exist for selected phases of a `good' projects everywhere instead of `perfect' projects some- project. For instance, UDOT's average environmental process where." (19) for a new alignment takes approximately twelve months and Practical design has involved a commitment to focus on ROW acquisition takes no more than nine months. adequately meeting the purpose and need without unnecessar- Perhaps what complicates the attempt for states to set base- ily going beyond, getting the best value for the least cost, never lines and identify targets is the size and variety of projects compromising on safety, and collaborating on the solution. included in a given program for delivery. Capital improve- An interviewee from MoDOT stated, "We focus on meeting ment "mega-projects" and very small maintenance projects needs, not a wish list. . . . We build partnerships based on may be managed simultaneously. This mix of large and small needs, not demands." budgets, highway and bridge projects, stormwater manage- Perhaps the best approach to incorporating CSS into pro- ment and utility issues do not share common bases upon grams and projects is to be aware that it yields diminishing which they can be measured side by side. More research is returns: Applying it judiciously at the front end of a project required in this area. may indeed expedite it; however, seeking continuous input from all stakeholders as the project proceeds will result in delay and confusion. Context-Sensitive Solutions Most states understood that CSS requires a flexible approach For most states, the context-sensitive solutions process (CSS) in design standards to fit the project into its surroundings. has become an integral step in development and execution of The biggest challenge encountered is that stakeholders tend to a project. In the socio-cultural context, it significantly reduces demand more than what has been budgeted for. The resulting the barriers of public opposition; however, from a pure engi- impasses create distrust and unwillingness on the part of the neering aspect, it may create scope creep and cause a project public to cooperate with the state. One interviewed employee to diverge from the original purpose and need. While CSS is voiced MoDOT's solution: "Never do visioning with the critical in expediting some projects, it is equally responsible stakeholders without having a stated budget at the beginning of your outreach." Some DOTs are guided by a state policy to for introducing delays to project design and public outreach. incorporate CSS principles into the planning and design of States interviewed expressed mixed feelings about CSS as it their major projects. As of 2004, 26 states had adopted such relates to accelerating projects from conception to completion. policies into their framework. (20) In cases where public opposition was resolved when CSS was implemented during the planning stages of a project, CSS was perceived as a necessary step to accelerating the project. Some Policy states, however, claimed that CSS involves additional funds Case studies have shown that state and federal environ- and time to incorporate appropriately and successfully and mental regulations and funding issues are often perceived to still does not achieve the expected results of a general consen- conflict with existing transportation policies. Some environ- sus between stakeholder and the state. Maryland's DOT has mental streamlining has been accomplished through federal fully incorporated CSS into its standard operating procedure. policy changes, but it is a complex arena and only a few states While it recognizes that CSS requires additional time and an have an environmental policy that matches or exceeds federal element of risk, true partnering occurs over time, and stake- NEPA requirements. In fact, many practice streamlining more holder involvement from the beginning and often through informally by building strong relationships with state and the planning phases generates a mutual understanding and federal review agencies. Limited revenues in today's environ- balanced solutions. UDOT also incorporates CSS philosophy ment also challenge existing funding policies. New sources into its overall strategic direction. Through CSS awareness of funding, new propositions, and innovative funding agree- training and collaborative multidisciplinary teams, CSS is fully ments may be on the horizon for some states. But most states integrated in the way they work. Senior management's view are looking for ways to stretch every penny of every tax dollar. is that "Context-Sensitive Solutions is more than an initiative. State DOTs and the FHWA have made significant efforts It is a fundamental change in the way we do business. As each over the past five to seven years to achieve both environmental of us comes to understand the elements of CSS, it will be woven streamlining and environmental stewardship. A track record of into the way we do our work, and it will become an integral environmental stewardship builds trust and public support, part of the UDOT culture." (18) smoothing the way for future projects. Most states have moved In 2005 MoDOT took a step back from CSS to look at the beyond environmental avoidance and environmental mitiga- bigger picture and introduced the concept of practical design tion, to environmental enhancement--projects that leave the by declaring that "state DOTs must deliver the transportation environment "better than before."
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29 The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation tain, and repair under limited funding options. Despite this Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) authorized radical shift, transportation agencies must still keep pace with three types of delegations of the FHWA's environmental role: the transportation demands of the present decade, while plan- Categorical Exclusion (CE) projects, a five-state pilot delega- ning for future growth. The trends and challenges noted here tion for NEPA and other laws, and a five-state pilot delegation are intended to provide transportation decision makers with for Recreational Trails and Transportation Enhancements a starting point, an introductory map, to gauge how well their projects. Utah, one of the states studied for this project, is a organizations operate within their existing framework. Trends pilot state in the NEPA delegation program. This program, can be seen as successful elements, factors that contribute to combined with its very low (15 percent) dependence on federal a state's ability to accelerate program and project delivery. transportation funds, has enabled UDOT to move forward on Infused throughout these trends are the challenges that must many of its projects without requiring FHWA approval. be addressed through iterative, relationship-based approaches, creative funding opportunities, flexible design options, and exemplary management strategies. By carefully evaluating the Inferences Drawn from Trends potential benefit offered by each trend, and soberly gauging and Challenges the extent to which the challenges are mirrored in their organ- A transition is under way, from an era of new builds and ization, leaders of state transportation agencies should be able high-profile capital projects with unlimited funding to an era to build on their existing strengths and increase their ability characterized predominantly by projects that rebuild, main- to further their agencies' stated missions and goals.