Is fast-track construction the answer to infrastructure?

Posted in: Bridges, Construction, Highways

From design-builds to public-private partnerships, fast-track construction can take on many forms. Simply put, it is a project delivery strategy which begins construction before design is complete. Priority projects that are fast-tracked often reach completion more quickly on a smaller budget than traditional design-bid-build methods.

When the I-85 bridge in Atlanta caught fire and collapsed in Spring 2017, the project was put on an incredibly abbreviated fast-tracked schedule and reopened in just six weeks. In fact, construction was completed one month ahead of its projected deadline. This project is one example of how DOTs fast-track construction to meet time and budget schedules. For the I-85 Rebuild team, this meant giving Atlanta drivers their regular commute back.

Fast-tracking projects may help save DOTs and stakeholders money. On fast-track projects, the design plans, construction and specifications are incomplete – determining the project’s final cost is difficult. Owners typically enter a cost-reimbursable contract with the builder to address this concern. The contract may include a cost estimate with no guarantee, or there may be a Guaranteed Maximum Price.

Tight schedules also require accurate attention to details. Each major stakeholder understands the project and processes for project delivery thoroughly. Implementing numerous quality control methods within the design and construction teams keeps small mistakes from snowballing into larger problems.

Saving both time and money on a major project doesn’t mean the project team sacrificed quality. In fact, constructing a project that’s still being designed requires close and extensive team communication, collaboration and precise planning. The project team is quite extensive, too. It usually includes:

  • The project owner (usually a Department of Transportation)
  • Contractors
  • Designers
  • Material vendors
  • Various regulatory agencies
  • Local and/or municipal departments such as law enforcement
  • Other first response services

While close communication and collaboration sound like common sense for any project delivery method, fast-tracked methods truly rely on these skills. Constantly sharing information between team members keeps any possible complications out in the open.

Fast-tracking design and construction includes many advantages for the client and end-users, including cost savings and having the project open for use earlier than normal. However, completing a project with simultaneous moving parts can be difficult to achieve. Unless you have the right team working towards the same goal, your project can experience complications like poor team communication or disputes over contractual scope obligations. Do you see any other pitfalls to fast-track construction?

About the Author

Dan Moses, P.E., has many years of experience in the design, management and delivery of transportation projects, with an emphasis on leading complex interstate projects. He understands the details involved in non-traditional delivery methods. By defining project goals, organizing upcoming objectives and staying in continuous communication with his team, Dan has successfully delivered dozens of multimillion-dollar projects for state departments of transportation in the Southeast.

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