For state highway agencies, the use of value engineering (VE) methods and techniques added up to more than $1 billion in savings last year.
A 1995 congressional regulation mandates the use of VE on all federal-aid highway projects of $25 million or more. A growing number of states also have established their own VE programs, and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has increased the amount of VE training and technical assistance it provides to states.
To move the VE program to the next level of success, consideration should be given to reducing the mandated project level of $25 million to between $10 million and $15 million. Several state highway departments do not have large programs and have few or no projects totaling $25 million; therefore, they do not currently conduct any VE studies. Lowering the mandated project level would increase cost savings and add value to a greater number of projects.
To perform a VE evaluation, a highway agency usually forms a multidisciplinary team to study a project for four to five days. The team might consist of planners, right-of-way staff, environmentalists and private citizens during the concept phase of the project, while construction, design, traffic and maintenance staff might be involved during the design phase. The team reviews all aspects of a project, looking for ways to lower life-cycle costs, improve quality and apply innovative engineering and construction techniques. A typical VE plan has several different phases, including:
* Selecting the project for study;
* Investigating a project to find the problems;
* Brainstorming and developing alternatives to the existing design plan;
* Presenting recommendations to management;
* Approving and implementing the recommendations; and
* Auditing the results.
The Florida Department of Transportation performs between 50 and 55 VE studies a year, looking at all projects with a total cost of more than $20 million. Over the last eight fiscal years, these studies have saved the state more than $1.8 billion.
One study conducted in 2002 was of the third segment of the widening of Rte. 7 in Broward County. This project is converting an existing five-lane undivided highway to a six-lane divided urban highway with three through lanes, a bike lane, curb and gutter, sidewalks and a median curb in each direction. The cost for the third segment was estimated at $156.7 million. Recommendations made by the VE study team will reduce those costs by $31.1 million.
In New Jersey, the DOT performs about 15 VE studies annually, with cost savings averaging more than $60 million a year. In selecting projects for the VE study, the DOT looks for those that are complex, as well as ones costing more than $5 million. As part of its VE studies, New Jersey now evaluates not only construction costs but road-user costs as well. Its goal is to better quantify the road-user costs and reduce user delays.
VE had a national spotlight this month at the 2003 American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Value Engineering Conference, July 15-18, in Tampa, Fla. The conference featured three tracks: Case Studies, Starting and Maintaining a VE Program and Advanced Tools and Techniques.
States can learn more about VE through FHWA's four- to five-day training course. The course provides an overview of the VE process and hands-on opportunities for participants to split into teams and analyze actual highway projects in their state using the VE concepts they have learned. So far in 2003 the course has been held in New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico. Upcoming courses will be held in New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Illinois. For participants who want to become certified professional value engineers, the course counts as Certified Module I under the Society of American Value Engineers' certification program. A Module II course must be taken and other requirements fulfilled to obtain certification.
To learn more about VE or the VE training course, visit the FHWA VE website (www.fhwa.dot.gov/ve/index.htm).