Watching costs

News May 07, 2002
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Cost and oversight of major highway and bridge projects was the subject of a recent House hearing that included testimony from

Cost and oversight of major highway and bridge projects was the subject of a recent House hearing that included testimony from Nevada Department of Transportation Director Tom Stephens and Federal Highway Administrator Mary Peters.


Stephens said the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials is identifying solutions that can benefit all major infrastructure projects and working to share them within the highway and transit communities.


Even though his home state, Nevada, is the fastest-growing state in the nation, "We have been able to maintain an excellent record on cost control and project oversight," Stephens said.


Still, there is room for improvement. Nevada's DOT has identified 10 areas in which change orders could be reduced--an aspect of construction that has added an average of 9% to project costs over the low-bid amount. The areas are: project tracking, design expertise, design manuals/checklists/training, construction inspection expertise, geotechnical issues, unbalanced bidding by contractors, the complexity of new systems, the challenge of locations that pose special building difficulties and right-of-way issues.


Stephens shared examples of several recent "megaprojects" that have gone well, including the reconstruction of Utah's I-15 using a design-build approach.


Peters stated that major project oversight had become increasingly important, with 14 active projects across the country exceeding $1 billion in cost. She said lessons learned from the Boston Central Artery, I-15 reconstruction and the Alameda Corridor have indicated that the most common factor leading to cost increases and delays has been the annual adjustment of project schedules to fit actual revenues available.


Peters emphasized FHWA's oversight efforts including the creation of the Major Project Team, information and technology transfer and industry partnership activities.



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