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Research - Project Delivery

These 2006 research projects are focused on project delivery. They are separated by:

Construction


Research Implementation Plan

Project Title:
Project Scoping/State of Practice: Washington State
Project WA-RD#: 680.1
Principal Investigator(s): Dr. Ken Casavant, Dr. Eric Jessup, and Mark Holmgren, WSU.
Technical Monitor: Mark Gabel, WSDOT

Description of the Problem
The underestimation of WSDOT construction projects costs and schedules can damage agency credibility. Scoping identifies a project’s purpose and need, its characteristics, and its predicted schedule and estimated cost. The overall goal of this research project was to investigate ways to accurately scope projects using a process that aligns with the critical path development for programming and the legislative budget cycle. Inadequate scoping of a project often affects the project’s schedule and budget and can mislead or give incomplete information to decision makers as they allocate project funding. We know from past experiences that projects that have underestimated costs and schedules, especially for mega-projects, are problematic. They can become the basis for public distrust, lack of confidence in project implementers, and lack of interest for increased funding. These “over-budget” and “overdue” projects have generated considerable literature, studies, Web site activity, and media attention.

Major Discovery
The researchers did an extensive review of literature on the subject of scoping and cost escalation. A broad survey and review of the activities and efforts of 14 states, usually by the Departments of Transportation, augmented the literature review. The common elements of the survey and literature review:

  • Cost estimation is a challenging component of the scoping process both in a budgeting and public trust context. WSDOT found that a project cost estimate is most accurately expressed, not as a single number, but as a range.
  • Transparency of WSDOT’s scoping process will encourage accurate estimates in an ongoing fashion while fostering acceptance of those estimates and project characteristics. The Virginia Department of Transportation’s public information program, the Dashboard Web site, gives the public an easy to use and understand tool on project status and is a model mentioned favorably in the reviews and survey.
  • Historical data are snapshots in the past in a changing market; and while historical data are useful, augment with additional knowledge and judgment. Inflation indices guide the growth in costs; but no one can guarantee what the future will bring.

Use of information to WSDOT and Value to WSDOT
The information gained from this research is useful in promoting an increased emphasis and placing a higher priority on estimating throughout project development. This research also affirms WSDOT Cost Risk-Based Estimating Practices (CEVP and CRA) and endorses expanding use of the CRA/CEVP workshop. The survey of other states is helpful in benchmarking WSDOT’s program to develop a best practice approach. The risk-based estimating processes (Cost Estimate Validation Process [CEVP] and Cost Risk Assessment [CRA]) developed by WSDOT were well accepted, and often recommended, in the review of literature and survey of states. The research serves as a communication tool to increase the understanding and value of WSDOT’s risk-based estimating processes.

Implementation Plan Checklist

Results achieved
through this research
Items/Actions needed to
implement results
x Knowledge to assist WSDOT   Management decision
  Manual change   Funding
  Policy development or change x Training
  Development of software/computer
application
  Information technology deployment
  Development of new process x Information sharing
  Additional research needed   Other (specify)
  Project produced no usable results    
x Other (describe) Ideas for Best Practices    


Research Implementation Plan

Project Title:
Performance Analysis and Forecasting for WSDOT Highway Projects
Project WA-RD#: 675.1
Principal Investigator: Ahmed M. Abdel Aziz, Ph. D., Assistant Professor, University of Washington
Technical Monitor: Craig McDaniel, WSDOT Construction Administration

WSDOT builds hundreds of transportation projects every year. We rely on time and cost predictions for these projects to make monitoring, planning, and budgeting decisions. WSDOT maintains a wealth of data from past and present construction projects, which provides us with, among other things, feedback for future project cost and time estimating.

It is important to create and use as many administration oversight tools as possible. As a result of this research, we now have benchmark performance profiles as a tool for evaluating project progress and estimating cost and time.

The products of the research are the graphs which define a performance envelope pertaining to different project criteria. This enables construction administration managers to flag projects that fall outside of expected performances thereby warranting special attention. It also provides executive management with a quick, high-level view of whether the projects are progressing consistent with what has been determined to be successful.

Implementation Plan Checklist

Results achieved
through this research
Items/Actions needed to
implement results
x Knowledge to assist WSDOT   Management decision
  Manual change   Funding
  Policy development or change   Training
  Development of software/computer
application
  Information technology deployment
x Development of new process x Information sharing
  Additional research needed   Other (specify)
  Project produced no usable results    
  Other (describe)    


Environmental Projects


Assessment and Mitigation of Potential Environmental Impacts of Portland Cement Concrete Highway Grindings - WA-RD 628.1
Principal Investigator:
David Yonge, WSU
Technical Monitor: Linda Pierce, WSDOT

The primary objectives of this study were to quantify the affect of PCC slurry on roadside soil pH and to evaluate the effectiveness of using compost to at least partially neutralize slurry pH.

The anticipated benefits are a cost savings on PCCP rehabilitation projects that include diamond grinding.

Assessment of Alternatives in Roadside Vegetation Management - WA-RD 621.1
Principal Investigator:
Kristina Hilll
Technical Monitor: Ray Willard

This study was conducted to explore both the need for and the variety of alternatives to the use of an annual application of herbicides for removing vegetation in the area immediately adjacent to the pavement edge.

This work resulted in a decision framework that could be used to guide WSDOT district maintenance staff in formulating management plans for vegetation was developed. The decision framework differs from current practice primarily in that it begins with the assumption that maintenance of the area immediately adjacent to the pavement edge is not necessary unless some particular, observable condition triggers the need for such maintenance.

The decision framework will be used during 2006 to perform field trials of different types of treatments. These field trials will be tracked over time to determine their effectiveness. This work will be funded through the Maintenance office.

This research resulted in a decision framework, which will be used in trials. Some of the treatments could result in cost savings or environmental benefits, but the trials will need to be completed before the benefits will be known.

Results achieved
through this research
Items/Actions needed to
implement results
x Knowledge to assist WSDOT x Management decision
  Manual change x Funding
  Policy development or change   Training
  Development of software/computer
application
x Information technology deployment
x Development of new process   Information sharing
x Additional research needed   Other (specify)
  Project produced no usable results    
  Other (describe)    

The field trials utilizing the decision framework will begin in 2006 and continue for multiple years.

The anticipated benefits are that there will likely be areas where the herbicide use can be minimized or eliminated.

   
Materials Projects

Long-Term Performance of Geotextile Separators: Bucoda Test Site – Phase III - WA-RD 595.1
Principal Investigator:
Robert Holtz
Technical Monitor: Tony Allen, WSDOT

This research was Phase III of field investigations carried out over 12 years at a test section in southwest Washington State in an effort to quantify the contribution of

Geotextile within a test pit
Photo of geotextile within a test pit (note the pavement thickness)

geotextile separators to the long-term performance of pavement sections. Five different geotextile separators, as well as a control (soil-only) section, were installed in a

test section covering two lanes with different base course thicknesses on a low volume but heavily loaded rural highway west of Bucoda, WA. Phase I evaluated the performance of the separators during construction. Phases II and III were conducted to evaluate the performance of the separators 5 and 12 years after construction, respectively.

Field and laboratory tests were conducted on the subgrade, granular base materials, and the geotextiles as part of the effort to correlate the performance of the pavement section to the presence of the geotextile separators. Some results did suggest that geotextiles might contribute to an increase in the base course modulus over time.

More research is needed with a thinner pavement section to determine its ability to strengthen the pavement structure and as a separator layer.

Pavement designers at WSDOT will use this research to assess the benefits vs. cost of geotextile separators. More research is needed to determine its use in a thinner pavement structure.

The value of this research is the knowledge gained from this type of material. It is known that geotextiles are effective as a separator layer, but with thicker pavement structures (6-8 inches of Hot Mix Asphalt (HMA), it is not cost effective to include a geotextile as a structural component.

Results achieved
through this research
Items/Actions needed to
implement results
x Knowledge to assist WSDOT   Management decision
  Manual change   Funding
  Policy development or change   Training
  Development of software/computer
application
  Information technology deployment
  Development of new process x Information sharing
x Additional research needed   Other (specify)
  Project produced no usable results    
  Other (describe)    

The information gained from this research will be shared immediately. This research confirmed current practices, so no change to manuals will take place.

   
Bridge Projects

State-of-the-Art Report on Precast Concrete Systems for Rapid Construction of Bridges - WA-RD 594.1

Precast Concrete Pier Systems for Rapid Construction of Bridges in Seismic Regions - WA-RD 611.1

Design of Precast Concrete Piers for Rapid Bridge Construction in Seismic Regions - WA-RD 629.2
Principal Investigators: Marc Eberhard, John Stanton.
Technical Monitor: Jugesh Kapur

(These three research projects were all part of the same report.)

The FHWA is encouraging implementation of rapid bridge construction techniques with the use of precast elements that are connected together in the field. There is lack of information on the performance of these connections during seismic events, and this has been the main deterrent for implementation of rapid bridge construction techniques in Washington.

This research was intended to develop methods to make connections between precast elements perform better during earthquakes.

The focus of each report:

  1. WA-RD 594.1
    This report discusses precast concrete systems that have been used for rapid bridge construction outside of Washington State and evaluates whether they are suitable for use within Western Washington. The report also identifies key features that are important for successful precast concrete system applications. 
  2. WA-RD 611.1
    This study compared two precast concrete bridge pier systems for rapid construction of bridges in seismic regions. One was a reinforced concrete system, in which mild steel deformed bars connect the precast concrete components. The other was a hybrid system, which uses a combination of unbonded post-tensioning and mild steel deformed bars to make the connections. The initial results of a parametric study suggest that the systems have the potential for good seismic performance.

  3. WA-RD 629.2
    Methodologies were developed to design economical and safe bridge piers out of precast concrete components. This research developed force-based and displacement-based procedures for the design of both cast-in-place emulation and hybrid precast concrete piers. The design procedures were developed so that they require no nonlinear analysis making them practical for use in a design office. Both the force-based and displacement-based design procedures were found to produce bridges designs expected to experience an acceptable amount of damage in a design-level earthquake.

This research will mainly benefit WSDOT’s bridge engineers. The new construction techniques will be evaluated in Phase II of this research (to verify performance under earthquake loads) and eventually used in future designs.

The value this research has to WSDOT is that by using rapid construction techniques, bridges would be built faster and the impact to the traveling public and the environment be minimized. Worker safety in the field would also be enhanced. Contractors may realize Substantial timesavings and reduced project costs.

Results achieved
through this research
Items/Actions needed to
implement results
x Knowledge to assist WSDOT x Management decision
  Manual change   Funding
x Policy development or change   Training
  Development of software/computer
application
  Information technology deployment
  Development of new process x Information sharing
  Additional research needed   Other (specify)
  Project produced no usable results    
  Other (describe)    


Phase II of this research project will begin in 2006 to verify that the connections can withstand earthquake loads. Once complete, these new designs can and will be used to build bridges rapidly.

Rapid construction techniques will allow fewer roadway closures, which will improve worker safety and public delay.