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Accelerating Project Delivery

SHRP2 C19 Expediting Project Delivery

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Common Constraints to Transportation Project Delivery

The Transportation Research Board Report S2-C19-RR-1, Expedited Planning and Environmental Review of Highway Projects, identifies and describes 16 common constraints that occur during project delivery. These constraints are described below.

plus sign 1. Avoiding policy decisions through continual analysis
minus sign 1. Avoiding policy decisions through continual analysis

Continual analysis can indicate an unwillingness to support or agree on various project issues. Often these requests are seen as a way to settle decisions through an analytical route as opposed to a political one. Repeated requests for more detailed analysis, requests for outside experts or additional review of analysis, or requests for new models or datasets are key indicators of this constraint. The following strategies may be used to address this constraint:

  • Consolidated Decision Council
  • Expedited Internal Review and Decision-Making
  • Interagency Dispute Resolution Process
  • Programmatic Permitting
  • Regional Environmental Analysis Framework
  • Up Front Environmental Commitments
plus sign 2. Conflicting resource values
minus sign 2. Conflicting resource values

As State DOTs work with resource agencies to evaluate potential effects on the environment, differing opinions and understandings about the value, extent, and location of natural and cultural resources can hamper progress. Such differences can occur if the agencies have each undertaken separate resource inventories at different times and using different techniques, or they can result from a simple perceived or real conflict in protecting the different resources under the jurisdictions of different agencies. These differences can cause misunderstandings, create debate, and require project-specific inventories rather than relying on more efficient regional surveys. Cumulative effects analyses can be especially challenging when assessing past impacts that were made with different assumptions and used different methodologies. The following strategies may be used to address this constraint:

  • Coordinated and Responsive Agency Involvement
  • Facilitation to Align Expectations Up Front
  • Interagency Dispute Resolution Process
  • Planning and Environmental Linkages
  • Planning-Level Environmental Screening Criteria
  • Regional Environmental Analysis Framework
  • Up-Front Environmental Commitments
plus sign 3. Difficulty agreeing on impacts and mitigation
minus sign 3. Difficulty agreeing on impacts and mitigation

The process of identifying and developing agreement on the nature and scope of environmental impacts and negotiating and designing mitigation can be challenging and is a frequent source of delay for projects. Debate or disagreement over mitigation decisions can delay overall project progress because it typically occurs late during the NEPA phase and is often on the critical path. The following strategies may be used to address this constraint:

  • Coordinated and Responsive Agency Involvement
  • State DOT-Funded Resource Agency Liaisons
  • Facilitation to Align Expectations Up Front
  • Interagency Dispute Resolution Process
  • Planning and Environmental Linkages
  • Planning-Level Environmental Screening Criteria
  • Programmatic Permitting
  • Regional Environmental Analysis Framework
  • Up Front Environmental Commitments
plus sign 4. Inability to maintain agreement
minus sign 4. Inability to maintain agreement

Changing or reopening decisions lengthens schedules and delays progress. For project expediting, decisions should be maintained across the parties and over time. While many decisions evolve and shift, sometimes agreements can deteriorate or not be reliable for reasons that could be actively managed and avoided. The most challenging situation occurs when a decision is revisited repeatedly, changed, ignored, or contested after agreement has been reached. The following strategies may be used to address this constraint:

  • Consolidated Decision Council
  • Coordinated and Responsive Agency Involvement
  • State DOT-Funded Resource Agency Liaisons
  • Early Commitment of Construction Funding
  • Facilitation to Align Expectations Up Front
  • Highly Responsive Public Involvement
  • Interagency Dispute Resolution Process
  • Planning and Environmental Linkages
  • Programmatic Permitting
  • Strategic Oversight and Readiness Assessment
plus sign 5. Ineffective internal communication
minus sign 5. Ineffective internal communication

Quick, easy communication within a project team is vital for rapid progress, but it is often difficult for project managers and agencies to define and achieve. As project teams grow in size and complexity, so does the need for strong internal communication. This ensures everyone understands priorities, new decisions, and changing directions and that everyone is working with the latest data. Hindrances to internal project communication can disrupt or delay discussions and decisions that are necessary to maintain project momentum. The following strategies may be used to address this constraint:

  • Consolidated Decision Council
  • Expedited Internal Review and Decision-Making
  • Real-Time Collaborative Interagency Reviews
  • Strategic Oversight and Readiness Assessment
  • Team Co-Location
plus sign 6. Inefficient Section 106 consultation with State Historic Preservation Officer
minus sign 6. Inefficient Section 106 consultation with State Historic Preservation Officer

Most State DOT projects and activities have little or no potential to affect historic or archaeological resources, but they are nonetheless often subject to project-by-project review from the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO). These reviews can add time and expense to these projects and sap resources that might otherwise be better spent on projects with more likelihood of affecting resources protected by Section 106. The traditional approach of individually submitting most State DOT projects and activities to SHPO for review and comment is generally inefficient. This approach may ultimately inhibit agencies from providing the appropriate resources on projects that do pose concern for historic and archaeological resources. The following strategies may be used to address this constraint:

  • Coordinated and Responsive Agency Involvement
  • State DOT-Funded Resource Agency Liaisons
  • Planning-Level Environmental Screening Criteria
  • Programmatic Agreement for Section 106
plus sign 7. Inordinate focus on single issue
minus sign 7. Inordinate focus on single issue

Projects can become paralyzed if an inordinate amount of focus is placed on one resource or issue. This focus can be driven by an influential stakeholder with a particular interest or by an agency or stakeholder with a deep commitment to the resource. It is normal for resources to be divided up by groups and agencies; it is part of the structure within which planning occurs. However, sometimes an inordinate level of concern for a given resource seems to consume all the energy for a project. The following strategies may be used to address this constraint:

  • Consolidated Decision Council
  • Coordinated and Responsive Agency Involvement
  • Facilitation to Align Expectations Up Front
  • Interagency Dispute Resolution Process
  • Planning and Environmental Linkages
  • Planning-Level Environmental Screening Criteria
  • Real-Time Collaborative Interagency Reviews
  • Regional Environmental Analysis Framework
  • Up-Front Environmental Commitments
plus sign 8. Insufficient public engagement or support
minus sign 8. Insufficient public engagement or support

Obtaining meaningful public engagement can be difficult unless people understand how they could be directly affected by a project. Attracting public interest in long-range planning efforts is chronically difficult because activities 10 to 20 years or more in the future do not have the same potential to concern or appeal to a community as more imminent projects. Socioeconomic barriers, lack of transportation, or perceived disempowerment can make engagement even more difficult. Insufficient public participation can make transportation planning less effective at supporting subsequent project development. The following strategies may be used to address this constraint:

  • Context-Sensitive Design
  • Early Commitment of Construction Funding
  • Highly Responsive Public Involvement
  • Media Relations Manager
plus sign 9. Issues arising late cause project change
minus sign 9. Issues arising late cause project change

Late issues or seemingly new issues introduced late in the planning or review process can lead to project delay. Sometimes this constraint stems from new participants entering the process, or it is used as a tactic to stall the overall process by requiring consideration of new options that may not be relevant. The following strategies may be used to address this constraint:

  • Change Control Practices
  • Facilitation to Align Expectations Up-Front
  • Highly Responsive Public Involvement
  • Interagency Dispute Resolution Process
  • Planning and Environmental Linkages
  • Planning-Level Environmental Screening Criteria
  • Real-Time Collaborative Interagency Reviews
  • Regional Environmental Analysis Framework
  • Tiered NEPA Process
plus sign 10. Lack of dedicated staff
minus sign 10. Lack of dedicated staff

Transportation agency resources are often stretched thin across many different projects and initiatives, which can result in insufficient staffing resources and delayed progress. Projects can suffer from insufficient staff resources because of programmatic or agencywide changes that compete with project staff time or because of new developments specific to the project that require additional staffing. The following strategies may be used to address this constraint:

  • State DOT-Funded Resource Agency Liaisons
  • Early Commitment of Construction Funding
  • Strategic Oversight and Readiness Assessment
  • Team Co-Location
plus sign 11. Lengthy review and revision cycles
minus sign 11. Lengthy review and revision cycles

Preparation and publication of planning studies and NEPA documentation can be delayed by protracted review and revision cycles. Delays can occur on projects with multiple reviewing agencies, particularly if their reviews occur sequentially (i.e., lead agency review first, then cooperating agencies, followed by resource agencies); if additional reviews are requested; if reviewers require more time than originally allotted; and/or if time is needed for reconciliation between conflicting reviewers. The following strategies may be used to address this constraint:

  • Coordinated and Responsive Agency Involvement
  • State DOT-Funded Resource Agency Liaisons
  • Early Commitment of Construction Funding
  • Expedited Internal Review and Decision-Making
  • Facilitation to Align Expectations Up Front
  • Planning and Environmental Linkages
  • Planning-Level Environmental Screening Criteria
  • Programmatic Permitting
  • Real-Time Collaborative Interagency Reviews
  • Team Co-Location
plus sign 12. Negative or critical coverage from the media
minus sign 12. Negative or critical coverage from the media

Projects often encounter challenges when media coverage highlights or stokes controversy and opposition. A variety of factors can create or contribute to these difficulties. Projects leaders can fail to anticipate hot-button issues with local media outlets or stakeholder groups, or they may identify the issues but not develop effective methods for addressing these issues or working with these groups. Transportation agencies often struggle to communicate information, either in meetings or via press releases that both anticipates and clearly addresses topics of potential interest and concern to the press and their public audience. The following strategies may be used to address this constraint:

  • Highly Responsive Public Involvement
  • Media Relations Manager
plus sign 13. Relocation process delays construction
minus sign 13. Relocation process delays construction

Property acquisition and the relocation of residents or businesses are often on the critical path to the start of construction, which adds pressure on the transportation agency to quickly negotiate replacement housing payments and other settlement issues that must be completed during the relocation process. This process can be stressful for tenants or business owners who generally have different motivations than the transportation agency, and can lead to protracted negotiations that delay relocation and subsequent project activities. With the relocation process frequently on the critical path to construction, and given the direct implications of delay to project cost, transportation agencies will often benefit from techniques that expedite relocations. The following strategies may be used to address this constraint:

  • Highly Responsive Public Involvement
  • Incentive Payments to Expedite Relocations
  • Media Relations Manager
plus sign 14. Slow decision making
minus sign 14. Slow decision making

When decisions take longer than expected or anticipated, the decision-making process can feel unclear, as can the path to agreement. At times, it may seem that there is a low level of interest in committing to a decision and that indecision prolongs the process. The following strategies may be used to address this constraint:

  • Consolidated Decision Council
  • Early Commitment of Construction Funding
  • Expedited Internal Review and Decision-Making
  • Planning and Environmental Linkages
  • Real-Time Collaborative Interagency Reviews
  • Strategic Oversight and Readiness Assessment
  • Team Co-Location
plus sign 15. Stakeholder controversy and opposition
minus sign 15. Stakeholder controversy and opposition

Obtaining stakeholder support for a given project is an important component of the initiative’s success and timely progress. Stakeholders may oppose one or more particular elements for a project which can delay or cancel a project. Issues that are prone to stakeholder opposition include contradicting pre-existing plans and significantly changing in demographics or property ownership in an area. To avoid the issue of stakeholder opposition or to remedy it once it has begun, the following strategies can be applied:

  • Context-Sensitive Design
  • Facilitation to Align Expectations Up-Front
  • Highly Responsive Public Involvement
  • Media Relations Manager
  • Regional Environmental Analysis Framework
  • Up-Front Environmental Commitments
plus sign 16. Unusually large scale of and/or complex project or program
minus sign 16. Unusually large scale of and/or complex project or program

State DOTs are occasionally faced with a project or program of projects that is larger and more complex than what they are accustomed to. These projects or programs may entail many separate components that form a major infrastructure improvement or distinct projects of a similar nature that are being addressed programmatically. Typically, projects of unusually large scale and/or complexity cannot be pursued efficiently or effectively with a business as usual approach. Instead, decision-making, permitting, and designing will require new techniques to be accomplished efficiently. The following strategies may be used to address this constraint:

  • Consolidated Decision Council
  • Coordinated and Responsive Agency Involvement
  • State DOT-Funded Resource Agency Liaisons
  • Early Commitment of Construction Funding
  • Expedited Internal Review and Decision-Making
  • Interagency Dispute Resolution Process
  • Performance Standards
  • Programmatic Permitting
  • Real-Time Collaborative Interagency Reviews
  • Strategic Oversight and Readiness Assessment
  • Team Co-Location
  • Tiered NEPA Process

For more information, please contact David Williams at 202-366-4074.

 

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