Work Zone Mobility and Safety Program

Applying the Principles of the Work Zone Rule to Design-Build Projects, Two Case Studies

1. Introduction

The Work Zone Safety and Mobility Rule (the Rule), issued by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in 2004, applies to all Federal-aid highway projects and affects agencies receiving such funding. The Rule aims to bring about greater consideration and understanding of work zone impacts throughout project development; minimization of those impacts where possible through scheduling, coordination, design, and staging decisions; and better management of remaining impacts during construction. Design-build projects are becoming more prevalent as agencies seek to speed up projects to leverage resources through growing use of accelerated project timelines, public-private partnerships, x and contracting out design work. The principles advocated by the Rule and its provisions, such as impacts analysis and transportation management plans (TMPs), apply to design-build projects, but may need to be applied somewhat differently to address the differences between design-build and traditional design-bid-build. Because of these differences in project development and implementation processes and roles and responsibilities, FHWA identified the need to examine how the Rule can best be applied to design-build projects.

Purpose of this Document

The purpose of this case study report is to describe how the good work zone planning, design, and management principles of the Rule were applied to two design-build projects, the US 285 Design-Build Project in Colorado and the I-85 Corridor Improvement Project in North Carolina, and how application of these principles differed from applying these principles to traditional design-bid-build projects. The lessons learned from these case studies, and other research, will be used to identify tips, guidance, and other resources that may be helpful to agencies and design-builders to facilitate application of the principles of the Rule to design-build projects.

Overview of the Rule

FHWA's updated Work Zone Safety and Mobility Rule applies to all state and local governments that receive federal-aid highway funding. The Rule was published in the Federal Register on September 9, 2004, and as of October 12, 2007 transportation agencies are required to comply with its provisions. The overarching goal of the Rule is to reduce crashes and congestion in and around work zones. Provisions in support of this goal encourage agencies to consider work zone safety and mobility impacts both early on and throughout the project delivery process and to expand work zone planning beyond the project work zone itself to address corridor, network, and regional issues. The Rule also advocates expanding work zone management beyond traffic safety and control to encompass broader solutions that address the need for continued mobility during road construction.

Three primary components of the Rule:

  • Policy-level provisions for State/Local Agencies to implement an overall work zone safety and mobility policy for the systematic consideration and management of work zone impacts.
  • Agency-level processes and procedures to help State/Local Agencies implement and sustain their respective work zone policies.
  • Project-level procedures that help State/Local Agencies assess and manage the work zone impacts of individual projects.

In the Rule, there are eight key aspects that need to be applied by State/Local Agencies:

Key Aspect #1 - Work zone assessment and management procedures: Agencies should develop and implement systematic procedures to assess work zone impacts in project development, and to manage safety and mobility during project implementation.

Key Aspect #2 - Work zone data collection and analysis: At the project level, Agencies shall use field observations, available work zone crash data, and operational information to manage work zone impacts for specific projects. At the agency level, Agencies shall continually pursue improvement of work zone safety and mobility by analyzing work zone crash and operational data from multiple projects to improve Agency processes and procedures.

Key Aspect #3 - Training: Agencies shall require that personnel involved in the development, design, implementation, operation, inspection and enforcement of work zone related transportation management and traffic control be trained, appropriate to the job decisions each individual is required to make.

Key Aspect #4 - Process review: Agencies shall perform a process review at least every two years. Appropriate personnel who represent the different project development stages and offices within the State/Local Agency and the FHWA should participate.

Key Aspect #5 - Transportation Management Plan: Agencies must develop and implement a transportation management plan (TMP) for each project, in consultation with appropriate stakeholders.

Key Aspect #6 - Plans, Specifications & Estimates (PS&E) shall include the TMP or provisions for contractors to create a TMP: A TMP can be created by the Agency and the applicable elements included in the PS&Es, or the Contractor will develop it subject to the approval of the Agency prior to implementation.

Key Aspect #7 - Pay Item Provisions - Method or Performance Based: Pay item provisions for implementing the TMP shall be included in the PS&Es. For method-based specifications, individual pay items, lump sum payment, or a combination thereof may be used. For performance-based specifications, applicable performance criteria and standards may be used.

Key Aspect #8 - Designated Trained Person: The Agency and the Contractor shall each designate a trained person at the project level who has the primary responsibility and sufficient authority for implementing the TMP and other safety and mobility aspects of the project.

All of these aspects have some effect on projects. Most of these aspects are applied at the project level, such as assessing the safety and mobility impacts of an upcoming project, developing a TMP for the project, and collecting data to monitor TMP performance in the field during construction. Training requirements may apply to personnel who work on multiple projects, but the contract for a given project may require specific training or certification for personnel working on the project or acting as the designated person. While process reviews generally look at some statewide data (e.g., work zone crashes) that covers all projects, in-depth review is generally done on a subset of all projects.

Because the various stakeholders have different roles and responsibilities in design-build projects than in the traditional design-bid-build project delivery method, and project activities may be sequenced differently, issues can arise when these eight aspects are applied to design-build projects. Some aspects may need to be applied to design-build projects in a different manner than how they are applied to design-bid-build projects.

Organization of the Document

The following provides a brief description of each section in the report.

  • Section 1 - Introduction. This section describes the contents of the case study report, and provides the purpose of the document and background of the FHWA Rule.
  • Section 2 - Comparison of Two Project Delivery Methods. This section explains the conventional design-bid-build (DBB), design-build (DB), and other project delivery methods. It also compares the design-bid-build and design-build methods and how the differences can affect the application of the Rule.
  • Section 3 - State Implementation of the Rule. This section presents information on Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) work zone safety and mobility policies, procedures, and guidelines, and explains CDOT's and NCDOT's approaches to implementing the Rule.
  • Section 4 - Colorado US 285 Design-Build Project. This section describes the US 285 Design-Build project, including the location and development of the project, and provides a description of the key stakeholders, schedule, request for proposal (RFP), and project implementation. This section also presents successes, issues, and challenges when applying the Rule during the project development and implementation phases.
  • Section 5 - North Carolina I-85 Corridor Improvement Project. This section describes the I-85 Design-Build project, including the location and development of the project, and provides a description of the key stakeholders, schedule, RFP, and project implementation. This section also presents successes, issues, and challenges when applying the Rule during the project development and implementation phases.
  • Section 6 - Other North Carolina Design-Build Projects. This section describes North Carolina DOT's experience on other design-build projects and some of its successes, issues, and challenges when applying the Rule to these projects.
  • Section 7 - Lessons Learned and Opportunities. This section describes lessons learned from the case studies and provides methods and tips that can be used to address and/or avoid issues and challenges that may arise for similar projects.

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