How the pork is served up, according to the  Highway Dept.

Another speaker presentation to the Legislature’s Joint Interim Committee on Highway Preservation and Modernization. Since Oregon doesn’t have it’s own Pentagon, the Highway Department is where the big pork grabs occur, as powerful legislators demand highway spending in their districts as their price for cooperation on other state priorities.

Mr. Paul Mather:  [39:52] Madame Chair, members of the committee. Paul Mather, Highway Division Administrator for ODOT. I’m going to try to move through the life cycle of a project from its inception to our completion of the project, and give you some of the high points of how a project proceeds.

[40:29] As you’ve been on your tour, and I’ve been on the tour with you, you’ve seen various stages of these projects. As people have talked to you about projects they want, projects that are in design, projects that you’ve seen in construction, I’m going to try to connect those dots for you tonight to show you how things are put together.

[40:44] This is that project life cycle I’ll talk about. I’ll talk about policy needs and selection, and so forth as we go through.

[40:53] We start with policy planning and sometimes statute. As you put projects into statute, whether it’s with JTA, or whether with a capital construction program, but traditionally they start in the policy planning arena. From ODOT’s standpoint, and the commission’s standpoint, we have the Oregon transportation plan.

[41:13] The Oregon Transportation Plan sets out policies, and then we have some local plans. On the local government side, which is the land use agencies, they have the comp plans, and they have their transportation system plans that bring those things together from a state level and a local level, and knit those together where those projects are identified in those transportation system plans.

[41:32] That’s really the birthplace for the majority of our enhanced or modernization projects. Not on the Fix‑It pavement, bridge, I’ll get to that here shortly. But that’s where you see many of the projects you see on the tour. That’s where they’ve originated from.

[41:49] The next step in the process is we talk about funding. Travis just went through and talked about where we are, funding‑wise, but we put the financial constraints lens over those projects that have been identified through the planning process.

[42:03] Again, legislatively, you’ve passed bills such as the Jobs and Transportation Act, which puts projects into statutes and funds those projects, but the federal funds that Travis was just talking about, our transportation commission goes through a process to select projects in two major categories that we talk about.

[42:21] You’ll hear us talk about enhanced projects. Those are projects that expand the system. There are additional lands, additional interchanges, or what we call Fix‑It projects, and those are just taking care of what we have, pavements, bridges, those types of things.

[42:33] In our transportation plan, it specifies that we need to take care of what we have first before we expand. It’s illustrated here in the dollar amounts in our commission’s actions to put as much money as they can towards Fix‑It. This amount that we have in Fix‑It doesn’t take care entirely of our asset.

[42:49] When I’m in front of you in the future, I’ll be talking about our bridge needs and pavement needs. This does not fully fund that, but they do recognize we have to spend some money on the enhance side just to provide some operational improvements and enhancement to the system.

[43:13] The selection process. Enhanced process, if you’ve met with the various area commissions of transportation around the state, they’re very involved in that process.

[43:12] As you’ve heard them talk about their needs and their involvement in selecting those projects, they are directly created by the Transportation Commission. They’re chartered by them, and they report their results and recommendations back to the commission through our enhanced process.

[43:27] On the Fix‑It side, we use our asset management systems. Travis talked a little bit about the All Roads Safety Program, but it’s really a data‑driven process for our safety programs. We’re aimed at those areas with fatal and serious accidents, both from a reactive and a proactive standpoint.

[43:48] We target those areas where we have high crash rates, but we also apply things like cable barriers, rumble strips, other things in a proactive way to prevent those things from happening in the first place. We have a pavement management system that tries to target when a pavement is going through its decline, or its failure.

[44:04] We try to pick those points in its life where we can add a chip seal, we can add an overlay, before we get to a very costly total rebuild of the project. Our bridge inventory, local bridge culverts.

[44:17] Operations is really kind of a catchall. We put rockfalls in there, we put signal enhancements in there, illumination. There’s a variety of things that go into our operation category.

[44:29] All those things are folded together into our STIP that Travis talked about. That’s our capital improvement program. Our commission there is the one that approves that. It’s a federal document. All federal funds have to be in there, and we also include…Our major state projects are also included in that document.

[44:46] Once we have an approved STIP, we really go into some intense product management, program management processes that we have in the department. Each project has a project charter and in that charter, we document coming out of that selection process.

[45:01] We have a scope. It has a schedule and it has a budget. We make sure that if it’s a pavement project, it stays a pavement project, and doesn’t expand into a new interchange, or a new lane, or so forth. We have a schedule for that project and we have, obviously, a budget for that project.

[45:16] We have a change management process because we know life change. Life happens. We get public input, and we discover things as we go through the design process, but it’s a conscious decision. If we’re going to add scope, change schedule, change budget, we’ve got to go back and understand the impacts that may have to another project on the list that may suffer the consequences of that. We may have to go back to our commission and so forth, to make those adjustments to the STIP.

[45:43] The next thing we think about is several different things. One is just the size of the project, and how we approach it, the type of contracting that we’re going to use on the project.

[45:54] First of all, I’ll talk about size. We try to do a couple things. One is, we try to size projects small enough that we can get new contractors into the business, that we continue to develop new contractors to make sure that we have a stable of contractors here in Oregon that keeps competition high, and keeps that contracting environment healthy.

[46:14] We also try to phase projects in a way that we can size projects for Oregon firms to be highly competitive. As you’ve gone around and seen various projects around, you’ve seen evidence of this where we try to hit that sweet spot of about $40‑$80 million, we have found keeps Oregon firms very competitive in that market.

[46:35] It helps us from a competitive standpoint and obviously helps the economy of Oregon by keeping those Oregon firms involved in projects.

[46:42] At this point, we also talk about the type of contracting that we want to use. Our traditional way is what we call “design, bid, build,” where a design is done either in‑house, or by a consultant. We bid those projects out based on low bid, select a contractor, and build the project.

[46:58] That’s our traditional way, but even in that methodology, we have some flexibility. I was in the Senate this morning, briefing the Senate Committee on a project that we have outside of Sweet Home on Highway 20, we call Sheep Creek Bridge. We actually put incentive, disincentives into that contract where the contractor had a $14,000 a day bonus, or a $14,000 a day penalty if they went before or after that.

[47:24] In this case, the contractor finished two weeks early and got almost a $200,000 bonus for completing that project and opening that road. We had the road closed while that work was going on early.

[47:39] We also look at other contracting methods. Design‑build is one, where we go out and do a solicitation through a best value. It’s not a low bid process. It’s a best value where a team of construction, contractor, and a design firm team up and give proposals to us, which we evaluate based on best value.

[47:58] CMGC is a process we used on the Willamette River Bridge in Eugene, where we stayed in the middle of the relationship. We go ahead and we hire a design firm and a contractor together, but we have the contract with the design firm, and we have the contract with the contractor.

[48:19] As an owner, we stay in the middle of that relationship to help guide more risky projects, such as the project in Eugene.

[48:29] We’ve explored public‑private partnerships. It’s another method that we have not used in Oregon. We’ve explored three or four projects, but we haven’t found a project that pencils out with that, but that’s another tool that’s available to us.
[48:40] On the design side, today we do about half of the work in‑house in ODOT, and we do about half of the work through consultants. That number varies, and has varied over the last decade to as much as 30 percent outsourced, to as high as 70 percent outsourced.

[48:57] I will tell you, that’s the range we probably should be in. If we go lower than that, and we have ODOT staff doing 100 percent of the work, I would say that puts us in too risky of a place, and vice versa. If we go to almost all outsourced, we need to keep some technical competency as an owner to understand bridges, understand pavements, to be able to manage consultants doing that same work.

[49:21] Anywhere in that 30 to 70 percent range, we’ve been over the last decade and, I think, proven we can be successful. Just is a rule of thumb for you, as we talk about how much staff we need to deliver projects. About for every million dollars in program volume that we talk about, we need about two positions to deliver that, both in the design and construction phase of that.

[49:42] The next phase we go into is what we call preliminary design, and this is really where we outreach to the public, to really understand now that we have a concept of a project we really pull out to the communities for it to get their engagement.

[49:59] Some of our complex projects, we’ll do what we call design charrettes. We’ll involve them in exploring different interchanges, and different designs of that. It’s really, at this point, kind of a “pay me now or pay me later.”

[50:14] I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I can’t tell you how many times where we’ve skipped or skimped on this step, and found later on as we got under contract or under permit for a project, that we paid the consequences of not involving the public.

[50:31] We’ve learned this lesson in many hard ways, but it’s an important step, especially here in Oregon, which has a high value for public involvement, that we reach out to them and involve them in the process. This stage can take a while to go through. It depends on your project. If you’re talking about a project such as a Sunrise Corridor, or a Newberg‑Dundee, it can take a long time to get through this process.

[50:52] When we get to this phase, it’s almost a chicken‑and‑egg sometimes when we get into these complex projects. We don’t really understand the costs until we involve the public, and really understand what this project is going to look like so we can assign a cost to it.

[51:08] There’ll be projects that sit in this piece, as we understand the project, before we actually go apply either here or to our commission, for funding. I will tell you, when we were in the ’09 session and talking about the Jobs and Transportation Act,
we had a lot of projects idling in this stage in our process.

[51:26] Those projects that you’ve seen on Highway 62, Newberg‑Dundee, Sunrise Corridor, all those projects were idling, waiting for funding. Woodburn Interchange was another example, waiting for funding. Today, we don’t have a lot of projects in here.

[51:47] We have a few projects in here but not like we had in ’09 because of the financial situation Travis was laying out to you. Our commission has put more of our resources into the Fix‑It side of our program and other projects.

[52:00] Once we have what we call the design‑accepting package ‑‑ that’s about that 30 percent design ‑‑ or we’ve done that preliminary engineering work, we now have a footprint of our project and we can move into final design. The critical path here is typically right‑of‑way.

[52:13] We need to know enough about the project that we can establish lines on people’s property, go out to them, and negotiate with them the purchase of their property and final design. In this stage, we moved out of that creative public process and really moved into more of a production mode, and moving now as rapidly as we can from that design‑accepting package to a contract and we get a contractor moving forward.

[52:41] As we exit this process, there’s several things that we work on. The various permits that we need, whether they’re environmental permits, land use permits. Often, we do a constructability review. We’d bring in several contractors that come in and help us understand how we’re going to stage this project or how we are going to approach this project to make sure it’s as buildable or constructible as possible.

[53:05] We look at mobility constraints or concerns. We have many commitments out there that we’ve made to minimize delays, to allow over‑dimensional loads through our project. There’s also commitments we’ve made, paired routes for these over‑dimensional loads to make sure that we’ve accommodated all of the mobility commitments.

[53:27] Work zone strategies. We’re committed to having a safe work zone for motorists and workers, and trying to provide a positive barrier between traffic and workers, if at all possible.

[53:35] DBE goals are set in the stage. Typically, the first thing you’ll see on a project is when utilities are out there starting to move, leverage utilities. Again, a critical path for us, to get the information to the various utilities so they can do their work before we let our contractor.

[53:53] We then move into construction administration of the project. We continue to do outreach to the community. Obviously, our projects have, in many cases, a significant impact on driveways, people with properties, and people’s daily lives as they commute. We need to continue to communicate with them, listen to them and their concerns, adjust our projects, and so forth.

[54:15] One of the things I’d like to point out in this slide, if you look at the construction equipment there, you’ll see the automated features that it has on it. Those receptacles that you see on the either end of the blade of that bulldozer is taking information from a satellite and designing that project. There are no stakes you see in the picture or stakes in that project. It’s part of the technology that we now see in our construction world.

[54:40] The two inspectors that you see out there from the ODOT standpoint, you’ll notice they have tablets in their hands. We’re rapidly moving to a paperless environment where we can do all the documentation that we need to do on the project in real time and have electronic file cabinets and so forth.

[54:57] One of the examples of how this helps from an efficiency standpoint is we’re able to process change order on a contract, not in a matter of weeks, but a matter of days. That time means money to contractors and to our staffs, enables to keep things moving. Just an overall automation.

[55:14] We’ve seen a decrease in costs of four to six percent of our projects and probably, as or more importantly, we’ve seen construction time reduced by 20 or 30 percent.

[55:26] One of the things I just wanted to touch on in here, there’s been some article in the media talking or questioning about our processes that we use for quality control on our projects. I will point out, in that article it does raise questions about the processes that we use. It doesn’t raise questions about our projects, that there is actual material concerns that we have.

[55:52] In fact, we continue to compare very favorably with other states when you look at things like smoothness of pavements with other states neighboring us around the country. But we’ve taken those things seriously. We’ve asked federal highway administration to follow up on their investigation or audit that they do of us periodically. We’ve asked them to accelerate their next review of our practices that we have, and they will be doing that.

[56:23] We will be using automation as well. We’ve made a decision, starting next summer, to require in our major paving projects that we use what we call automated compaction. On the rollers you see behind the pavers, there’ll be data receptacles that will not only ensure that we have the density of pavements, but also we have the roller patterns, or the compaction from the rollers behind the pavement.

[56:51] We’ll have, in that, real data that will be collected, that we’ll be able to document whether that contractor has done what they were supposed to do in our specifications. Madame Chair, I plan to follow up on this topic later. It’s a matter of time that I want to stay on schedule.

[57:18] The next stage, obviously, we get to celebrate a project, and opening that project, and cut a ribbon on that project. I don’t want us to forget that we’re not done with that at that point. We still have to maintain and operate that. There’s a big part of ODOT’s budget, as you saw that Travis was talking about, that it takes just to maintain and operate our system.

[57:36] Just in closing, I just want to run through a couple examples for you, so you can see what I’ve just outlined from a process standpoint, what that may look like in a project.

[57:50] The Woodburn Interchange, I’ve referred to that several times, about an $80 million project. That cost included a right‑of‑way and construction. That’s the complete cost of that project.

[57:57] Obviously, it’s a major involvement from a public standpoint. It was in that preliminary design stage, I say plus or minus five years. It’s hard to actually draw that line of when we started into that because, again, we were waiting for that funding to really get some of the details around what the preliminary design of that project would look like.

[58:18] Right‑of‑way took a considerable amount of time on this project. We had a number of files. We were touching gas stations, HAZMAT issues, other things that we needed to work through on the final design, the right‑of‑way. Then construction, we planned on construction taking three years in this project. The contractor was able to do it in two years.

[58:35] Another example project in Eastern Oregon. This is a preservation project, or a pavement project that we had just outside of La Grande. We had on the interstate, I‑84, we’ve had this plan, had this in the queue. The legislature passed, you passed the Jobs and Transportation Act, which included a climbing lane in this section.

[58:52] We were able to marry, up here, an enhanced project and the Fix‑It projects that have some efficiencies. Even in this project, we had some public outreach we needed to do. This had major impacts for trucks, over‑dimensional trucks that go in through this corridor. We essentially restricted, as we were doing the concrete pavement work.

[59:11] We restricted over‑dimensional loads. Now, loads, for example, that were originating out of Portland had to go up over Mt. Hood, through Redmond, Highway 20, on to Ontario. We needed to coordinate that, live up to our commitments to make sure that route was open for those over‑dimensional loads, as we did work.

[59:30] We’re also constrained, obviously, by snow and weather in this environment that we’re only able to work during the summer months in doing that pavement and that earthwork, which really led to why the construction took three years on this project.

[59:46] Another example, Ross Island Bridge, a project that’s going underway now, a $40 million project to repaint that bridge. We had some public involvement. We actually had some conversation about what color to paint the bridge. That’s something that’s an important issue to a lot of people, and we know we need to have that conversation with them.

[60:04] We ended up painting it the same color that it is today, but we had that conversation with them. We have some preliminary designs, some final design, moves through those stages very rapidly, but construction takes a while. This is a very labor‑intensive, expensive process that will take two or three years to go through, and repaint that bridge.

[60:24] Another smaller scale project. This is a safety project on Highway 34. We’re putting a median barrier down. This was actually funded in the capital construction budget the legislature passed last session, to put a barrier on Highway 34. We’ve had some head‑on collisions in this corridor.

[60:41] Some public involvement, just because we’re affecting accesses, even farm access. Representative Olson and I have had conversations on this, but it moves through that process, again, relatively quickly. Construction happens relatively quickly on a project of that size and scale.

[60:57] Culverts. Those of you who were in Newport heard me and Vivian talk about our needs on culverts, another example of a culvert project. Again, minor involvement from the public, moves through the process fairly quickly. The permitting process takes the longest time here. Then construction, we’re limited by [indecipherable] work periods typically when we can be doing the work.

[61:17] I end with this chart to give you that array of whichever project. There is not really a typical project. They all have different dimensions to them, but they all go through these same phases that I tried to describe here. It has a preliminary design phase, a final design phase and through to a construction phase.

[61:36] Hopefully that gives you some grounding as you go out and touch projects, receive projects, see what the process is and how a project was created, how it goes through the process, and where we end up at a ribbon‑cutting.