Insights | September 10, 2016

A Bridge Between Agencies

Virginia’s Woodrow Wilson Bridge exemplifies maintenance procurement process success

Below is an excerpt from Roads & Bridges, article written by Adrian Burde, Ken McEntire and Clinton Simpson, contributing authors. Read entire article here.

Since 1996, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has been using the performance-based maintenance contracting method to deliver routine maintenance services.

This process differs from the traditional way of contracting in which the work method is not specified; instead, the agency allows the contractor to decide on the best maintenance plan for meeting or exceeding certain minimum performance requirements.

In 2015, VDOT and the Maryland State Highway Administration (MSHA), the WWB owner agencies, commissioned a study to identify best practices and lessons learned applicable to other performance-based maintenance contracts. The study included several on-site visits, unstructured interviews with key managers and project staff, and an online self-administered survey to reach a larger group of stakeholders to collect their personal insights into issues related to the implementation and operations activities.

The WWB performance requirements were based partly on the National Bridge Inspection Standard (NBIS) and partly on existing TAMS contract templates. Several departments involved in the project participated in the reviewing process to provide their particular views and comments about the service requirements included in the solicitation package. Both agencies agreed on setting higher performance standards for the bridge connection than those adopted on the rest of the Virginia interstate system.

Lessons learned

A summary of lessons learned from the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project:

  • Define clear performance standards and expectations. Agencies should clearly define performance standards that are easily recognized by objective analysis to minimize disagreements during the execution of the project.
  • Select a procurement process that permits the agency to negotiate the proposed level of resources and scope of work. The level of commitment of a participant with the success of the project is somewhat associated with his/her confidence in the amount and quality of resources committed to the project.
  • Be aware of the managerial style on the performance of the project team. Promoting open communication and inclusion were essential for developing a collaborative environment to sustain the success of the project.
  • Select a project manager with the ability to reconcile governmental, transportation agency, and for-profit organizations’ needs and expectations. Being able to understand the expectations of all the team members and make compromises in the decision-making process is a desirable quality of the project manager in charge of planning the work.
  • Bring and retain highly qualified personnel. Connections with complex facilities such as drawbridges or cable-stayed bridges tend to attract more highly qualified personnel.
  • Be sure to innovate. Innovation is a driving force at the core of the performance-based maintenance contracting approach.

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