Highway projects: From conception to delivery

Idaho Transportation Board members last week learned how a highway project is born and completed during a presentation from Chief Engineer Tom Cole. His computer presentation showed how projects move through the many steps, including state and federal requirements.

The steps include planning, determining the needs and funding source, considering concepts and options, completing the environmental process and preliminary design, conducting public hearings if applicable, obtaining right-of-way, completing final design, advertising the project and awarding the construction contract, and then monitoring construction.

A project “charter” concept was introduced recently as a part of a new program management philosophy. A charter is developed for every project to establish its scope, schedule and budget. It also identifies the owners responsible for delivering the project within that scope, schedule and budget.

ITD works with a number of partners during the process, particularly on environmental issues. There are at least 65 federal laws, regulations and executive orders that address environmental issues. Each must be addressed.

Excluding construction time, a fairly simple seal coat project can take 16 to 21 months to develop, while a more complex reconstruction project can take 62 to 74 months.

Other Board discussion

ITD culture survey
An organizational culture survey was conducted late last year to identify the current culture, the ideal culture, and how to move from current to ideal.

Consultant, James Johnson told the board that an organizational culture is shared beliefs/values that guide the thinking and behavior of its members. It influences outcomes and impacts performance.

The department’s results indicated that the articulation of its mission and the focus on customer service were below average, communication needs to improve, and overall, employees are passionate about their jobs, work well with others in their unit, and intend to stay at ITD. The greatest gaps between the ideal culture as determined by the leadership team and the current culture were in “self-actualization” and achievement.

The next steps will be to report the findings to employees; engage leadership to create an understanding of leadership’s impact on the culture and to enhance communications skills; connect the culture with the strategic plan; and create a leadership culture. The intent is to conduct another culture survey in a couple of years.

Addition of American Falls project
The city of American Falls was successful in securing a federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant last year. The $2.86 million project will transform five blocks of the downtown area to complete streets that will safely accommodate pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and public transportation.

The project will narrow travel lanes, widen sidewalks, create bike lanes and add “streetscaping.”

The roadway improvements are expected to reduce the accident rate up to 40 percent and will support the new Southeast Idaho Advanced Energy Center, a $2 billion coal gasification fertilizer plant that is expected to create 750 to 1,350 jobs during construction, hire approximately 200 permanent employees, and contribute an estimated $6 million per year to the local economy.

Livability investments in the downtown area will support local businesses and reduce mobility costs by encouraging residents to consider local retail and entertainment opportunities instead of driving 50 miles round-trip to Pocatello for those activities.

The board approved adding the American Falls Downtown Streets project to the Idaho Transportation Investments Program. District 5 will assist the city with project development.

Published 3-16-2012