The Texas Department of Transportation has been entrusted by the Legislature and the residents of Texas with billions of dollars for transportation. TxDOT has programmed a 10-year, $70 billion program – the largest in the department’s history – for projects that will add capacity on metro area roadways, improve safety on thousands of miles of highways, connect important state corridors and maintain the state’s transportation network. It is critically important that we use every dollar wisely. An essential element to our success is a transparent, repeatable and quantitative tool that will help us make decisions on the best project delivery method.
As you know, TxDOT has traditionally used the design-bid-build method to deliver projects. In 2011, the Legislature gave us an additional tool, the designbuild method, and with it came the need for TxDOT to have an objective process for selecting the project delivery method that best suited individual project needs. In order to develop that process, TxDOT used the expertise of the Center for Transportation Research (CTR) at The University of Texas at Austin. The documentation developed by CTR is the Alternative Delivery Support tool (ADS).
ADS consists of a rigorous and repeatable decisionsupport process that relies on unique project characteristics to determine which delivery method will best achieve project goals like completion within budget, completion within the target schedule and minimization of maintenance costs during the life cycle of the project. (See other project goals in Table 1.) The result is a structured decision-support process for the selected delivery method.
The scope of the project, its goals and its characteristics should be well understood before using ADS. The decisionmaking tool can be used at any stage prior to the project procurement and is suitable for subsequent analysis during the project planning. However, as the project’s characteristics and scope change, so may the recommended method of delivery. Once the scope is established and the goals are defined, the tool is ready to help support decision-makers.
The ADS program works by applying project-specific information to 12 major project characteristics, assigning points to individual goals. Once the numbers are crunched, ADS assigns one of three outcomes to a project: a strong recommendation in favor of a particular delivery method, a weak recommendation for a delivery method or a recommendation to perform a Tier 3 analysis when the numerical scores do not provide enough separation between methods. A Tier 3 analysis would consist of reviewing other project characteristics and risk elements. The procedure for conducting a Tier 3 analysis will be formally documented in an upcoming publication based on further research by CTR.
The tool produces an output recommendation known as a “heat map.” The heat map in figure 1 is a sample recommendation for a project in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Heat maps show both the characteristics that support the choice of the delivery method and highlight possible risks of the chosen delivery method.
The four main goals of ADS are to support decision makers in selecting a delivery method through an objective approach that is driven by applicable project characteristics and weighted project goals, to provide transparency through documentation, to be userfriendly and adaptable and to provide consistent recommendations using a programmatic approach.
According to its designer, CTR, ADS is an easy-to-use and auditable tool that gives decision makers the ability to make conclusions about project delivery based on quantitative and defensible measures.
ADS incorporates the project delivery expertise of TxDOT personnel as well as those of our partners. The various skills from our design and construction community, including construction contractors, engineering consultants and the Federal Highway Administration, are essential elements to the process.
With TxDOT’s accountability to Texans and the funding they have provided for transportation, ADS is a valuable tool in ensuring that project delivery method decisions are thoroughly analyzed because being efficient with the state’s transportation dollars is not only one of our goals, it’s TxDOT’s inherent responsibility as good stewards for Texas.