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Recap: Accelerating Project Delivery through Innovative Procurement, Partnerships, and Financing Methods: Part 2

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

The U.S. DOT’s October 12th virtual event on “Accelerating Project Delivery through Innovative Procurement, Partnerships, and Financing Methods: Part 2” featured Brad Wieferich, Director, Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT); Susan Shaw, PE, DBIA, CCM, Vice President, Subject Matter Expert – Major Program Development, ATCS; and Mike Johnson, Senior Vice President, Infrastructure Markets and Strategy, Kiewit.

The event was part of the thought leadership series on Delivering the Benefits of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The session was hosted and moderated by U.S. DOT Volpe Center Director Anne D. Aylward.

Brad Wieferich, P.E., was appointed Director of MDOT in May 2023 by Governor Gretchen Whitmer. He has served the department in several capacities, most recently as the Chief Operations Officer and Chief Engineer. Wieferich has also held the positions of Director for the Bureau of Development, Engineer of Design, and Manager of the Marshall Transportation Service Center. He has worked in three different MDOT regions and as a road design engineer in the central office. 

Wieferich has served on the American Association of State Highway Transportation Official (AASHTO) Board of Directors and Council on Highways and Streets. He also represents the department on the State Transportation Innovation Council and the Council on Future Mobility and Electrification and the Mackinac Bridge Authority. 

Susan Shaw is Vice President and Subject Matter Expert – Major Program Development at ATCS. Prior to joining ATCS in fall 2023, Shaw led the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Megaprojects Office. She oversaw over $5 billion worth of projects that included Express Lanes on I-66 Outside the Beltway, I-495, and I-95. Previously, Shaw volunteered as an engineer for the US Peace Corps in Thailand, and later worked as a design consultant in Northern Virginia. She has over 30 years of experience, is a Professional Engineer, is a Certified Construction Manager, and is certified by the Design Build Institute of America. In 2017, she received AASHTO’s Alfred E. Johnson Achievement Award, and in 2022, she received VDOT’s Outstanding Achievement Award for leadership.  

Mike Johnson is the Senior Vice President of Markets and Strategy of Kiewit Infrastructure Group, part of Kiewit Corporation. Focused on integrated delivery, he brings more than 30 years of executive management experience in the industry to help lead this fast-growing, dynamic part of Kiewit’s business. Johnson works closely with clients and third-party engineering partners to secure new infrastructure-focused opportunities across North America. He has demonstrated expertise in building teams, driving opportunities in the infrastructure sector, and communicating strategic messaging on integrated delivery with partners and clients. 

Prior to joining Kiewit in June 2019, Johnson served as Vice Chairman and Chief Development Officer of Parsons Corporation, where he was responsible for implementing a global client development program, and as the president of Parsons Infrastructure.

This post provides a recap of the conversation. You can watch the full event video here.

Innovative Infrastructure Projects in Michigan: Paving the Way for Progress

As Director of MDOT, Brad Wieferich shared insights on Michigan's progressive approach to infrastructure development and its efforts to build a more connected and resilient future. He highlighted the following two infrastructure projects that showcase a commitment to innovation, community engagement, and the future of transportation. 

I-375 Reconnecting Community Project in Detroit

Michigan's ambitious Reconnecting Communities project focuses on the redevelopment of I-375 in Detroit, replacing a depressed freeway with an at-grade boulevard. The initiative includes reconfiguring interchanges, focusing on stormwater management, and promoting transit and multimodal connectivity. 

Wieferich highlighted the project’s emphasis on equity and community engagement, aiming to address the historical impact of freeway development on African American communities like Paradise Valley and Black Bottom. “We'll never be able to right a wrong, but we know that we have some work to do to make sure that we're acknowledging some of the social and environmental justice issues here.” MDOT is collaborating with local advisory groups and developing community enhancement and framework plans as part of this commitment.

Wieferich noted that Michigan secured an INFRA grant to expedite the I-375 project. By utilizing a progressive design-build approach, he suggested that MDOT will enhance collaboration and responsiveness, particularly with disadvantaged businesses, local contractors, and utility coordination. This approach ensures efficient construction while addressing the concerns of stakeholders, including nearby businesses.

I-75 Modernization in Oakland County, Michigan

Wieferich also shared insights on the I-75 modernization in Oakland County, north of Detroit. The project originally was planned to be delivered in nine separate contracts over 18 years—to be completed in 2034. “We walked back and said, no, we’ve got to do things differently.” 

By rethinking their approach, Wieferich noted that MDOT has minimized project duration and costs while maximizing efficiency. Two of the accelerated segments were completed under design-build contracts. The more innovative segment uses a design, build, finance, maintain option with a 30-year term that will include maintenance by the concessionaire. The project incorporates several innovative concepts, including geometric improvements, a stormwater resiliency plan with a massive tunnel, divergent diamond interchanges, and high-occupancy vehicle lanes. “From a resiliency standpoint,” Wieferich acknowledged, “it's really been kind of one of our poster child projects.” 

Partnering for Success in Virginia's Infrastructure Projects

Having transitioned from the public to the private sector right before the event, Susan Shaw discussed her experience and perspectives from an owner's standpoint in project delivery. Focusing on her years of experience with VDOT, Shaw highlighted the significance of effective partnerships throughout the project lifecycle. Whether in project development, procurement, or design and construction, Shaw asserted that collaboration with internal teams, external agencies, and the public is vital for successful infrastructure projects. She noted that Virginia's I-66 Express Lanes network serves as an example of how strategic partnerships can lead to innovative and efficient project delivery, ultimately benefiting the public and stakeholders.

Partnering in Project Development 

During the project development phase, Shaw emphasized the importance of collaborating within an agency to establish specialized project teams that align with a project's unique requirements. Often, this involves augmenting an owner team to maximize continuity, maintain flexibility, and ensure integration with the owner, “because typically once these projects are completed, you may not need that project team.” This approach allows for the development of an effective organizational structure, especially for complex projects. 

Shaw also recommended leveraging technical advisory groups, federal agencies, local jurisdictions, and transit partners to ensure the incorporation of diverse perspectives and regional goals into the project scope. She highlighted VDOT’s I-66 Express Lanes Outside the Beltway Collaboration project efforts in this area, as well as efforts to include public partners, elected officials, direct impact communities, and user groups like bike advocacy and trail advocacy groups who were also interested in the scope, scale, and impact of the project and establishing those communications channels. She added: “We also looked at transportation modes and made sure that we incorporated goals of the region so that we could gain local support for the overall project.” 

Shaw stressed that incorporating multimodal travel is critical—“one of the important things was to have as a goal of the project to move more people, not to move more vehicles.” 

Partnering in Procurement 

Shaw noted that early industry and community outreach, including the use of requests for information, helped to establish the parameters for the procurement. She highlighted the innovative procurement approach used for the Virginia project—issuing three requests for qualifications for various project delivery methods. These included design-build, design-build-operate-maintain, and design-build-finance-operate-maintain. This approach led to greater competition and flexibility in selecting the most suitable delivery method. 

Partnering in Design and Construction 

Shaw also discussed the importance of continued collaboration during the design and construction phases. She listed maintaining internal partnerships, engaging in regular design reviews, and conducting risk assessments as key components. She emphasized identifying and resolving issues efficiently to ensure smooth project progress. Monthly coordination meetings with local counties, transit agencies, and various stakeholders played a vital role in ensuring successful execution of VDOT’s megaprojects.

Navigating Complex Infrastructure Projects: A Focus on Collaborative Solutions

Mike Johnson shared insights on the challenges and opportunities associated with modern infrastructure development. He focused on the importance of aligning delivery methods with the complexities of projects, managing risks, and ensuring transparency and collaboration at every stage. He also highlighted adaptability to the ever-changing demands of infrastructure development; a commitment to addressing the needs of communities and stakeholders; and utilization of diverse delivery methods as keys to success.

Adapting to Change

Johnson noted the infrastructure industry is currently under stress, with a substantial financial influx and a need for effective project delivery. He emphasized the necessity to adapt to new challenges, such as managing commitments to communities and aligning with future infrastructure plans. He noted that agencies are looking to diversify their toolkit of delivery methods to better align with project complexity and community needs, moving beyond traditional design-build approaches. "They want portfolio balance to progress for and to obviously secure and execute on the funding."

Risk Sharing and Transparency

Johnson attributed challenges faced in the past to a lack of risk-sharing and transparency. He stressed the importance of addressing these issues, particularly when dealing with complex projects involving third-party agreements, utilities, and community engagement.

"I think the main word in all these projects that drive success is transparency, transparency with the clients, and transparency with the design builder alike are going to bring project success," said Johnson.

Innovative Delivery Models

Johnson stressed the importance of innovative delivery models like Progressive Design Build and Construction Manager/General Contractor (CMGC)/Construction Management At Risk (CMAR). He noted that early alignment of designers and contractors in complex projects can drive innovation and ensure goals are consistently met. “The most important thing that we can do on a project is get your designer and your contractor aligned early on.” He also stressed collaboration and transparency among owners, design builders, and all stakeholders are key to project success. “Pulling those to the table early is going to drive innovation. It's also going to put discipline and rigor into the system to make sure that goals are being met on a consistent basis.”

Johnson described CMAR as a simple structure in which the owner typically hires an engineer a few months in front of hiring their contractor, and the contractor sets up its subcontracts and other consultants. He stressed the importance of risk allocation with alternative delivery. “When it comes to alternative delivery, understanding risk allocation and risk registers is imperative.” CMGC models typically share risk, although the owner takes on more of the design risk. CMAR and CMGC challenges revolve around the guaranteed maximum price and development of credible cost estimates by independent contractors.

Johnson also highlighted the progressive delivery method as a collaborative model and solution for complex projects. He noted with this method, the owner has one accountable design builder, subcontractors and suppliers, engineering teams, all progressing as one delivery partner.

Project Certainty and Flexibility

Johnson emphasized that whichever delivery method is used, ensuring project goals are met at each stage of development is essential. Collaborative approaches, transparent communication, and risk mitigation all contribute to greater price certainty and project success. He also recommended flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances, whether through design-build, design-bid-build, or other methods, as a valuable asset in achieving project goals.

View the event recording for the full discussion. 

*The views of the speakers do not represent the views of U.S. DOT.


Sponsored by the USDOT Project Delivery Center of Excellence  

Hosted by the U.S. DOT Volpe Center, the Delivering the Benefits of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law event series is sponsored by the new USDOT Project Delivery Center of Excellence.  

The U.S. DOT Volpe Center is committed to principles of accessibility and inclusion. If you require reasonable accommodations, please contact collateral duty Disability Program Specialist Stephanie Chase and carbon copy EEO Manager Eliot Sutler on your request.   

Sponsored by the USDOT Project Delivery Center of Excellence