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Recap: Thinking Outside the Box: Innovating for Better Project Delivery

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Utah DOT Executive Director and American Road and Transportation Builders Association Chair Share Best Practices

Carlos Braceras, Executive Director of the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), and Paula Hammond, Chair of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) and Senior Vice President at WSP USA joined U.S. DOT’s August 3 thought leadership event on “Thinking Outside the Box: Innovating for Better Project Delivery,” the recent event in the U.S. DOT Project Delivery Center of Excellence's thought leadership series on Delivering the Benefits of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Braceras is responsible for UDOT’s design, construction, and maintenance of Utah’s 6,000-mile system of roads and highways and more than 1,600 employees. He has overseen the completion of several massive highway projects like the Utah County I-15 Corridor Expansion and the Mountain View Corridor in west Salt Lake County.

Hammond is the first woman chair in ARTBA’s history, focused on implementation of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s funding levels and policy reforms with the aim to deliver the transportation improvements necessary for the nation’s economic stability and growth. She has been WSP USA’s senior vice president and national market leader since 2013, after almost 35 years at Washington State’s DOT, serving as its first female transportation secretary.

The session was hosted by U.S. DOT Volpe Center Director Anne D. Aylward.

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

Speed to Market and Alternative Delivery

“If a project is worth doing, it’s worth delivering fast,” said Braceras, emphasizing the importance of time as a key consideration in project delivery and drawing upon his decades of experience at UDOT to provide insight on project delivery and alternative delivery strategies. The faster a project is complete, the sooner critical safety and mobility benefits are provided to the public, ultimately saving lives, noted Braceras.

Hand in hand with rapid delivery is using best value or alternative delivery methods—such as design-build, progressive design-build, and construction manager/general contractor—to deliver projects more quickly and efficiently. Braceras referenced the reconstruction of Interstate-15 as an example of UDOT successfully using alternative delivery to complete a project ahead of schedule and under budget. For that project, UDOT needed to compress an eight-year construction schedule for 17 miles of freeway and over 140 bridges into a four-year window to be ready in time for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. This led to UDOT’s successful entry into design-build as an alternative to the traditional method of awarding contracts to the lowest bidder for roadway construction.

Braceras suggested the lesson learned is to establish specific project goals and risks and then match the appropriate project delivery tool based on them. For example, design-build is suitable when time is the most important factor, while progressive design-build may be more suitable for innovative approaches or consensus-building with communities. Braceras added, the BIL has invested substantial resources in transportation, so now is the time to step back and ask: “Is there a better way to do things?”

Braceras also stressed the importance of building strong relationships between owners and contractors, focusing on listening, learning, and making decisions together for the project’s success. He highlighted the USDOT Project Delivery Center of Excellence as a helpful resource for facilitating knowledge exchange and providing support for states willing to try new approaches.

Partnership and Collaboration

“Our transportation system is badly in need of investment, and we’ve got a real shot in the arm and opportunity with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” said Hammond as she reiterated the significance of timely infrastructure funding to improve the transportation system and ultimately benefit communities. She stressed the need to now deliver those BIL projects successfully, particularly with the next reauthorization on the horizon— “all of us must show how well we can deliver BIL projects.”

Hammond’s remarks focused on the importance of partnerships and collaboration in efficient and effective project delivery. She cited early involvement of agencies, regulators, contractors, and particularly, local, State, regional, and tribal governments as a key factor in project success. Their partnership and collaboration are essential throughout planning, designing, and building projects. “If there’s a disaster, you're going to be sorry that you don't have those phone numbers on speed dial,” she quipped.

We're at a place where we're talking to and engaging communities differently than we have in the past,” said Hammond, noting the importance of engaging with communities early on for better project outcomes and minimizing any negative impacts. It is essential to understand their needs and build trust to ultimately deliver a project that benefits the public, she stated.

Workforce Development and Risk Management

Hammond acknowledged that one of the challenges we all face is a reduced workforce due to the pandemic—including at every city, county, and state public agency. Delivering a project rapidly demands a robust workforce that understands their roles and has the capability to make necessary decisions. Yet, accompanying this challenge is the “opportunity to build a new generation of transportation workforce,” that can inspire innovation while delivering projects rapidly and successfully.

Again, partnership is critical to building that diverse and capable workforce for the future. She recognized the USDOT Project Delivery Center of Excellence as a resource for working together to improve workforce capabilities and delivery opportunities.

Braceras and Hammond each raised the issue of the availability of insurance coverage on very large projects and touched on risk management, assigning appropriate responsibilities, and the need to transform transportation systems to meet future challenges, including the introduction of broadband and electric vehicles.

“It’s our responsibility to work together to understand how we can deliver infrastructure for the community,” stated Hammond in closing, reiterating the value of working together to improve infrastructure and deliver benefits to communities efficiently.


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.