Quality Assurance and Quality Control on a Design/Build Transit Project

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Title: Quality Assurance and Quality Control on a Design/Build Transit Project

Phase(s): Preliminary Engineering

Category: Scope

Date: September 8, 1997

1. Background

The Mass Transit Administration (MTA) of the Maryland Department of Transportation is responsible for a fixed guideway system, including heavy and light rail lines, in the Baltimore region.  The Central Light Rail Line (CLRL) component was phased.  Phase I of the CLRL is an operating 22-mile line connecting Dorsey Road in the south in Anne Arundel County, through Baltimore City, to Timonium in the north in Baltimore County.  Phase II will complete the CLRL component by extending the line north to the Hunt Valley business district, southwest with a spur to Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI), and a third extension will connect the Phase I CLRL to Amtrak's Pennsylvania Station for multi-modal connections to the MARC (commuter rail) Penn Line and Amtrak trains.

Phase II, approximately 6 miles of extensions, was selected to participate in the Federal Transit Administration's (FTA's) Turnkey Demonstration Program when the MTA elected to utilize the Design/Build (D/B) project delivery mechanism.  The application on an FTA project of D/B project delivery has created a whole new level of trust and relationship building, probably the most important components of the entire project delivery process and the least understood by new Design/Build, Grantee/Contractor teams.

A Full Funding Grant Agreement for the three, simultaneous CLRL extensions was executed on November 1, 1994 with a total project cost of $106-plus million consisting of Federal discretionary funds and local match from the State Transportation Trust Fund.  Revenue service on all three extensions is expected by June 1997.  All three extensions will be constructed under a Design/Build (D/B) contract.  The work consists of design completion, procurement, construction, testing check-out and start-up of three (3) complete operational extensions of the CLRL, less landscaping, communications, procurement of light rail vehicles, two substations and the purchase of fare collection equipment.  The proposed extensions are described as follows:

Hunt Valley Extension is a four mile extension from the current terminal in Timonium to the Hunt Valley Industrial Park in Baltimore County.  There are five (5) stations planned.  BWI Extension - A two-mile spur from the existing Linthicum Station in Anne Arundel County to the BWI airport.  This extension includes two (2) stations.  Pennsylvania Station Extension is an extension consisting of a 2,500-foot extension from the existing Phase I Mt. Royal Station to Amtrak's Pennsylvania Station.  A south leg of a future track will be built on an aerial structure spanning the Jones Falls Expressway   (I-83) to the new rail station.  This station will connect with the Pennsylvania Station lobby by stairs and elevator for multi-modal transfers between the MARC (commuter rail) Penn Line, Amtrak, and local MTA bus services.

This project is one of the first of three -- and the very first rail system -- Turnkey Demonstration Projects funded by the Federal Transit Administration.  While many lessons will be learned from the project, the need for development of a viable trust-building relationship between the Grantee and the Design/Build contractor was vital, and a prerequisite to the implementation of the D/B contractor's Quality Assurance and Quality Control (QA/QC) program.

2. The Lesson

FTA's Grantees have become very familiar and comfortable with conventional design, bid, build relationships in executing rail transit projects.  This traditional approach to project delivery has typically included professional construction management consultants for the oversight and inspections of the construction process on "new starts."  During the design process, either the Grantee’s staff or a Grantee's design consultant has typically coordinated design activities, and often the construction manager provided input on the bidability and constructibility of the design and specifications.  Consequently, Grantees have been reluctant (at best) to relinquish what they perceive as their control over a project to a Design/Build contractor with whom they are relatively unfamiliar.  Further, the Grantee may perceive the D/B contractor as interested only in the most economical design possible or, in the event the design remains as the Grantee initially desired, possibly cutting corners during construction in the absence of traditional Grantee construction management/supervision.

The Mass Transit Administration (MTA) of Maryland's Department of Transportation (MDOT) issued a very definitive and exacting QA/QC Guideline in the bid documents, with the ability to comply being one of the main selection criteria of a two-step bidding process.  The first step was a D/B team's qualification submittal, with the cost proposal being the second component after the short list was developed from qualified plan holders.  The lesson learned after one (1) year of design and two years of construction is that without minimum staffing levels and experience criteria, a Grantee will not get the same level of experience, effort, documentation or comfort as when the Grantee or its professional construction manager perform the QA/QC functions.

  • The need for a comprehensive, qualifications-based and quantifiable Quality Assurance/Quality Control program is paramount for a Design/Build (D/B) transit program in that:
  •  The responsibility for delivering a design and constructed project now rests solely with the D/B contractor with the Grantee merely overseeing the QA/QC program and its results.
  • The D/B contractor is assuming the QA/QC role normally filled by the Grantee or their designee and may be unfamiliar with requirements and deliverables.
  • The specification for the QA/QC role in the contract documents must be abundantly clear, specific and require the D/B contractor to meet minimum requirements relative to staffing levels, experience of the staff, reporting hierarchy, frequency, form and format, and accountability requirements.
  • The Grantee must clearly define and exercise their design approvals at each stage.
  • The Grantee must oversee the QA/QC program for all phases of the project: design deliverables, documentation, assurance tests, submittals, deficiency reports, corrective actions, as-built drawings, contractor performance tests, grantee acceptances, schedules, and material certifications.
  • The Design Criteria provided by the Grantee must be unambiguous and specify the minimal acceptable practices, products and performances.
  • The Grantee must exercise their payment prerogatives to ensure they are receiving what they have contracted for withholding payment for non-compliance does work.
  • The contract must be crystal clear as to how the savings are shared for a criteria change and for a design change after Grantee approval.
  • Partnering should be encouraged.
  • PMOC oversight of Grantees monitoring and contract compliance works well.
  • Prior experience of QA/QC is imperative as well as transit construction/operations experience necessary.
  • The QA/QC manager for the D/B contractor must be onboard from day one and participate in Design, Specification preparation and bid package/contract preparation.
  • Periodic reviews (quarterly) of the QA/QC program should be held at the highest level of the Grantee and D/B's organization.

3. Applicability

The MTA and Design/Build contractor have both come to realize the importance of a structured, adequately staffed and experienced QA/QC organization that will document the status of the work, its compliance with the contract requirements, and objective and timely reporting on the results of inspections.  Regardless of the project delivery process used, but especially when using Design/Build project delivery, Grantees must develop a strong QA/QC program that vertically integrates all requisite checks and balances.  The QA/QC program must be adequately staffed in both numbers of personnel and qualifications.  QA/QC activity must be accomplished without bias to cost or schedule in a timely manner, consistent with getting the work completed, doing it right the first time, and that will lead to a safe, certifiably reliable operating system constructed with the quality expected of a traditionally delivered project.

4. References

  • MTA QA/QC Plan outline included with bidding documents
  • D/B contractor's QA/QC Program outline "as submitted" to MTA
  • PMOC Trip Report outlining deficiencies with the D/B Contractor's "as implemented" QA/QC Program  

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