Staged Infrastructure Implementation Impacts on Operations

Title: Staged Infrastructure Implementation Impacts on Operations

Phase(s): Final Design and Construction

Category: Management

Date: March 4, 1997

1. Background

In 1988, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) purchased 81 miles of the CSX Transportation Corporation (CSXT) rail corridor in South Florida. Tri-Rail commenced commuter rail operations in the corridor in 1989, with CSXT and AMTRAK continuing to provide rail service in the rail corridor. An important aspect of the purchase agreement provides CSXT with the right to undertake all improvements in the corridor on a force account basis. Under a separate agreement with FDOT (OMAPA), CSXT also maintains responsibility for dispatching trains in the corridor. FDOT administers the FDOT/CSXT agreements and also the work done by the private contractors in the corridor.

As the majority of the corridor is single track and has antiquated signal equipment, Tri-Rail and FDOT initiated a program to upgrade the signal system and double track the line with the intent of providing more reliable service and the ability to run more frequent service.

Agreements with CSXT led to CSXT undertaking work on the signal system, existing tracks and all tie ins. The balance of the work, for new track and necessary bridge construction, was undertaken by a private contractor under a contract administered by FDOT.  The work of the private contractor was negotiated prior to all scope items being fully defined by FDOT. This Fast-Track project delivery method can impair the ability to evaluate operational impacts and, as a result, several significant scope changes were made early in the project that extended the contract period and required revised staging of construction. Since CSXT was undertaking the work under different contract terms than the private contractor, the opportunity for conflicts in priorities existed, concurrent slow orders at different points in the line developed and operations were impacted.

Further, CSXT conducts work on a force account basis. There is little impetus for CSXT to commit to and execute its work on schedule. The FDOT/CSXT agreements do not define any sanctions to be placed on CSXT for late performance. This has caused project delays with subsequent payment to other contractors for additional costs due to the delays

Preparations for major milestone events were also inadequate resulting in major impacts on operations. Several factors combined to create this problem. The design did not adequately address staging. To accommodate cut-in of new sections of track, the temporary track configurations could not accommodate normal revenue operations. The time frame to complete several key activities was also underestimated which further impaired on time performance.

Tri-Rail's contract operator has also undertaken the rail construction work on the project. This may have facilitated an early start to the project and offered the opportunity for the operator / contractor to resolve problems more effectively than two separate organizations. There is an inherent conflict between an operator whose performance is measured based on on-time performance and a contractor who wants to avoid production delays due to train operations. Unless the contract terms adequately address this conflict, there is the potential that claims will be made by the construction forces that are impacted by changes in operations while at the same time, on time performance suffers due to the contractor's desire to meet estimated production rates.

The first phase of the Double Track Program is nearing completion and several important lessons have been learned by the project participants during the progress of the work. Significant impacts on operations resulted and numerous changes to the contract occurred. Tri-Rail and FDOT are now advancing designs for subsequent phases and have instituted new procedures to address these concerns.

2. The Lesson

The terms of the original agreement between CSXT and FDOT did not anticipate the level of detail required for coordination with other contractors. Weekly coordination meetings have helped to identify potential problems and develop solutions prior to implementation. The FDOT - CSXT agreement did not anticipate the need for definition of specific project requirements at time of project delivery. With force account as basis of payment, any changes in effort required to accommodate a chosen staging scenario can have a negative impact on project budget.

Further, purchase agreements such as the FDOT - CSXT agreement must define a measure of performance when work is to be done on a force account basis and define consequences for failure to meet negotiated commitments.

Pre-event planning including preparation of a test plan is critical for any change in the operating plan. Tri-Rail now coordinates input with CSXT, FDOT and its contract operator, and conducts weekly reviews of the implementation plan prior to the change date. A "Go/No Go" decision point is identified that checks the status of critical activities.

Also, project delivery methods that do not adequately define the overall scope of the project at time of project initiation can result in significant changes to contracts and to existing operations. The number and size of changes also leads to a public perception that the project is poorly managed regardless of whether the original budget anticipated the final scope of work being undertaken through a change order process.

Regardless of the entities engaged in a contract, the contract terms must adequately address the operator's responsibilities when operations are impacted by construction so that there is still incentive to meet the operating plan. Similarly, a construction contract must define the responsibility that must be accepted when operations are affected outside of specified allowances. These two criteria can be more effectively addressed with less threat of conflict of interest when the two parties are not the same contractual entity.

3. Applicability

These lessons are applicable to any agency which has to maintain operations while conducting infrastructure upgrading. It is also applicable to those situations where the transit agency does not have complete control over the use of its right-of-way.

4. References

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