Unplanned Delays Can Provide an Opportunity to Review Design

Title: Unplanned Delays Can Provide an Opportunity to Review Design

Phase(s): Final Design

Category: Schedule

Date: April 4, 1997


1. Background
In San Jose, California, the 7.5 mile Tasman West Light Rail Project has strong local support. The light rail system extension passes through the cities of Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, and San Jose and the heart of Silicon Valley. A second extension, the 5.0 mile Tasman East Light Rail Project, passes through the cities of Milpitas and San Jose and is also in an expanding area of the Silicon Valley. A host of participating state and federal agencies and private companies are involved in both light rail extensions.

The Santa Clara County Transit District (SCCTD) locally known as the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) aggressively pursues value engineering, lessons learned programs and generally has a strong program management team which consists of VTA, consultants and a variety of project stakeholders.  Although the local community strongly supports the expansion of the bus and light rail system, there were legal actions relating to the percentage of votes needed to pass the measure by a simple majority (which passed the initiative) vs. two thirds. These legal actions caused a funding hiatus during the final design and delayed the final design process as it was nearing completion. Throughout the hiatus, delays, and uncertainty, all project participants maintained a "can-do attitude" and continued to progress final design. More importantly, project staff took the delay near the completion of final design as an opportunity to conduct an in-depth review regarding the station design features, system interfaces, in-depth constructability reviews by in house construction staff, review of contract repackaging, and rebidding of long lead items to achieve better results and project schedule review.

As a result of these actions; additional ambiguities between plans and specifications were identified and clarified, five major construction contracts were combined into two and the scope of work was enhanced to include certain specialty work which further reduced interfaces between contracts, and the project schedule was reduced in part by the combining of construction contracts. So far on 14 of the 30 contracts to be bid, the project is trending $4 million under the Full Funding Grant Agreement budget. Few design addenda have been necessary and few design ambiguities have been cited by contractors bidding the contracts. It is anticipated that the construction phase will be implemented more smoothly with reduced request-for-clarifications, change orders and potential claims as a result of the additional reviews undertaken.

2. The Lesson
Often constructability reviews, integration and interface checks are accomplished under tight schedules with results that are marginally acceptable. Take advantage of any delay to undertake additional time in design development or more in-depth reviews to re-evaluate all aspects of the project design and schedule.

In addition, when developing project schedules, plan realistic durations for the design reviews. Often review times are arbitrarily reduced to achieve an artificial revenue operations date. Time spent on detail reviews and interface checking "up-front" can save a project delays and cost during the construction phase.

3. Applicability
Continuous quality improvement opportunities can often be masked as a project delay which is generally perceived as a negative impact. Sensitive, creative and aggressive management techniques can convert a negative event into a positive event with potential cost and schedule savings. All transit improvements can benefit from sensitive, creative and aggressive management techniques.

4. References
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