A New Year-A Long Term Vision

It is hard to believe, but 2014 will be the eighth year of my career in Local Programs. Eight years of helping communities from one end of Tennessee to the other in getting their road, and bridge projects completed. It has certainly been a fun, but strange journey.

I know that I have talked about this issue before in various blog posts, but it is worth repeating: You must have a long term vision. 

Everyone: TDOT, Consultants, the general public, and especially the Local Government Officials, are frustrated by how long the process takes to complete a project. We could all rant and rave about this, but that would not solve the immediate issue of moving things forward. What I want to do instead is give you the information that you can use to plan out how long various parts of the project will actually take to get completed.

Below are a list of general guidelines on how long that you can expect certain activities to take to be accomplished. Please keep in mind that these are general guidelines based on what I have seen my most recent projects.

  • Time from when you send your chapter 3 information and contract request till when the TDOT Local Programs Office will send you a Locally Managed contract: 1-3 months (the TDOT Local Programs Office will probably want to conduct a “Staffing & Equipping” interview, which can take time to schedule)
  • Time from when you mail back the signed contract to the TDOT Local Programs Office, till when you get a fully executed contract and a Notice to Proceed (NTP) for the first phase of work (PE-NEPA): 2-3 months.
  • Time from issue of NTP for PE-NEPA till the Environmental Document is approved by TDOT and completed: 6 months minimum. 

    Now I need to be clear, the 6 month estimate is how long it would take for a simple Categorical Exclusion (CE) or Programmatic Categorical Exclusion (PCE). These are projects with a minimum of dirt being moved and a minimal environmental impact, if any.

    Other environmental documents include: a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), an Environmental Assessment (EA), or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). These approvals are necessary if there are environmental impacts greater than what can be covered in a CE or PCE document. In this case all bets are off and you need to think in terms of years, not months, to get these approvals.

  • Time from issuance of the PE-Final Design NTP to the issuance of the ROW NTP: 1-3 months (depending on the project)
  • Time from the issuance of the ROW NTP to the issuance of the Construction NTP: 2-4 months (again depending on the complexity of the project, and it can take longer).

Each project has it’s own story, and is like a work of Art: unique in it’s own special ways. The numbers above are intended as general guidelines for planning. By doing the math you can see that I estimate that even a small and relatively simple project will take about a year from NTP for PE-NEPA till NTP for Construction. Can it be done in less time with the current constraints? Yes, but only if maximum effort is given, and it is still dependant on a certain amount of luck. For projects with any level of complexity beyond simple resurfacing within the existing right of way (ROW), things will take longer.

As I wrote in the beginning of this post: You need to have a long term vision for what you want to do. Both patience, and persistence are required not just in completing the project that you already have in the works, but also in mapping out the next project that you want to develop.

I hope that this posting has been helpful. Please feel free to give me a call if you have a question about your specific project. Happy New Year and good luck!


About arran375

I work for Askew, Hargraves, Harcourt and Associates, Inc. here in Nashville, Tennessee. The short version of what I do is that we help local governments spend the Federal funds they get from TDOT on road, and bridge projects.
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