The TDOT Local Programs Office has rolled out a new program called the “Accelerated Delivery Pilot Program”. You can find out more information on it from the TDOT website here: http://www.tdot.state.tn.us/local/adprogram.htm
Up until now TDOT, through the Local Programs Office has only had two ways to fund a project:
- TDOT Managed: With this process the local government signs a contract with TDOT. It is TDOT (through staff and consultants hired by TDOT) that handles everything from the Environmental document through design plans, and all the way through construction.
The only thing that really makes it a “Local Programs” project is that they local government must use it’s STP balance, and contribute a local share (usually 20%) to the project. All the local government does is sign a contract with TDOT and periodically send TDOT checks to cover their percentage of the project costs.
- Locally Managed: The local government still signs a contract with TDOT, but they now control much of the responsibility of moving it forward. The local government hires it’s own Engineering Consultant firm (as per TDOT policy) who then does all of the things that TDOT would do in moving the project forward.
It’s your consultant firm that gets the approved environmental document, that gets the plans approved by TDOT, that gets the permits/ROW/Bid book/Utilities/Estimates certifications from TDOT. There is a back and forth with between your engineering firm and TDOT the whole way to get these certifications. There are stopping points where TDOT must concur, and get additional funds obligated before moving between phases.
From the local governments perspective, they have to be more involved. They have to oversee the work of the consultant, and more importantly, it is the local government who is writing the checks to the consultant, and later to the contractor for the project. Every month the local government then turns around and submits reimbursement requests to TDOT to get paid back for their expenses (minus any local share).
So, now TDOT is opening a third way with the Accelerated Delivery program. As it has been explained to me through the webinar and conversations with TDOT, everything through the approval of the NEPA document is just the same as the regular local programs project.
Once you get your approved NEPA document, that is where everything changes. Rather than getting Notices to Proceed (NTP’s) for PE-Final Design, Right of Way (ROW), and only after several reviews, Construction, you will just get a NTP for Construction.
You will still be responsible for following all of the correct TDOT process, but you will not get approvals along the way. Instead, you will follow the new Chapter 11 guidance in the Local Programs manual, complete the whole project including construction, and only after the project is totally completed will you schedule a review with the TDOT Local Programs Office. At that time TDOT will look at what you have done, how you have done it, and then, and only then determine if they will reimburse you for the project. Up to that point the local government has been floating the project expenses of engineering, construction, and TDOT oversight bills.
I applaud TDOT for looking at new ways to help local governments move their projects faster. However I have some real concerns about this process:
- Local governments have a hard enough time floating the month expenses of a project. Reimbursement can take from 45 to 180 days. This process would have a local government floating the project for 10 months to over a year or more, and that does not include the review process, and the reimbursement process once it is approved.
- This is a lot of risk for a local government, or an engineering/consultant firm to take on. TDOT requirements, and personnel are always changing. What happens if, even through the best due diligence, you get things wrong? Will TDOT not reimburse for the project? I can see bad things happening very quickly for everyone if this happens.
- Bottom line, I don’t see how this will speed things up. I have been working on projects that follow the TDOT Locally Managed program process from when the program got off the ground in 2006. ROW certification takes time. Design plans take time. Utilities certifications take time. All of these things take time to get completed. This new process does not say that you don’t have to do these activities, it just says that they will be reviewed at the end of the project, instead of during it.
At the end of the day, when the dust settles, I don’t see how this process will actually save any time, or money.
Now please don’t take this the wrong way. Nobody is a bigger fan for TDOT and the Locally Managed process than I am. It is a great program, that even with it’s flaws, gives the local governments a great way to save time and money on their projects. Depending on the circumstances I am also a great believer in the TDOT managed process. It takes a little longer and you lose some control, but the TDOT managed route can be the best way to move forward.
I am also a big fan of the TDOT Local Programs Office, where I used to work. My biggest fault with them (and I have told them this) is that they are under-staffed and need more experienced people up there. I think that is something that they would agree on.
At this point I can’t recommend the Accelerated Delivery Program. I think that the best way to help move TDOT Locally Managed projects forward faster would be for TDOT to hire and train more staff. They easily need to double the amount of people up there.
We shall see how this new process works out. I could be totally wrong about it and in a year be writing a post on this blog “eating crow”. I am fine with that, it wouldn’t be the first time.
Please keep in mind that all if this is just my opinion and nothing more.