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The Value in Practical Design: Three Design Considerations to Maximize Schedule and Budget
 By Walid Antonios, Vice President
 
With growing pressure to minimize costs and schedule on transportation projects, it’s increasingly important to ensure the best solutions and results. Applying practical design solutions can help owners find cost and time-saving measures to maximize tight budgets and schedules – ultimately delivering the best project to users.
 
Identifying these areas of improvement requires looking at projects through a new lens, seeking original and creative ways to maximize results. The opportunities are numerous, but here are a few areas to consider when analyzing design.
 
#1 – RECONFIGURING INTERCHANGES
By thoroughly analyzing interchange configurations, owners and stakeholders can find the best way to trim costs, while maintaining needed safety and capacity improvements.
 
Success with practical design was proven on the reconstruction and widening of two interchanges at I-71 and the area of Stringtown Road in Grove City, Ohio.
 
The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) needed to reduce congestion and increase safety along I-71 south of Columbus. There were many safety and congestion concerns, including weaving between I-270 and Stringtown Road, weaving on the ramps at the I-71/I -270 interchange, and backup on I-71 at Stringtown Road. Collector-Distributor (C-D) lanes were proposed along I-71 to separate traffic traveling to and from Stringtown Road and I-270, from through-traffic on I-71 to improve the weave operations between the two closely-spaced interchanges. The addition of the C-D lanes necessitated the complete reconstruction of the ramps at Stringtown Road and I-270.
 
ODOT took a closer look at the $30 million project with help from TranSystems, the lead designer, to determine if it was using the most cost-effective design and construction methods. The team reviewed, among other factors, the high-cost areas of the project. Further analysis with a practical engineering study to reduce costs and improve safety completed by ODOT’s Central Office revealed an opportunity to improve the design. TranSystems worked with ODOT to suggest the C-D road in the southbound direction be eliminated and replaced with a complete replacement of the interchange configurations.
 
TranSystems worked closely with ODOT through the process and coordinated with the design and construction teams on adjacent projects before finalizing the plan to ensure it fit within the broader context of the area and accommodated any future construction. The design required an aggressive schedule, and TranSystems met it, delivering plans in four months. By escalating design, the team moved up construction and was able to combine construction of this project with another project, which saved on material costs.
 
In the end, the new design improvements saved $7 million in construction costs.
 
#2 – RESURFACING OVER REPLACEMENT
In addition to design improvements, re-evaluating material choices and if replacement is truly necessary can save construction costs and time as well as provide less disruption to users.
 
On the East Freeway project in Columbus, Ohio, which involved the reconstruction of I-70, including overhead structures, the team revealed that the original full-depth pavement replacement wasn’t necessary as the existing pavement was in good shape and did not need replacement. They also reviewed the retaining walls to optimize costs. These efforts ultimately resulted in a savings of $13 million on the project.
 
#3 – STREAMLINING CONSTRUCTION PHASING
Another area that may provide some areas of cost savings is in the construction phasing. By reviewing and looking at how the project will be constructed as well as looking at adjacent projects, there may be some improvements that can streamline schedule, and therefore budget.
 
On the Rickenbacker Connector, a five-lane roadway project three to four miles from the southern end of
Rickenbacker Airport in the vicinity of the Norfolk Southern Rickenbacker Intermodal Terminal to US-23, ODOT and the team evaluated alternatives for a new or reconstructed roadway between US-23 and Rickenbacker Airport and a design plan for Ashville Pike and roundabouts at intersections.
 
In addition, a temporary connection was able to be eliminated in the review of construction phasing by streamlining the process. This eliminated further construction costs, including replacing drainage systems. Applying these design and construction changes ultimately saved 10 percent in construction.
 
STAKEHOLDER INVOLVEMENT IS KEY
When it comes to taking a deeper look at projects to redefine design solutions, involvement by stakeholders is crucial to identify if and when processes can be improved, material costs can be decreased or designs can be modified. Not all projects can see as substantial savings in design modifications, but for the budget-constrained
Departments of Transportation today, analysis and review of design can help save needed costs, which can help bring more important infrastructure improvements to fruition.
 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Walid Antonios, PE, of the Columbus, Ohio, office has served as project manager and team member on a wide variety of transportation projects, ranging from roadway widening projects to complex interchange design. He has been involved with more than 200 roadway, traffic and bridge projects throughout Ohio and serves as the roadway team leader for TranSystems’ Ohio offices. 
 
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