Kris Peterson, UDOT’s director of construction and materials, says that all of his construction projects have mandatory partnering training for management, from both the private and public sides.
“There are two different levels of training, and in order to even begin work on a project, key members from the contractor’s project team must undergo this training,” he says.
“We have tremendous support from our department leadership, as well as from executives of construction companies and the Associated General Contractors in Utah. We have created the program in conjunction with them.”
The main benefit of this partnering program is that it has greatly reduced claims made on projects.
Peterson continues, “By allowing us to have a process to work through issues, we elevate issues quickly and don’t let them get stuck at the project level. What partnering does is give us a process that everyone is familiar with on how to work through the issues. It helps us to not get stuck in the trenches — to make sure we can understand the other people and companies. Even though we’re not in the mass transit world, what we do in terms of partnering is very similar.”
The California Department of Transportation has also created a partnering field guide, opening its doors and seeking industry input. Caltrans formed a steering committee to develop these guidelines. Flatiron’s Western Region President Curt Weltz is a member of this committee, along with representatives from other private firms, Caltrans and representatives from the Associated General Contractors and the Engineering & Utility Contractors Association.
Partnering “field guides” should contain a clear dispute resolution process in which issues reach decision makers who are not directly involved with the dispute at hand. Issues that are handled unilaterally without a defined appeal process can cause a ripple effect and additional problems. It is much better to implement an appeal process that reaches somewhat independent parties sooner rather than later.
“Through the development of Caltrans’s partnering steering committee, we have established partnering specifications and field guide,” notes Weltz.
He continues, “This month kicks off the ‘Fundamentals of Partnering’ — a joint effort by Caltrans and the private construction industry to train the trainer. Flatiron has a phenomenal list of volunteers, from area and district managers on down, involved with this training.”
Additional ways owners can promote partnering are to hold training, develop relationships with partnering facilitators and create an awards program that recognizes individuals and their project teams who follow the partnering guidelines.
The private sector is very interested in partnering award programs because they show us that you, the public entity, are serious about partnering. It also tells the private sector that you understand what partnering truly involves and that you have put some thought into why partnering is important.
When a partnering plan is followed early and management stays involved with issues, projects flow and costs are contained.
“A great example of early stakeholder involvement was on UDOT’s Legacy Parkway Project, a 14-mile stretch of a four-lane highway to provide an alternate roadway for northern Utah commuters between Salt Lake City and Kaysville,” remembers Avery.
“As the Utah AGC Highway Committee, we partnered through the entire procurement process. Seldom do you see partnering on projects before they are bid, but this one was one of those rare cases. The UDOT team lead by Todd Jensen, Bryan Adams and PK Mahanty, would bring issues to the committee, we would have an open dialogue and provide input, and they would follow up. It was a great success,” he says.
Delivery and Financing Decisions
Transit authorities also need to determine as early as possible how they will procure the project. This is the biggest decision they will make. The earlier they decide to procure a project using design-build or public-private partnership, the quicker they can “lock down” cost escalation.