"The devil really is in the details," says TranSystem's Walbrun. "Too many transit projects rely on outdated details for items such as track support, platform surfaces, electrical distribution and fare collection. These items can have major impacts on construction costs without an attendant benefit to the service.
"The trick is to question design details to ensure that a stock solution is not being applied throughout a project to save engineering fees at the expense of a much more costly construction project."
Washington Group's Dan Kahn sums up the solution in two words - design build.
"Many agencies are realizing the benefi t of shortening the project duration to stretch their funds and gain more improvements. One of the most effective ways to do this is by using the design-build method. This contract method can reduce the scheduled time to operations signifi cantly and save critical budget dollars for the overall project."
"Combine liberal applications of shared experience techniques, such as value engineering and peer review, with a focus on the fundamentals of cost control," says STV's vice president, Robert Lutz.
"Start early. Beginning with initial planning and budgeting, consider the potential impacts of cost escalation and other risks. Identify mitigation strategies and update them during design development. Make judicious use of contingency and reserve accounts. Apply sound estimating techniques, avoiding over-optimistic assumptions and skimpy allowances. Establish collaborative relationships with the construction community and seek its advice on materials, long lead items, scheduling and contract provisions.
"Simplify. All too often 'outside-the-box' planning leads to 'outside-the-budget' results. To keep costs down, be conservative. Use off-the-shelf equipment, readily available materials and construction methods familiar to local contractors. Take time to finish plans and specifications, including thorough quality control, before putting them on the street. Emphasize clarity in communication with everyone the project will touch.
"Monitor and adjust. 'Scope creep' is like the weather; everybody complains about it. Prepare working estimates and monitor conformance to budgets throughout the design and construction processes, keying on trends and adjusting scope as necessary. If partners insist on expensive design solutions, ask them to pay the betterment costs."
No matter what part of the process agencies may be looking at, it's important to remember there are a variety of options available to help save funding dollars in the short term and give better overall service to riders in the long run.