PennDOT Turns to Tech, P3 for Crucial Rapid Bridge Replacement Project

The project is working to replacing 558 bridges in three years, and has strict guidelines for design reviews and specific types of required responsiveness.

by / January 24, 2017

When it was discovered that 558 of Pennsylvania’s 25,000 state-maintained bridges were classified as structurally deficient, state decision-makers required a solution that would store and organize large volumes of data during the process of transforming these bridges into a high-quality state.

In a first-of-its-kind public-private partnership (P3), the Pennsylvania Rapid Bridge Replacement Project is working to replace 558 bridges in three years, and has strict guidelines for design reviews and specific types of required responsiveness. To meet this project's needs, the Pennsylvania Department of Transpiration (PennDOT) needed to substantially modify its legacy document management solutions. During the search for such a solution, the department kept the following requirements in mind:

  • the ability to implement quickly (operational by March 1, 2015);
  • the ability to accept, track, review/comment on, and return results of submittals to and from the development entity in such a way that reviews are held accountable and progress can be tracked adequately; and
  • costs were commensurate with value received by department.

Enter e-Builder Enterprise, a platform that manages capital program costs, schedules and documents, allowing owners to measure and manage the project from the planning and construction to the operations phase.

“Due to the complexity of this project — requiring the replacement of 558 bridges in short succession and involving a number of outside contracted parties — it was important that the project management software used could easily and clearly share updates on where each phase of planning and execution stood, and what needed to be done next,” said Ron Antevy, e-Builder’s president and CEO.

PennDOT had six goals for the project, and the e-Builder solution needed to process information that would support them. The project goals were to:

  1. expedite delivery of replacement bridges;
  2. design, build and maintain bridges using high-quality, cost-effective and sustainable technical solutions;
  3. design, build and maintain bridges in an environmentally sound manner that ensures the safety of the traveling public and minimizes environmental impacts;
  4. minimize the duration of public inconvenience during construction and maintenance of bridges;
  5. undertake work on a whole-life management basis to ensure that bridges are handed back in a suitable condition; and
  6. minimize the cost and funds required to design, build, finance and maintain the project.

“The realization of all of these goals will result in better mobility, safer travel and increased value to the residents of the commonwealth,” Mike Bonini, director of PennDOT’s P3 Office, told Government Technology. “The department expects to receive high-quality bridges at the end of the term that may have reduced maintenance costs through the useful life.”

Due to the project's geographic distribution, a multitude of stakeholders require access to the solution. During peak usage, for instance, there are more than 450 users on the system.

All users have access to workflow-based processes that are configured based on the department's  needs, including design submissions, substantial completion, final acceptance, change requests, compensation events, requests for information and request for design changes.

The solution supports the department from start to finish. For example, there may be 50 types of design submissions, each of which may have subtypes. The e-Builder solution knows the time allowed to the department for review, which varies by submission type, automatically calculates due dates and sends reviewers notification of pending actions or reviews.

“Each step of the process is accounted for so that at a programmatic level, the department can analyze trends to ensure that the process for reviews is operating as efficiently as possible,” Bonini said. “This is a powerful feature of the solution that has allowed the department to, in the spirit of ongoing improvement, constantly evaluate and adjust internal procedures to gain efficiencies.”

According to a 2016 e-Builder and Dodge Data and Analytics study, 8 percent of owners complete their projects without time delays, and as a result, Antevy said, many projects go over budget.

"And for government and public projects there is added disruption to the communities that use them,” he added. “If the PennDOT bridge project were to go over schedule, it would have a significant impact on the lives of Pennsylvanians.”

One of the project requirements is to maintain each of the 558 bridges for a term of 25 years after the bridge is constructed. At the end of the term, an overall assessment of a bridge's condition must be rated at a seven or higher. A structurally deficient bridge is rated as a four or below. Typically, a bridge constructed with a 100-year design life rates as about a six after 25 years.

“The net result will be reduced maintenance costs for those bridges,” Bonini said, “allowing the department to focus its efforts on other critical needs.”

Jessica Renee Napier Contributing Writer

Jessica Renee Napier is a California-based writer who began her journalism career in public broadcasting. She teaches yoga, enjoys traveling and likes to stay up on all things tech.