Saturday, March 29th, 2008

INDOT Changing to Make Major Moves Happen

You might think it is a nice problem to have, but when your department’s budget gets a dramatic increase, it can be a struggle to handle. Consider the case of INDOT and Major Moves. The Toll Road lease brought in a huge amount of funds. The challenge is how to get that turned into concrete quickly. It isn’t just as simple as posting bids. Designing and implementing major roadway projects is complex. There are numerous environmental, design, and land acquisitions steps that need to be undertaken before construction can begin. What’s more, a lot of these tasks require critical skills. INDOT’s entire organization was sized to support a certain sized budget and certain number of projects. Similarly for the entire ecosystem of contractors, consultants, materials suppliers, etc. Where do you land those 25 extra project managers you need, especially when they have to have specialized skills and knowledge about not just civil engineering generally, but Indiana standards, laws, business practices, etc.? It isn’t easy.

The IBJ ran a very nice piece this week [dead link] talking about the institutional changes INDOT is implementing to turn dollars into concrete faster. For example, there is more parallelization of tasks that used to be done serially. And INDOT is relying more on prime consultants, who then hire and manage the subcontractors, instead of directly hiring all the subs.

The net result is projects getting done faster. Not only is this better for motorists, it is a huge financial windfall to INDOT. With the cost of construction skyrocketing a well above the consumer CPI rate of inflation, and most assuredly faster than Indiana is earning interest on the money it has in the bank, every year that goes by only erodes the value of that money. Building faster is the number one thing INDOT can do to build cheaper, because of the time value of money in a high inflation environment.

Obviously there is a ways to go. You can’t turn an $800 million organization on a dime. But things are definitely moving the right direction and showing positive results where it counts.

Topics: Transportation
Cities: Indianapolis

3 Responses to “INDOT Changing to Make Major Moves Happen”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I am not sure where your information comes from, but all is not well with INDOT. I have been working on projects with INDOT for over 15 years now and the pace of project development has slowed to a near crawl. The reorganization brought in by our man Mitch was intended to streamline the project development process; in reality, it has nearly doubled the time it takes to design and bid a project. As best I can tell, this “streamlining” involved shifting staff into new positions so that they now don’t know what to do, creating an incredibly inefficient web-based plan submittal process, and forcing the district offices to handle project development where they previously only oversaw construction. The results have been disastrous. Local communities (our clients) have sometimes waited for more than a year for a contract to get a project started. Once started, we have had INDOT actually lose our plans, then take 6 months to review them once they were resubmitted; I have been told this is not an isolated incident. Don’t get me wrong – without INDOT and the funds they manage, many of our projects would not get built, but things were much better before this so called reorganization. I am sure it will get worse before it gets better.

  2. The Urbanophile says:

    Thank you for posting your perspectives. It sounds like you work mostly with local federal aid projects that INDOT bids, not with INDOT directly. INDOT has an odd role there as basically a middleman. I’m not sure what the federal requirements are, but in my view it would be ideal if INDOT could be eliminated from local project development as much as possible. It’s better for them and better for the project. Let the FWHA administer their own grants, or just hand the money to the MPO or something.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I am not sure where the first poster got their information from either. While the initial changeover surely lead to some problems with new people in new positions, it is much better than it once was. Maybe you should contact what ever district you are having issues with and set up a meeting to discuss your concerns rather than throwing the equivalent of a tantrum on a blog in cyberspace.

    As for INDOT getting out of local federal aid projects, I don’t think that is possible as FHWA has too much to focus on already. While it might be nice to hand MPO’s money and tell them to manage their projects, there are 2 problems in my eyes. First, there would be a lack of consistency in the management of the projects between all the different MPO’s and second, what about the areas of the state that do not have an MPO? Do they get no money? Or do you force the MPO’s to pick up rural counties? Either way the rural counties don’t get the attention they need.

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