Debrief w. Tom Harman: FHWA Funding Updates for e-Construction

Whereas implementing an increasingly paperless system for construction administration and delivery is gaining traction across the country, some agencies are more aggressive than others. Part of the reason many states have been slow to adopt e-Construction practices is the cost associated with piloting e-Construction technologies.

The good news is there are various funding options available to state agencies which will help to minimize the financial impacts and risks of piloting e-Construction technologies.

Recently, Tom Harman, Director for the FHWA Center for Accelerating Innovation and former payment and materials discipline champion for the Federal Highway Administration, participated in an online Exchange with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to help inform the industry of the various funding initiatives available as well as their current status.

Here are some of the key takeaways from that discussion. These can help your department further investigate cost-efficient options through the FHWA to pilot your agency’s e-Construction pilots.

Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act & MAP-21

Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, better known as the FAST Act, was signed by President Obama on December 4th, 2015, and is the administration’s first long-term authorization in over a decade and the result of bipartisan cooperation and compromise. With 5 years of funding certainty, State and local governments will be able to plan and invest in our Nation’s surface infrastructure.

The Act authorizes a total of $305 billion (all modes) over fiscal years 2016-2020, and transfers $70 billion (mostly from the General Fund) to the Trust Fund to keep the Trust Fund solvent over that duration. Of the $305 billion budget, the Act authorizes a total of $226.3 billion over five fiscal years for highways, with average annual funding about 10% above the FY 2015 enacted levels.

The Act builds on the program structure under MAP-21, or the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, and adds new programs –a freight formula program and a competitive grant program for nationally significant freight and highway projects. Accelerating project delivery continues to be a theme with provisions that build on MAP-21, including some from the GROW AMERICA Act.

The FHWA seeks to boost the MAP-21 budget from $41 billion in funds in 2015 to $47 billion by 2020.
Bear in mind that both the FAST Act and MAP-21 contain a clause which allows states to receive up to 100% of their match share. This means that if a project qualifies for 80% federal funds and 20% state funds, the match fund can be increased further through these Acts.

Accelerated Innovation Deployment Demonstration Grant Program

This program, called AID for short, helps to foster innovation in the industry. The goal of the AID program is to incentivize and help agencies share the risk and cost of exploring innovation aimed at shortening project delivery and ensuring planning, design, engineering, construction and financing of transportation projects is done efficiently and effectively through e-Construction. To be eligible, a report must be written within six months of completing a project documenting how well various initiatives worked.

AID grants are not used for statewide implementations of technology, but rather to assess technologies at the project level. Recently, Kansas and Ohio identified projects that could begin within the next six months, and they are now receiving funding through AID.

STIC Incentive Program

The FHWA’s State Transportation Innovation Council (STIC) incentive program provides resources to help states to build a culture of innovation. Through the program, states can receive up to $100,000 to help offset the costs of standardizing innovative practices within transportation agencies. This can be utilized to set up Peer Exchanges, workshop, etc.

This year, Ohio seeks to acquire $60,000 to advance e-Construction and host programs for road diets, data-driven safety analysis, and much more.

Every Day Counts

Every Day Counts (EDC) 3 is currently underway, and EDC 4 is being prepped concurrently. During the first 6 months of EDC 3, Pennsylvania and South Carolina have joined Michigan in making e-Construction a mainstream practice. An additional 15 states, Washington, D.C., and Federal Lands Highway are using e-Construction tools. The goal established by States indicate a significant increase in the number of States in the advanced stages of implementation (Assessment and Institutionalized) by December 2016.

Many states are making good progress. For example: The Florida DOT requires final as-built documents for all projects after July 1, 2015, to be produced in an electronic format. The Michigan DOT, an e-Construction leader, has used paperless documentation on all trunk line projects since October 2014, totaling more than $1 billion in contracts. The agency is rolling out e-Construction to a few local agencies to prepare for local implementation across the state. The Missouri DOT implemented an e-Construction special provision for construction contracts that requires almost all documents to be submitted electronically. As of June 2015, all projects are 99 percent paperless.

EDC 3 will wrap at the end of 2016. During October and December, there will be seven regional summits that include state DOTs, ACECs, AGCs, and STICs, in which projects will be identified for EDC 4, beginning January 1st, 2017. There are currently 37 state DOT’s that have expressed interest in developing their e-Construction programs that are being considered for the program.

Summary

Transportation innovation is a logical and necessary step for the industry’s evolution. e-Construction is slowly but steadily permeating through the industry, and there is a complete expectation the trend will continue. Look into the programs above to see how your agency can apply for additional funding – the next generation of transportation construction is unfolding before our eyes and your agency should be a part of the revolution.

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