AASHTO Journal, 12 June 2015
In a new episode of the “News in Design” series on AASHTO’s Transportation TV, Washington state Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson said her department is saving time and money through agency reforms based on “practical design” concepts.
Practical design in transportation projects is gaining favor across the country, as it focuses on building the right infrastructure to meet specific needs rather than a broader-based and more costly project, and because it engages local communities at the earliest planned stages.
“Practical design is about making sure we don’t design [transportation projects] to the maximums – that we actually design to what we really need,” Peterson told TTV. “It’s performance-based engineering. So you work with the community to find outcomes prior to actually defining a project. And that takes a little bit of retraining of our entire workforce.”
The Missouri Department of Transportation became the first state DOT to adopt a practical design policy in 2005. Since then, a growing number of state and local government agencies have followed.
Peterson said the Washington state DOT has saved 40 percent of costs per construction project in which it applied practical design processes, compared with traditional approaches. The department is using those savings, she said, to complete more projects that are improving safety, reducing traffic congestion and replacing aging bridges across the state.
“I believe this is going to be the way we have to go,” Peterson said, “because with the gas tax losing to inflation and just the demographics of how society is going to operate in the future, we are going to have to find different ways to be able to deliver projects.”