Accelerating Your Digital Project Delivery Goals: The Essentials for Transportation Agencies  

Civil Engineering Acceleration Digital Project goals

The 2024 Engineering and Construction 2024 Outlook is optimistic for transportation infrastructure construction growth alongside manufacturing and clean energy infrastructure.

Part of that enthusiasm is the anticipated funding from federal programs such as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has already allocated $61 billion in Fiscal Year 2024 to support investment in critical infrastructure, including roads, bridges and tunnels, carbon emission reduction, and safety improvements.

Yet, facilitating the scope and scale of projects that need to be completed will push our industry to its limits—and technology is essential given the scope, scale and complexity of work in the transportation industry moving forward. In fact, digital project delivery is likely the only way to meet the necessary functionality, sustainability and community goals. Is your organization prepared?

The Essentials: Models, Means and Methods

While digital project delivery likely has a number of different interpretations depending on roles and responsibilities, it’s fundamentally a means and methods focused on model-based delivery.

ASCE notes that model-based design involves shifting thinking from plan-centric work to data-centric work, where information can be accessed and used in multiple ways. Autodesk offers a simple and straightforward definition: digital project delivery is a way to conceive, plan, design, build and operate in an interactive digital space. It’s a space available to all team members from the client, architects and engineers, to builders, trades, and even the public. The methodology encompasses design collaboration, design management, and construction management. Within a design team, it allows content creators to work together through a managed process centered around a common digital model.

It’s a model-based delivery approach that eliminates challenges associated with commonly disconnected systems. The intelligent model flows across the lifecycle of a project. A benefit-cost analysis research study completed by HDR for TRB and the Federal Highway Administration found that model-based delivery saved about 15% in change orders.

Transportation agencies are already evaluating the methodology. In late 2022, PennDOT held its first model-based review of 3D models developed as part of the EGCL/Roadway Authoring pilot projects. It was the first time an internal PennDOT design team had reviewed a project using 3D models instead of cross sections.

In a similar case, Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) reshaped its disconnected workflows for highway and bridge design. The goal of the pilot program was to bridge the gap between strategy and execution. In this case, the preconstruction design data was digitally translated to a construction model and into the survey equipment to support construction. While the surveyors were staking the critical components in the field, they were able to see the model directly in their survey equipment. Once the bridge was complete, MDT developed a digital twin to share with the maintenance group.

These are just a few examples—2024 will likely be a tipping point for agencies to embrace digital project delivery across workflows.

Ready or Not…

One other area of note is the ongoing development of the 3D model as a legal document (MALD). A 2023 survey noted in an ASCE feature story, found that at least nine states have initiated or completed pilot projects using  MALD. Further, the survey found that about a third of state DOTs now require a for-information-only BIM model on projects. More significantly, some of these agencies have made the model the primary contractual document, effectively eliminating selected 2D plan sheets.

The time is now for designers, engineers and even contractors to advance digital delivery workflows. There are a number of quality solutions available today that support the seamless connection of digital from the earliest phases of design, through planning and construction, and long into the operations phase.

To learn five steps to facilitating a successful digital project delivery workflow for your transportation organization, check out U.S. CAD’s Key Steps in Digital Project Delivery for Transportation whitepaper.

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