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After a 12-day closure due to a collapsed overpass and tanker fire, temporary lanes have been established, and traffic has resumed on I-95 in Philadelphia. It is astonishing what is possible in the face of adversity and begs the question, why can't this be the norm? What can we / should we take away from this experience, including the good, maybe not-so-good, and possible unintended consequences? What needs to change to make this type of experience the norm rather than the exception?
I think this is a great question and definitely worth trying to learn what we can do to make efficiency the norm and not the exception. Just as the results seemed higher than standard, it may in part have to do with non-standard levels of effort and compensation. I have no data on this topic but I would not be surprised to learn that it was a job that was both well-paid and also required many people to work longer harder than they would normally.
I often work overtime to complete tasks on certain time frames. I welcome the additional money but also recognize that my additional hours contribute to burnout and over the long term are not realistic for me personally or for my team or clients if they continue to expect results this quickly.
I disagree. Taking 12 days to install a temporary replacement is not enviable: on April 29, 2007 there was a similar fuel truck accident under one of the approach bridges to the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, collapsing a portion of Interstate 580 onto a portion of I-880 and closing both. A contractor with a reputation for speed won the bid for fixing it, and had the new, permanent span open exactly 8 days after the fire. The contractor made a tidy sum of incentive money by beating the specified maximum completion time of two months, and had done similar speedy work in the Los Angeles area years before. Reminds one of the speed with which the "Seabees" built landing strips on Pacific Islands. That should be the new norm.
Correction to my earlier post- the bridge onto which the collapsed span landed was reopened in 8 days, the replacement of the collapsed span took 14 days longer - still an enviable result.
Based on my limited reading on this topic so far -
The same cannot be applied to all or majority of the public works projects.
But the focal point of your question remains valid i.e., achieving construction efficiency. I have seen construction technologies and management improve over the last several years through means such as Design-Build (DB), Progressive DB etc. for certain projects where such project delivery methods can be justified in public sector. I am also witnessing emerging trends such as prefab construction, 3D printing and alternate materials that appear to bring further efficiency.
However, much more need to be done and the entire engineering community (Designers, Contractors and Owners) need to step up their game in adapting and creating many more efficient construction trends in light of the recent labor and material shortages, ongoing inflation and upcoming work from the IIJA Act.
Hello MItchell. I'm not sure what aspect of this event should or could become the norm. By definition, response to any crisis is not normal, it's exceptional. Are you thinking that deploying innovative construction techniques and materials should become the norm? Or that workflows should be streamlined to get projects done super-fast?
I could not see the workflows for tenders and bids being streamlined as a result. As Christopher Siegel points out, this project had money and resources thrown at it to reduce the economic damage and disruption of this event. I am pretty sure that the benefits of reopening the highway would exceed the costs. But this can't be the new norm. Construction projects planned, tendered, constructed and delivered in normal circumstances focus on best use of taxpayer's dollars, not on crashing the project schedule to shortest time possible, ignore costs. As for innovative techniques, during normal bid processes, contractors would estimate on time and materials basis to establish their bid price. It may be that other techniques are innovative, but not yet cost-effective on a total project basis. It would be up to the client to decide to pay more for a project bid offering a new technique - but this would also be driven by the commercial terms and conditions of the bid valuation and bid award. A low-cost bidder with a competent resume of delivered projects would have grounds to protest an award to a more expensive offer if the bid criterion was lowest total cost.
I guess the summary is that the wheels of government agencies turn slowly in absence of a crisis.
------------------------------Konrad Mech P.Eng, M.ASCESales Director, Coasts, Ports and Inland WaterwaysKongsberg Maritime ASPort Coquitlam BC------------------------------
------------------------------Mitch Winkler P.E., M.ASCEHouston, TX------------------------------
This is a temporary. The underpass is still closed. When they replace it will take longer.
exactly, the replacement is not even a bridge. Media hype gone wild they can't even recognize this.
I agree with you, Mitch. To take exception to your question about "the norm" reflects a narrow view of the question. Suspending regulations and standard practices can be seen as an exemplar only for emergency projects, not the approach for normal construction projects. However, if that prompts a reevaluation of regulations to remove those that impede projects without sufficient benefit, then the normal has has been improved.
The I95 emergency rebuild also illustrates that innovative thinking is needed. Construction of a "bridge" that isn't a bridge is innovative. An unrelated example: using sediment source management to reduce navigation channel deposition instead of dredging is innovative. Judicious innovation instead of doing something because, "That's the way we always do it" can be the norm. We have a responsibility to solve problems in a way that best serves our clients and society and sometimes that means something other than the usual recipe. Being open to the possibilities should be the norm rather than the exception. Are we always doing that? If not, what do we change about engineering education or practice to make it so?