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OWNER: City of Cape Coral, Fla., Public Works Department
PROJECT: Widening two arterial roads; 10 miles total
WHEN: April 2006 – July 2011
CONTRACTOR: Balfour Beatty Construction
CONTRACT: 5 years; $50 million

Five years ago, the Florida city of Cape Coral tried a new procurement strategy for a project to expand two arterial roads from four to six lanes. Traffic on those roads now flows smoothly, as did the Public Works Department's first experience with construction-manager-at-risk (CM@R).

With CM@R, a third party provides consultation to the owner regarding construction from design through completion. The department selected the Cape Coral office of Balfour Beatty Construction as construction manager and general contractor, which made the company responsible for hiring and managing subcontractors as well as coordinating the construction schedule.

This is not a typical delivery method for paving projects. According to the Associated General Contractors of America, it's still illegal for “horizontal” projects in 16 states. But that may be changing. In 2010, the Transportation Research Board published Construction Manager at Risk: Project Delivery for Highway Programs, a report on how public agencies are using CM@R.

City Design and Construction Manager Stephanie Smith, PE, served as project manager and mediator with utilities, residents, and local businesses. Although the partnership relieved her of resolving “an amazing number of details on a day-to-day basis,” the project still consumed roughly half her time.

“If we'd undertaken it ourselves, the entire staff would have been involved,” says Smith. CM@R allowed the Transportation Division to undertake the multiyear project without adding – and then laying off – extra staff.

The collaboration also kept surprises to a minimum. “The transparency of the process kept the city apprised of the costs of the work,” says Balfour Beatty Project Manager Laurie Lagos. “Because we reviewed bids and contractor qualifications before entering into contracts, we could ensure the right partners were selected for the work.”

Being involved in the early design phases allowed the company to offer ideas from similar projects to save time and money and minimize inconvenience. One was using a Texas DOT bridge design that met Florida's crash criteria, with cast-in-place walls that complement local architecture and ornate aluminum railings that fulfill bicycle rail requirements.

Construction on one of the roads involved acquiring more than 200 right-of-way parcels, which required coordinating with three utilities, the Public Works Real Estate Division, the City Attorney, and outside legal counsel. To expedite construction, the team began building the bridge while they finalized traffic management solutions for the roadways.

The guaranteed maximum price (GMP) arrangement included a contingency budget that provides the flexibility to adjust to job conditions without changing project costs. At one point, it became clear that one section would need more extensive repairs than originally planned. Smith reallocated unused contingency funds so the repairs could be made without extra startup or mobilization costs – a seamless change.

“The city was very well served by this method,” says Smith, citing every project manager's dream: a project that was finished on schedule and under budget.

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