In addition to raising four lanes of the highway 25 feet to accommodate an underpass, Virginia DOT's first design-build roadway project included two new bridges, and 2.1 miles of new roads. There was just one major change order: when APM Terminals rejected modifying an existing interchange in favor of building the new diamond interchange pictured here. Photo: Skanska/Backus Aerial Photography

When one of the world's largest freight companies wants to expand its presence in your state, you don't say there's not enough time to build the roads that will lead to the new facility.

You just get it done.

In 2004, APM Terminals, a division of the Denmark-based A.P. Moeller-Maersk Group, announced it would build the nation's largest shipping-container terminal at its facility in Portsmouth, Va., doubling the port's capacity. Its deadline: mid-2007.

Under normal circumstances, meeting such an aggressive deadline would be unthinkable. But the stage had been set for the Virginia DOT(VDOT) to shave at least a year off typical project-delivery time, enabling it to provide the necessary infrastructure before the expanded facility's opening day.

In 2001, the state had passed legislation allowing public agencies to use design-build as a project-delivery method and, two years later, VDOT created an Innovative Project Delivery Division. At any given time, the 16-employee division is exploring a half-dozen opportunities. (By contrast, the agency handles up to 400 design-bid-build projects a year.)

Theoretically, design-build speeds project completion because construction can begin before the design has been completed. While this may sound like a recipe for disaster, proponents say this approach forces the designer/engineer and builder to work as a team to fulfill a contract they've both agreed to. Change orders are minimized because the team is responsible for both design and construction.

Rather than two separate contracts, design-build awards projects under a single lump-sum contract covering both design and construction. As a result, owners know the total cost of a project much sooner than in design-bid-build.

Normally, VDOT awards contracts to the lowest qualified bidder. With this project, however, the Innovative Project Delivery Division's request for proposal was based on a combination of a technical score (representing 30% of the criteria for selection) in addition to price (70% of the criteria for selection). From three proposals submitted, VDOT selected Tidewater Skanska Inc. of Virginia Beach, Va., as the design-build contractor, which retained Vanasse Hangen Brustlin of Watertown, Mass., as designer/engineer.

Once VDOT provided guidelines, the design-build team was free to resolve issues like drainage details and other geometric constraints without approval. The agency did, however, sign off at key milestones.

For example, the team was not allowed to continue until VDOT reviewed the right of way plan and final construction documents. The team submitted an update along with its monthly invoice that included a statement from its quality manager confirming that all construction met standards. To further ensure quality, VDOT conducted independent inspections.

“The very aggressive schedule couldn't have been met without everyone working together to make it happen,” says VDOT project manager Bud Morgan, PE.

Project: APM Terminals Boulevard Interchange
AEC firm: Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc.
Construction firm: Tidewater Skanska Inc.
Construction start: Aug. 4, 2005
Contract completion date: Nov. 15, 2006
Actual completion date: Nov. 10, 2006
Cost: $22 million
Funding: APM Terminal ($3.25 million) and VDOT ($18.75 million from general funds)

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