Success in regional transit projects requires strong relationships
The Construction Dive article “Strategies to keep light-rail projects on track,” makes a number of good points on the keys to success. The article correctly points out that getting early buy-in from the community and building a solid relationship with the Federal Transit Administration are key.
Our approach includes community outreach and public involvement workshops. We like to ensure that the projects and teams assembled have a solid understanding of local government expectations as they relate to the community.
Our Washington office has found that close working relationships with federal government departments and agencies are also essential. Those encompass funding, notices to proceed, and other considerations. Regional government entities and their teams must have support at all levels to see a project through to success.
Good relationships with these agencies can help move projects along, especially when issues arise and something gets stuck.
Also in the very early stage, government planners should develop working groups of subject-matter experts from various teams. They will negotiate the issues which appear to be obstacles to launching construction.
BE FLEXIBLE, CREATIVE
The article also points out concerns about being over-budget and not having assembled enough property for the project. We would add to that rethinking which type of technology works best for a transportation corridor. We recently encountered one situation with a regional government that could build on a route either light rail or bus rapid transit.
The same flexibility should be applied to the delivery method. The article notes that Phoenix’s Valley Metro Regional Public Transit Authority used construction manager at risk and design-build methods for extensions to its main rail line.
The article states “that there are benefits to bringing the contractor in at the earliest design phases, such as working out scheduling conflicts or necessary changes before they become expensive to fix out in the field.”
In our years of experience with alternative delivery projects, we found this approach to be an especially relevant key to success in transit-oriented development.
A local government may not have all of the funding to pay for development along a corridor. In several instances, we identified real estate that government then offered to development teams in order to build mixed-use development stations along the route. This generated enough funds to help the transit construction team with its project and to promote mixed-use development around rail stations.
Last, the articles notes that light-rail and similar transit projects take years to complete. We agree. An ongoing familiarity and knowledge of internal and external stakeholders, as well as local and federal officials is paramount to success.
It is critical to maintain good continuity during the development and through completion and project close-out. As the article concludes, “that includes changes in political leadership and community sensibilities, both of which are hard to predict.”