Every Innovation Starts With A Conversation

It was 1996 and Utah DOT was feeling pressure.  

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Interstate 15 — a 16-mile segment — was due to be reconstructed, and the Winter Olympics was looming ahead in 2002.  

“Speed to market” is something that I speak about a lot, Carlos Braceras, Utah DOT Executive Director told listeners at the Volpe Center’s “ Thinking Outside the Box: Innovating for Better Project Delivery,” the second part in an ongoing series about project delivery.  

“If a project is worth doing, it’s worth delivering fast.” 

In order to accelerate the $1.15 billion project, Utah decided to use a design-build process — a major departure for the agency and its contractors.  

“This changes the game for contractors,” said Braceras. “It takes a huge commitment from your private sector contractors to change their machine.” 

But the decision payed off, Braceras said. Utah was able to deliver the project under budget, and sooner than expected, with plenty of time before welcoming Olympic athletes and spectators from around the world.  

This type of innovation around project delivery, Braceras said, is all the more necessary as states are trying to take advantage of the influx of funding from the Infrastructure Bill.  

 “It’s hard sometimes when the pressure’s on to step back and say, ’Is there a better way?’” he said.  

“We’re all facing a challenge right now… We now have more resources than ever collectively around the country,” he said. “It’s really kind of a good time to step back and say, is there a better way to do this.” 

Through its Center for Excellence in Project Delivery, the Volpe Center at U.S. DOT is hosting a series of webinars in the coming months to help agencies realize the full potential of this unprecedented investment. 

The next in the series is Embedding Equity in Project Delivery, which will be held Sept. 7, with Stephanie Wiggins, Chief Executive Officer, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro) and Emmanuella Myrthil, Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA).