Every Innovation Starts With A Conversation

Utilizing BIL’s historic funds.

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Since the Biden-Harris Administration passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) in 2021, tens of thousands of projects have been funded across the country. However, BIL’s unprecedented level of funding requires an equal investment of time and resources to guarantee efficient project delivery. 

To address this need, the Administration introduced its Action Plan for Accelerating Infrastructure in 2022. As a part of this plan, the Department of Transportation (USDOT) outlined the creation of the USDOT Project Delivery Center of Excellence to provide support and guidance for the recipients of federal funds. 

On July 26, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg unveiled the new USDOT Project Delivery Center of Excellence and delivered his keynote address at the first event of an eight-part virtual thought leadership series titled “Delivering the Benefits of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL).” 

“When it first became apparent that we as a country were likely to pass what became the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill,” said Secretary Buttigieg, “it became immediately clear that one of the biggest challenges we were going to have is delivering on that.” 

The Volpe Center’s new Center of Excellence is one of the ways USDOT is making good on its commitment to help project sponsors, such as state DOTs, Tribal, regional and local partners, to “deliver good projects on time, on task and on budget,” said Secretary Buttigieg.  

It takes more than historic funds 

Secretary Buttigieg emphasized the importance of effective project delivery to maximize the impact of the infrastructure bill. “Even 1.2 trillion dollars can go out the door pretty quickly without the intended benefits if we are not intentional about how to get the absolute most of it,” said the Secretary. 

However, the successful implementation of these projects depends on timely and efficient delivery. “And while getting the funding is the step that has escaped many administrations and escaped this country for many years, the truth is that it’s only the beginning and delivery and management are enormously important,” said Secretary Buttigieg. 

The Secretary went on to recognize that much of the work that needs to be done lies not with federal entities but with state transportation agencies and tribal, local and industry partners. “90% of the funding that flows through the plumbing, so to speak, of our department will ultimately be delivered by non-federal entities like some of those that we’ve gathered today on this call. The transit agencies, the airports, the State Departments of Transportation, the cities, those who must deliver. But we are here with you in that process as well.” 

Throughout that process, project sponsors can utilize the Center’s new website and Project Delivery Toolbox to find resources and best practices for project completion. 

‘Slow thinking’ yields better results 

As the webinar progressed, Secretary Buttigieg welcomed Professor Bent Flyvbjerg and commended him on his extensive research on project management and project delivery. The two discussed the significance of thorough planning and “slow thinking” before embarking on project implementation.  

“If you want to go fast, you got to go slow first,” said Professor Flyvbjerg. The concept of “slow thinking” may seem counterintuitive, noted Professor Flyvbjerg, but the approach leads to faster progress and more efficient project execution.  

The Professor went on to explain the evolutionary need for humans to naturally want to get ahead. “But if you are investing $1.2 trillion, you want to put some thinking into that, and not just for the whole amount, but for each project that goes into spending that money,” said Professor Flyvbjerg. 

Professor Flyvbjerg then explained the need to start projects correctly by taking time to think about why tasks are being undertaken and planning backward from desired outcomes. According to Flyvbjerg, interrogating the “why” helps to ensure that projects are well-thought-out and aligned with their intended goals. 

The conversation between the two continued as they discussed the best approaches to large scale project management. “Something that challenges us to really lean into one of the values that we celebrate in this administration is imagination,” said Secretary Buttigieg. “And I think being imaginative about our purposes can help us identify the most effective ways to get things done, even if it’s a little different than the vision that we’ve inherited.” 

For the remainder of the webinar, Secretary Buttigieg and Professor Flyvbjerg discussed their own perspectives on the different ways that sponsors can mitigate risk and achieve success on projects of all sizes. 

Watch the full webinar.  

Register for the Thought Leadership Series.  

Sources: USDOT