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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Early Risk Assessment

Title:  Pre-Preliminary Engineering (PE) Review

Phase(s):  Pre-PE / Entry into PE

Category:  Project Management

Date:  April 21, 2009

1. Background

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is planning a commuter rail transit project to serve communities in Central Florida.  The Full-Build CFCRT Project is an approximately 61-mile new commuter rail system, which will serve 17 stations.  The CFCRT Project is proposed to operate bi-directional service on the existing CSX Transportation, Inc. (CSXT) rail corridor from the existing DeLand Amtrak Station in Volusia County, south through downtown Orlando and Kissimmee, until its terminus at the Poinciana Industrial Park in Osceola County.

The Initial Operating Segment (IOS) of the CFCRT Project, or Phase 1, is a 32-mile corridor consisting of 12 stations between DeBary (formerly known as Fort Florida Road) and Sand Lake Road.  Phase 1 includes the purchase of 7 locomotives and 14 cars, approximately 18-miles of additional second track being added to the existing 11-miles of double track, a new signal system, a vehicle storage yard, and support facilities.  Phase 2 will be an approximately 17-mile extension of Phase 1, and when combined, Phases 1 and 2 make up the 49-mile Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) serving 16 stations.  Phase 3, a 12-mile extension of the LPA north to the DeLand Amtrak Station, defines the entire 61-mile long Full-Build Alternative.

Prior to receiving approval to enter Preliminary Engineering (PE), the Project Management Oversight Contractor (PMOC) assigned to the CFCRT Project was directed by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to perform a LPA (Pre-PE) Review.  This review process provided the PMOC with an understanding of the Grantee’s rationale for selecting the LPA, the planning decisions that determined the alignment and station configurations, and the approach to project engineering, construction, and budget preparation.  In addition, this review identified items of risk to the project that had the potential to impact the project’s budget and schedule.

2. The Lesson

Recently, the FTA has been requesting that PMOCs perform LPA (Pre-PE) Reviews (risk assessments) at the time Grantees are requesting entry into PE.  By initiating the risk assessment review process early in a project’s development, many benefits are recognized.  Scope, cost, and schedule risks that the Grantee may not have realized can be identified by the PMOC at this early stage.  Early identification of project risks has allowed Grantees to better manage the project costs and schedule as the project progresses through the various phases by allowing them to re-evaluate and adjust the scope, costs and/or schedule accordingly.  Additionally, these reviews allow the Grantee to develop the management tools and organization necessary to avoid and/or control increases to project costs and schedule slippages as a result of identified or unidentified risk events that occur.

During the LPA (Pre-PE) Review of the CFCRT Project, several areas of risk were identified that appeared to have the greatest impact on the project of which the most significant were:

  • Level boarding at the station platforms for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility – the choice of vehicle and the design of the stations were both contingent on the resolution of this issue.
  • Finalization and execution of transitional and operating agreements with the freight railroad (CSXT); and
  • Aggressive and unrealistic project schedule.

The PMOC recommended that FDOT address the risk items identified in the Pre-PE Review during the PE phase prior to being permitted to enter Final Design.  As a result, FDOT reviewed and refined various project elements during the PE phase to reduce and/or eliminate the risks identified by the PMOC during the Pre-PE Review.  The project’s schedule was also adjusted during this time to reflect a realistic revenue operations date based on remaining risks, and the project budget was refined to include missing scope items identified during the Pre-PE Review.  FDOT also hired additional staff (i.e., Chief Operating Officer and QA Manager) as recommended by the PMOC during the Pre-PE Review.  These staff members have proven invaluable to the project by providing their input to the project team early in the design process.  As a result, engineering issues that could have affected the project’s budget and/or schedule were proactively mitigated and/or eliminated by FDOT.

3. Applicability

The Pre-PE Reviews can be performed on any Major Capital Project.  To date, many Grantees have benefited from starting the risk assessment review process early in a project’s life.  This allows the Grantee to focus on the risks identified during this review, as well as assisting the Grantee in developing a plan to more efficiently and effectively manage the project to the award of Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) phase through revenue operations.

4. References

Ms. Tawny Olore, PE
Project Manager
FDOT – Orlando Urban Office
133 S. Semoran Blvd.
Orlando, FL  32807
(407) 482-7879