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Site Notification

Site Notification

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

Interface with NSRR and Flaggers

Title: Interface with NSRR and Flaggers

Phase(s): Construction

Category: Schedule and Management

Date: September 16, 2008

1. Background

The Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) South Corridor Light Rail Project (SCLRP) is located in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, and links Uptown Charlotte’s Central Business District to the I-485 Station.  The light rail line operates within the existing Norfolk Southern Railroad (NSRR) Right of Way (ROW) for approximately 9.6 miles.  Coordination with third parties, utilities, and railroad is one of the most important and challenging part of each project.

In early 2005, it was noted that the schedule forecasted revenue date had been moving later and later.  In reviewing the schedule, it was discovered that, due to several issues and factors, CATS work plan was being impacted.  As a result of these elements, a number of activities that could be performed concurrently were limited, and project critical path was impacted, including all the follow-on contractors, such as Station Finishes, Traction Power, and Train control.  The key elements and causes of impacts were NSRR flagger issues, coordination and interface issues and schedule & cost impacts. 

Availability of eight flagmen was shown in RBT contract, but the detail of how many and the timing of the flaggers were not identified in agreements with the railroad.  Shortage of needed flaggers was identified, and mitigation measures were considered.  Project critical path, shoofly (rail detour) construction, and later relocation of track work needed more coordination and flagmen than anticipated, therefore CATS flagger needs and construction schedules were established to avoid delays in the future.  The schedule delay issues were settled with RBT/SF contractors several months later and at a much higher cost than CATS’ plan indicated, demonstrating the difficulty CATS/CM experienced in forecasting cost and scheduling issues. 

2. The Lesson

This issue might have been avoided and/or greatly minimized during development by close coordination of design and contract special provision during the project development phase if sufficient, accurate, and relevant details had been put into the agreements and master plan.  Early coordination and interface plan between contractors, third parties, suppliers, real estate, and NSRR were critical in early detection and resolution of issues with minimum schedule and cost impact.

Specific lessons regarding this issue are as follows:

  • CATS should have developed a detail plan to allow identification of the number of support staff (Flaggers) and when they would be needed to perform work in the agreement with the railroad.
  • CATS should have provided and included the detail availability, delivery, and/or access dates in the follow-on contract’s specifications and made interface and coordination part of the design and constructability review process.
  • CATS should have identified non-construction activities that could have influenced or impacted construction in the master schedule and coordination plan.
  • Schedule details needed to be developed as early as possible in the project to identify these types of issues.  Master schedule should have identified, at a minimum, enough details for the entire project to be able to identify interfaces between contracts and other elements of the project.

In general, most of these issues could have been avoided by having qualified and an experienced construction management team as part of the project during final engineering development phase of the project.

3. Applicability

The lessons and recommendations of this issue could be applied to any aspect of the project that requires coordination and interface with others.

  • Develop an interface and coordination plan as early as possible and refine it during project development.
  • Include details in the master integrated schedule allowing the interfaces to be identified and managed as early as possible in the course of the project.  This includes details during PE alignment alternative studies.
  • Once an issue is planned and identified, problems with it could be detected earlier and managed with less effort and minimum cost and schedule affect.
  • It is also crucial to have a management plan in place to address issues as prescribed.

4. References

  • Monthly Progress reports including action items
  • Special presentation and reports to FTA
  • Reference to this issue in quarterly meeting minutes and conference call notes