Design-Build Takes Flight at Transportation/Aviation Conference in Cincinnati

Checking in for the 2024 Design-Build for Transportation/Aviation in Cincinnati.
Photo by Robb McCormick Photography (

DBIA’s 2024 Specialty Conferences closed out Friday at the Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, with more than 1,200 attendees at the Design-Build for Transportation/Aviation Conference. The event explored design-build across the transportation and aviation landscape, including air, highway/street, rail and marine transportation issues. 

Navigating the Growth of Design-Build: Owner Viewpoints, Practitioner Stories and PDB

Following the Water/Wastewater conference last Monday, the Transportation/Aviation event began Wednesday with a joint General Session on the rapid growth of progressive design-build (PDB), capitalizing on the popularity of this emerging procurement method across market sectors. Over the past few years, interest in PDB has surged, with many states creating or modifying legislation to allow the use of PDB. Owners are increasingly turning to the procurement method to manage cost and schedule risks. Panelists shared with attendees some of the real-world applications of PDB as well as the implications of changes in its governance. 

From left, Tom Foley, PE, CCM, DBIA; Brandon Lee Flaherty, PE, DBIA; Jim Gray; Geoffrey Neumayr, DBIA; and Robynne Thaxton, JD, FDBIA, share thoughts on PDB at the 2024 Design-Build Specialty Conferences Joint General Session in Cincinnati. Photo by Robb McCormick Photography (

Afterward, Owners and practitioners aired their questions, lessons learned and stories in individual forums. Practitioners engaged in conversations about DBIA’s high priority initiatives. In the Owners’ Forum, attendees took advantage of the unique setting to openly and honestly share their views and network in an Owners-only setting.

Charting a Course for the Future of Design-Build: Award-Winning Projects, Best Practices and Urban Mobility

Conference-goers attended an Opening Keynote Session with futurist Greg Lindsay called “Where the Robots Meet the Road.” Lindsay’s session investigated the impact of autonomous vehicles and other emerging technologies on urban mobility, highlighting their potential to reshape cities and transportation systems worldwide.

Two General Sessions centered on high-level design-build topics in the sector. “Behind the Scenes of an Award-Winning Project” brought together several members of the design-build team responsible for the renovation of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority DC Headquarters, winner of five DBIA Project/Team Awards in 2023. Closing out the event was a deep dive into the forthcoming update to the Best Practices for the Transportation/Aviation market sector.

Futurist Greg Lindsay speaks to 2024 DBIA Design-Build for Transportation/Aviation Conference attendees about future of urban mobility in Cincinnati. Photo by Schlagheck Photography for Robb McCormick Photography

Switching Tracks: Exploring Design-Build’s Diverse Routes to Success

Throughout the program, attendees could choose from a series of panels that followed one of four tracks, including “The Communities We Serve,” “Tools, Techniques and Tricks of the Trade,” “All You Need is Trust” and “To Infinity and Beyond: Design-Build 2.0.”

“The Communities We Serve” offered attendees a close look at the important impact of design-build projects on the communities in which they are situated. Topics in this track included the completion of the Opportunity Corridor supporting Cleveland’s redevelopment, challenges in the Route 7 Corridor Improvements project in Northern Virginia, public engagement in MoDOT’s I-70 Cave Springs to Fairgrounds Project, an overview of the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor project and strategies for ensuring DEI in design-build projects.

Sessions in “Tools, Techniques and Tricks of the Trade” explored the “how” of successful design-build, including Michigan DOT’s Risk Management Toolkit, scalability challenges and successes in regional airports, cost-effective proprietary meetings in design-build, GDOT’s approach to managing the I-285/I-20 East Interchange Project and leveraging digital tools like Virtual Design & Construction in VTA’s BART Silicon Valley Phase II Project.

An audience member asks a question during a track session at the DBIA Design-Build for Transportation/Aviation Conference, Cincinnati, April 2024. Photo by Schlagheck Photography for Robb McCormick Photography

Trust is key to design-build success, and Track 3 demonstrated how strong and trusting relationships bring that success to life. “All You Need is Trust” featured sessions about agency partnerships using design-build for high-capacity transit, cost reduction strategies through design-build, emergency bridge replacement projects, utilizing DBIA Best Practices on toll road projects and refreshing DBIA’s Owner Advisor Primer.

The fourth track examined challenges unique to design-build and ways to optimize design-build delivery. Panelists drew from experience across the sector, using case studies on integration done right in the highway sector, progressive design-build success in renovating the heart of Nashville’s airport, insights into progressive design-build best practices, risk management for an airport terminal under a progressive design-build contract, and the challenges and innovations in the MacArthur Bridge West Approach Modification project in Downtown St. Louis, MO.

Paving the Way for Design-Build Done Right®: Networking, Learning and Leadership

During networking lunches and evening receptions, attendees mingled in the bustling Exhibit Hall, connecting with organizations and firms dedicated to enhancing design-build projects in the transportation/aviation sector.

Photo by Schlagheck Photography for Robb McCormick Photography

First-time attendee from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) Christine Krall, PE, talked about her experience at the conference, calling it “interesting,” “engaging” and pointing out the value of both networking and the lessons learned in each session. “The quality of speakers and presenters stood out,” she said, adding, “DBIA did a great job bringing together groups of people [from throughout the industry]. The presentations had an element of learning to them but they also had aspects of applicability and project specifics.”

When asked what brought her to her inaugural DBIA Specialty Conference, Krall explained that WisDOT is relatively new to the design-build game and she felt the team needed more learning opportunities. “Because of the quality of presentations,” she said, “I was able to convince WisDOT this was where we could learn what we needed to know about design-build.” 

DBIA offered a full-day Leadership Foundations course, part of the new Collaborative Delivery Leadership Academy, the day before the conference began. More than 20 professionals –– including a number of members of the DBIA National Board of Directors –– completed the first course of the six-course Academy, where Dr. Barbara Jackson, FDBIA, introduced foundational steps to understanding and adapting their own leadership styles to be successful in collaborative project delivery. 

Did we miss you at the 2024 Design-Build for Transportation/Aviation Conference? No problem! Select sessions will be available for purchase in DBIA’s Learning Center in the coming weeks.

Learn more about the Collaborative Delivery Leadership Academy