Intercounty Controversy Quelled

Spring 2013

Best practices are even more important on high-profile projects.

Whether you measure hours wasted in traffic or levels of road rage, the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area routinely makes top 10 lists of the worst traffic in the nation. Congestion is a fact of life in the region formally known as the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area and the nation’s second-longest commute times prove it. With nearly nine million residents on the move, even weekend backups are commonplace.

MD 200, popularly known as the Intercounty Connector (ICC), is one of the infrastructure improvements designed to alleviate some of this congestion, or at least ease the traffic moving between the region’s densely populated suburbs in Maryland’s Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. To say that MD 200 was a hotly debated transportation project is a nice way of putting it. Hot debate is practically a residency requirement in suburbs filled with educated, opinionated Washington types.

Numerous lawsuits were filed. There were – and likely still are – yard signs, T-shirts and bumper stickers either promoting or denouncing this 18-mile stretch of toll road. When it came time to break ground, the pressure was on the Maryland State Highway Administration (MSHA) to deliver, and it did a superlative job of leveraging DBIA best practices to ensure success.

High Time for the Highway

The $2.425 billion Intercounty Connector is an 18.8-mile, multimodal highway connecting the I-270 and I-95/US 1 corridors north of Washington, D.C. The ICC has six lanes (three in each direction) with variable-width medians and a 60-mile-per-hour design speed. The facility was built to offer 100 percent electronic toll-collection capabilities; tolls are assessed via transponder with no need for vehicles to slow or stop. Allowing traffic to flow between I-95 and I-270 by the end of 2011 was the primary completion target for the ICC project. The project met its goal in November 2011 and stayed under budget.

To ensure widespread participation from local contractors, the ICC was divided into four individual contracts, each with separate joint-venture design-build teams. Contract A was a 7.2-mile section that included three major interchanges with 28 bridges, 21,000 linear feet (LF) of noise walls and 530,000 tons of asphalt, budgeted at $478.7 million. Contract B had a $559.7 million value and included a 7-mile section of road, three interchanges with 14 bridges, 38,000 LF of noise walls and 472,000 tons of asphalt. Valued at $513.9 million, Contract C included a 3.7-mile section of roadway with three major interchanges, 24 bridges, 9,000 LF of noise walls and 430,000 tons of asphalt. And Contract D/E covers the final section of MD 200, which is targeted for completion in 2014. This $89.3 million follow-up project includes a 0.9-mile section of road that connects to US 1.

MSHA was determined that the ICC would set a national standard for commitment to environmental protection and stewardship, which is reflected in the project’s budget and risk allocation. Its cutting-edge, $370-million environmental program represented 15 percent of the project’s total cost. The project includes bridges that span 100-year floodplains; large, bottomless culverts and right-of-way fencing designed to direct wildlife migrations under the highway; and measures to protect the quality and quantity of water in numerous streams, wetlands and fish habitats.

By-the-Book Procurement

The ICC was solicited as a design-build contract with the intent of awarding the contract to a qualified design-builder who provided the most advantageous combination of price and quality. Procurement was accomplished using the two-step best-value process. The request for qualifications (RFQ) established a reduced candidate list. The request for proposal (RFP) identified technical and price evaluation factors designated as either pass/fail or subject to qualitative and descriptive ratings. Evaluation factors assessed the design-builders on a variety of factors, including environmental, innovation, financial capability and qualifications improvement, management approach, technical solutions and project support.

As short-listed design-builders developed proposals, they were permitted to submit alternative technical concepts (ATCs) for approval. The MSHA recognized that ATCs would allow the candidates to incorporate innovation and flexibility into the proposal and provide the best value to the owner. The design-builders were also given an opportunity to have one-on-one discussions with the owner to explain the benefits of their ATCs. A post-proposal interview and presentation meeting allowed each firm to highlight key elements of its proposal and introduce key managers and personnel.

Supercharged Source Selection

The lump-sum contracts MSHA awarded were written with input from transportation industry experts in design-build. Joint workshops between the ICC team and industry professionals prior to procurement produced a risk-allocation chart. While the MSHA managed risks, including the relocation of four major natural gas transmission lines on Contract A to mitigate potential delays, it also worked closely with the utility companies affected by the project to win a relocation matrix and responsibility agreement that allowed the design-build teams to relocate the lines.

MSHA’s approach encompassed an appropriate risk-allocation strategy as well as incentives to encourage high performance. The risk-allocation chart identified environmental and community concerns as extremely important and each contract included comprehensive avoidance, minimization and mitigation incentives to assist in reducing the ICC’s footprint on forests, wetlands, wetland buffers and streams. Measures such as bridges, deck-over structures and bike paths were also employed to reduce the road’s impact on local communities and connectivity. Incentives were distributed quarterly, with a final incentive paid at the end of the project if the team remained in compliance throughout the life of the contract.

Other means of sharing risk and encouraging competitive bids included price adjustments for diesel fuel, asphalt cement for hot mix asphalt (HMA) pavement, Portland cement for concrete pavement and Portland cement for cast-in-place, including precast structures and fabricated structural steel. Price adjustments were computed quarterly, while cost adjustments were made based on the original base index established in the contract and the average of the actual cost index for the quarter. The design-build teams and owner shared the price-adjustment risks based on market fluctuations.

During planning, design and construction, the project team developed an interagency working group comprised of key public stakeholders, including the Army Corps of Engineers, Maryland Department of Environment, Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission and local and county environmental organizations. The interagency working group met monthly to discuss proposed designs and construction techniques, and to resolve issues that might affect the project’s environmental requirements and costs.

After awarding contracts, the design-builders co-located all parties to allow open and honest discussion about the design of the project. They conducted over-the-shoulder (OTS) reviews daily on all phases of the design with the designer, constructor, owner and outside stakeholders in attendance. Everyone was required to stay on the schedule established by the design-build team.

The designer of record performed quality-control checks, while the owner conducted the quality-assurance checks on each package submitted for review. Once the release for construction (RFC) plans were issued, construction began on specific elements of the project even before other components had been designed, gaining valuable construction time during the design phase.

MSHA’s close attention to best practices in design-build procurement, from early development through contract award and completion, resulted not only in on-time, on-budget delivery of what has been called the “most sustainable highway in America,” it also prevented the ICCÕs actual delivery from becoming an additional source of controversy. So let’s add a third benefit to the list of design-build advantages: lower cost, less time and fewer complaints.

Takeaways: The flawless execution of multiple contracts helped the massive Intercounty Connector project escape further criticism from detractors in the community, while a cutting-edge, $370 million environmental program helped the Maryland State Highway Administration minimize the roadway’s impact on wetlands and wildlife.


Project: Intercounty Connector
Location: Beltsville, Md.
Owner: Maryland State Highway Administration
Design-Builders: Intercounty Constructors, Maryland 200 Constructors and Intercounty Connector Constructors
Engineer: ICC Corridor Partners, a joint venture of Rummel Klepper & Kahl, Parsons Brinkerhoff and URS