As state agencies wait on a possible infrastructure bill from the Biden administration, many are better prepared than they were a decade ago to manage hundreds of billions of dollars in new work.
The Federal Highway Administration incentivized state DOTs to incorporate digital construction technology in 2012 when it established the Center for Accelerating Innovation. The Virginia Dept. of Transportation partnered with the University of Virginia to create the Virginia Transportation Research Council, a centralized research arm with its own budget that allows VDOT to allocate funds and better prioritize projects. In 2017, VDOT, through the VTRC, identified 50 projects with 75 contractor participants statewide that could benefit from tablet-based inspections and standardized PlanGrid, a part of the Autodesk Construction Cloud, as its cloud inspection program on all of them. Success on the inspections pilot encouraged the agency to expand its use of PlanGrid.
“Our use of PlanGrid on most projects remains primarily in the construction section programmatically, however, several of our design-build projects have made use of it for field document management and team collaboration between design, project management, and construction personnel,” says Robert Ridgell, district mega projects engineer at VDOT’s Fredericksburg district. “This has enabled all users to work collaboratively from one conformed set of plans and documents.”
Other platforms in VDOT’s suite of technology tools include Bentley ProjectWise, applications from Office 365, Sharepoint and AASHTOWare. VDOT is also moving toward cloud-based infrastructure to allow further collaboration with external stakeholders including contractors and designers.
“Several of our design-build projects have made use of PlanGrid for field document management and team collaboration between design, project management, and construction personnel,” Ridgell says. “This, combined with our use of Bentley ProjectWise, has proven to be an effective combination evolving our technology strategy into an efficient, comprehensive, and synchronized information flow that is a key cornerstone to our mission to deliver projects on-time and on-budget. Next key steps for us include utilizing application programming interfaces [APIs] to link these systems. Cross-vendor compatibility remains a key consideration for our roadmap.”
Ridgell added that VDOT is planning to segue into model-based design, construction and maintenance to share information between project lifecycle phases through model metadata. VDOT’s aim is to have systems that can identify specific assets and their locations across their project network. The processes currently in use with mobile inspection and project information management are planned to be cornerstones in the development of VDOT’s model-based processes.
The City of Sacramento, Calif., is using PlanGrid in its role as regulator of permitting and inspections of private developments. “The efficiency [is in] the approved plans and revisions being in the cloud, so our inspectors can access them in real time as they are approved by the city,” says Jason Hone, development project manager for the City of Sacramento.
Standardizing on PlanGrid was part of an effort that Sacramento’s development department began five years ago to get its processes off of paper and into the cloud.
“We wouldn’t be able to do our inspections today [with COVID restrictions] without those changes,” adds Hone.