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Partnering program for stakeholders reduces conflicts, helps deliver projects on time

9/7/16

PHOENIX – Since 1991, the Arizona Department of Transportation has launched projects by engaging partners from contractors to municipalities to other agencies in a process of agreeing to what they want to accomplish, how they will communicate and how they will resolve disputes.

Known as partnering, this process helps deliver projects on time and with far fewer conflicts that can lead to mediation, arbitration or litigation costing both parties as well as taxpayers.

“Partnering is another way ADOT shows its commitment to continuous improvement,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said. “Through partnering, we constantly get and give feedback. This helps us improve on the next project, resulting in construction being on time and on budget, with the least amount of inconvenience for drivers.”

Partnering is a formal, defined process that begins with a workshop involving construction stakeholders including city and county officials, utility companies, contractors and ADOT employees. The stakeholders work on a communication structure and create team goals. This group also agrees on a process for resolving issues.

Once the project is underway, the stakeholders hold regular meetings to identify issues and develop action plans. They also participate in team-building exercises. As the project wraps up, the stakeholders will look at what went smoothly and what areas could be improved.

In 1991, before the partnering program began, ADOT faced 60 legal actions resolved through mediation, arbitration or litigation at a cost of $39.8 million. Today, almost no disagreements over projects give rise to legal actions involving stakeholders, and an ADOT legal team that once handled those actions no longer exists.

The success of ADOT’s partnering program has led many contractors to adopt ADOT’s model.

Each year, the Arizona Transportation Partnering Excellence Awards recognize teams of contractors and other organizations that have used partnering to foster successful relationships. These organizations are honored for using communication, commitment, cooperation and continuous improvement to successfully complete projects.

“When using the ADOT partnering model, quality, safety, productivity, issue resolution and teamwork naturally operate at a very high level because everyone is working together to achieve the most successful outcome for the project,” said Jason Fann, co-owner of Fann Contracting Inc., a 2015 winner for its role in a project to improve 4.7 miles of State Route 89 in Chino Valley. “I applaud ADOT for setting the bar high for other projects in Arizona to follow a similar process that makes building projects more enjoyable and with a better overall outcome.”

Joining Fann Contracting as honorees for that project were Prescott, Chino Valley, Yavapai County and Stanley Consultants Inc.

Among other 2015 honorees, Vastco Inc., the Federal Highway Administration, the U.S. Forest Service and Gila County were recognized for a project that improved the roadway and bridges along Forest Highway 52.

“We have found that when everyone is mutually committed to accomplishing project goals, these goals are more likely to be achieved,” said Terrin Lane, a Tonto National Forest civil engineer.