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Technology to Revolutionize America’s Transportation Infrastructure

ADCMS Grants Create a Tipping Point for Digital Transformation

The Federal Highway Administration recently announced the allocation of $34 million in grant funding for state DOTs in 2023 to accelerate the use and deployment of Advanced Digital Construction Management Systems (ADCMS). ADCMS includes digital technologies and business processes that modernize how government agencies, engineering and construction firms, and other private companies work together to deliver infrastructure projects more efficiently and cost-effectively.   

The federal government’s commitment to construction technology with this funding, via FHWA’s Technology and Innovation Deployment Program, is creating a tipping point for widespread digital transformation among public transportation asset owners.

Digital project delivery—the process of digitizing all aspects of a construction project, from planning and design through completed construction and asset handover—creates numerous benefits for transportation asset owners. Examples of digital construction technologies range from a project management system to integrated hardware and software solutions such as GPS-enabled land surveying tools, machine-operated construction equipment, 3D models of construction projects, and centralized databases that allow everyone involved in a project to see asset data as it evolves in real time.  

Implementing digital technologies helps boost productivity, improve collaboration and interoperability, and reduce project delays and overruns throughout the construction process. Reducing reliance on paper documents also helps increase the timeliness and effectiveness of information sharing, so projects are much more likely to be completed on time and within budget, with much less waste and rework.

Creating Impact Beyond Construction

Advantages of digital construction technologies extend beyond the construction process. Once a construction project is completed, the asset owner can carry forward all the data collected during the planning, design, and construction of the asset, setting the owner up to manage, operate, and maintain the asset more efficiently for years or even decades into the future.

But owners cannot achieve these benefits with the methods and tools used in the past. Antiquated technology, legacy proprietary data formats, and analog processes have created silos of “dark data” that are inaccessible (digitally or timely) to teams across the asset lifecycle. According to Deloitte Consulting research, these bottlenecks lead to an incremental 8 percent in incurred CAPEX costs and 15 percent overrun in operational costs.

The ideal solution is to digitally transform how assets are designed, built, operated, and maintained through an asset lifecycle management platform. Asset owners will reduce data and productivity loss by connecting digital workflows across their design, project delivery, and asset management systems of record.

Benefits of Digital Innovation

Today’s challenging environment is driving change. Public agencies are sharing with us that they want to take a more holistic and proactive approach to asset management. They need a platform that can be used across all asset lifecycle phases—from planning and design to construction, operations, and maintenance. 

The opportunity to repair and replace infrastructure comes with the challenge of managing new and bigger capital improvement projects (CIPs). Having a comprehensive asset lifecycle management strategy in place—and digital workflows to support it—will help make the best use of public dollars. 

Adopting digital technology across the asset owner’s organization helps improve productivity, transparency, and outcomes. It helps program managers scale up to handle the massive increases in project loads that are coming—and it can help CIP teams handle the increase in work while boosting fund distribution transparency. Ultimately, technology solutions are the key to enhancing public confidence and trust by enabling owners to coordinate stakeholders and use reliable data to deliver successful projects.

Proven Successes Across the US

Several state agencies are already reaping the benefits of digital technologies for infrastructure projects and delivering more value to their constituents as a result.

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is deploying new interoperable tools, workflows, and digital systems to connect people, platforms, and data in unprecedented ways throughout the entire state.

Working with Granite Construction, Caltrans recently completed the $158 million Cosumnes River Bridge Replacement project on State Route 99 in Sacramento County. This highly complex project required innovative technologies to coordinate multiple teams and minimize the impact on the public and the environment. Trimble provided a connected data environment for the design model data that both Caltrans and Granite could review, enabling both teams to optimize the design prior to construction. Caltrans calculated $12.4M in savings using this approach with the contractor.

In Minnesota, the $124 million Elk River project—a redesign and reconstruction of three miles of Highway 169 connecting to a new freeway system in Sherburne County—was MnDOT’s first fully digitally designed-delivered construction project. Using digital technologies, workers were able to reallocate 59 miles of utilities one year ahead of schedule and begin construction a year earlier than planned, which lowered project costs by $12 million. Additional digital workflows reduced the total estimated project costs even further—trimming $34 million from the originally budgeted $158 million project.

On the maintenance side of the asset lifecycle, digital workflows likewise lead to cost savings. The Idaho Transportation Department uses an automated maintenance and reporting system to improve its winter snow plow operations. With an advanced maintenance management system, they are able to achieve material savings of 10 percent which translates to approximately $600,000 per year. Additionally, automated processes reduce operator input time by approximately 7,500 labor hours per year, cut equipment costs through improved efficiencies, and result in consistent performance of snowplow operators across all highway sections.

Opportunities for More Digital Adoption

The ADCMS grants will create significant opportunities to expand state DOTs’ use of digital technologies, which also creates downstream benefits for local agencies that collaborate closely with their DOTs. We applaud the federal government’s support of technological advances by DOTs and remind DOT leaders that applications for these initial ADCMS awards are due August 28, 2023.

To help DOTs navigate the grant application process, Trimble is providing expertise and guidance in an on-demand webinar, Maximizing ADCMS Grant Funds for DOTs. Grant specialists and other experts are available to help agencies identify grant-eligible programs, submit grant applications and develop strategies for digital transformation. For details about available  support, please visit the ADCMS data sheet and/or contact Trimble’s team of specialists.  

Chris Bell serves as the Vice President of Industry Strategy for Trimble’s Owner and Public Sector. In more than 20 years of industry experience, he has developed unique expertise that combines insights from the fields of engineering and construction, project and program management, and software innovation to help organizations achieve strategic success through digital transformation. 

This article originally appeared in Civil + Structural Engineer (October 2, 2023). Republished here with permission.