Central Florida Expressway

How CFX Programs for Success: Three Steps to Improve Accountability and Consistency

The Central Florida Expressway’s (CFX) mission is “To build, operate and maintain a mobility network through accountability, fiscally sound practices, and a community focus.” CFX executes this mission along a 125-mile, user-funded system encompassing 815 center line miles, 72 interchanges, 19 mainline tolling facilities, 74 ramp tolling facilities, 342 bridges, and 8 named expressways. This roadway network connects not only the region’s 3 million residents, but also the additional 75 million annual tourists who visit such global attractions as Disneyworld, Universal Orlando, and many others.

To continue to serve residents and visitors, CFX has embarked on a $2.5 billion, multi-project, five-year program to maintain and upgrade its roadways, bridges, and related facilities. These projects will enable CFX to improve conditions in the four counties of the Greater Orlando area: Lake, Orange, Osceola, and Seminole; enhance travel for residents, businesses, and tourists; and improve safety. Projects in the program include new limited-access highways and bridges, roadway widening, roadway resurfacing, interchange construction, upgrading of toll collection facilities, ITS installations, safety improvements, landscaping, and lighting.

As with any program, realizing efficiencies in processes and procedures is key to maximizing return on investment and executing projects as planned. To help achieve these outcomes, CFX selected program, project, and construction management firm Hill International as Construction Management Consultant (CMC) to assist in three areas critical to program success. These areas are:

  • Updating the Construction Project Administration Manual (CPAM). Based on the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) construction manual, CFX’s CPAM required a fresh look to ensure contractors and inspectors understand the differences between CFX and FDOT processes and procedures and how to achieve CFX’s goals.
  • Performing Document Reviews. As CMC, Hill reviews construction documents, including pay applications, contract changes, design revisions, schedules, inspection reports, and budgets. The CMC team also performs cost estimate reviews and analyzes and prepares financial documents for review by the CFX Board.
  • Onboarding Construction Engineering and Inspection (CEI) Firms. Dovetailing with the above tasks, the CMC also helps to onboard CEI firms, instilling consistency across the program and developing guidelines and reporting criteria to evaluate performance

Hill also performs additional support and oversight tasks including CEI oversight and contract administration, third-party coordination, and quality control, among others. But these three functions in particular offer programs additional leverage for owners looking to maximize program success at little additional upfront cost beyond traditional program management functions.

Customizing the CPAM: A Unique Document for a Unique Program

The CFX CPAM update entailed reviewing and revising hundreds of pages of forms, processes, standards, and other addenda and standards, all of which required careful consideration to ensure the CPAM aligned with the program’s goals.

Hill Program Manager Dan Sokol, PE, explains, “The CPAM is the guidebook for CFX’s CEIs across the entire program. When we came onboard as CMC in 2019, the CPAM had not been updated in nearly 10 years, but CFX’s program was planned using the latest data and technical innovations in highway and bridge design and construction. The document the teams in the field were going to depend on needed to match that vision.”

Hill brought technical expertise to the CPAM both from its decades of experience with FDOT and through its many other billion-dollar-plus highway program assignments, including work for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the Ohio Department of Transportation, and the California Department of Transportation, among others. “Obviously,” says Sokol, “Florida is not a Midwestern or Northeastern state, and CFX is truly a unique system given the outsize role tourist travel plays here. But we could pull from a vast library of best practices and lessons learned to help CFX find the right tools and processes for their program.”

Sokol notes that the Hill team is updating the CPAM in ways that make tracking and executing work easier for both CEIs and for CFX, including fillable PDF and Word forms, term-searchable text, and processes and procedures for meetings and communications. The result is a document that will steer performance uniformly across all program projects, delivering the quality CFX expects.

Document Reviews: Scaling Up Performance Without Driving Up Costs

Hill is also supporting CFX’s Construction Department by providing reviews of construction documents. Sokol explains that although every program management team performs document reviews, Hill’s work is unusual in that the workload is about to grow by a factor of six, or more, as the program gains momentum.

“We’ve built and implemented a SharePoint database to help with our reviews,” says Sokol. “The idea here is that we ramped up early to get the program up to a good start, but now we want that early push to pay dividends for the client for the duration. The database enables us to perform these reviews more quickly and without adding a proportionate amount of staff—helping to control costs for CFX.”

For comparison, Sokol points out that, prior to the database, the initial pay application review could take a full day or more to perform. Now, that same review can be completed within half a day. He adds that, in addition to providing greater cost efficiency, staff scarcity in the consistently strong Central Florida market is challenge, and not having to find specialized team members will also help to keep work progressing as planned. “This is how you handle the growth in workload a multi-project program brings: you develop a tool and then make sure everyone involved buys in, knows how to use it, and scales it up accordingly,” he concludes.

“Hill has a bit of an unfair advantage here,” Sokol admits. “We expect our people to cross-train and be able to support multiple functions across the program, depending on where we are in terms of timing and phase. Some firms prefer to treat their personnel purely as specialists, but one of the ways we can keep up with program needs without exceeding cost constraints is to assign people  who will stay for the duration and be able to do the task that needs doing that day.”

Onboarding CEI Partners: Uniform Expectations, Uniform Results

Hill is also onboarding CEIs into the program, helping CEIs operate consistently and efficiently. As detailed in the CPAM and tracked through the SharePoint database, Hill developed guidelines and reporting criteria to evaluate performance and perform independent assurance checks to identify process improvement opportunities and implement action plans.

Sokol explains, “Typically, CFX had a roster of five or so CEIs they knew and trusted to do good work on their projects. Those firms are still in the mix, but with the program now accelerating exponentially, we knew we were going to need more CEI partners, and that those partners would need to know CFX’s preferences, procedures, and goals before starting work.” The onboarding process is where CEIs learn about the new CPAM and how to input pay applications and other documents into the database, as well as the differences and similarities between FDOT and CFX procedures. And, of course, the onboarding process makes clear the expectations CFX has for its consultants.

“CFX expects their CEIs to do their work professionally and properly, and the CPAM captures exactly what those expectations are,” says Sokol. He cites the CEI meeting agenda as one example of the granular level of detail CEIs can expect to encounter during onboarding: The CEI Services Kick-Off agenda covers 22 separate areas, from roles and responsibilities to procurement and invoicing.

Paving the Way: CFX’s First Big Spend in Action

Asphalt placement represents the first major program component for CFX using the new CMC-implemented tools and processes. The work is proceeding well, with more than 10 projects under construction and many projects getting ready to bid. Sokol is confident these metrics will hold, and is looking forward to seeing the new CPAM, database, and onboarding process in action for other materials placements, where the team should be able to replicate its success as well as fine-tune the processes and documents.

“There are plenty of toll authorities in Florida,” says Sokol. “Each is different, but I think these steps can benefit any roadway and bridge program in the state. Florida is not going to stop growing, and how agencies and owners manage that growth will say a lot about how successful the state will be in the years ahead, including economically and environmentally. Doing this kind of upstream work increases accountability and credibility, and I expect to see more of these steps on Florida’s future construction programs.”