November 27, 2023 | Articles
In 1985, Hill International, Inc. founder Irv Richter presented clients with an idea for an innovative new service to help manage large, Federally funded projects and programs: Project Management Oversight (PMO). At the time, no Federal agency followed a formal, organized set of PMO standards and processes to monitor grantees for compliance and progress and to capture best practices and lessons learned. For the Federal Transit Agency (FTA), Hill was the Administration’s first PMO provider and continues our work with the FTA today.
Working closely with FTA, Hill developed the FTA’s original PMO guidelines, and our teams helped FTA create, refine, implement, and monitor PMO processes and procedures for risk management, project planning, project controls, quality assurance and safety plan views, and vehicle and equipment procurements.
Funding the Right Projects at the Right Time
Today, FTA conducts PMO reviews for major capital projects to verify recipients have all processes and procedures in place to manage and deliver the promised benefits of the project on time, within budget, and in compliance with all applicable Federal requirements and the Project Management Plan. FTA’s Oversight Procedures (OPs) provide consistent guidance for the PMO reviews, including the review process, deliverables, and reporting requirements. The implementation of standard processes and procedures helps make certain only those projects ready to proceed and capable of succeeding receive FTA support, and provides grantees with a clear, data-driven set of guidelines to align their projects for success.
The FTA’s PMO program provides a continuous review and evaluation of grantee and FTA processes to ensure compliance with statutory, administrative, and regulatory requirements. The FTA’s Office of Engineering, through the Regional Offices, performs oversight of grantee project management that focuses on the management of major investments (Capital Investment Grants, rail modernization, etc.) in transit projects. Hill has helped the FTA to create, define, and refine each of these areas of oversight.
Oversight begins early in project implementation, usually during preliminary engineering. Hill’s PMO subject matter experts (SMEs) follow FTA guidelines Hill helped to establish, and supplement FTA technical staff to evaluate grantee project management and technical capacity and capability to successfully implement major transit projects. They also monitor projects to determine whether they are progressing on time, within budget, and in accord with approved grantee plans and specifications. Other activities are also involved, such as design reviews, change order reviews, and value engineering.
In addition, Hill also provides full-time on-site monitoring of FTA-funded projects, as requested, using staff experienced with FTA’s and each recipient agency’s requirements and procedures to verify compliance and monitor progress. In many instances Hill has served as a mediator of differences between construction agencies, operating agencies, and design-builders, helping to achieve schedule and cost goals while keeping work moving.
PMO Drives ARRA Success
A highlight of Hill’s PMO work for FTA was our monitoring services for more than 100 transit projects that received funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Hill’s ARRA work for FTA encompassed monitoring projects for conformance with ARRA requirements, such as Buy America provisions, Davis-Bacon wage requirements, assessing the technical capabilities of grantees, and overall cost and schedule management.
These projects included station upgrades, new maintenance facilities construction, new rail car and bus procurements, signaling system upgrades, and related infrastructure projects. The projects were in various states across three FTA Regions – FTA Region 3 (Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia); FTA Region 4 (Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Puerto Rico); FTA Region 6 (Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas). Overall, Hill provided oversight to more than 60 transit agencies to plan and execute ARRA projects.
Hill’s support was critical in making certain these ARRA-funded projects were ready to make the best use of FTA funding, and confirming each project proceeded as planned. The result were projects that generated local jobs, enjoyed community support, and met schedule and budget goals.
Metro Metrics: Improvement and Innovation
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro) instituted a System Infrastructure Rehabilitation Program (SIRP) to enhance its ability to keep the system in a state of good repair (SOGR) with minimum disruption to the riding public, all while increasing productivity and reducing construction costs. The program includes all Metrorail stations, line facilities, rail yard facilities, and bus facilities. The project concept is to accomplish all rehabilitation work on a given length of the system starting with the oldest segment. The program is valued at $1.14 billion, with individual projects ranging from less than $100 million to more than $500 million.
Through structured discussions at monthly and quarterly meetings and focused reporting on cost, schedule, and quality, the Hill PMO team has positively influenced the management of these complex projects. Areas Hill monitored and reported on include:
Improvement: Management Capacity
Benefits of Hill’s work include Metro’s improvement in management capacity in particular: when Hill began its PMO work, the Authority’s fill rate was roughly 85%. Following Metro’s consideration of Hill’s observations, the fill rate is now approximately 98%.
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