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Three Assets for a Tailored Program Management Strategy

Since August 2015, Hill International has worked on behalf of Dominion Energy and the City of Cleveland for Dominion’s Pipeline Infrastructure Replacement (PIR) program in Cleveland, OH. Hill is providing program management, construction management, construction inspection, professional engineering, and arborist services for the $2 billion, 25-year PIR program, which involves upgrading more than 5,500 miles of Dominion’s existing bare-steel, cast iron, wrought iron, and copper pipe to coated steel or plastic pipe. This transition will provide Cleveland with a more durable and corrosion-resistant gas network in compliance with U.S. Department of Transportation regulations.

The PIR program involves coordinating many concurrent projects throughout the city, each of which involves intensive scheduling, permitting, site visits, and coordination with impacted residents, businesses, and other utilities. After pipe replacement, Hill oversees teams repairing streets and sidewalks and replanting any impacted greenery. Throughout the PIR program, Hill and the rest of the team monitor work for quality, track schedules and payments, provide for the safety of motorists and pedestrians, protect Cleveland’s tree canopy, plan for the next batch of projects, and report on program progress to the City. Despite the program’s extensive management requirements, Hill has supported the successful delivery of more than 430 PIR projects to date, totaling more than 260 miles of gas line and more than 5,200,000 million SF of new sidewalk.

Toby Fritz
Toby Fritz – Vice President

“Our team understands what it takes to get these crucial projects completed,” says Hill Vice President Toby Fritz. He attributes Hill’s success to three major factors: a deep familiarity with local conditions, established relationships with all the program’s major stakeholders, and increasingly tailored management processes and tools. These three assets led to a renewal of Hill’s program management contract early in 2022.

Knowing the Local Flavor

“A key factor in the success of the program is our familiarity with conditions in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, and northern Ohio more generally,” says Fritz. Hill garnered this experience not only from the past seven years supporting the PIR program, but from more than 15 years’ experience managing large-scale programs for state agencies throughout Northern Ohio. This includes supporting the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) with ongoing roadway construction throughout the State and providing construction management services for the Ohio Turnpike Commission’s $1.4 billion reconstruction of the Turnpike’s mainline pavement and tolling facilities. In addition, Hill has nearly two decades of experience providing on-call construction inspection, construction management, estimating, scheduling, and claims review services for the Cuyahoga County Engineer for numerous projects of similar size and scope in and around Cleveland.

These projects have given the Hill team unique familiarity with ODOT’s and Cleveland’s requirements. Understanding the City’s infrastructure, Hill is able to spot problem areas during design and get them resolved prior to construction. During construction, Hill’s inspectors use this knowledge to quickly and accurately inspect work, ensuring projects are completed according to plans, specifications, and approved construction practices.

Hill’s familiarity with the region helps in less quantifiable ways, too. Understanding local traffic patterns, Hill is able to assign personnel to clusters of projects within a manageable range, limiting response and travel times. Likewise, knowing Cleveland’s traffic helps the Hill team plan and implement effective maintenance of traffic (MOT) plans on PIR projects. In addition, the Hill team understands the usual weather in Ohio and can account for seasonal conditions when scheduling weather-sensitive work.

All of this means Hill executes much of its inspection and program management work on the PIR program with exceptional efficiency. For a program that aims for rapid delivery and limited disruption to the community, that speed is extremely important.

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Over the past 20 years, the Hill team’s local experience has led to relationships with City departments, ODOT, public utilities, contractors, and other stakeholders in the area. More, Hill’s exceptional quality of work and professionalism has led to trusted relationships with those stakeholders. The Hill team leverages these strong connections to drive the successful delivery of PIR projects.

“We understand the culture and the values of many PIR program stakeholders, including the public,” says Fritz. “This lets us proactively make decisions in line with stakeholder expectations throughout the life cycles of the projects, saving time and avoiding issues down the line.” As an example, Fritz cites Hill’s pre-qualified contractor list. Using Hill’s knowledge of Cleveland/Dominion expectations and local markets, the team maintains a list of pre-qualified contractors for program projects. This list facilitates procurement, brings projects to construction quickly, and helps ensure equitable Disadvantaged Business Enterprise participation throughout the program.

If issues arise, Hill’s relationships with City agencies, utility companies, and contractors allow the team to quickly coordinate and confirm issues are resolved. Often, contractors are able to resequence work and advance other parts of the project while Hill drives third-party issue resolution. This minimizes down time and delays.

In addition, Hill has implemented a thorough communications plan to strengthen connections and promote information transfer among the PIR program’s organization. Early in the program, Hill brought almost every issue to the attention of the City for direction. However, as Hill’s professionals gained experience working on the program, Hill has used its experience to resolve routine problems in the field or office, allowing the City to focus on its many other projects.

“The whole team has built and stewarded relationships that allow the PIR program to proceed in a timely and cost-effective way,” adds Fritz. “Some of our management tools, such as the communication plan, have facilitated those relationships.”

The Right Tools

In addition to the team’s communication plan, Hill uses many management processes and tools to support successful delivery of PIR projects. Notable examples include:

Staffing Approach – Before assigning any personnel to the program, Hill trains team members to ensure Hill’s professionals understand Cleveland’s and Dominion’s policies and procedures, as well as best practices captured on former PIR projects. This means new personnel are able to merge at speed with the rest of the team.

Permit Processing – One of Hill’s most impressive successes on the PIR program has been the development of a process to reduce permit processing times. By developing and managing an interactive tracking system, identifying efficiencies, and working with the City to implement new processes and policies, the Hill team reduced permit processing time from up to six months to under eight days, while still providing a complete and thorough review of each application. To date, Hill has successfully processed over 2,500 permits.

Microsoft Power BI – The Hill team uses this interactive data visualization software to log permit information and sync with Bing Maps to show project locations along with pertinent status information and Council Ward boundaries.

Project Staffing Plans – Hill creates detailed staffing plans that include contractors and any specialty subconsultants assigned to each project. These plans define team member roles and responsibilities, as well as channels of communication, project standards, and requirements, and are submitted to the City, Dominion, and all project participants. These plans help ensure that PIR projects with unique needs receive the support they require. For example, when an initial inspection reveals trees within a project area, Hill assigns team member and certified arborist Knowles Urban Forestry to that project via a staffing plan.

SharePoint Document Management System – Hill set up a custom document management system tailored to fit the needs of the City and the other project participants. Among its other functions, the system helps facilitate communication, store documents for quick retrieval, and support project controls.

The Project Schedule – One of Hill’s most valuable tools, the Microsoft Project master schedule, notes the status of each individual PIR project. Typically, Dominion Energy will have 10-30 PIR projects ongoing simultaneously at any given time. The master project schedule allows users to quickly see the status of any project, project milestones, staffing assignments, location, and many other details, as well as how individual projects interact and overlap.

Maintenance of Traffic (MOT) Plan – Effectively providing for the safety of passersby is critical to reducing risk to the City and the program. Hill confirms and implements all MOT plans to ensure pedestrians and motorists are safe and experience no undue impact from construction. The team uses its familiarity with the region to confirm all MOT plans adhere to the Ohio Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices and any location-specific traffic control requirements.

With these management processes, Hill has driven program success for more than six years. “We plan to keep using all our tools,” adds Fritz. “I expect, as our familiarity with program continues to grow, we’ll be able to refine our management approach even more and drive ever more cost- and schedule-efficient projects throughout the program.”

A Strategy Fit for Any Program

“Cleveland’s and Dominion’s PIR program is a large undertaking with diverse management requirements,” concludes Fritz. “Each street is different. Each community we work in is different. Some streets have a lot of trees, some have schools or other public buildings, some are major thoroughfares, and some are very out of the way. Our program management approach—our management tools and processes, local expertise, and connections with the major stakeholders—helps us adapt and take on the challenges of each unique project.”

Hill’s management approach is tailored to Dominion’s PIR program in Cleveland, but is representative of the approach Hill takes on all of its programs around the world. Leveraging local expertise and connections with the latest in program management techniques and technology, Hill’s teams can help realize efficiencies, drive to projects completion, and deliver your program successfully—no matter the size, no matter the constraints.

To speak with Toby about your own program, project, and construction management requirements in Northern Ohio, reach out to him directly at [email protected].