Steps in a Road Project

We all tend to get impatient when things don't get done as fast as we think they should. If any level of government is involved, we tend to blame bureaucracy and bureaucratic red tape.

Road improvements sometimes take longer than we think they should, but sometimes that is simply due to all the complex steps involved in getting the project done. The following are some typical steps involved in RCOC road construction projects.

Project Concept Determination


A construction project doesn't just occur because somebody thought it was a good idea. Often a lot of background work has gone on.

For example, if it is a safety project, there has already been an extensive analysis of accident data and a possible field review of the location.

Funding Identification


Everyone operates within budgets of some type. If there are no funds available in the current budget for a project, then it may be delayed and included in next year's budget. If more than one agency is to participate, then several budgets may be affected. If federal funds are to be used (which is the case for most major RCOC projects), there is an application process that must be followed, and the project may have to compete against other projects around the state or county for those limited federal funds. If the project loses out, it may have to be delayed until more federal funds are available.

Preliminary Engineering


This is where the surveys are taken and the design work is completed. In Oakland County, this is not always as straight forward as one might expect, since some roads must be designed to wind safely around lakes and wetlands.

Alternative designs may have to be considered, and methods must be chosen to deal with adverse soils (muck, for instance), existing traffic and other special conditions.

Environmental Review


Depending on the size of the project and type of funding involved, documentation of the impact of the project on the environment may be required. If it is a very large federally funded project with significant impact, a full statement may have to be prepared with an official public hearing and federal review.

Public Hearings/Informational Meetings


Again, depending on the size and type of project, there may be either a public hearing or informational meeting to solicit comments and concerns and let the local residents and business people know what is being proposed.

Grade Inspection


If federal funds are involved, staff of the Federal Highway Administration will schedule an inspection of the site and review of the plans. They sometimes require changes to the plans, usually involving more design time and higher project costs.

Right of Way Acquisition


Once the design work is far enough along to indicate what additional land is required, personnel from the RCOC Right of Way Division begin negotiating with the adjacent property owners for the needed land. Independent appraisals may be required. If the property owner holds out for more money, action through condemnation procedures may be required.

Bid Letting


All projects are advertised for bids. Contractors bid on the work, and generally, the work is let to the lowest qualified bidder.

Construction


The project could probably be built pretty fast if we could just close the road and turn the contractor loose. However, we are seldom able to do that. Most of the time, the project must be built while traffic continues to move through the area. Sometimes a temporary road must be built to handle the traffic while the construction of the main road is under way. All of this means time and additional money.

During construction, the Road Commission will be inspecting and testing materials being used. Obviously, weather can also delay the construction of the project. Keep the above in mind the next time you hear that a road is supposed to be improved, and it doesn't seem to happen quite as quickly as you expected.