Once a proposed project is identified, a feasibility analysis, or Stage 0 Study, is performed to determine if the project merits further consideration. The outcome of Stage 0 is a “go/no-go” decision regarding project advancement. A “go” project is deemed to be feasible and is carried forward through the Project Delivery Process. The “no-go” project is not carried forward and will either be retained for reconsideration in the future or dropped from further consideration.

The I-10 BR Stage 0 feasibility study was completed in December 2016 with a “go” decision to move forward to the next stage, Stage 1.

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Stage 1 of the project delivery process is also known as the environmental stage or NEPA stage. NEPA is an acronym for the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (42 USC 4321-4347). This law requires federal agencies to use a multi-disciplined approach to evaluate the effects of their actions (e.g., funding, permitting, and approvals of projects) on both the human and natural environments. In this stage, the effects on both the natural and human environments are evaluated and documented. Only proposed alternatives that meet the purpose and need of the project are evaluated. At the end of Stage 1, an alternative is selected with a clear description of its scope, budget, and major design features.

The form, format, and content of NEPA documents and their associated technical reports are prescribed by laws, regulations, and agency guidelines.

What information is typically included in the NEPA document?

  • The purpose and need statement is essential. What is the reason for the project and why is it needed are two questions that should be asked and answered in every NEPA document.
  • Alternatives that addresses the purpose and need are identified. If an alternative does not meet the purpose and need, it is not considered reasonable. The “do-nothing” or “no-build” alternative is always evaluated and compared against the proposed action.
  • An analysis and evaluation of the effects on the environment for each of the identified alternatives is performed. Alternatives are refined to avoid or minimize their effects, and the direct, indirect, and cumulative effects of the final alternatives are documented.
  • Coordination with stakeholders, including public involvement events, are summarized. Coordination occurs throughout the process and is important in identifying issues, alternatives, and mitigation.
  • Required permits are identified and mitigation defined to the extent possible.
  • The NEPA process is a decision-making process. At the end of the process, the selected alternative for construction is identified by the lead federal agency.

The Stage 1 process for this project was completed with a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). The FONSI was released on February 12, 2021. 

Stage 2 deals with the programming of a project to proceed into future Stages of project delivery.  The programming function is accomplished when a source of revenue is identified to provide for all associated Stage 3, Design, and Stage 5, Construction, activities costs.

DOTD initiated Stage 2 efforts concurrently with Stage 1 in an effort to shorten the funding timeframes. For this project 360 million dollars in funding has been identified to move the project toward construction. The project construction will occur in phases as additional funds may be needed.

Stage 3 is the design and development stage. This is the stage that final plans are developed for the project.  For this project, the design and development stages have been merged with the contracting and construction stages in a CMAR approach. A Construction Manager at Risk contract is in place to initiate construction as each design package for a particular segment is finalized, allowing the project to move forward more swiftly. 

What is accomplished during Stage 3?  

  • Final design plans are developed
  • Specifications and Proposal Package is prepared so the project can move to construction
  • All permits including railroad permits are obtained
  • Required rights-of-way and servitudes are acquired
  • Utility relocation agreements are executed
  • Final cost estimates are prepared
  • Traffic management plans are prepared

As this is a CMAR effort, the construction contractor is on board and proceeding with initial construction efforts as design packages are finalized. DOTD’s typical Stage 4 was merged with Stage 3 and Stage 5 to allow this project to move more swiftly to completion and minimize impacts on the traveling public and area residences and businesses. 

What happens during Stage 4?

  • Development of the final financial plan. Financial plans are required for major projects.
  • Preparation of letting documents. These documents are used by contractors to prepare bids.
  • Establish a letting date. The letting date is the date that DOTD puts the project out for bids. DOTD takes into consideration a number of factors when establishing a letting date.  
    • Geographic distribution of construction projects
    • Providing for adequate competition among contractors
    • Maintaining level monthly letting amount
    • Other local factors
  • Preparation and signing of the construction contract.

DOTD’s Stage 5 typically involves the construction of the project.  In the CMAR process, stages 3, 4 and 5 were merged to shorten the period of time from design to construction. In Stage 5, the contractor is selected, and DOTD’s Construction Division, the district’s Construction Engineer, the district’s Project Engineer, and the Project Manger meet with the contractor to plan the job. These entities will cooperate to identify all special project related issues and will resolve possible difficulties.

Basic activities in this stage include establishment of construction process, milestone events, work schedules, and timelines; implementation of environmental mitigation, if any; implementation of traffic control measures during the construction period; and development and implementation of a public information plan related to construction.

Construction is slated to begin in full mode in early 2023 on this project.

This stage deals with continuous monitoring of the project once it is placed in operation. Through data collection and evaluation system, the utility of the existing project is measured.