Partnering is the Caltrans Way of Doing Business
Caltrans recognizes contractorsâ€™ efforts with â€œExcellence in Partneringâ€ awards.
Nearly 20 years ago, Caltrans entered a long-term commitment with the construction industry to use a new tool called “partnering.” It’s a tool not found in a hardware store; rather it’s an attitude, a behavior, a winning spirit and a good faith effort to conduct business simply. One goal of partnering is to communicate potential conflicts and prevent them from arising.
Caltrans’ Partnering Program helps the department and its contractors to work more effectively towards achieving mutual goals that ultimately benefit the project, the state and its citizens. For example, a conflict between two teams can evolve when a lane closure schedule looks good on paper, but in reality, it’s not going to work for one reason or another. A dispute occurs. Or, a contractor needs more time using a crane because of an unforeseen issue. Opening a checkbook can’t solve every problem, so through effective communication and reasonable facilitation, the contractor and Caltrans must find a solution. This is partnering.
On April 27, the department joined construction industry professionals for the 2011 Caltrans “Excellence in Partnering” awards, which recognizes contractors who put into action what they learned from the Partnering Program to deliver successful highway projects throughout the state.
Four teams won a Gold award, another four received Silver and one received the Bronze award. In District 7, the Griffith Company was recognized with a Silver award for a $16.2 million project on Interstate 10 to replace pavement with rapid strength concrete while constructing new approach slabs and drainage over 40 weekends.
“The winning projects are excellent examples of how Caltrans works with contractors and local partners to deliver quality projects safely and efficiently,” said Caltrans Director Cindy McKim. “Effective partnering lowers costs, speeds up construction, and results in fewer disruptions to the traveling public.”
“The main ingredient in partnering is to maintain an open dialogue and work towards mutual goals while keeping safety first,” said Derek Sim, branch chief, District 7 construction division, whose responsibility included the I-10 project. “Not only is it mandatory to deliver a quality product, but to deliver it with an award-winning attitude. That’s a winning combination and that’s our objective.”
“District 7 has set high standards towards delivering a quality product and in the way that a team collaborates,” said Roy Fisher, Deputy District Director of the Construction Division. “Like a strong foundation is the basis for any relationship, on-the-job partnering promotes open and honest communication, trust, understanding and teamwork.”
The Partnering Program highly encourages, and even mandates statewide, that professional facilitation is attached to every project valued at $10 million and above.
As in any relationship, there are good times and not so good. When partnerships may be struggling (but the partnership effort is there!), or even in complete bliss, there is cause for celebration to encourage and to motivate. That’s why, on March 3 at the annual resident engineers meeting, District 7 recognized seven contractors with its “Partnering Success in Motion” awards to show the department’s appreciation to those who are effectively using partnership tools during ongoing transportation projects that were awarded in the 2009/2010 fiscal year.
Those recognized contractors were: (Gold) Flatiron West, Inc., Skanska USA, and Sully-Miller Contracting Company, Inc. (Silver) Flatiron West, Inc., Griffith Company, Balfour Beatty Infrastructure, and SEMA Construction, Inc.
“District 7 and its construction industry partners are committed to getting business done simply and successfully,” said Fekade S. Mesfin, Chief, Construction Engineering Management and District Partnering Coordinator. “Partnering is being engaged and having the right attitude to succeed with a construction project.”
The projects associated with the award recognition for the partnering effort are: (Gold Award) Interstate 10 HOV, or carpool lane, (Flatiron West, contractor/Jagdish Patel, Caltrans resident engineer); State Route 60 HOV lanes (Skanska, contractor/Yanina Bashoura and Patty Galvan, Caltrans resident engineers); and I-710 Long Life Pavement Rehabilitation (Sully Miller, contractor/Hussein Saad, Caltrans resident engineer). In the Silver Award category, SR-134 Hollywood Way on-ramp (Griffith, contractor/Simon Wang, Caltrans resident engineer); I-710 Long life Pavement Rehabilitation (SEMA, contractor/Reza Jahromi, Caltrans resident engineer); I-5/SR-118 soundwall project (Balfour Beatty, contractor/Abdul Al-Jamal, Caltrans resident engineer); and SR-110 auxiliary lanes (Flatiron West, contractor/Simon Wang, Caltrans resident engineer).
Three Caltrans staff and three construction industry leaders judged, scored and selected District 7 “Partnering Success in Motion” winners. The six judges included Caltrans senior transportation engineers Nazem Moussa, Fred Young, and Miguel Rodriguez. From the construction industry, the judges were Doug Misley, of C. A. Rasmussen, Inc., Dan Peterson of Dan J. Peterson, Co., and Michael Gigliotti, of Steve P. Rados, Inc.
“Freeway construction projects are more complex today than in the past. There are additional components and a shorter window of time to get the work completed,” said Reza Jahromi, resident engineer for a silver awarded project on I-710. “Overcoming challenges early on is the best way to keep on schedule, stay within budget, and ensure that our high standards in quality and compliance will be maintained.”
For the next 20 years or more, public transportation agencies will foster the teamwork relationship with public/private and design/build partnerships. Caltrans and its many partners will refer to lessons learned from the past on how to maintain an open dialogue, maintain quality and consistency in performance and materials and keep spirits and attitudes high.