Last week, President Barack Obama passed into law MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century), which reauthorizes federal-aid highway and highway safety construction programs. The new act has been met with some debate, as it has consolidated a number of federal programs. What does this mean for construction? Project delivery will need to be expedited and more efficient than ever before.

In many cases, technology can help enable more efficient project delivery on federally funded projects. The act highlights some key areas technology can improve safety and deliver more efficient projects on highway and infrastructure construction projects.

Efficient Project Delivery
The act includes program reforms that are designed to reduce project delivery time and costs while protecting the environment. The legislation specifically encourages early coordination between relevant agencies to avoid delays later in the review process and accelerates project delivery decisions with specified deadlines.

Rex Huffman, chair of the DBIA (Design-Build Institute of America), www.dbia.org, Washington, D.C., sa4ys, “… MAP-21 will help maintain the rise in innovative project delivery through increased federal sharing for projects utilizing design-build delivery, incentive payments for early completions, and expanded support for P3s.”

Collaboration technology can help enable faster decisionmaking and management between multiple team members early in the construction process. While the law does not indicate this technology should be used on projects, many project teams find in order to enable this high level of coordination the use of software needs to be emphasized.

Asset Management
The new legislation will appoint funds to states that have developed and implemented an asset-management plan, which includes data collection, maintenance, and integration and the costs associated with obtaining, updating, and licensing software and equipment.

A risk-based, performance-driven asset-management plan should include a summary of assets, objectives, performance gap identification, lifecycle costs and risk management analysis, financial plan, and investment strategies.

What does this mean for construction? The use of technology in managing and monitoring assets has grown exponentially in recent years. As the cost of software and hardware has decreased, the ability to track assets has become more affordable. Today, many construction companies are using technology to keep an eye on equipment.

But asset-management technology can provide more capabilities than just tracking assets. Most software can track fuel consumption, mileage, speed, safety, maintenance, and can help determine more efficient routes. A big consideration for infrastructure construction companies going forward will be how to more effectively use the software to get the most from the technology investment.

Vehicle Electronics and Safety Standards
One area of the bill that received a substantial increase in funding is the Highway Safety Improvement Program. Under this area, states must develop and implement a safety plan that identifies highway safety programs and a strategy to address them.

The act establishes a council to research vehicle electronics, vehicle software, and emerging technologies. Some funding will even go to honors programs for students interested in vehicle safety, in order to further research and develop new ways to improve vehicle safety.

The hope here is by increasing the funding and research surrounding passenger motor vehicle safety, it will be able to help reduce the number of fatalities on construction highway sites.

The use of cellphones while driving has been a big debate lately. For construction companies, this can be curbed by using technology to monitor—and in some cases even control—cellphone use behind the wheel.

Intelligent Transportation Systems
The act also includes grants for ITS (intelligent-transportation systems), which includes incident management, surface transportation network and facilities management, construction and work zone management, traffic flow information, freight management, and congestion management, among others.

The Secretary of Transportation will develop a competitive grant program to accelerate the deployment, operation, systems management, integration, and interoperability of ITS.

ITS can include everything from smart-traffic signals to advanced traffic-management services. The technology typically involves computers and communications equipment in order to collect and process information for monitoring and management of mission-critical information. For construction teams, the use of ITS can improve safety at the jobsite and management at the work zone.

MAP-21 is funding the research and development of ITS for highway safety, transportation planning, reduced congestion, and improved highway operations.

Time will tell how the funds from MAP-21 shake out, but for now it is exciting to see the technology developments and research that are underway in order to make infrastructure construction more efficient.