The Massachusetts House of Representatives has approved a non-traditional planning and construction method for the Green Line extension, according to Somerville State Rep. Denise Provost, who sits on the Joint Committee on Transportation.
The Construction Manager/General Contractor model has been used for buildings in Massachusetts, "but not for transportation projects," Provost said, speaking to Somerville Patch Friday.
CM/GC, as it's known, is "meant to speed up the project," the state representative said. She also said "it gives the contractor better incentive to come in as close to budget and timetable as possible."
The CM/GC planning and construction model is designed to encourage more collaboration between project designers and the construction firm that will ultimately build the project.
The method allows for a construction manager to provide insight and advice during the planning phase, according to a description of the method provided by the Federal Highway Administration.
The construction manager collaborates with designers about costs, logistics and on-the-ground construction realities, and when the design is close to completion, the state and the construction manager negotiate a "guaranteed maximum price" for completing the project, according to the description. This is intended to keep costs predictable.
Under the traditional procurement method, the state hires an architecture and engineering firm to design the project, and then once the design is complete it hires a construction firm to build the project.
The Puget Sound Business Journal, writing about CM/GC back in 1996, said of this traditional method, "If the project encounter[s] delays or cost overruns, the result [is] often lawsuits and counter lawsuits, as the architect and builder [seek] to lay the blame at each other's feet."
Delays, cost overruns and legal disputes have certainly been the case with big transportation projects in Massachusetts.
Provost acknowledged "there's a legacy of concern about the management and execution of big transportation projects" in the state.
She said the CM/GC method is meant to create "a substantial unity of responsibility for the project."
Among other things, the construction manager will be responsible for conducting at least half the work, Provost said, which cuts out long lists of less-accountable subcontractors. She also said the method works well with a project that's completed in phases, such as the planned Green Line extension, allowing the state to assess each phase in terms of quality and cost.
Provost said the this will be "a pilot program" for the state in regard to overseeing big transportation projects.
"It has to go through the Senate," the state representative said, "but it's a milestone for the Green Line."