The "Value" of Partnerships

Since the mid-1990s, the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) has been using Value Engineering (VE) to ensure that the Ontario taxpayer receives best "value" on capital projects, as well as for process and standards development. Good value is achieved when the required performance can be accurately defined and delivered at the lowest life cycle cost. The systematic approach of a VE study allows team members to communicate effectively across specialist boundaries thereby ensuring that all team members can understand different perspectives, while fostering innovation and creativity.

Value Engineering is a systematic and function-based process, carried out by a carefully selected team of specialists. The VE team follows a structured process, with the overall goal of helping team members communicate across boundaries, understand different perspectives, innovate, and analyze.

The Planning and Design Section of Eastern Region (ER) arranged for a VE study to be performed for a section of Highway 17 twinning near the Town of Arnprior. Highway 17 is the major east-west highway linking Ottawa with communities along the Ottawa River. As traffic volumes on this route were growing, MTO embarked on converting the existing two-lane highway into a fully controlled access freeway to improve the efficiency and safety of the route. The project planning for this work had been completed several years earlier and the detail design had just commenced. Although MTO had an approved plan under the Environmental Assessment Act, the region recognized that several years had elapsed since its completion and that several changes had occurred in the Arnprior area that could affect the design. Since the design schedule was quite aggressive, ER recognized that it was imperative to involve key local stakeholders on the VE team so that their concerns and input could be directly communicated and appreciated by the VE team.

Traditionally, stakeholders have been invited to participate at the outset of a VE workshop, and then attend later in the process to hear the study results. If the stakeholders do not agree with the proposed alternatives flowing from the VE study, it may be necessary to revisit the study's recommendations to reach agreement. While this is appropriate for studies with generous schedules, it does not work well for projects with more pressing deadlines.

The construction of the Highway 17 twinning project required several access roads to be realigned/constructed, which would impact directly on Arnprior Aerospace's lands (known as Boeing Canada at the time of the VE study) located on the south side of the new highway. In addition, the construction would create changes in travel patterns both temporarily during the construction and permanently after construction. Furthermore, the new travel patterns would have a significant impact on Arnprior Aerospace's employees accessing the plant to go to work, as well as impacting the mobility of the local residents. To better address these issues, MTO invited Arnprior Aerospace and the Town of Arnprior to join the VE team as full-time participants. Both parties readily agreed to take part in the VE study.

Over the course of the study, the team identified key issues for both the Town of Arnprior and Arnprior Aerospace, and as a result generated ideas to address these issues by revising the proposed service road layout and construction staging. Since both the Town of Arnprior and Arnprior Aerospace were involved in the generation, development and evaluation of the solutions, all parties supported the post-workshop presentation to the stakeholders. By involving the stakeholders as full partners in the process from the beginning, the VE team prevented the design schedule from being adversely impacted because the stakeholders concerns were addressed from the outset, instead having to taken into consideration later and delaying the progression of the project.

The VE study was lead by Totten Sims Hubicki Associates (TSH) on behalf of the design consultant McCormick Rankin Corporation (MRC). Over a three and a half day period, the VE team was able to identify a total of $2.4M of cost savings out of a total project value of about $50M, while maintaining the performance of the project. Some of the key changes to the project plan included avoiding Arnprior Aerospace's property to accommodate the company's future growth plans; and combining two proposed detours into a single detour, thereby minimizing the number of conflict points (including Arnprior Aerospace's property) on the existing highway while improving safety. Furthermore, the overpass at Baskin Drive was lengthened to maintain flexibility for pedestrian and cyclist crossings. In addition, the construction of several low volume ramps at the County Road 29 interchange was deferred, thus providing a significant reduction in initial construction costs without reducing the function of the project.

This study reaffirmed that the VE process allows MTO to provide the highest quality projects that consistently provide the best value for the taxpayer. The inclusion of key stakeholders on the VE team ensures that their issues are heard, understood, and accommodated in a way that provides the highest value solution for all parties.