Don’t let the elegance of the $135-million, 1,720-ft cable-stayed Tilikum Crossing bridge in Portland distract you from the ingenuity that occurred before construction even started, in 2011, on Portland’s first bridge over the Willamette River since 1973. Thanks to the machinations of Dan Blocher, TriMet executive director of capital projects, the longest bridge of its type—dedicated only to buses, streetcars, light rail, pedestrians and bicyclists—opened in September 2015 on time and under budget.
Blocher brought together multiple industry leaders for a dialogue regarding risks, costs and risk control well before the request-for-qualifications stage, marking the first time a risk matrix was employed at this level this early.
“It was very unique and very forethinking,” says Lee Zink, Kiewit Infrastructure area manager in charge of the Tilikum Crossing project. “At first, it was so out of the ordinary, we didn’t know what to make of it.”
The matrix included everything, from dollar values to who should carry risk. Early on, risks materialized when foundation work on a bridge support had different-than-expected conditions at the site. Using the matrix out of the gate allowed for fair implementation, Zink observes. “In hindsight, it was a win-win for the project,” he says. “I’ve had other clients since then that I wish would listen more to TriMet about the whole approach to dealing with contractors.”
The process “allowed direct problem-solving without regard for project timing or extended overhead,” Blocher says.
Blocher knew his approach was innovative. “We really believed that we had to break new ground and push the industry limits to make sure we had the successful project we needed,” he says. “The industry responded really positively to it. We tapped into a need and movement to have owners seeking contractor input early to make the project even-handed and transparent.”