Osceola County, Fla., has overhauled its troubled roadbuilding program by hiring firms that typically do vertical construction management. Staffing is the problem. Roadwork in the county had increased sevenfold while public-works department staff went from 240 to 190. Twenty months ago, the department was more than $386 million behind in putting projects out for bid and faced the prospect of returning impact fees to developers. Several projects were over budget or stuck at 30% design for years.

“We have one of the most aggressive programs in the country, and we are passionate about construction management,” says new public-works administrator Ken Atkins. He decided to hire construction managers and privatize engineering, surveying and inspection to break the logjam. To handle CM on six projects, the county contracted with Balfour Beatty Construction, Orlando; W.G. Mills, Sarasota, Fla.; Clancy & Theys Construction Co., Orlando; Kraft Construction Co., Fort Myers, Fla.; Jacobs Field Services North America, Tampa; and Turner Construction Co.’s Orlando office.

Turner recuited firms who were not roadbuilders.

“At the time and even now, there were very few CM firms that had roadway construction experience,” says Gregg A. Hostetler, a county project manager. “Our strategy was to find rock-solid CM firms to couple with our solid in-house roadway experience.”

All but one of the six revived projects, totaling about $200 million, now are under budget. The county recouped the 6% CM fee through value engineering and reduced change orders.

The CMs held trade fairs and symposiums, educated local entities and brought in many firms with no roadbuilding experience. “It has allowed Turner to maximize the use of local subcontractors and suppliers,” says Scott Skidelsky, Turner general manager. Turner received a $26-million CM-at-risk contract to widen Osceola Parkway.

Typical design schedules had been 24 to 30 months, and several roads had been under design for as long as seven years, says Hostetler. Schedules now are about 12 months. Local firms have received 75%, or $82 million, of the subcontracts let to date, says Jason Boulnois, county project manager. Right-of-way acquisition begins at 60% design, and the CM comes onboard six months before design completion to assist with the acquisition process. “It gives more control in terms of the budget set for construction,” says Boulnois. He says bids have been 60% to 75% of Dept. of Transportation estimates.

Osceola County has four more projects awaiting financing. An additional seven projects could receive funding if voters pass a referendum to borrow $300 million.

Several Florida counties are watching how the projects progress. “I think we will see a trend where this will be done throughout the country,” Skidelsky says.