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Evaluation of Past Audits of Project Development on California State Highway System


Journal Article

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Suggested Citation:
Hecht, Harry and Debbie A. Niemeier (2002) Evaluation of Past Audits of Project Development on California State Highway System. Transportation Research Record (1817), 1 - 10

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is responsible for developing and maintaining the state highway system. Fourteen audits related to the Caltrans project delivery process have been conducted in the last 30 years, an average of about one every 2 years. Most of the audits cited expense and timeliness problems with project development. Yet neither the degree to which these audits accurately assessed the problems with project development nor the degree to which implementation of audit recommendations served to improve project development has been evaluated. The audit findings and recommendations were researched and compared with newly collected data from interviews with project managers involved in the development of highway projects throughout California. Findings indicate that many of the recommendations of past audits have not been implemented, do not apply, or, if implemented, do not appear to have materially changed or to have improved project development times or costs. A flaw of previous audits was the failure to directly involve project managers in identifying constraints on project development. Moreover, discussions with project managers suggest there is a need to update, review, and value-engineer an overly rigid project development process. Despite audit assertions that project delivery can be improved with more aggressive project management, project managers are not delegated the same level of authority as they are assigned responsibility. Thus, the role of the project manager in project planning, management, and quality control is administratively constrained. There is a need to develop new methods for conducting these types of audits so that major issues and problems are better defined before solutions are recommended.