AASHTO Journal

Minnesota DOT Highlights Efficiencies that Saved $83M in 2017

The Minnesota Department of Transportation said in a new report that it saved $83 million during 2017 through new and revised practices in its construction program and project development, and plowed those savings back into road projects.

"Minnesotans expect and deserve good government," said Gov. Mark Dayton. "Since 2015, MnDOT has saved $217 million and reinvested it back into road construction and maintenance projects across Minnesota. Building on this success, our administration will continue to make state government work even better for the people of Minnesota."

The DOT said the legislatively required annual review, titled "Major Highway Projects, Trunk Highway Fund Expenditures and Efficiencies Report," is one of MnDOT's most comprehensive reports. It identified efficiencies in projects funded through the state's road construction budget and in the administration, maintenance and operations of the transportation system.

mndot-inside.jpgCost reductions or efficiencies are then used to balance out the road construction program, MnDOT said, and may allow it to accelerate the schedule for some additional work.

"MnDOT consistently aims to be a good steward of public funds," said Transportation Commissioner Charles Zelle. "We've taken a more targeted approach to identify and quantify efficiencies, while looking for additional best practices and improvements."

In the report the agency evaluated projects on how well road construction business process improvements were implemented.

"The biggest cost reduction for the state was more than $39 million from scrutinizing the use of funds and the effects on resources and communities," MnDOT said. "Eliminating nonessential project design elements lowered projects costs and improved return on investment."    

Another cost-reduction tactic called "value engineering" saved MnDOT $17.9 million last year. That process requires analyzing the design of a project with an eye to improving its function or reducing its cost while maintaining safety, quality and environmental attributes, the agency said.

It further reduced costs by evaluating specific procedures and strategies compared with their former approaches. "For example, the purchase of tow plows saved MnDOT $780,000 in 2017 and $680,000 in 2016," it said. "The tow plow purchases avoided the purchase of regular snowplows and allowed MnDOT to reinvest in other needed capital priorities."

Other efficiencies included the use of a "maintenance decision support system" – a technology that helps transportation agencies make better decisions about winter maintenance activities, such as how much salt to apply to roadways during snow events. That saved $6 million in 2017, MnDOT said.

By converting some roadway lighting to light-emitting diode technology, MnDOT said it reduced electricity costs by $2.6 million. And an agricultural tractor rental program saved $450,000 over the cost of buying and maintaining such machines.

Questions regarding this article may be directed to editor@aashtojournal.org.

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