How are transportation projects selected, designed and built?
Engineering & Property Management (E&PM) serves as the project manager for many of the City’s infrastructure projects. E&PM staff work closely with client departments such as Charlotte’s Department of Transportation (CDOT), Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission and Neighborhood & Business Services as they select and rank their project lists. These lists are submitted to other City Departments, the Budget Office, and the City Manager’s Office for approval. Once City Council approves the priority projects, initial funding needs are estimated and included in a bond referendum. When voters approve the bonds, Engineering & Property Management (E&PM) selects a design consultant and begins the four-phase process for designing and building the project:
- Planning & design phase (includes public involvement)
- Bid phase
- Land Acquisition phase
- Construction phase (includes Landscaping)
City Council is currently reviewing the Urban Street Design Guidelines (USDG) and its impact on the public input process. The USDG are intended to create "complete" streets--streets that provide capacity and mobility for motorists, while also being safer and more comfortable for pedestrians, cyclists, and neighborhood residents. If council approves the USDG as a policy, then city staff will begin reviewing more than the primary project details. For example, instead of simply looking at an intersection and the need for a left turn lane, city staff and the design consultant would work with citizens to study the entire project area – looking at the community as a whole to determine what should be included in the project scope.
The USDG’s guiding principles for achieving a “complete street” network:
- Streets are a critical component of public space.
- Streets play a major role in establishing the image of a community. They affect the healthy, vitality, quality of life and economic welfare of a city.
- Streets provide the critical framework for current and future development. The locations and types of streets will affect the land development pattern, as well as how much development can be supported by the street network.
- A street’s effectiveness depends on both its design and how the street fits within the surrounding transportation network and supports adjacent land uses.
Charlotte’s streets will be designed to provide mobility and support livability and economic development goals.
- The safety, convenience and comfort of motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, transit users and members of the surrounding community will be considered when planning and designing Charlotte’s streets.
- Streets should be designed to encourage citizens to use alternative transportation thereby improving congestion and air quality.
- Planning and designing streets must be a collaborative process.
These principles will guide a series of public meetings led by the project team (comprised of city staff and the design consultant). Citizens’ comments are taken into consideration as the consultant creates criteria and a series of designs for the project. Once a preliminary design gains the approval of key city officials, it is presented at another public meeting. Additional public meetings are conducted if necessary.
The consultant then works with CDOT in developing a final design, which includes all details of the project and follows the USDG’s guiding principles. At this point, the Planning & Design phase ends and the Acquisition phase begins. After details are developed, the City of Charlotte acquires any land necessary to build the project. Next, the Bid Phase begins as E&PM solicits bids for building the project. E&PM is required by law to obtain at least three bids on all projects, though six to eight bids are usually received. The contract is awarded to the lowest responsible bidder.
The Construction Phase begins next, as residents in the vicinity of the construction site are notified of construction beginning and end dates. Once construction is underway, an E&PM inspector visits the site daily. For large projects, an inspector remains on-site fulltime.
Landscaping is completed once construction ends. The majority of landscaping, especially planting street trees, will be installed during the planting season of October through March. All work is guaranteed by the contractor for a minimum of one year.