Lasting impact

three top-notch project teams exceeded expectations while delivering long-term benefits to the public




Truly memorable projects do more than come in on time, on budget and in scope. They deliver lasting benefits by solving a long-term business challenge, preventing a future crisis or meeting an array of stakeholders’ needs.

The three 2015 Project of the Year finalists all created lasting value for their respective communities, benefiting the general public in distinct ways.

One project inspected hundreds of bridges across a U.S. state and then repaired or replaced anything that fell short of the state’s standards. The second unearthed and disposed of 16 million tons of toxic waste at a former plutonium production site. And the third finalist quickly and safely transported six massive oil refinery drums through a major metropolis to minimize street closures and ensure gasoline and jet fuel production keeps up with demand for decades to come.

A first look at each finalist follows. In the coming months, PM Network feature stories and videos on PMI’s YouTube channel will detail their achievements in-depth.

And the Winner Is…The 2015 PMI Project of the Year will be presented at PMI Global Congress 2015—North America, scheduled for 11-13 October in Orlando, Florida, USA. Register at, and be sure to reserve a seat at the PMI Professional Awards Gala on 10 October, the evening before Congress officially gets underway. To apply for the 2016 Project of the Year or other professional awards, head to


Willamette River Bridge project


Roads and bridges keep economies connected and growing. If they begin to crumble, so do job prospects.

When the state of Oregon, USA discovered that some of its bridges had cracks that would soon affect major freight routes, the government heard the warning as a wake-up call. Roughly half of the state’s 6,700 bridges were built before 1960, and a study projected that if left unattended the deficient infrastructure would cost the state 88,000 jobs over the next 25 years. For Oregon to stay competitive, the state’s entire bridge infrastructure needed an overhaul.

So in 2003, the Oregon legislature acted to fund the state’s largest infrastructure investment in 50 years with an unprecedented caveat: The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) had to outsource the program. ODOT awarded the 10-year, US$1.3 billion contract to repair or replace 365 bridges to the Oregon Bridge Delivery Partners (OBDP), a joint venture of Fluor Corporation and HDR Engineering Inc. The historic public-private partnership delivered the program as promised, coming in US$45 million under budget.

“Not everyone at ODOT initially liked having the private sector coming in. But at the end of the program, OBDP had an outstanding relationship with the agency,” says John Craig, program manager, HDR Engineering Inc., Salem, Oregon, USA.

Rather than just replacing the worst bridges first, the project team bundled adjacent bridges into sub-programs of varying sizes. This approach allowed the overall scope of the program to be compartmentalized and managed bundle by bundle. It also allowed smaller, more local companies to compete for the bundles with larger firms, which led to taxpayer savings through lower bids.

But the cornerstone of the program’s success was communication to assure stakeholders that tax dollars were being well spent. Repairing or replacing hundreds of bridges required working with legislators, regulators, contractors, landowners and the general public. Everything falls flat if those relationships aren’t healthy, says Byron Perry, deputy program manager, HDR Engineering Inc., Salem, Oregon, USA.

PROJECT: Oregon Transportation Investment Act III State Bridge Delivery Program

BUDGET: US$1.3 billion

LOCATION: Oregon, USA (statewide)

KEY PLAYERS: Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) and Oregon Bridge Delivery Partners (OBDP), a joint venture of Fluor Corporation and HDR Engineering Inc.

HIGHLIGHT: Targeted communication between OBDP and an array of public-sector stakeholders led to the successful delivery of the state’s largest infrastructure overhaul in the last 50 years.

To keep the lines of communication open, the team assigned specific communication requirements stemming from the location and complexity of each bundle. All projects required monthly progress reports with executive letters or stories to draw attention to specific design, construction, diversity and environmental stewardship milestones. Some shared information on social media.

For instance, the Willamette River Bridge project team published a blog for three years to keep the public informed of progress. It featured updates on relevant project events, schedule changes and public safety. Another team working on the Sandy River Bridge project site had to educate the community about an increased risk of flooding. It held public meetings to get the word out, offered to purchase supplementary flood insurance for impacted properties and followed up with mail, email and in-person visits. It set up a hotline for residents to call for help applying for insurance.

Since the 365th bridge project was completed on schedule, Oregon’s transportation infrastructure has been safer and public stakeholders have viewed the program as a blueprint for future public-private partnerships.

“It took a partnership between OBDP and ODOT to do it, and together we have demonstrated that we can be counted on to deliver what we promised, with confidence and accountability,” says Matthew Garrett, director, ODOT, Salem, Oregon, USA.

“Not everyone at ODOT initially liked having the private sector coming in. But at the end of the program, OBDP had an outstanding relationship with the agency.”

—John Craig, HDR Engineering Inc., Salem, Oregon, USA


Waste site next to the Columbia River


River Corridor Base Scope Project

A vast expanse of land near Richland, Washington, USA known as the Hanford Site once played a central role in the Cold War’s nuclear arms race: It produced two-thirds of the nation’s plutonium in nine nuclear production reactors. The 586-square-mile (1,518-square-kilometer) site closed in 1987, and the scenic land remained off limits to the public.

In 2005, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) made the Hanford site one of its largest environmental cleanup projects, with the ultimate goal of making the land available for recreational use. The work to be done was considerable: Hundreds of buildings and soil sites—and billions of gallons of groundwater—were contaminated with hazardous and radioactive materials. Removing that waste was necessary to protect the millions of people who live in cities and towns downstream from the Columbia River, which flows through the site.

The DOE awarded the nine-year, US$2 billion River Corridor Base Scope Project to Washington Closure Hanford (WCH), a joint venture of AECOM, Bechtel and CH2M. The team was tasked with executing the DOE’s largest remediation project to date: the elimination of 16 million tons of contaminated soil and debris, all while keeping the public on board throughout the process.

Although the cleanup effort would create jobs for local residents, clean up the environment and enable long-restricted areas to become a national park, the local community had serious concerns with the River Corridor Closure Project contract. Both citizens and environmental organizations were concerned that Hanford waste sites and contaminated buildings would continue to be a risk to the environment. “We were encountering people who were just scared,” says Scott Sax, PMP, project manager and president of Washington Closure Hanford LLC.

PROJECT: River Corridor Base Scope Project

BUDGET: US$2 billion

LOCATION: Richland, Washington, USA

KEY PLAYERS: Washington Closure Hanford (WCH), a joint venture of AECOM, Bechtel and CH2M Hill; U.S. Department of Energy; the Environmental Protection Agency; the Washington State Department of Ecology

HIGHLIGHT: The Hanford site land originally belonged to several Native American tribes, so WCH regularly met with tribal nation representatives to ensure the project would protect the cultural legacy of the land and preserve any artifacts found during excavation.

To convince the community the site could be cleaned up safely, the project team conducted public demonstrations. For instance, one of the chemicals in question was known to catch fire when exposed to air. So the team invited federal regulators, the media and local community leaders to watch a trial run showing the chemical could be safely excavated. The demonstration was a success: Stakeholders left feeling safe and willing to educate wary community members about the project.

“We show [the regulators] everything we’re doing and talk to them about what we’re going to do,” Mr. Sax says. “Because of all that, they’re the ones who are telling the public that we’re doing the right thing. And the public believes them.”

WCH also faced stakeholder skepticism relative to its cost plus incentive fee contract, which stipulated that for every dollar that WCH saved, it would earn 20 cents. This was a first-of-its-kind contract at the Hanford site and a tactic to keep the project within budget. But regulators within the DOE, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Washington State Department of Ecology—collectively known as the Tri-Party Agreement (TPA)—were concerned the incentive fees would drive WCH to sacrifice safety and regulatory compliance in order to maximize profits. With the goal of combating that perception and building stronger relationships, WCH held weeklong sessions with regulators to address their safety and environmental standards and goals.

By early 2014, The River Corridor Base Scope Project had transported 9 million tons of waste from the Hanford site while maintaining the best safety record of any DOE contract. The project delivered two big public benefits: It came in under budget, saving taxpayers US$227 million, while helping to transform a toxic legacy of war into scenic beauty accessible to all.

“We show [the regulators] everything we’re doing and talk to them about what we’re going to do. Because of all that, they’re the ones who are telling the public that we’re doing the right thing. And the public believes them.”

—Scott Sax, PMP, Washington Closure Hanford LLC


The new drums traveled 4.5 miles on the streets of El Segundo, California, USA.


El Segundo Refinery Coke Drum Reliability Project

The city of Los Angeles, California, USA relies on fuel from Chevron’s El Segundo refinery. The facility supplies 20 percent of the gasoline in the Los Angeles area market and more than 40 percent of the jet fuel for Los Angeles International Airport, which is next door.

That’s why, when an essential piece of machinery started to deteriorate, Chevron knew it had to act fast. The refinery needed six new coke drums—enormous containers that heat crude oil up to 920 degrees Fahrenheit (493 Celsius)—to ensure it could continue to meet Southern California’s fuel demands.

But replacing the equipment required more than just making a call. The coke drums had to travel from a manufacturing facility in Spain to the refinery in El Segundo—part of Los Angeles County and surrounded by one of the most densely populated urban areas in the United States. The team originally planned for the drums to be delivered by ship to the Port of Los Angeles (7,331 miles), and then transported over land the remaining 21 miles to the refinery. But taking this route would have created major disruptions for the communities along the way, says Rick Miller, project manager, Chevron Corp., El Segundo, California, USA.

Plus, towing six 96-foot-tall drums down the original route would have required removing 350 obstacles such as traffic lights, power lines, signs and billboards, creating major headaches for the public. If the team stuck to a nighttime schedule to avoid adding to the city’s well-known gridlock, it would have taken an estimated six weeks to transport all the drums to the refinery. Each drum would have taken four nights of travel requiring off-street parking during the daytime. The project team knew there had to be a better way.

PROJECT: El Segundo Refinery Coke Drum Reliability Project

BUDGET: US$150 million

LOCATION: El Segundo, California, USA


HIGHLIGHT: The team worked with external stakeholders to create a simpler and safer plan for transporting six massive oil refinery coke drums through California streets. The final route was one-fifth the length of the original route, and members of the public cheered as drums passed by late at night.

Team members ultimately found an alternate route through a small boat marina located in Redondo Beach, just 4 miles from the refinery. That community was looking for funding to redevelop a recreational public park and boating education facility in the marina. So the project team flexed its negotiation skills: In exchange for allowing a barge to dock and unload the coke drums in the marina, Chevron offered to fund the park redevelopment.

With this new plan in place, the land transportation leg dropped from 21 miles to 4 miles. Transported two at a time, it took just six nights for all the drums to reach their destination—which meant less inconvenience for Los Angelenos.

Once the drums arrived at the refinery, one mammoth task remained: installation. By coinciding that with the refinery’s scheduled downtime for maintenance, the team was able to minimize disruptions to the refinery’s output and compress the original schedule. The team ended up completing the project four months ahead of the original end date of October 2014 and US$7 million under the US$157 million budget. The new drums should last up to 30-40 years.

“The refinery now enjoys reliable operation that supports delivery of products the L.A. Basin continues to rely on,” says Frank Semancik, general manager, Chevron El Segundo Refinery, El Segundo, California, USA. PM

“The refinery now enjoys reliable operation that supports delivery of products the LA Basin continues to rely on.”

—Frank Semancik, Chevron El Segundo Refinery, El Segundo, California, USA




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