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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Public Roads - July/August 2004

Guest Editorial

Megaprojects: Managing a Public Journey

jrichardcapkaManaging megaprojects requires more than just the skills to handle a great deal of complex construction. It requires an appreciation of the public dynamics that begin at the early planning phase of the project's development and follow through to the project's completion. The transportation community has learned that megaprojects require the careful management of a public journey into unfamiliar and often confusing territory. Since not all transportation professionals who will be faced with the mission of successfully delivering a megaproject have had previous experience with these projects, it is vital that they are able to take advantage of both the positive lessons learned and the challenges of those who have gone before us. It makes no sense to set out into unfamiliar territory without a roadmap when some maps already exist.

Megaprojects are designed to address major highway requirements. Because of their size, they require the investment of considerable resources and will certainly have significant impacts upon the environment and the surrounding communities. They will necessarily attract considerable public attention. A great deal more is riding on the success of the megaproject than just the individual project itself. The public will use its perceptions of the delivery of a major project as a basis to "grade" the highway leadership's ability to deliver effectively the much broader overall highway program. The public's trust and confidence in public leadership and institutions may stand in the balance. Earning and retaining that trust and confidence is the responsibility of all of us in the public sector.

This issue of Public Roads is devoted to providing an opportunity to "scratch the surface" of the megaproject challenge from the public sector's perspective and to provide insights into what we have collectively learned from past experiences on very large projects. The Federal Highway Administration's Major Projects Team has assembled a series of articles that capture some of the key features that are important to consider when venturing into this important arena. The articles discuss topics pertaining to megaprojects, such as cost estimating, risk management, maintenance of public trust, the project development life cycle, contract alternatives, management plans, intermodal project management, and lessons learned.

The articles are not intended to be technically complex and are not designed to push the envelope of the body of knowledge about project management. Their purpose is to highlight and underscore "macro" issues that make megaprojects a bit different. We hope to provide key decisionmakers with an opportunity to pause and reflect upon the challenges that could face their organizations.

Megaprojects are not impossible missions. They are well within our capacity to deliver successfully but only if we adequately anticipate the requirements and deliberately plan for success.

J. Richard Capka

Deputy Administrator

Federal Highway Administration