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The Project Coordination Office Saves Chicago Millions in Infrastructure Improvements

CHICAGO, IL — The ‘Building a New Chicago’ program, a $7 billion infrastructure investment announced by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2012, generated an influx of transportation projects for the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), spurring new innovations in the process.

To keep development on schedule, CDOT officials founded the Project Coordination Office (PCO), an internal management agency that could administer work between utility companies and other agencies that help improve the public right of way.

Along with connecting various stakeholders to improve information sharing, the PCO enables efforts to improve city infrastructure and reduces waste and duplication to boost savings across public and private agencies by an average of $22.8 million a year.

It consists of engineers and planners from prime consultant Collins Engineers and its various sub-consultants, including TranSmart, an Atlas Company, where Senior Civil Engineer/On-site Project Manager Clinton McClure has amassed 11 years of experience.

“We developed a mapping application called dotMaps to visualize project data and identify problem areas that need coordination," McClure said. "DotMaps has been adapted to be used by city officials, utility companies, and even the general public with ChiStreetWork.”

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The PCO coordinates infrastructure projects across Chicago by gathering information from public and private utility companies about their capital improvement programs. Personnel are able to coordinate projects with special event planners like the Lollapalooza music festival and the Chicago Marathon hosted by Bank of America.

This includes using maps to identify areas where multiple projects will take place at the same time and communicating with those agencies to develop a succession of projects that minimizes the amount of new asphalt or concrete that is removed by future work. Projects are then recorded in a Memorandum of Understanding that all parties sign before construction takes place.

“An important aspect of the PCO is the open line of communication between us and our client," said Jing (Connie) Li, Ph.D., PE, President of TranSmart. "We’re working very closely to deliver timely infrastructure improvements that benefit the entire city. This program allows us to serve our community through serving our client.”

This ensures that all underground work takes place on a street before final asphalt resurfacing begins, allowing the road surface to remain undisturbed for longer than it would have been otherwise, saving both material and labor costs to the utility or agency that can be allocated toward future construction.

CDOT has recognized the value that the PCO has in promoting cooperation among various stakeholders and driving efficiency in infrastructure improvements.

“[The PCO] has improved collaboration with other agencies and service providers within the public right of way, helping save taxpayers millions of dollars while minimizing disruption for residents and businesses,” said Gia Biagi, a previous CDOT Commissioner. “With a busy construction season around the corner, we look forward to continuing to find ways to improve and streamline the process of delivering infrastructure improvements across Chicago.”

TranSmart has helped the PCO achieve these improvements, providing support for both project coordination as well as technical review of construction drawings submitted to CDOT for permit approval and GIS analysis of public data for planned construction projects, permits, and recently resurfaced streets.

“The PCO is proudly comprised of dedicated staff across our partner firms who deeply and genuinely care about their city," said Kelly Samara, Program Manager for CDOT-PCO. "TranSmart has been a steady and committed sub-consultant partner on this project over the years and has played an important role in helping to create the powerful results that we have delivered for our client."

PCO staff engineers include Dillon Rattray-Mattis, Bernard Lodyga, and On-Site Project Manager Clinton McClure, P.E.

The PCO, which some records list as the first of its kind in the U.S., has saved the city $251 million due to its coordination efforts. Today the PCO continues to provide management of many infrastructure improvements that help boost the quality of life in Chicago.

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