In 1998, the United States Congress designated the I-25 Truck Safety Improvements Project (I-25 TSIP) to support transportation improvements in the State of Colorado. This congressionally designated project was intended to improve transportation efficiency, promote safety, reduce emissions, improve traveler information, enhance alternate transportation modes, promote tourism and build on existing Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). The project value was $11.25M with funding split between the federal government (80%) and state government (20%).
The project was divided into 30 task orders to address the ITS needs of the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) in areas ranging from planning through detailed design and implementation. Some specific activities included: deploying field devices such as Dynamic Message Signs (DMS); automating various Colorado trucking Ports of Entry (POE); improving the traveler information Web site (“Co-Trip”); and facilitating information exchange between CDOT and other agency partners including the Colorado State Patrol, the City and County of Denver (Transportation and Police) and the City of Lakewood.
Prior to the I-25 TSIP, CDOT had identified improvements needed in collecting, compiling and disseminating traffic information. The I-25 TSIP provided the single mechanism needed to address ITS deficiencies, strengthen and expand inter-agency partnerships, bolster related initiatives like incident management, and generate significant ITS Program momentum. CDOT believes achievement of the project goals and objectives on such a large scale makes the project a success story.
Perhaps the greatest lesson learned by Colorado DOT (CDOT) over the course of the I-25 Truck Safety Improvements Project (I-25 TSIP) was recognizing the value of inter-agency partnerships when implementing ITS projects. CDOT had established an extensive multi-agency partnership on a previous project. Contact names, lines of communications and parameters of working together were established to achieve common ITS goals. These elements were reinforced with a number of Letters of Agreement, Memoranda of Understanding and Intergovernmental Agreements.
The existing partnership, established in the mid 1990s and cultivated during future projects including the I-25 TSIP, had several issues to overcome in the early days that are presented below.
- Educate the partnership on ITS in general.
- Sell the agencies on the benefits of and the need for ITS.
- Lay the groundwork for a team approach rather than an individual agency approach.
- Develop interpersonal relationships based on trust between the partners.
A great number of new partnerships were achieved through parallel activities being completed simultaneously using alternate funding sources, while others were a direct consequence of the I-25 TSIP. For example, the partnership between CDOT, the Colorado Department of Revenue, Colorado Motor Carriers and Prepass was strengthened a great deal by the statewide automation of Port of Entry (POE). All ports in Colorado are currently automated with one exception in one direction. Three of these were automated as part of the I-25 TSIP project. The result of the POE partnership is one of which all participants can be proud – as of 2004, Colorado bypasses the highest percentage of trucks in the United States.
Another example illustrates how economies of scale were realized on other task orders. Each of the I-25 TSIP task orders that included the participation of Denver, Lakewood and Colorado Springs, the agency participant contributed to the project in terms of purchasing, in-kind services, assistance in obtaining related services or contracts, or the provision of ancillary materials. The result of such partnerships was deployment with a total value exceeding that originally planned. As a result of these and other examples, the core partnership still exists and sets the basis for additional coordinated work in the future with the same as well as new agency partners.
The value of strong inter-agency partnerships is immeasurable, yet the success of any ITS project cannot be achieved without them. Partnerships that lack trust and communication may ultimately impact not only the project performance but may also have a significant impact on the cost and schedule of a project.
This lesson indicates that inter-agency partnerships were a valuable resource for this project and these relationships are necessary to build a successful ITS program. The goals for the I-25 TSIP included increased mobility and safety, improved productivity and enhanced inter-modal connectivity and inter-jurisdictional coordination. These goals could not have been achieved without the strong relationships developed with the stakeholders that continued throughout the project and into future projects. Not only do such working relationships facilitate successful day-to-day operation, but open communications help form a solid foundation from which to build future ITS initiatives.