Consider dividing a large ITS project into manageable task orders.
A Colorado DOT experience in deploying a large multi-jurisdictional ITS project
Made Public Date


United States

I-25 Truck Safety Improvements Project Local Evaluation Report


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.

Lessons Learned

The Colorado DOT (CDOT) found on past projects that using the traditional format of one large cost-plus-fixed-fee project provided less flexibility and control over the contractors, so for the I-25 TSIP they chose to use a task order approach. Project scopes of work, estimates, and schedules were developed for each task order. CDOT would activate each of the 30 task orders by providing the system integrator with written notice to proceed.

CDOT experienced several advantages by dividing the I-25 TSIP into multiple, more manageable task orders. This approach enabled CDOT to:

  • Manage labor and direct expenses more efficiently on a task basis. Because each task was broken out separately, it was easier for the CDOT management team to identify areas incurring a potential over-run, as well as areas not incurring sufficient labor to meet schedules. Due to the size and complexity of this project, the task order system was deemed superior in tracking and controlling costs.
  • Identify scheduling issues sooner. Because schedules were reported bi-weekly, it was easier for the CDOT management team to identify areas encountering schedule difficulties. The task order system was deemed superior in identifying critical scheduling issues as they arose.
  • Assign multiple task order managers to better subdivide management responsibilities. Because CDOT assigned a number of task order managers to the project, it had more "eyes and ears" available to actively monitor progress of the work across multiple task areas.
  • Create a modular structure to the deployment. For the Colorado Revised Model Deployment Initiative (RMDI), the project that preceded the I-25 TSIP, the system integrator was tasked to deliver a single large deployment at once. This approach ultimately led to major disagreement and controversy between the two parties. The modular nature of ITS delivery, created by the I-25 TSIP task order system, allowed the work to be better organized and helped ensure delivery and acceptance of the required product on budget.

This lesson suggests that the correct mechanism to deploy a large multi-jurisdictional ITS project is not necessarily the traditional approach of one large cost-plus-fixed-fee project. CDOT had several goals for the region including increased mobility and safety, improved productivity, and enhanced inter-modal connectivity and inter-jurisdictional coordination throughout the region. Project deployment that is on time and on budget is essential to meeting these goals. Breaking the project down into smaller task orders proved to be a very successful contracting method. When a contract is difficult to manage, the impacts on schedule and costs can be significant. Breaking a large contract into manageable tasks improves the ability to manage the project's schedule and budget, creating an environment for a successful project deployment.