Apply systems engineering principles for improved project management.
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 I-25 Truck Safety Improvements Project (I-25 TSIP) was a large multi-jurisdictional project with a two tiered (Integrator and Manager) structure. Colorado DOT (CDOT) believes this was sound rationale even though this structure was not a complete success for them. The CDOT/Manager partnership was a positive experience; however the CDOT/Integrator partnership was not as successful due to several unresolved issues. The fact that the project was still a success indicates that applying systems engineering principles to the project improved the project management and they were able to overcome setbacks to deploy a successful project.

CDOT offers the following suggestions for improving project management through systems engineering.

  • Develop an organizational approach that emphasizes a multi-tiered technical management structure. CDOT developed a five-tiered technical management structure that was implemented on a previous project and was maintained on the I-25 TSIP because of its proven effectiveness. Generally, the configuration is comprised of five levels of oversight ranging from the upper management level with less frequent meetings to the day-to-day participants that meet more frequently. Because of the deployment focus of this project, CDOT was able to eliminate two of the management levels that would normally be required for a "normal" software development project. The structure will be maintained and of even greater value on a future project to develop the CDOT core ATMS/ATIS.
  • Employ proactive risk management. Due to successful application of the risk management principles that form a key part of systems management, CDOT was able to develop recovery plans to complete the intended work when the Integrator's services were discontinued. Although some schedule delays were encountered as a result of reassigning tasks, all intended work was completed at no additional (unintended) cost to the project. Risk management was the paramount factor allowing CDOT to achieve a winning project outcome after participation of the Integrator ended. Various projects were deferred, identified for completion by the Integrator or identified for completion by the State. Completing certain task orders using State forces ultimately led to increasing CDOT’s in-house expertise in ITS-related areas.

This lesson suggests the importance of applying sound system engineering principles throughout the deployment of the I-25 TSIP project. Due to some extenuating circumstances early in the project there could have been significant negative impact on the budget and schedule, ultimately affecting overall project performance. However, because of the systems engineering principles that were established, CDOT management was able to overcome the adversities and complete the project successfully. The actions described above laid the foundation necessary to develop a recovery plan that allowed for successful completion of the project. By maintaining budgeted costs and schedules, CDOT was able to achieve the established goals for the region that included increased mobility and safety, improved productivity and enhanced inter-modal connectivity and inter-jurisdictional coordination.