The Silicon Valley Smart Corridor (SVSC), centered in San Jose, California, was one of approximately 65 deployments occurring nationally under the direction and partial funding of the Fiscal Year 1999 National Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Integration Program. These deployments are intended to promote major national goals for ITS, such as: increase transportation efficiency, promote safety, increase traffic flow, reduce emissions of air pollutants, improve traveler information, enhance alternative transportation modes, build on existing ITS projects, and promote tourism.
The Silicon Valley Smart Corridor project was initiated to use advanced technologies and real-time system management techniques to keep all transportation facilities within the region's critical State Highway Route 17 and Interstate 880 (SR 17/I-880) corridor operating at maximum efficiency, even when following a major disruptive incident. Based upon a partnership of several agencies, the system combines advanced freeway, arterial, and incident management techniques and resources to reduce delays.
ITS projects should ensure that the procurement processes available for both standardized "commodity" type equipment and highly complex integrated ITS components are adequate and thorough. Complex ITS components should not always be purchased using the same procurement processes as those used for the purchase of "commodity" equipment (e.g., replacement parts, paint, chemicals, etc.). This will avoid the need to make purchase decisions based solely on cost. The SVSC deployment experience provides the following suggestions for procurement of complex integrated ITS components like the Trailblazer signs:
- Be vigilant of contractor qualification and product performance in the contracting process. In the SVSC project, the purchase of the Trailblazer sign equipment was completed through the standard equipment bid process where cost constituted the primary selection criteria. The procurement contract was won by a small local firm with relatively little experience in producing this type of equipment. Although the equipment provided has met the minimum operating qualifications specified in the contract, other performance qualities limited the usefulness of the signs. Eventually the decision was made to replace the signs with products from a more established contractor.
- Ensure that the procurement process does not focus solely on cost as the basis for deciding on ITS equipment purchases. The SVSC project manager reported that the procurement process that was used to purchase standardized "commodity" type equipment was often inadequate for the purchase of highly complex integrated ITS components. As a result, changes were made to the procurement process due to the difficulties resulting from the Trailblazer sign purchase.
The initial SVSC procurement process, based primarily on cost, resulted in the purchase of Trailblazer signs that did not fully meet the needs of the project. Consequently, additional time and cost were expended to obtain equipment that provided the desired functionality. Due to these difficulties the procurement process was later modified to better serve the ITS procurement needs of project management.
This lesson suggests that different procurement processes should be used to ensure that purchase decisions for complex ITS components are not based solely on cost. The procurement process should include cost as well as other qualitative criteria (e.g., features, functionality, supplier qualification) to allow project managers to acquire equipment that best meet the needs of the project.