Infrastructure protectionNew Orleans $1-billion flood defense revised

Published 11 December 2009

To head off a possible $150-million to $300-million cost overrun on the $1-billion Gulf Intracoastal Waterway West Closure Complex in New Orleans, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has redesigned the waterway; trading off some “nice to haves” for necessities.

After a design summit to cut costs, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its contractors have headed off a possible $150-million to $300-million cost overrun on the $1-billion Gulf Intracoastal Waterway West Closure Complex in New Orleans. The closure complex consists of a strategic storm-surge barrier of walls, levees, gates, and pumps to protect the southern flank of the city. It includes navigation gates and what will become the largest pump station in the United States.

ENR’s Angelle Bergeron writes that as designs neared completion this fall, the Corps realized costs were heading to exceed authorized funding. So, from 26 to 29 October, representatives from prime contractor Gulf Intracoastal Constructors — a joint venture of Kiewit Corp. of Omaha, Nebraska, and Traylor Bros. Inc. of Evansville, Indiana — as well as from engineering firms and consultants, met with representatives from several Corps districts in New Orleans to brainstorm cost-saving alternatives.

The session resulted in numerous design changes that trade off some “nice to haves” for necessities, says Tom Podany, chief of the Corps’ Protection and Restoration Office. “We had a goal of $150 million to $300 million in savings we thought would be realistic to achieve,” Podany says. “We got everyone together to hash out ideas, make sure we had all ideas fully vetted, and, ultimately, we had about 47 ideas that will result in design changes.”

The Corps touts the project as the New Orleans District’s first use of the Early Contractor Involvement delivery method and the summit as an example of it. Awarding GIC the $6.97-million base contract on 4 August for preconstruction services and pile load tests expedited the process, Podany says.

By bringing in the contractors early for input on the designs and specs, changes can be implemented without having to go back after award and modify contracts, Podany says. “ECI allowed us to get ideas up front before designs were finalized. With ECI, you have an opportunity to adjust design and implement with the contractor,” he adds.

A fast-approaching June 2011 deadline is the driving force behind the Corps’ decision to use ECI, and that, as well as the high cost, led to the decision to call the design summit, Podany says. It definitely helped curb cost on the project, he says. “If changes had not been made, we would have gone beyond that $856 million,” he says. “We have [to do] due diligence to provide the public with