Plenty of excitement and news coverage surrounded the May 20th opening of the new Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority Expo Line Phase 2 project. The team involved with its design and construction was equally thrilled, not only with the project’s outcome, but with the partnering process that helped them overcome various obstacles to achieve success.

Built to provide an efficient means of transportation from downtown Los Angeles to the beaches of San Monica or vice versa in less than 50 minutes, the $1.5 billion project began in 2012 and was completed in 2015. By 2030, the Expo Line is expected to attract approximately 64,000 riders per day, improving access to employment, education and recreation in various destinations along the corridor.

“Expo is an example of how well a construction project can function,” said Mike Aparicio, executive vice president of Skanska USA Civil in a blog post about the project. The design-build approach helped make sure that the construction authority, project designers and our construction team were always in lock step – and if we weren’t, the close collaboration made it easy to solve problems.”

The “close collaboration” Mike was referring to played an integral role in the partnering process the Expo team used to gain alignment, not only among various design and construction entities, but also with government agencies and public utilities vital to meeting the goals of this “life-changing” public transportation project.

Anticipated to have amongst the highest ridership of L.A. Metro’s light-rail lines, this project was closely monitored by various constituents and stakeholders, especially since it traverses through many residential and commercial neighborhoods.  Equally challenging was its sheer magnitude and complexity, which involved construction of seven new stations, seven major bridges and three park-and-ride lots with approximately 570 spaces. It also entailed more than 80 utility relocations that if lined up would span eight miles.

Collaboration with six distinct stakeholders and various other entities was required to ensure the project’s success including: The Exposition Construction Authority; L.A. Metro; the cities of Santa Monica and Los Angeles; the design-build joint venture team of Skanska USA and Rados Construction and Parsons Brinckerhoff. Additionally, more than 25 utilities and agencies were involved.

To actively engage all stakeholders as genuine team members supporting project success, the team and Ventura Consulting Group Partnering Facilitator Jim Eisenhart created a truly innovative approach—they called it Derivative Partnering.

At the first General Partnering Session, over 75 individuals were invited with approximately 60 attending. This first session enabled all present to contribute and commit to the partnership goals. It also introduced many to the partnering process, creating an understanding and commitment to achieving the distinction of “World Class” teamwork—as opposed to just “Good,” let alone “Business as Usual” or “Combative.”

The Executive Partnering Team outlined the key milestones they needed to achieve in the first six months given their overall goals, which were four years out. Design Development (DD)/Design Review (DR) and approval permit acquisition were among these milestones, so the team determined which entities could contribute to these areas. As a result of this exercise, it was decided that two key utilities, as well as the cities of Santa Monica and L.A. were critical; therefore, Derivative Partnering Workshops were developed to collaborate with these entities.

The first Derivative Partnering Workshop was held with Southern California Edison. The purpose?  Engage with them in jointly developing key milestones that were not necessarily limited by those previously developed by the Executive Team to support the overall project goals and optimize both the DD/DR process and efficiency of SCE.  The partnership sought to genuinely understand the concerns of SCE.

Personal commitments were made with an emphasis on no e-mails or letters except to confirm or memorialize a verbal conversation. Task teams were set up with deliverables and accountabilities. This initial session was so successful that the derivative team opted for another seven facilitated sessions. These short (2-3 hour) sessions focused on successes, current status, upcoming challenges, action planning and issue resolution—each derivative team had its own issue resolution ladder.

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power replicated this process with five workshops. The cities of L.A. and Santa Monica similarly participated in two workshops.  In both cases, all stakeholders set and committed to common partnership goals relative to traffic, safety and community impact.  The cities also had the opportunity to enhance the design with the understanding that it might be done on a cost, no cost or shared cost basis.

Other derivative sessions on track work, systems and turnover were conducted with key subcontractors, Metro Operations, Skanska-Rados JV and Expo Construction Authority.

The criteria for participating in derivative sessions was those entities capable of influencing project success in the next two, three or six months with respect to the process. Some derivative sessions included over 35 attendees.

According to Mike Aparicio, the project would have completed 18 months late without the Derivative Partnering Sessions.

In recognition of this fresh and integrated partnering approach, the team met all of its partnering goals and recently received a 2016 John L. Martin Partnered Project of the Year Award from the International Partnering Institute.

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