Broward County's Comprehensive Neighborhood Improvement Program

Lessons learned: a 10-year update

Alan W. Garcia, P.E.
Director, Environmental Engineering Division
Broward County Office of Environmental Services
Pompano Beach, Florida
Chair, APWA Engineering and Technology Committee

In 1993, Broward County, Florida embarked on an aggressive approach to solve drainage problems in the unincorporated neighborhoods in the southern portion of the County. The first projects included the South County Collective Outfall and the Chula Vista Canal. During the planning stages of these projects, the age and capacity of the water and sewer infrastructure were examined. Coincidentally, many of the unincorporated neighborhoods that suffer from poor drainage were also on septic tanks. Replacement of the infrastructure (water and sewer) was then determined to have the following benefits:

  1. Eliminating septic tanks and improving groundwater quality.
  2. Increasing the useful life of the water and/or sewer assets while only disrupting neighborhoods once during this period.
  3. Providing increased water flow and hydrant installation to meet future growth needs.
  4. Installing sewers which would require full restoration of the roadways and swales allowing the County to upgrade to current minimum design standards.

Thus, what started out as a project to address drainage needs in the unincorporated portion of Broward County quickly became known as the Comprehensive Neighborhood Improvement Program (NIP). The areas broken up to make for more manageable programs included South County, Riverland Village, Central County, North Central County, Broadview Park, Broadview Estates, North Andrews and North County Neighborhood Improvement Projects.

Each geographic neighborhood was then broken down into a series of construction bid packages, ranging from $1.7 to over $15 million in construction costs. In total, there are 66 bid packages valued at a total construction and design cost to be $636 million. Completion of these projects will eliminate 10,252 septic tanks, install 422 miles of sidewalk, 292 miles of resurfaced/restored roadways and 617 miles of pipeline. The program encompasses an area of 8,812 acres, 92,000 people and 28,200 homes, equivalent to a medium-size city. Construction started in 1996 and is scheduled for completion in 2011.

Management responsibility for this program was delegated to the Environmental Engineering Division (EED), a division of the Office of Environmental Services (OES) within the Public Works Department. Coordination was required of several County agencies including the Broward County Engineering Division, Traffic Engineering, the Department of Planning and Environmental Protection, Office of Budget, Planning Services Division and Community Development Division. Several state agencies including Florida DOT, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and South Florida Water Management required permitting and coordination for utility, roadway and drainage construction.

Early lessons learned
During the early days of this program, the County, consultants and contractors experienced a steep learning curve. The contractors were not used to going into existing, occupied neighborhoods and installing such a comprehensive amount of utilities. Access for residents and emergency vehicles, property damage and restoration were common complaints by the residents. In order to facilitate these resident complaints, the County created the Project and Community Coordination Division to act as a liaison and assist in facilitating and resolving the resident complaints. Additional constraints were added to the contract documents including the refusal to allow contractors to disrupt access on two adjacent, parallel streets at one time. This was effective in limiting the disruption to resident access during construction periods.

During this early period of the program, the contractors quickly realized that their unit prices were too low to provide a reasonable profit for this type of work due to the tremendous amount of difficulties associated with working in existing, developed neighborhoods, while maintaining access and keeping all existing utilities active. During the first five years of the program, overall prices increased on average 86%. This was due to the adjustments in unit prices due to the difficult nature of these projects, and some of the adjustments were due to increases in material costs, i.e., PVC and concrete. Change order percentages ran between 5-10% of the total contract amount and were largely due to unforeseen conflicts, underestimating bid quantities by the consultant, and additional user-requested enhancements not part of the original bid.

Typical right-of-way improvements, Washington Park, Central County Neighborhood Improvement Program

In order to ensure satisfactory, qualified bidders, Broward County proceeded to bid these using a CM-Modified at Risk Method which effectively allowed pre-qualification and shortlisting of qualified contractors. This allowed bidders, experienced with projects of similar scopes, to be the only qualified bidders. As the projects continued into mid-2001, the increases in the bid prices leveled off and the trends have actually shown about a 6% decrease in bid prices.

Five design consulting firms have been contracted to complete the design and construction administration services for these projects. Monthly coordination meetings are held jointly with all consultants and this has led to successes in reducing change orders relating to the projects. Lessons are learned from consultant errors and omissions, and these meetings have helped with the other consultants being made aware of these errors and correcting their contract documents accordingly. These meetings have also been successful in getting more consistency in contract bid items, measurement and payment descriptions of bid items, and handling of unforeseen conditions such as rock, groundwater contamination and utility conflicts. Due to this additional coordination between consultants and increased QA/QC during plan review stages, which have reduced quantity overruns, change order percentages have been reduced to 3-4%.

Where are we today?
Currently, 39 of the 66 planned construction projects have been started. Ten of these are currently under construction and 29 projects have been completed. $352 million have been encumbered in purchase orders with over $239 million of the encumbered amount having been paid to date in these projects. All of this work has been done without assessment to the property owners. The only costs incurred by the owners are costs associated with placing septic tanks out of service and connecting new, onsite sewer services. Benefits seen to date include additional fire hydrants for fire protection, elimination of thousands of septic tanks, and improved storm drainage and roadways built to current County standards. These improvements have also spurred development in the Central and South County areas, and have generally improved the quality of life in these unincorporated neighborhoods. Benefits to the system asset management are realized as new installations are input into EED's Geographic Information System and accurate "as-built" drawings are submitted by the contractor for each project. Having current and accurate as-built data will improve the ability to maintain the system and is vital to the system operation during emergencies, including damage due to hurricanes or other disasters.

The South County NIP is nearing completion with only one remaining construction bid package remaining. This remaining bid package is approximately 40% complete and should be completed within the next twelve months. The remaining neighborhoods are on track to be completed between 2005 and 2011. Approximately $280 million worth of infrastructure and roadway improvements are scheduled for these remaining seven years.

Alan Garcia can be reached at (519) 831-0903 or at agarcia@broward.org.