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Cooper River Bridge Replacement Project

Project Abstract

The purpose of the project was to replace two existing functionally obsolete truss bridges crossing the Cooper River in Charleston Harbor. The new structure would need to 1) Increase the capacity of US 17 over the Cooper River, 2) Improved traffic safety 3) Reduce the frequency and costs of the major bridge maintenance activities and 4) Increase the vertical and horizontal navigational clearances on the Cooper River.



Cooper River Bridge Replacement Project: The purpose of the project was to replace two existing functionally obsolete truss bridges crossing the Cooper River in Charleston Harbor.
The purpose of the project was to replace two existing functionally obsolete truss bridges crossing the Cooper River in Charleston Harbor.

This is one of 33 case studies included in National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Report 642 entitled Quantifying the Benefits of Context Sensitive Solutions, published in November 2009. According to the authors, “The objective of this project is to develop a guide for transportation officials and professionals that identifies a comprehensive set of performance measures of CSS principles and quantifies the resulting benefits through all phases of project development”. The report documents a wide range of case studies in which the principles of CSS were applied. Each of these case studies was evaluated to determine the benefits of applying CSS. NCHRP Report 642 is available here.

Location: Charleston Harbor, SC

Lead Agency: South Carolina DOT

Contact Person: Charles Dwyer Phase Completed: Construction/Maintenance

Source: Stamatiadis, Nikiforos, et. al. Guidelines For Quantifying The Benefits Of Context Sensitive Solutions. NCHRP 15-32. April 2009.

CSS Qualities

Project Team
To assess community impacts and provide ideas on how to reduce them, SCDOT assembled a committee consisting of representatives of the various sections of SCDOT as well as the FHWA, the contractor, and consultants.

The sensitivity of the community in which this project was to be constructed led the SCDOT to assign a senior member of the staff to work full-time on just this one project. The Director of Engineering was available in the project office to meet with local leaders, resource/regulatory agency officials, project staff and members of the public. This full-time dedication meant that commitments could be tracked to fulfillment in the project office.

Stakeholders
Resource/regulatory agency involvement was done through an inter-agency task force. This task force was assigned to communicate and resolve permit issues during both the permit application and the construction process. This task force concept was important to the success of the use of design-build for a project of this magnitude. Without a task force meeting, many agency concerns may have taken much longer to resolve, holding up either the procurement process or the construction itself.

Use of non-governmental organizations was important to getting the most out of the bridge. An example is the bicycle/pedestrian lane. Once it was known the lane was included in the scope to be built, the SCDOT formed an ad hoc committee with representatives of the local municipalities as well as local running and bicycle clubs. This provided a design that would meet as many needs as possible within the twelve-foot share width being built.

Public Involvement
A grassroots effort that included schoolchildren and bumper stickers showcased the community’s wish for bicycle and pedestrian facilities on the new bridge. Unsure about the available funding, the SCDOT was able to include this scope into the context of the bridge. Now that the bridge is open, you can see upwards of two hundred people using the hiker/biker lane at any given time. This lane is safely separated from vehicular traffic by a concrete barrier and provides the only views of Charleston available to the public at an elevation of two hundred feet above the harbor.

In addition to numerous public meetings, the SCDOT hired a community liaison to reach out and assess the desires of this community to off-set the impacts of the project. SCDOT also prepared a video rendering for the impacted community. This video showed how the major thoroughfare through the community would remain pedestrian friendly.

Design Solution

The historic nature of Charleston led the SCDOT to find ways to construct a signature bridge through the design-build process. During public meetings, the community was able to select a bridge design—the diamond shaped towers—that fit their desire for a pleasing bridge. Based on input from a grassroots effort, a separate pedestrian and bicycle facility was also included on the project. This process resulted in the construction of North America’s longest cable stay span over the Cooper River in Charleston Harbor.

CSS Principles

A fundamental aspect of the NCHRP 642 research effort was the identification of CSS principles. The principles below were developed by a multidisciplinary team and were based on previous work by FHWA and AASHTO participants in the 1998 “Thinking Beyond the Pavement” conference, and others.

For this case study, web-based surveys were developed to solicit the expert opinions of the project team on the level of satisfaction from the application of the CSS principles on the project. The analysis of the scores noted in the survey, and presented in the following table, is based on a 4.0 scale, where 4.0 is Strongly Agree, 3.0 is Agree, 2.0 is Disagree, and 1.0 is Strongly Disagree. Additional information on the data analysis, a summary of the scores for each case study, and general findings (from all case studies) is presented in the NCHRP Report 642, available here.


CSS Principle

Project Team

Use of interdisciplinary teams

4.0

Involve stakeholders

4.0

Seek broad-based public involvement

4.0

Use full range of communication methods

4.0

Achieve consensus on purpose and need

4.0

Utilize full range of design choices

3.0

Address alternatives and all modes

3.0

Maintain environmental harmony

4.0

Address community & social issues

4.0

Address aesthetic treatments & enhancements

4.0

Consider a safe facility for users & community

4.0

Document project decisions

3.0

Track and meet all commitments

3.0

Create a lasting value for the community

4.0

Use all resources effectively (time & budget)

4.0

 

Discussion on CSS principles

Project team’s perspective
Surveys were also utilized to ask the project team, as well as external stakeholders in the process, about their perceptions of the benefits derived from a CSS process. As with the surveys regarding CSS Principles, the Benefits were scored on a 4.0 scale, where 4.0 is Strongly Agree, 3.0 is Agree, 2.0 is Disagree, and 1.0 is Strongly Disagree.

CSS Benefit

Measured

Stakeh.

Team

Improved stakeholder/public feedback

NA

4.0

Increased stakeholder/public participation compared to other projects

NA

4.0

Increased stakeholder/public participation

--

4.0

Increased stakeholder/public ownership

--

4.0

Increased stakeholder/public trust

--

4.0

Decreased costs for overall project delivery

NA

4.0

Decreased time for overall project delivery

NA

4.0

Improved predictability of project delivery

--

3.0

Improved project scoping

NA

3.0

Improved project budgeting

NA

3.0

Increased opportunities for partnering or shared funding or in-kind resources

--

3.0

Improved opportunities for joint use and development

--

3.0

Improved sustainable decisions and investments

NA

3.0

Improved environmental stewardship

NA

3.0

Minimized overall impact to human environment

--

3.0

Minimized overall impact to natural environment

--

3.0

Improved mobility for all users

--

4.0

Improved walkability

--

4.0

Improved bikeability

--

4.0

Improved safety (vehicles, pedestrians, and bikes)

--

4.0

Improved multi-modal options

--

3.0

Improved community satisfaction

--

4.0

Improved quality of life for community

--

3.0

Fit with local government land use plan

--

--

Improved speed management

--

2.0

Design features appropriate to context

--

4.0

Optimized maintenance and operations

NA

3.0

Minimized disruption

--

3.0

Increased risk management and liability protection

NA

3.0


Discussion on Benefit Values

Semi-Quantitative Benefits
Overall, the respondent agreed or strongly agreed that the project achieved all identified benefits with one exception. That one benefit that was disagreed is “improved speed management.” The benefit may not have been achieved as it was not a primary goal of the project which focused solely on a bridge replacement.

Quantitative Benefits
There was no additional information provided to the research team to be utilized in the development of quantifiable benefits.

Arnstein Comparison
The surveys conducted for this case study included a set of questions that could be used to evaluate potential differences in the level of satisfaction between project team members and stakeholders. These differences in satisfaction are known as the Arnstein gap, which is a heuristic metric by which the existing quality deficit of public involvement can be measured. Arnstein developed an eight-step scale (Arnstein’s Ladder) characterizing levels of public involvement in planning, ranging from “Manipulation” of the public (non-participation) to “Citizen Control” of the process. The NCHRP 642 authors adapted this approach to assess the perceptions of stakeholders and the project team.


Arnstein Questions Part 1

Stakeh.

Team

I  am satisfied with the relationship we had with project team

--

NA

I am satisfied with the relationship I had with the stakeholders

NA

4.0

I am satisfied with the relationship I had with the interested public

NA

4.0

I am satisfied with the procedures and methods that allowed input to project decisions

--

3.0

 

Note: The project team and stakeholder scores are based on the survey results of a 4.0 scale (4: strongly agree; 3: agree; 2: disagree; and 1: strongly disagree).

 

Arnstein Questions Part 2

Stakeh.

Team

My relationship with the project team was best described as

--

NA

My relationship with the stakeholders was best described as

NA

3.0

My relationship with the interested public was best described as

NA

2.0

Note: The project team and stakeholder rankings are based on the survey results of a 4.0 scale (4: They allowed us to provide direction; 3: We established a partnership; 2: We established a consultation relationship; and 1: We established an informational relationship). 

No stakeholders completed the survey for this project, which does not allow for a comparison of project team member and stakeholder responses. It is interesting to note that the project team had relatively high levels of satisfaction with their relationships with the stakeholders and public, while at the same time describing those relationships relatively low compared to other projects studied. The stakeholder relationship was identified as between a consultative and partnership, while the public relationship was described as between informational and consultative.

Overall level of success
The Director of Engineering was available in the project office to meet with local leaders, resource/regulatory agency officials, project staff and members of the public. This full-time dedication meant that commitments could be tracked to fulfillment in the project office. A grassroots effort showcased the community’s wish for bicycle and pedestrian facilities on the new bridge. Now that the bridge is open, you can see upwards of two hundred people using the hiker/biker lane at any given time. The historic nature of Charleston led the SCDOT to find ways to construct a signature bridge through the design-build process. During public meetings, the community was able to select a bridge design—the diamond shaped towers—that fit their desire for a pleasing bridge. This process resulted in the construction of North America’s longest cable stay span over the Cooper River in Charleston Harbor.



The purpose of the project was to replace two existing functionally obsolete truss bridges crossing the Cooper River in Charleston Harbor.     
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