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Assembling a Project Development Team

Assembling a Project Development Team Project Classification
Capital Improvement Projects Safety Projects Asset Management Projects Maintenance Projects
1. The Project Development Team x x x x
2. Project Development Team Members x x x x
    2.1 Core Team Members
x x x
    2.2 Subject Matter Experts
x x x
    2.3 External Team Members
x x x
3.Project Development Team Member Selection x x x x
    3.1 Project Needs
x x x x
    3.2 Project Scope Breakdown
x x x x
    3.3 Project Development Team Member Identification
x x x x
    3.4 Resource Determination
x x x x
4. Project Development Team Checklist x x x x
5. Associated Articles x x x x
6. Reference Documentation x x x x
x = Information from the topic may be applicable for the project classification.


The full definitions for terms included in this article (listed below) can be found in the HKP Glossary.


  • Project Manager 
  • Project Development Team
  • Project Development Process 
  • Subject Matter Expert
  • District Project Development Manager 
  • Location Engineer 
  • Constructability Reviewer

1. The Project Development Team 

The Project Manager (PM) assembles a Project Development Team (PDT) for each project they are assigned. The PDT is a multidisciplinary team that collaboratively supports the KYTC PM throughout the project development process. The PDT’s primary functions include:

  • Provide support to the KYTC PM
  • Attend and participate in project team meetings
  • Provide professional opinions about different subject-matter areas
  • Help resolve issues that arise
  • Prepare documentation and work products needed for the project
  • Complete work tasks
  • Provide feedback to the KYTC PM by reviewing plans, documentation, and deliverables
  • Help perform oversight during project development

The PDT is established during project scoping when the project is assigned and maintained through the construction letting. Because every project is unique, PDT’s should be constructed based on specific project needs. Project success depends heavily on the effectiveness of the team delivering it.

Although the PDT is most closely associated with capital improvement projects, it can be adapted to fit the needs of safety projects, asset management projects, and maintenance projects. The configuration and size of the team will be different between the four project types.

2. Project Development Team Members 

The PDT consists of core team members, subject-matter experts (SMEs), and external members (Figure 1). Exact team composition will depend on project specifics. The PDT can also include consultants.

Although the PDT stays active throughout the life of the project, its members and composition can change over time as the project moves through different phases. For example, on an urban corridor project once the project moves out of final design into right-of-way (ROW) acquisition, traffic modeling subject-matter experts (SMEs) may no longer be needed, but ROW specialists (appraisal, acquisition, relocation, property management) could be added to the team.

It is of utmost importance for the Project Manager to recognize that the Project Development Team works for them to deliver the project.

Figure 1: Project Development Team Components 

2.1.  Core Team Members

Core members are usually part of the PDT throughout project development. They include:

  • District Project Development Branch Manager (PDM)
  • Location Engineer
  • Representatives from other divisions and branches within the District
    • Planning
    • ROW
    • Utilities
    • District Environmental Coordinator
    • Project Delivery and Preservation Section Engineer
    • Engineering Support
  • The designer(s), whether KYTC staff or a consultant.

2.2.  Subject-Matter Experts

SMEs provide knowledge and expertise in specific subjects or technical areas. They can be KYTC staff or consultants. Some SMEs are involved in the approval of project deliverables or documents. SMEs typically are not part of the PDT for the entire project lifecycle. Rather, they join the team when their expertise and guidance are needed. While SMEs are part of the team delivering the project, some do not attend project team meetings. Examples are archeologists and cultural historians who coordinate with the Kentucky Heritage Council (the State Highway Preservation Office (SHPO)) and oversee archeological investigations (if required). They are an essential part of the PDT, but typically would not participate in project team meetings.

Central Office SMEs can be contacted through the District representative section or Location Engineer. Table 1 outlines the responsibilities and capabilities of divisions, branches, and SMEs. When PMs assemble PDTs, Table 1 can serve as a useful reference point and help them determine who they should contact for assistance.

Table 1: Subject-Matter Experts by Division
Division of Construction
Branch/SME Responsibilities, Capabilities, Expertise
Construction District Liaison
  • Operational representative assigned to a specific geographic area. Works with District Section Engineers.
Alternative Delivery Program Manager
  • Helps when alternative project delivery is used (design-build, General Engineering Consultant (GEC), Construction Manager/General Contractor (CM/GC)).
Division of Construction Procurement
Branch/SME Responsibilities, Capabilities, Expertise
Plans, Specifications, and Estimates (PS&E) Branch
  • Before letting, assembles bid documents.
  • Can help if unique bidding requirements are needed. Facilitates the answering of contractor questions during bidding.
Division of Environmental Analysis
Branch/SME Responsibilities, Capabilities, Expertise
Project Management Branch (Environmental Project Managers)
  • Responsible for overall management of the environmental process, including coordinating information between Districts, SMEs, and consultants.
  • Assists with noise, underground storage tanks (UST), and hazardous materials (Hazmat).
  • Manages the statewide Environmental Studies Services Contract.
Ecology and Permitting Branch (Biologist, Ecologist)
  • Coordinates with US Fish and Wildlife and Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.
  • Coordinates with US Army Corps of Engineers Permitting and Kentucky Division of Water (on Water Quality Certifications).
  • Assists with Kentucky Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (KPDES) Construction Stormwater Permits.
  • Manages the statewide Biology and Permitting Services Contract.
Cultural Resources Branch (Archeologist, Cultural Historians)
  • Coordinates with the Kentucky Heritage Council (SHPO).
  • Manages the statewide Environmental Cultural Historic and Archeological Studies Services Contract.
Division of Highway Design
Branch/SME Responsibilities, Capabilities, Expertise
Pavement Branch
  • Assists with pavement design technical support and approval. See Highway Design Manual (HD-1001) for levels of approval.
Technical Support Branch
  • Offers technical support for highway design software (Bentley products) and equipment.
Drainage Branch
  • Reviews and approves drainage folder and provides drainage-related support.
  • Each District is assigned a Drainage Branch SME representative.
Quality Assurance Branch
  • Performs constructability reviews (can assign a Constructability Reviewer) and value engineering studies, if applicable.
Roadway Design Branch
  • Location Engineer serves as a liaison between the District and Central Office and coordinates with Central Office and outside agencies (e.g., FHWA).
Plan Processing Branch
  • Reviews biddability and buildability of plans from check print submittal to contract plans.
Division of Maintenance
Branch/SME Responsibilities, Capabilities, Expertise
District Permits Engineer
  • Typically assists with encroachment permits if an ongoing permit is in process.
  • Assists with roadside-related elements if landscaping or rest areas are involved.
  • Assists with bridge preservation if an existing structure will be rehabilitated.
  • Oversees master agreement contracts that could be used to accomplish project goals (e.g., Guardrail Components, In-Place Asphalt, In-Place Concrete, Slide Repair).
Division of Planning
Branch/SME Responsibilities, Capabilities, Expertise
District Planning Supervisor
  • Will help in requesting traffic counts, including intersection turning movement counts.
  • Will help in requesting a traffic forecast.
  • Coordinate with Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO) and Area Development Districts (ADD).
  • If the project disrupts a permanent traffic count station will provide plans and estimate for replacement.
Division of Right of Way and Utilities
Branch/SME Responsibilities, Capabilities, Expertise
  • Establishes a fair value for the properties acquired as part of a project. Typically, consultants serve as appraisers.
Acquisition Agent
  • Responsible for purchasing properties. Can be District staff or a consultant.
Review Appraiser
  • Reviews each appraisal on a project to judge format and acceptability. Typically review appraisers come from other Districts.
Relocation Agent
  • Provides relocation assistance and delivers relocation checks. Can be District staff or a consultant.
Utility Agent
  • Helps review utility relocation plans and estimates as well as writing agreements. Can be District staff or a consultant.
Statewide Railroad Coordinator
  • Assists on projects with railroad involvement.
Division of Structural Design
Branch/SME Responsibilities, Capabilities, Expertise
Geotechnical Services
  • Develops geotechnical reports in-house and reviews geotechnical reports prepared by consultants.
Structural Design
  • Designs structures (bridges, box culverts, retaining walls, miscellaneous structures) and reviews/approves structure plans developed by consultants.
Division of Traffic Operations
Branch/SME Responsibilities, Capabilities, Expertise
Traffic Engineering
  • Assists with traffic signals, beacons, lighting, and panel signs.
Systems Operations Branch
  • Assists on projects where coordinated signals are present.
Traffic Design Services Branch
  • Designs and reviews electrical plans and the statewide Design of Electrical Devices Contract.
Traffic Safety Branch
  • Assists on HSIP projects and provides safety guidance for all project types.
Public Information Officers
Branch/SME Responsibilities, Capabilities, Expertise
District Public Information Officer
  • Provides information to the public on projects and Cabinet activities. In some cases a consultant can be used to fulfill PIO responsibilities.

2.3.  External Team Members

Some PDTs need to have members from outside of KYTC or the consultant(s) working on the project. Examples include representatives from:

  • Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)
  • Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO)
  • Area Development Districts (ADD)
  • Local Public Agencies (LPA)
  • Other stakeholders as needed

On federally funded projects, decisions about including a FHWA representative on the PDT are contingent on the level of risk (see Risk-Based Project side note), whether the project modifies access to the Interstate System, and the type of environmental document. The PM should coordinate with the Location Engineer to determine if FHWA needs to be represented on the PDT.

Red Flag

If the PDT will include external members from outside KYTC or the consultant(s) working on the project, clearly define their roles and responsibilities.

 Side Note

FHWA identifies projects classified as Risk-Based Projects as carrying a project risk that may benefit from its oversight. Oversight can occur at any stage in the project development process. Throughout the year, FHWA assesses Federal-aid program projects and compiles a list of projects that have this designation. The PM should coordinate with the Location Engineer to determine if a project has this designation.

 Side Note

Changes in access to the Interstate System must follow the current FHWA Policy on Access to the Interstate System.They also require an Interchange Justification Study (IJS) if new access is proposed or an Interchange Modification Report (IMR) if existing access is being altered. IJS/IMR guidance can be found in section HD-203.3.10 of the Highway Design Manual. The PM should also coordinate with the Location Engineer to determine if an IJS or IMR is needed. If required, the PM should (a) factor into the budget the cost to develop this study/report and (b) factor into the schedule the time needed to develop the study/report and receive FHWA’s approval.

3. Project Development Team Member Selection  

PDT composition depends on the project needs and resources required to execute the project. This means the PM must find the right people with the needed skill sets who are available to deliver the project. To identify PDT members, PMs can follow the four-step process described below.

Step 1: Identify project needs.

Step 2: Break down project scope into smaller units and determine deliverables, milestones, and approvals needed.

Step 3: Identify project development team members (core team, SMEs, external) needed based on Steps 1 and 2. Specify who is responsible for approving different parts of the project.

Step 4: Determine whether team members identified in Step 3 are to be KYTC staff (District and/or Central Office) or consultants. This is based on availability and the expertise needed.

3.1  Step 1 — Project Needs

The PM must understand the entire project’s needs and build their team accordingly. Below are factors that should influence the selection of PDT members.

  • Project schedule and milestones
  • Project budget and funding source
  • Project complexity
  • Identified performance issues
  • Difficulty obtaining right of way
  • Environmental impacts and mitigation
  • Utility relocations, including railroad involvement
  • High profile project (potentially politically sensitive or controversial)

3.2  Step 2 — Project Scope Breakdown

Once PMs understand project needs, they develop and break down the project scope. Process flow maps are valuable tools for helping PMs assemble PDTs. These maps break down the project scope and deliverables into smaller pieces, illustrate how they fit into the project development process, and show relationships between them. Project milestones, including those needing federal approval, can also be shown. The PM can use the process flow map to list PDT members needed to deliver each piece of the scope and achieve milestone approvals. Figure 2 is an example process flow map for a KYTC project.

Figure 2: Example of KYTC Project Development Process Flow Map

Example process flow maps for typical KYTC capital improvement project types can be found on the Kentucky Transportation Center’s website: Typical KYTC Project Process Flow Maps.

3.3  Step 3 — Project Development Team Member Identification

Once the PM has a good knowledge of the project needs, deliverables, milestones, and approvals, they can begin listing PDT member positions. During this process, the PM must communicate with different user divisions and SMEs to determine if their expertise will be required. Staff (e.g., Location Engineer, District Environmental Coordinator) can help facilitate these discussions.

3.4  Step 4 — Resource Determination

With PDT members identified, PMs can identify the resources needed for specific activities. PMs have several options for accomplishing this work, including:

  • Use of in-house KYTC staff (from within the District, another District, or Central Office)
  • Statewide consultant service contracts
  • Consultant services obtained through the Division of Professional Services

When deciding on which resources to use, PMs need to consider staff availability (i.e., do they have the bandwidth to take on work when needed), project schedule, and level of expertise needed for a particular task or work unit. For more information on using consultants, refer to the PMGB articles Utilizing Statewide Contracts and Selecting a Consultant.

Red Flag

Because many projects take several years to progress through the project development process, staff availability and commitments can change over time. It is important for the PM to keep communication open with PDT members, even if their services are not needed until some point in the future, since their inability to execute work can put pressure on the project schedule and impact the project budget (e.g., if the budget did not account for retaining a consultant to accomplish the work).

4. Project Development Team Checklist  

Though not required, PMs can use the Project Development Team Checklist when they assemble PDTs. The checklist breaks the PDT down into its three components (core team, SMEs, and external members), lists typical PDT members for a capital improvement project, and provides space for additional team members. PMs can also use it to identify what resources are needed, including District Office staff, Central Office staff, or consultants.

5. Associated Articles 

6. Reference Documentation

PM Bootcamp: Building the Right Team and Managing Consultants Presentation

WSDOT Project Management Guide, Assemble the Team: https://wsdot.wa.gov/engineering-standards/project-management-training/project-management/project-management-guide

WSDOT Initiate and Align Worksheet: https://wsdot.wa.gov/sites/default/files/2021-10/ProjectManagement-InitiateAlignWorksheet.docx

Highway Knowledge Portal, Division of Construction

Highway Knowledge Portal, Division of Construction Procurement

Highway Knowledge Portal, Division of Environmental Analysis

Highway Knowledge Portal, Division of Highway Design

Highway Knowledge Portal, Division of Maintenance

Highway Knowledge Portal, Division of Right-of-Way and Utilities

Highway Knowledge Portal, Division of Structural Design

Highway Knowledge Portal, Geotechnical Investigations – Where to Begin and How to Proceed

Highway Knowledge Portal, Division of Traffic Operations

Highway Knowledge Portal, Build Your Team

KYTC Highway Design Manual Guidance Manual, HD 202.4

“Is My Project on Schedule?” Critical Path Project Templates

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