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Project Initiation


Note: The topic of Project Initiation appears in two Knowledge Books.

For a time management perspective, access the Project Time Management Knowledge Book.

To learn more about the project management process, access the Project Management Guidebook. 

Project Flowchart for this Article

1. Overview

Highway project initiation typically occurs after the project is identified and funding becomes available. This article walks readers through project initiation and reviews the following topics:

  • Project manager (PM) assignment
  • Initial funding authorization
  • Collection of existing data and how they are used to refine the project scope

2. Project Assignments 

KYTC’s Enacted Highway Plan lists projects and programs. These are assigned by the State Highway Engineer (SHE) or his designee to individual PMs and program managers based on project origin and funding type.  Historically, the SHE delegates the task of assigning capital improvement project managers to the District Project Development Branch Managers for projects within their districts. The PMs oversee project development and are responsible for getting projects to letting.

PMs play a key role in interpreting Enacted Highway Plan entries, which includes a description, funding levels, and a general timeframe for each project. Sometimes, the SHE Office assigns a PM who is located outside of the District where the project is being undertaken (e.g., another District PM, a Central Office PM, a Consultant PM). If project management responsibilities are delegated to other personnel, this should occur as early as possible. The PM enters this information into the PDP-Precon Database. See HD-202.2 for more information on the assignment of capital improvement projects.

On projects implemented with programmatic funding, program managers usually manage several projects with similar scopes. KYTC program managers may not oversee individual projects listed by Item Number in the Highway Plan. The Highway Plan describes programs that receive appropriated funds for specified transportation needs. Program managers, through their program’s planning and scoping processes, identify projects to fulfill the program’s focus and mission.

KYTC project and program managers reside in several different areas of the Cabinet and manage a variety of projects, some in-house and others through consultant contracts.  Below is a simplified list of the primary locations of KYTC’s project and program managers and the types of projects they typically manage.  It is not an all-inclusive list; there are certainly outliers when it comes to project management.

Primary locations of KYTC’s project, program managers, and types of projects they typically manage
KYTC PM Location Type of Projects Project Classification
Division of Planning/District Planners Corridor or other Planning Studies, Data Needs Analysis (DNA) Studies, SHIFT Usually Capital Improvements, but short-term solutions may fall into another classification
Division of Highway Design Pavement Rehabilitations (Program) Asset Management
District Project Development Staff New Construction, Reconstruction Capital Improvements
Division of Maintenance/District PD&P Staff Pavement Resurfacing and Preventative Maintenance (Program) Asset Management
Division of Maintenance/District PD&P Staff Re-striping of pavements, ditch cleaning, pothole patching, guardrail replacement, and minor bridge deck repairs (Program) Maintenance
SHE’s Office Bridge Replacements, Rehabilitations, and Preventative Maintenance, Major Projects Asset Management
Division of Traffic Operations, HSIP Safety Improvement Projects (Program) Safety Projects
Division of Construction Procurement/District Staff Alternative Delivery Projects (Design-Build, Progressive Design Build, CMGC, GEC) Capital Improvements
SHE’s Office/District Staff Major Projects Capital Improvements

Except for planning studies, the PM is responsible for project development from project initiation to letting. Once assigned, a PM should review, further develop, and refine the project objectives, scope of work, budget, and schedule to verify they have a clear understanding of what is expected.

Note:  On projects where consultants have responsibility for project management tasks, there is a KYTC PM assigned with decision-making authority.

3. Design Funding Authorization

3.1 Requests for Authorization

For projects listed in the Enacted Highway Plan, a PM must request funding authorization from the Division of Program Management. For information on capital project authorizations see HD-202.5. Highway System Performance Projects in the Enacted Highway Plan also must be individually authorized by the Division of Program Management. Only funds within the biennium listed in the Enacted Highway Plan are eligible for authorization. 

State funding and Federal-aid highway funding requires a signed TC10 form by the Secretary of Transportation and by the State Highway Engineer.  Federal-aid highway funding also requires a federal programming document (PR-1) signed by designated KYTC and FHWA staff before the federal funding can be made available in the accounting system. 

On Federal-aid design-bid-build projects, only planning or preliminary design funds may initially be authorized for projects that will require an environmental document of a Categorical Exclusion (CE) Level 3 or higher. Final design funds may be requested and authorized after the environmental document is approved. Authorization of Right-of-Way (ROW), Utility, and Construction funds also requires environmental document approval on federally funded projects.  To expedite the development of the project, some ROW and utility tasks may be performed in preliminary design, prior to the approval of the environmental document.  For more information, see the PMGB article Project Management and Preliminary Design.

Red Flag

From the initial request to approval, design funding authorization may take several months, especially at the beginning of a new biennium and new Highway Plan. The Central Office must conduct organizational planning to prioritize projects based on risk, funding, and the Cabinet’s strategic plan. When sending multiple Design Funding Requests, the PM should work with Central Office to prioritize projects and communicate needs and risks. If a project is time sensitive (e.g., a work activity on the critical path must begin otherwise on-time delivery of the project is endangered), the PM should inform the Division of Program Management that the Design Funding Authorization process needs to be expedited. Federal-aid projects require FHWA approval for funding requests, which adds review time.

Projects in a  MPO area must be included in the MPO’s Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) to be eligible for federal funds. Contact the Division of Planning’s MPO Team for questions about eligibility.

3.2 Programmatic Authorization

In general, shorter-duration project types are programmatically listed and funded in the ZVARIOUS section of the Enacted Highway Plan. Programs such as the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) or Pavement Management prioritize and implement projects based on their available funding.

Pavement preservation projects are the largest category of asset management projects awarded each year. These are funded through KYTC’s FD05 and CB06 programs, which are administered by the Division of Maintenance and the Department of Rural and Municipal Roads, respectively. The Division of Maintenance administers bridge repair, rehabilitation, and preventive maintenance projects through the FE02 maintenance program. Major rehabilitation and bridge replacement projects are administered through a variety of funding mechanisms and programs.

For information on the authorization and use of programmatic funds, contact the Division of Program Management and/or the Program Coordinator. 

4. Collecting Existing Project Data

The PM must collect as much existing data as soon as possible before beginning a project. They must also review the Enacted Highway Plan  for information and complete data collection before a project enters the design phase. HD-202.3 describes the data typically required prior to the design phase.

KYTC’s Highway Information System (HIS) is a key source for data on existing facilities.

The HIS database stores information on roadway systems throughout the state and includes data on location, roadway feature type (e.g., mainline, ramp), pavement, traffic, and bridges. PMs may need to request more specific project-related data during project development.

Red Flag

Data should be gathered as soon as possible to keep data collection off the critical path. PMs should not wait for Design Funding Authorization to begin this process. Alternative funding sources (e.g., planning study funds, overhead) may be used for data collection.

4.1 CHAF and SHIFT Data

Initial documentation for projects listed in the Enacted Highway Plan is likely held in the Continuous Highway Analysis Framework (CHAF) database, an application that lets users collect, track, and analyze identified transportation needs. The CHAF database provides the means to sponsor, score, and rank projects as part of the Strategic Highway Investment Formula for Tomorrow (SHIFT), the Cabinet’s data-driven, objective approach for comparing and prioritizing capital improvement projects.

CHAF data include county, route, milepoints, project status, project location, bridge details, cost estimates, project characteristics, initial purpose and need statement, and — for the SHIFT cycle — project sponsorship, scoring data (administered by the Division of Planning), and local scoring input. The SHIFT process uses network-level screening to estimate excess expected crashes (EECs) and vehicle hours of delay (VHD) across Kentucky’s highway network. This information contributes to the scaled objectives measured for five key attributes — safety, congestion, asset management, economic growth, and benefit/cost. CHAF and SHIFT data can be obtained from the Division of Planning or District planning staff.

4.2 Planning Study Results

PMs should request from the Division of Planning information from previous planning studies. Planning studies focus on feasibility and priority issues, typically the corridor scale. Intermediate planning studies address the conceptual and preliminary engineering aspects of a project.

Much of the data described in this article is gathered as part of and included in planning studies. Studies should also contain initial cost estimates, or similar documentation. Completed studies are available on the Division of Planning’s website.

The Data Needs Analysis (DNA) study is brief and small in scale. It is primarily used to: 1) gather basic existing data; 2) identify potential project development concerns; and 3) verify or refine definitions of the project purpose, need, and scope. DNAs provide basic planning-level information for smaller projects that do not require lengthy, detailed planning studies. DNAs are available on the Division of Planning’s website.

DNAs are usually developed after the project is included in the Highway Plan, but before the advertisement of the project for consultant services.

Red Flag

DNAs include scope statements, the project development schedule, and cost estimates for design, ROW, utilities, and construction. The PM should review the DNAs and use it to establish the project baseline. In completing a DNA, the PM and project team members develop a more complete understanding of a project’s purpose and scope. Once a DNA study is complete, the project scope should align with the schedule and budget. However, if the scope, schedule, and budget do not align, the PM should revisit the project definition with KYTC leadership to properly define a new scope and obtain input and buy-in from all affected stakeholders.

4.3 Record Plans

The PM should obtain copies of the record roadway plans in the area of the new project. KYTC maintains record plans of previous highway projects on the Project Archives GIS website.

Plan sets may also be maintained in the Highway District Office (HDO) and Central Office (CO). Contract plans of recent projects may be available on ProjectWise in the project folder.

Red Flag

The Project Archives GIS website includes access to As-Built and As-Awarded Plans. As-Awarded Plans may not contain changes that occurred during construction and may need field verification.

4.4 Traffic Data

The Division of Planning website includes historical traffic counts and current data. Vehicle classification counts are also available for most routes.  PMs should request traffic forecasts and special counts using the form on the Traffic Forecasting website when needed.

For more information on sources of crash data, levels of accessibility, and CDAT training videos, see the Data Driven Safety Analysis (DDSA) website.

4.6 Project Mapping

Project mapping can incorporate aerial survey data, ground data collected using traditional methods (e.g., surveying), remotely sensed data, LiDAR data, and data collected using other techniques. Existing mapping (e.g., terrain, topographic, hydrologic) may be available. For the most recently published map data, visit KyFromAbove. PMs can use data from this site for planning, preliminary engineering, and supplemental mapping.

After project authorization, a PM should assess available project mapping and determine if additional data or mapping is needed. Existing mapping may be sufficient, rendering additional data collection unnecessary for preliminary design. The PM often collects supplemental data (e.g., LiDAR) during later stages of project development. They can do so through KYTC’s Survey Coordinator, the District’s in-house survey crew or a consultant. Using existing mapping can help sustain project momentum and circumvents the seasonal limitations of aerial survey.

When additional data or mapping is needed for preliminary design activities, the PM may submit a request to the Survey Coordinator. The PM and Survey Coordinator first evaluate the project area and available information. Next, they select the type of data to collect and extent of coverage. PMs should request data for the designated project area and include some extra allowance as a buffer. The goal of collecting mapping data in buffer areas is to avoid needing to collect further data during later stages of project development.

PMs also need to review floodplain maps for local conditions. FEMA provides these maps through its online Flood Map Service Center.  Maps may also be obtained through the Kentucky Flood Hazard Portal.

Red Flag

PMs should ensure that collected mapping data have sufficient coverage to avoid subsequent data collection. It is less expensive and quicker to acquire extra data at the project’s outset than for aerial or field survey crews to make extra data collection trips.

Aerial surveying is only performed during certain times of the year. Aerial survey requests are typically made prior to the December – March period, which is the window of opportunity for conducting aerial surveys. When scheduling aerial mapping, it is important to consider season, sun angle, vegetation, and other factors that can impact the quality of data collected, and are critical considerations for scheduling aerial mapping. See the HD-202.6.6 for details.

4.7 Right of Way

PMs can obtain existing ROW limits using the Project Archives GIS website, visiting Property Valuation Administrator’s (PVA) offices or County Clerk offices, from DOs, and from other sources.  Property deed descriptions are housed at the local PVA office.  PVA mapping may be used at the planning level and not relied upon to establish Right of Way lines.

4.8 Preliminary Budget

The Highway Plan establishes the preliminary budget for individual system performance and improvement projects. This budget should be based on the initial project scope.

Requests for additional funds should be made through the Division of Program Management as early as possible. These requests should be dealt with in the same manner as described in Section 4. The Highway Plan also includes funding for programmatic needs and commitments that may be used for some types of projects but without specifying a schedule or budget.

4.9 Existing Geotechnical Information

The Geotechnical Branch’s online database houses results from completed KYTC geotechnical investigations. Additional geotechnical mapping and information (e.g., soil types found in the area, preliminary fill slope recommendations for estimating earthwork quantities) may also be obtained from the Geotechnical Branch in the Division of Structural Design.

4.10 Utilities

PMs can retrieve utility information from the Kentucky Water Resource Information System (WRIS) and other GIS websites. WRIS provides geospatial data and information on drinking water systems, wastewater treatment systems, project development, emergency response, regulations, and planning. Google Earth Streetview (or similar) and BUD One Call (Kentucky811) are valuable sources of information as well. If necessary, work with District utility staff to coordinate with local utility providers.

See HD-202.3.9 for more information on utility data.

4.11 Agency Coordination

If an earlier planning study involved agency coordination, this should be collected and reviewed.

4.12 Modal Considerations

Throughout the design process, PMs should obtain and examine studies and information on other transportation modes. Examples include:

  • Transit bus stops
  • Local master plans
  • Connections to nearby destinations
  • Inter-state modal routes (e.g., bicycle routes)
  • Existing modal facilities (see KYTC’s interactive map of Bike and Pedestrian Facilities)

The Complete Streets Planning Checklist can help PMs determine whether a project should include bicycle, pedestrian, or other Complete Streets facilities.

4.13 Asset Management – Pavement 

KYTC’s Pavement Management staff collect pavement surface data and visually survey pavements to determine recommended treatments. Interstate and parkway data are collected annually, while data collection on state primary and state secondary routes occurs every three years. This strategy helps KYTC prioritize preservation and preventive maintenance projects. Data collected by the Division of Maintenance include automated pavement distress, rutting, cross slope, international roughness index (IRI), faulting, curve and grade, GPS data, and roadway images. Pavement data are available through Photo Log information.

4.14 Asset Management – Structures

Bridges and large culverts are routinely inspected and given National Bridge Inventory (NBI) condition ratings. Ratings for structures can be viewed through the Bridge Data Miner. Bridge inspection reports can be requested from the Bridge Maintenance/ Preservation Branch in the Division of Maintenance or from District bridge engineers.

4.15 Environmental

The Environmental Overview map highlights environmental resources of significance, potential jurisdictional features, and other environmental areas of concern within Kentucky that should be considered during project development and maintenance work.  It includes potential sensitive water areas, deed restricted properties, managed areas, Indiana Bat Habitat (endangered species), and special use waters.  The PM should be aware of potential environmental red flags.

5. Associated Articles

Project Manager’s Guidebook – Knowledge Book (coming soon)

Project Management and Preliminary Design (coming soon)

Understanding the KYTC Budget and the Highway Plan (coming soon)

Project Identification (coming soon)

6. Reference Documentation & Links

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