Iowa’s e-Construction program is a regional transportation award winner

MAASTO-01The Iowa Department of Transportation is bringing home some hardware from the Mid America Association of State Transportation Officials meeting in Overland Park, Kan.

The Iowa DOT’s e-Construction program (Managing Highway Construction Projects in a Paperless Environment), was the winner in the MAASTO’s annual competition for the best use of innovation category.

Iowa - documents_replacedThe Iowa DOT developed its e-Construction process to complete the full implementation of electronic processes beginning with design and ending in the work zone. The process goal is to eliminate as much of paper as we can without compromising the project needs or record keeping. 

A secondary reason to develop an e-Construction system is to increase the transparency in the process. Processing all documentation electronically allows for greater consistency, more access, and fewer errors to the information.

How we got where we are

The e-Construction process is rooted in nearly 20 years of transformational changes at the agency that began with the switch to electronically designed projects. The project timeline looks like this:

  • 2000 - The Iowa DOT began testing electronic lettings with industry partners.
  • April 2001 - We had our first electronic production letting.
  • 2006 - We moved to giving electronic models of the projects to our contractors, and
  • 2009 - We began our current efforts in 3-D design.
  • April 2012 - The Iowa DOT began requiring Internet bidding for all proposals that require eligible bidders to submit a Contractors Financial-Experience-Equipment Statement. With this change, major work types (e.g., grading, paving, and structures proposals) must be bid via the Internet.
  • October 2012 - We stopped printing plans for our contractors. Today, all bidding is accomplished by electronic means.

ATA award pull quote

Electronic process used by the Iowa DOT:

  • Project plans – electronic from the Office of Design
  • Contract/Proposal – electronic from the Office of Contracts
  • Standard Specifications, Construction Manual, Materials IMs, and Standard Road Plans Manual – available from the Iowa DOT’s Electronic Record Library at
  • Materials/Paperwork – Doc Express™
  • Contractor pay – FieldManager/FieldBook
  • As-built – currently using  redline PDFs; possible future updates to include geographic information systems process

The e-Construction process was the final piece in our electronic puzzle. In the 1990s, testing and pilot projects began but complications caused the process to stall until 2010, when the Iowa DOT began working with Doc Express. e-Construction became a reality in 2014, finishing the entire cycle electronically from design to work zone.

To get an idea of the benefits of e-Construction, for the 2014 construction season (as of July 23, 2014), the Iowa DOT had let 258 contracts that included more than 35,000 documents. The largest contract had nearly 1,500 documents. Buy-in to our electronic document management system has been widespread with 780 users from 270 organizations. Today, all contracts are required to use the electronic document management system, saving thousands of dollars by not printing, mailing, and handling paper documents.

How e-Construction looks in the field

Iowa - ipad cert checkThe main goals of going paperless in our construction process was to increase the efficiency of our inspectors by allowing them to reduce or eliminate bottlenecks in their workflow, eventually ending in a savings to the taxpayer and increasing transparency in documentation by having documents available electronically to all project partners instantaneously.    

In the past, each of our 157 full-time and 150 cross-trained inspectors  was required to obtain and process a variety of paperwork from each project. Since these inspectors work mainly out of a pickup truck as an office, there was ample opportunity for documents to be lost or damaged. Storage and retrieval of documents could prove problematic, as well. The inspector spent a significant amount of time processing paper, reducing the time on the actual jobsite. 

Laptop in truck1The new workspace of an inspector consists of the same pickup truck and an iPad. Documents handled electronically leave a trail and are much more easily searched, retrieved, reviewed, and approved. Signatures can be obtained remotely, allowing for faster and more accurate payments to contractors. Inspectors can spend the majority of their time on the jobsite, instead of processing paper. The electronic documents are also easily integrated into other core systems, such as accounting and asset management, providing further time savings and cost benefits to the agency and Iowa taxpayers.

Inspection staff is now able to redirect the time they used to take processing paperwork to provide additional inspection and project oversight.

The process allows for quicker turnaround on document signatures since electronic signatures can be obtained in the field. It also allows for quicker retrieval of documents and will enhance our working relationships with our contracting partners. By allowing the inspectors to focus on the task of inspecting and assisting our contractors, we anticipate better work products and more timely completion of work. 


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