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Streamlining delivery of a $2.6bn infrastructure modernisation project for the MTA Long Island Rail Road

Long Island Rail Road expansion

Long Island rail road
New York, United States of America
Rail, Transport
Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA)

The multi-billion-dollar expansion and upgrade of Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) is a strategic component of a plan to transform New York’s regional transportation infrastructure. Spanning 120 miles from Montauk, Long Island to Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan and serving an estimated 87 million customers each year, the LIRR is the busiest commuter railroad in North America, and one of the region’s most critical transportation conduits.

Increasing rail capacity by 50% with a third line

Launched in early 2018, the LIRR Expansion Project focused on modernising the rail road’s central artery — a 10-mile segment of the Main Line extending from Floral Park to Hicksville that is responsible for carrying 41% of LIRR’s daily ridership. The $2.6 billion project provided a third track along this heavily trafficked segment, increasing its capacity by roughly 50% in anticipation of future growth, as well as alleviating congestion during peak periods, improving service, and enhancing safety and comfort. The project also involved reconstruction of five stations, seven bridge replacements, six new pedestrian bridges, three bridge expansions to accommodate the new third track, the elimination of eight dangerous at-grade crossings, and the upgrade of all rail infrastructure and systems.

To ensure the rapid delivery of this critical regional infrastructure project, Metropolitan Transportation Authority Construction & Development (MTA C&D) selected a design build delivery model—a first for the agency. An Arup-led joint venture with Jacobs Civil Consultants Engineering (AJJV) served as the MTA C&D’s Project Management Consultant, providing comprehensive project management oversight of the design-builder, 3rd Track Constructors (3TC). In this role, AJJV led a project management consultant team comprised of 20+ companies responsible for commercial, risk, public outreach, rail operations and digital information management. We were also responsible for compliance oversight of design, construction, quality, safety and security. AJJV and their subcontractors formed an integrated Project Management Team (PMT) with MTA C&D, LIRR, and New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) staff collocated at a project office in Westbury, Long Island for the duration of the project. 

The LIRR Expansion Project serves as a prototype for future MTA C&D projects delivered on highly condensed schedules using alternative delivery methods. To aid the agency in establishing best practices, AJJV introduced a range of customized digital tools and workflows designed to improve transparency, streamline information sharing, measure performance, and enhance overall coordination.

All critical milestones were delivered on time and on budget — a rarity on a project of this scale and complexity.

Promoting efficiency in project management

Located in a dense urban environment and involving a wide array of public and private stakeholders, diverse technical and compliance requirements and strict deadline and budget benchmarks, the LIRR Expansion Project is a complex and challenging undertaking. AJJV understood from the outset that effective management of a design build project of this magnitude would hinge on clearly delineating project goals and responsibilities and putting systems in place to support close coordination, clear communication, ongoing monitoring, and accountability. 

A comprehensive Project Management Plan 

As a critically important public works project, there is much riding on the LIRR Expansion Project’s success. It is also destined to set precedent, as MTA C&D’s first design build project. To help facilitate a successful delivery and provide a template for future projects, the team worked with MTA C&D and LIRR to develop a comprehensive project management plan (PMP). The PMP serves as a vehicle to help key decision makers and task managers think through how to deliver the project on-time and within-budget; formalize their vision and make it transparent to others; and provide a project management roadmap with clearly assigned goals and responsibilities. The plan is being updated as work progresses to support ongoing improvements and accountability. 

The digital dashboard

The AJJV team’s second step was to develop a digital toolbox and create an information and document hub updated in real time, enhance communication and coordination, streamline design and construction compliance and support safety and accountability. 

The team is utilizing a variety of applications and technologies, such as the Fulcrum app, Panono 360 cameras, time lapse videos, and drones, to track and record project information on everything from technical compliance to scheduling, site conditions, construction activity and security. A curated collection of this data is then made available to all team members via the Digital Dashboard, a custom application designed and built by AJJV. Accessible to all team members, the Digital Dashboard cuts through myriad data pulled from a variety of sources and stakeholders and enables team members to quickly understand overall project condition, construction status, schedule information, and team performance.  

All milestones have been delivered on time and within budget. The AJJV’s project management approach has been widely lauded by the client, according to Arup Project Director Peter Guest. “MTA C&D regularly mentions the LIRR Expansion Project as a model of how to manage design-build projects within the agency,” said Guest. “The project management plan and associated implementation plans the PMT prepared, are being used as a model for other programs. The Digital Dashboards and other mechanisms the PMT implemented to track our performance and the contractor's performance are being adapted for use on other MTA projects.”
The LIRR Expansion Project opened entirely in October 2022.

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