• Express Designs

    ​NCDOT process supported by Preconstruction Units and Local Planning Organizations (LPOs) that contributes to more robust and reliable Strategic Prioritization and STIP Programming.

    What are Express Designs?

    Express Designs are quick turn-around conceptual designs for needed projects requested by Local Planning Organizations and NCDOT Division Offices.  They are ideally completed prior to Strategic Prioritization project scoring for greater accuracy in right of way, utility relocation, and construction cost estimates.  Express Designs not only enhance the quality of the STIP, but also enhance project collaboration and project scheduling.

    What are Express Designs NOT?

    Express Designs are not a replacement for the formal project development process for STIP-programmed projects, which includes preliminary engineering, project level design, traffic analysis, NEPA analysis, and stakeholder involvement.   Express Designs are not meant to be a commitment to a project design.  They investigate feasibility of different options and are considered a “reasonable starting point" for early project scoping.  Express Designs are a part of the NCDOT Project Scoping Process that is managed by the Feasibility Studies Unit. 

    NCDOT Project Scoping Process

    The Project Scoping Process is a process evolved from the traditional feasibility studies of the past to fit within the Department's Project Development Network (PDN), primarily supporting Stage 1 (project initiation). The project scoping process can sometimes begin coordination on the early efforts of Stage 2 (alignment defined), for example establishing the project Purpose and Need and early permitting agency coordination.  The project scoping process produces two deliverables, the Express Design Evaluation and the Project Scoping Report.  Guidance for the Project Scoping Process can be found linked under “Resources" to the right.

    Important components and tasks involved with the Project Scoping Process include:

    • Data collection and stakeholder identification
    • Identification of study area and Atlas environmental features mapping
    • Preliminary coordination with key stakeholders
    • Express design concept development and traffic evaluation (EDTE)
    • Coordination to select an alternative for Prioritization.
    • Cost estimates for right of way acquisition, utility relocation and construction
    • Project scoping report for STIP-programmed projects, including pre-NEPA coordination, completion of project initiation form, and other scoping related tasks, as appropriate.

    As the Project Scoping Process grows and evolves at NCDOT, elements of Planning and Environment Linkages (PEL) can be harvested to help meet NEPA analysis time constraints for programmed projects.

    Express Design Traffic Evaluation (EDTE)

    A newer component of the Project Scoping Process is the Express Design Traffic Evaluation (EDTE).  Beginning as a pilot program in 2022, a diverse NCDOT workgroup has guided the effort to develop EDTE procedures, communication protocols, technical tools, and deliverables.  The NCDOT workgroup oversees a program manager who oversees a large team of traffic engineering consultants who work continuously on a compressed schedule to develop traffic studies. The compressed schedules are utilized to accommodate deadlines driven by Strategic Project Prioritization and production of a draft STIP. EDTEs are for PDN Stage 1 use only. Projects that have progressed beyond Stage 1 of the PDN should have project-level traffic forecast and capacity analysis performed.

    There are two processes being used:

    • The first is the EDTE process for use with projects that have had a previously developed design that is being evaluated to determine if it meets the goals of the project.  This has been an effort to “catch-up" on EDTEs for projects that have already progressed to the NCDOT's formal Project Development Process.
    • The second is the EDTE process for a project with no current design, where the Express Design and traffic analysis are prepared in a collaborative manner, with each aspect informing the other.  The EDTE Process also includes the development of the SPOT Travel Time Savings (TTS) for use with projects that are intersections, interchanges or reduced conflict intersection (RCI) corridors.  This is the process that will become prevalent soon and will enhance the readiness for projects to be selected for STIP programming.

    What is the purpose of the EDTE?

    • To evaluate whether the proposed design will operate at a level consistent with the project goals.
    • To reduce the likelihood of cost escalation during project development due to expansion of project scope. Produces greater certainty in project costs during Prioritization and Programming.​​​
    • ​To Screen or eliminate design alternatives during the Express Design phase, creating cost and time savings during Stage 2. Identifies projects that are over or under designed early in the process.
    • The EDTE adds valuable collaboration to pre-STIP programming activities, incorporating many pre-construction units at NCDOT, including Feasibility Studies, Corridor Development, Traffic Management, Congestion Management, Transportation Planning Technical Unit, Roadway Design, Project Management, NCDOT Highway Divisions 1-14, as well as many of the Local Planning Organizations across the state.
    • As the pilot study shows, EDTEs can really make a positive difference in STIP programming.  Of the 135 initial projects,
      • 6% were over-designed
      • 46% were adequately designed
      • And 48% were under-designed
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