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Bridges & Special Structures Design

Underbridge inspection units (UBIUs) that reach from above deck to below.
Department of Transportation

Bridges & Special Structures Design

3D Highway Design Model Cost Benefit Analysis

Project Number: SPR-1680

Contract Number: 2016-0606

Status: Complete

Start Date: 07/01/2017

End Date 02/28/2019


Since 2012, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) has progressively integrated 3D models into its project delivery processes as a reference information documents (RID) and initiated this research project to understand the viability of expanding the use of 3D models. The primary objectives of this research project were to research and evaluate construction costs to determine the return on investment (ROI), investigate and document contractor’s current practices of using RID 3D models, explore ways to streamline plan production by delivering contractual model elements, and conduct an analysis of potential and actual risk reductions associated with issuing 3D models. Researchers engaged with industry partners and MDOT construction staff to understand the current uses of RID 3D models, identify opportunities for improvements, and assess the perceived risk of elevating the 3D model to be contractual. Additionally, the researchers conducted a statistical analysis of historical data provided by MDOT for projects tracked between 2012 and 2016 to assess the effects of 3D models as RID on bids and change orders. The findings of the study were then used to make recommendations for improving processes including education, outreach, and training; multi-disciplinary collaboration; and a framework for implementing contractual 3D models for construction. In addition, quantifiable benefits and costs related to the use of 3D models were used to determine a 5-year ROI.



Research Manager Project Manager Performing Organization
 Staff photo of Michael Townley    WSP logo
 Michael Townley  John Wilkerson & Brian Hight WSP Inc