August 25, 2021 | From City of New Orleans

City Announces Changes Aimed at Improving Transparency and Accountability in its Infrastructure Program

NEW ORLEANS — Today, the City of New Orleans, Department of Public Works (DPW) announced procedural changes that will be implemented over the next several months to better hold contractors accountable for ensuring that projects are completed more rapidly, and for lessening the impact construction projects have on residents and their homes throughout the city. These changes follow a letter that was distributed last month in which Mayor LaToya Cantrell outlined expectations of contractors during City infrastructure projects.


DPW has completed 98 roadwork projects with an estimated value of $271 million since May 2018. Today, 71 projects are under construction with an estimated value of $670 million. Additionally, within the next two years construction is scheduled to begin on more than $1 billion in additional joint infrastructure work throughout the city.


“Since day one of my administration, we have been focused on spending the federal funds that were dedicated to making our roads safer,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “And now, we have nearly $700 million worth of infrastructure work happening simultaneously across the city. The impact of this work is unprecedented, and impacts our city’s safety, livability, and economic growth. As this work continues, we remain focused on improving our operations and applying lessons we’ve learned along the way to ensure progress for years to come.”


Procedural changes include initiating a "phased in" task-order contract approach, ensuring, for example, that the first ten blocks of work gets completed in a neighborhood prior to the contractor initiating work on the next ten blocks; guaranteeing that two-week look ahead schedules are submitted directly to residents to provide a better sense of where and when work will happen; publicly providing "report cards" on City roadwork contractors; and, in some cases, cancelling, redesigning, and rebidding certain projects. To fully ensure that these new operational changes have the time to fully become implemented, procurement of all new DPW/SWB joint infrastructure projects will be paused for the next 90 days.


Sequence of Construction Task-Order Based Contracting

Moving to task order-based contracts will effectively limit the number of blocks under construction at one time. Under this model, construction contractors may be awarded a contract that includes 100 blocks; however, they will be issued a task order within that contract directing them to commence work on a smaller number of blocks (i.e. 10 blocks), within a specific timeframe (i.e. three months). If the task order is not substantially completed within the timeframe given, no further task orders will be issued until work is substantially complete on the current task order. Failure to perform task orders in a timely manner can result in contract termination and rebidding of the work.


Two-Week Look Ahead Schedules

Contractors are required to submit a two-week look ahead schedule 48 hours ahead of the bi-weekly progress meeting for each project, so that the project timeline is reviewed during the progress meeting. This ensures rapid work and a thoughtful approach to the work’s impact on neighboring residents. Any work that is unauthorized (i.e., not included on the approved two week look ahead schedule) will result in non-payment or liquidated damages of $1,000 per day. Additionally, failure to submit the two-week look ahead on time will also result in non-payment.


Performance Reviews and Reporting

Performance reviews of contractors will be completed on a monthly basis as part of the invoicing process. Contractors will be rated (A, B, C, D or F) on their performance in terms of site cleanliness, ability to provide and meet schedules, capacity to address in the field in accordance with the Department of Public Works General Specifications, etc. Ratings will have an impact on future contract awards. In an effort to be fully transparent about this process, contractor ratings will be made public on within the next 60 days.  


Cancelling, Redesigning & Rebidding

In some cases, descoping, reevaluating the scope and then adding that work to a future project may be the only course of action. The East Riverside, Garden District, Irish Channel, St. Thomas Group A project, for example, which began in January 2021, has experienced a myriad of issues related to scheduling, scoping and neighborhood impact. As a result, the project is being cancelled. The current contractor is only completing work on the blocks where work had already begun, and the remainder of work will be redesigned and readvertised in a future project. All current construction on the jobsite will be complete by Nov. 30, 2021, weather permitting.


“On May 7, 2018, the first day of the Cantrell administration, the City was more than two years behind in implementing the $2 billion federally-funded joint infrastructure program. Less than $10M in total work was underway, compared to nearly $700M now, and a very real threat existed that if the City didn’t show progress in constructing this work, the City would lose these funds that are so critical to our safety, our environment, and our economy. And so, we pushed hard and continue to move projects into construction,” said Deputy Chief Administrator Officer for Infrastructure Ramsey Green. “Overall, this is an incredibly successful program and I value the hard-working people in DPW and SWB who wake up every morning focused on improving the built environment of their city. These operational changes are designed to augment the program and put it on an even more efficient path to show success in the years to come.”


“As we moved forward with this work, we learned, for example, that as we transitioned from constructing projects in the less historic neighborhoods closer to the lake to the more urban, historic neighborhoods in the central part of the city, we found dramatically degraded infrastructure below the streets. We now take the time to complete this work with the goal of “digging once” rather than regularly digging up newly constructed streets to repair parallel-subsurface infrastructure. This focus has yielded the closest coordination in recent history between SWB and DPW,” said Acting Director of Public Works Josh Hartley. “Businesses—large, small, minority/disabled/veteran-owned—have grown significantly as a result of this work. We are showing the necessary progress to keep federal funds flowing while managing projects ethically, efficiently, and transparently.”


Last week, the Board of Liquidation authorized the sale of more than $300 million in General Obligation Bonds, the largest one-time, new money tax-exempt bond sale in the City’s history. More than half of the $300 million will be used for stormwater management, and street and subsurface infrastructure improvements that are not funded by the federal government. The above-mentioned procedural changes and overall lessons learned, will be applied to this future bond-funded work as well as the federally-funded work now underway.

# # #