I wonder how much time in the last couple of decades I have spent as a consulting engineer collaborating with others to get things done. I also wonder what the typical person considers as “aggressive” when it comes to the effort of collaboration. It is not a new concept, that getting things done requires full-on persistence to keep the right people involved on the journey to the ultimate end. But what constitutes “aggressive”? Is it putting select stakeholders in a half-nelson to keep them engaged in the conversation until a project’s full conclusion? Not likely, though you may feel like it at that special moment in any project when it seems as if all of the hard work is beginning to unravel. No, it is better described as a vigorous attitude and actions that inspire all stakeholders to shrug off that feeling and press forward knowing that the end result is far more important than anything causing the unraveling.

One path to achieving this is looking for new and untried ways to pull together stakeholders that clearly benefits their communities. As an example, we were assisting one township in developing a road project concept that was going to require both the buy-in of the officials at the local school and action by the county road commission to re-classify the segment in the federal system in order to des- ignate future funding to the effort. So we have township, county, federal, and local school district players, which takes lot of coordina- tion. Especially when each entity may want different things out of the project.

As all of these pieces were coming together, the township separately completed a very involved effort of writing a plan for non-motor- ized transportation, including a great deal of community input and brainstorming. This path was considered high priority by the com- munity. So, let’s add a shared use path concept and extra public meetings for good measure. That being the case, let’s apply with the state DOT for funding specifically designated to that cause and coordinate with the area’s metropolitan planning organization for an additional public notification process and approval of the proposed grant funding. Now it sounds like we were all ready to go forward with the project. But wait, there’s more!

Coincidentally, the neighboring city hired us to complete a rehabilitation of...wait for it...the adjoining segment of the same road! Ok, how do we coordinate these two separate construction projects in the same season on adjoining segments of the same busy road in such a way as to eliminate the possibility that road closures and detours would not conflict? Well, why not make them all one con- struction contract? Then the coordination between segments is natural.

Those who have attempted this may have a pretty robust list of points suggesting why not, but this is where things can really happen. The school, township, county, state, and city representatives all understood that this was going to take more effort on their part, but they saw the great benefits to their community and dove at the suggestion without hesitation or objections. Who can take credit for pulling all of this together? Really, there is no one that I can credit individually. It was achieved by all parties refusing to accept that there is not a better way to make this all happen together, an example of aggressive collaboration. And without the aggressive collabo- ration of all parties involved, this project would have never even gotten off the ground.


Roger Marks, PE, is a project manager and professional engineer at C2AE.