Each year the Public Works Department takes great care and effort to coordinate with all utility companies, private contractors, and other agencies in order to develop a resurfacing and reconstruction program that does not conflict with the various major programs each agency plans to perform.
About Roadway and Sidewalk Construction
Public Works issues almost 8,000 construction permits each year. Utilities, private contractors, and other agencies perform construction on roadways and sidewalks for the following reasons:
Age of the infrastructure and geographical region with its unforgiving winters lead to many repairs in the roadways.
Upgrading or replacing troubled infrastructure The City encourages full replacement work; however it does understand financial constraints may limit the amount of replacement work each year.
Boston is densely populated; growth and expansion lead to new development and new technological upgrades for homes and businesses. These types of “utility service” streets cuts indicate that Boston is thriving city.
Coordinating City Resurfacing and Reconstruction with Non-City Construction
Coordination used to take place through emails and spreadsheets. Human error, however, was a concern. In response the PWD developed the City of Boston Utility Coordination Software (COBUCS) as a centralized database coordination tool.
COBUCS is essentially a reservation system. All entities, including the City, must reserve their future work in the COBUCS program. COBUCS can be accessed directly from their home or office computer.
Absolutely no permits are issued in the City of Boston without the project first being submitted through the COBUCS program for review. Likewise, the Construction Management Division submits all streets that are candidates for resurfacing or reconstruction into the COBUCS system.
Using the COBUCS system, the companies who perform the majority of excavation work throughout Boston are required to review and officially clear the streets proposed for resurfacing or reconstruction by the City. Currently there are 24 entities who are involved in the City clearance process.
Infrastructure in streets identified as “cleared” by each entity are expected to be highly reliable, showing little to no signs of failure and/or frequent emergencies. By clearing the street the company is indicating that the streets will not be cut into for a minimum of 5 years for resurfacing candidates, and 10 years for reconstruction candidates.
If one of these 24 entities is unable to clear a proposed City resurfacing or reconstruction project due to a need for major work the City will defer the resurfacing or reconstruction for up to one year. During this time, that company’s necessary excavation work must be completed.
All other service or other minor conflicting work is expected to be completed prior to the resurfacing or reconstruction. Where necessary, the City will defer resurfacing for not more than 60 days to allow these projects to take place.
The City knew that even if after official clearance by each of the 24 major entities responsible for COBUCS coordination on a proposed resurfacing or reconstruction candidate, a wild card in the clearance process still remains with home and private businesses owners needing new or upgraded services.
To alleviate this coordination gap private contractors and site plan engineering firms, who do not regularly perform excavation work, have been provided with a COBUCS account and are required to review all proposed City projects.
If, after the COBUCS review and clearance process has taken place, a utility company, private contractor, or site plan engineer submits work into the COBUCS program on street segment scheduled for resurfacing or reconstruction by the City, COBUCS alerts both the entity requesting clearance and the City immediately. A quick resolution can then ensue.
In addition to the COBUCS program, the Public Works Department has recently begun sending letters to property owners of proposed resurfacing or reconstruction street candidates. In the event that the property owner needs an upgrade or new service, the notification letter informs them of the pending City project and educates them of what it means for a street to become “Guaranteed,” warning that “now is the time to install or upgrade services”. The City will allow at least 60 days from the time of the notice delivery to perform the needed work. The various utility companies have been working with the City, providing special numbers for coordination contacts and promising to prioritize work on streets scheduled for resurfacing or reconstruction.
When an entity enters in proposed project into the COBUCS program on a Guaranteed Street, once again, COBUCS alerts both the entity and the City immediately. The City can then collect the necessary fees from the company requesting the work in an amount necessary for the restoration of the street back to its Guaranteed state.
The COBUCS tool allows for the major utility companies and the City of Boston to establish long-term capital programs that can be successfully coordinated allowing all work to take place without the need for cutting into newly paved roadways.
The Construction Management Division ensures all completed resurfacing and reconstruction capital projects are free of utility excavation programs for, at a minimum, a 5 year guaranteed period.
No utility companies or private contractors are issued permits on "Guaranteed Streets", unless the work has first been approved by the City due to accepted special circumstances.
Approved excavation work on a Guaranteed Streets require payment to the City equivalent to the cost of full curb-to-curb restoration of the roadway 25 feet beyond the limits of their work on both sides of their cut (a total of 50 feet in addition to their repair).
Proven Success of Coordination
Since August of 2009 the COBUCS program has assisted the City in circumventing over 1,700 conflicting utility projects that may have otherwise caused excavation on a newly paved street.
Currently, the City of Boston is one of the few cities in the United States that mandates all entities wishing to perform excavation work use a coordination program for clearance prior to obtaining a permit.