In 2004, Kansas City had a backlog of over 150 undelivered capital projects, valued at over $400 million. Schedule delays, often ranging between three and ten years, raised costs and reduced public confidence in the city's ability to complete critical infrastructure upgrades. These delays caused contractors and labor unions to consider the city an undesirable client, resulting in the submission of few competitive bids and driving up the total cost of new construction.
Under the existing system of capital project delivery, each operating department handled its own capital projects (Public Works managed all road and building projects; Water Services handled all water and sewer efforts, etc.). Smaller departments with low project volumes often lacked expertise in project management, and differing standards and expectations among departments made it difficult for contractors to work across the various city government agencies. Even within a single department, a separate unit handled each step of the process. The result was a lack of accountability, as no one was sure who was ultimately responsible for ensuring a project's completion.
In order to eliminate the multimillion-dollar backlog and develop a more efficient system for project delivery, the city formed a public-private management collaboration with engineering firms MWH Global and Burns & McDonnell, known as the Capital Improvements Management Office (CIMO). For each project, a dedicated team assembles, consisting of existing city staff from various related departments and divisions, and initially supervised and trained by MWH employees trained in capital project delivery. This "team" model allows city staff to redefine and refocus their goals through the development of standardized procedures, improved communication, and clearly defined responsibilities.
CIMO also conducted a review of the infrastructure delivery process, identifying the bottlenecks that had held up progress in the past. In 2003, for example, the duration between contractors bidding and receiving a notice to proceed (NTP) ranged between six and nine months, inflating project budgets and delaying start dates for new construction projects. Currently, the average period between bids and an NTP is only 60 days, resulting in significant cost savings and preferential treatment from contractors. Also, before the program's implementation, it took an average of 60 to 90 days for the city to pay contractors. CIMO has now reduced the average payment time to 25 days.
Today, CIMO directs the delivery of more than $1.2 billion in projects, and subcontracts $190 million in neighborhood and public service projects. A further testament to the success of CIMO is evident in the reduction of the average time it takes to the city to finish an infrastructure improvement project: In 2003, it took an average of at least three years to finish a project; by 2006, that average had been reduced to 18 months.