Dennis Bausman is sitting at his desk in his office at Clemson

Dennis Bausman, a professor of construction science and management, has spent nearly a decade assisting SCDOT in delivering projects on time and on budget. Image Credit: Clemson University Relations

Dennis Bausman, a Clemson University professor of construction science and management, has received a $387,000 research grant aimed at helping the South Carolina Department of Transportation streamline multimillion-dollar road and bridge projects.

Since 2011, Bausman has led or participated in four other research initiatives aimed at assisting SCDOT in delivering projects on time and on budget.

“This is research that truly can be applied to SCDOT’s day-to-day business, the way they manage their work,” said Bausman, who holds an endowed faculty chair in the Nieri Family Department of Construction Science and Management.

“We’re trying to establish best practices,” he said.

In the two-year project, Bausman and his team will focus on developing standardized SCDOT procedures for contracting professional design and engineering consultants.

The project, “SCDOT Scope of Services Template Research,” will identify efficiencies in the week-to-week and even day-to-day plans of the pre-construction process.

“The development process for transportation projects from idea to actual reality can be 10 years,” Bausman said. “There are many steps that SCDOT has to manage. It’s very complex.”

Bausman serves as principal investigator for the new research project. Other Clemson team members include co-investigator Ehsan Mousavi, an assistant professor in the Nieri Family Department of Construction Science and Management; co-investigator Ronnie Chowdhury, the Eugene Douglas Mays Professor in the Glenn Department of Civil Engineering; and research assistant Ajay Jadhav, a Ph.D. student in the Clemson University Planning, Design and the Built Environment program. David Taylor, a managing principal with Stantec, an engineering firm in Columbia, serves as an industry consultant.

As a part of its research, Bausman’s team is exploring best practices at other departments of transportation across the country.

Bausman currently leads a separate but similar $350,000 research project, updating SCDOT’s project development process and training manuals for procurement. Bausman’s research looks at such development issues as design, engineering and environmental concerns.

“Both projects are focused on the pre-construction period, the two to six years that it takes to get a project to where it can be competitively bid and then ultimately started and completed,” Bausman said. “The South Carolina Department of Transportation is always trying to improve its processes.”

The SCDOT is responsible for owning, operating and maintaining the fourth largest highway system in the United States. Its annual budget of $1.4 billion funds road and bridge construction and improvement projects throughout the state.

A 2017 increase in the state’s gas tax is expected to generate an additional $800 million a year by 2024 to address the state’s growing transportation needs.

“This continued expansion of SCDOT’s transportation program places increasing pressure on SCDOT personnel responsible for efficient and effective delivery of transportation projects,” Bausman said.

Clemson University has become one of SCDOT’s go-to sources for design, management and engineering research, he said.

Through the years, SCDOT projects have also benefited a few construction science and management students who were brought in as research assistants.

“They’re excited about that because it’s not producing something abstract but results that can be implemented,” Bausman said. “It’s quite rewarding for all of us involved because you see the implementation of the research you produced.”