Does training matter? : construction quality for a new start transit system : the case of Tren Urbano
Author(s)Lee, Esther J. (Esther Jung Mi), 1974-
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning.
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As with many other large-scale infrastructure projects, the construction of a transit project is potentially vulnerable to quality failures, which can lead to completion delays and cost overruns. Especially with technologically advanced, new-start transit projects, a limitation or lack of skilled labor can exacerbate those risks. This thesis examines the case of Tren Urbano in San Juan, Puerto Rico, a rapid rail project currently being constructed in an area with limited on-island experience in the design, construction, operation or maintenance of such a technologically sophisticated transit system. The motivating question for this thesis is, does training matter for construction quality? The research findings of this thesis show that the multiple prime contractors operating under similar contractual arrangements and resource conditions in San Juan exhibit variations in the quality of construction. Research findings also reveal variations in the type of training programs established by the contractors. A limited conclusion is drawn that although training of inexperienced labor does not single-handedly insure high quality of construction, it nevertheless is important to the successful implementation of project design. Thus, this thesis argues that in order to maximize the quality of construction in a new transit system, the client-owners should create an appropriate strategy which carefully assesses and matches three factors: 1) procurement strategy, whether the conventional design-bid-build or innovative design-build arrangement, 2) contractor competence and experience, and 3) the existent local labor skill level or training capacity. A successful procurement strategy for the construction of future extensions to Tren Urbano should therefore consider: 1) choosing best-value bids over low bids, where the contractor has exhibited expertise and 2) training a broad range of skill sets, that includes explicit attention paid to the construction laborers and monitoring inspectors crucial for the quality of construction. Successful training should be tailored to pre-empt potential breakdowns of a particular procurement strategy. Furthermore, the training should also be an intentional, collaborative effort between the public education sector, the private construction sector, and an expanded labor union presence, and should fit within an overall industrial development policy of the government. An important theoretical contribution of this thesis is the expansion of the technology transfer discourse from a focus on an educated managerial class to include the ramping-up of skills for low-skilled, often uneducated, labor in order to expand the labor market for economic development while improving the profitability of the private sector ventures utilizing local labor.
Thesis (M.C.P.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning, 2002.Includes bibliographical references (p. 99-104).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Urban Studies and Planning.