Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Civil, Environmental & Architectural Engineering

First Advisor

Keith R. Molenaar

Second Advisor

Matthew R. Hallowell

Third Advisor

Paul Goodrum


The quality assurance (QA) environment for highway construction has been changing rapidly over the past years pushed by budget reductions, new testing methods and the use of alternative project delivery methods. The objective of this research effort is to define the state-of-practice for risk-based QA optimization practices in departments of transportation (DOTs) and to propose a framework to help QA resource allocation decision making.

The context for this objective is construction projects across their full range of type, size, complexity and project-delivery method. The authors conducted a comprehensive literature review, national survey, interviews with eight DOTs and a Delphi process to achieve the research’s objective.

The first results of this research is discovery that DOTs optimize their QA approach depending on a material’s variability or project’s characteristics. However, DOTs are currently inconsistent in how they optimize practices QA for alternative delivery methods. The results are shown in a framework that provides five levels of QA practices across a spectrum of visual inspection, material certification, and sampling and testing.

Secondly, the framework revealed that the optimization model structure is sound and that the theoretical modeling techniques originating in economics (e.g., Kirkpartick 1974) have practical application to infrastructure construction. The Delphi process showed that the total cost of quality (CoQ) was optimized when the highest level of QA effort was selected.