The “responsible charge” designated for a project is typically an engineer … but does it have to?

Surprisingly, the short answer is “no”, but the key regulation (23 CFR 635.105 – Supervising Agency) details information you should be aware of before assigning your project to anyone on your staff.

According to the regulation, the person designated as being in “responsible charge” is required to be a full-time public employee accountable for a project.  This requirement applies even when consultants are providing construction engineering services.   While the regulation requires that that person be an employed state engineer for projects administered by the State Transportation Agency, engineering credentials are not required for projects administered by local public agencies (LPA). * Please see note at end of post *

Whether the “responsible charge” for a LPA-administered project is an engineer or not, it is more important that this person be able to perform the following duties and functions:

  • Administers inherently governmental project activities, including those dealing with cost, time, adherence to contract requirements, construction quality and scope of Federal-aid projects;
  • Maintains familiarity of day to day project operations, including project safety issues;
  • Makes or participates in decisions about changed conditions or scope changes that require change orders or supplemental agreements;
  • Visits and reviews the project on a frequency that is commensurate with the magnitude and complexity of the project;
  • Reviews financial processes, transactions and documentation to ensure that safeguards are in place to minimize fraud, waste, and abuse; and
  • Directs project staff, agency or consultant, to carry out project administration and contract oversight, including proper documentation.
  • Is aware of the qualifications, assignments and on-the-job performance of the agency and consultant staff at all stages of the project.

For additional information, review FHWA’s memorandum defining “Responsible Charge” in the Federal-aid Highway Program.

UPDATE 5/9/12: As pointed out by a reader (thanks Frances), California’s Business and Professions Code 6730 requires that “at least one registered engineer shall be designated the person in responsible charge of professional engineering work for each branch of professional engineering practiced in any department or agency of the state, city, county, or city and county.” This is true with regards to what I’ll refer to as the “responsible engineer” for a project. My post is presented in the context of 23 CRF 635.105 and focused on the designation of the “responsible charge” of a federal-project project. Registration is required for the responsible engineer for a project, but not for the responsible charge. I hope this note clarifies that point. ~ David