This post is third in a series about the Federal Highway Administration’s Every Day Counts Innovation Initiative.

Girder placement on the Design-Build EXPRESSLink Project

UDOT’s contracting methods factor in user costs, encourage innovation and speed, and seek a balance point for everyone, including the contractor and the general public.

A component of the Every Day Counts Innovation Initiative includes shortening project delivery by using efficient contracting methods. UDOT uses a broad range of contracting options that have been made available by the Utah Legislature:

Design-Bid-Build is a traditional approach that seeks separate contracts for design and construction of a project. DBB contracts are usually reserved for smaller projects priced at $40 million or under. DBB is most effectively used when seeking a cost-sensitive project.

Design-Build is a method where the construction contractor and the designer partner and bid to design and construct a project with both processes taking place simultaneously.  The advantages of this method are speed of completion and low cost.  Finding the balance point with Design Build requires an open relationship with the contractor to achieve a “best value” project.

The Construction Manager General Contractor contracting method is a value-based approach that factors in price, risk elements that are clearly defined and enumerated and key personnel.  In a report about collaboration, Larry Reash of Horrocks Engineers explains that the intent of CMGC is to “form a partnership with UDOT, the owner, the designer working for UDOT, and the contractor. This partnership is developed during the design phase to minimize risk, develop a project schedule, identify potential innovations, and develop a project cost model.”  (Collaboration using the CM/GC Process to Find Solutions for Accelerated Bridge Construction, Horrocks Construction, )

After design, UDOT seeks to execute a sole-source contracting approach to build the project. An independent cost estimator analyses the proposal to ensure the price is fair. The CMGC method is widely used in Utah but sees limited use in other states.

Low-bid Design-Build is used with smaller projects that have a very clear scope. Under this method, the lowest priced proposal is awarded the contract. DB allows contractors to bring their innovations to the table. A low-cost contract serves UDOT financially and benefits the road user through reduced project duration.

A list of clearly identified risks is also a component of each request for proposal, no matter the contract type. When risks are clearly identified, contractors can focus effort on mitigating risk. Many risk identifying approaches are written into UDOT’s standard specifications.

By controlling the type of contract and clearly identifying risk, UDOT can manage the bid prices received.  For example, a recent project near St. George, Utah showed potential for problem areas in soil conditions. The bidding process clearly identified the possible risk that supplementary investigation might be needed. Bidding contractors weighed options for further investigation to determine suitability and stability of the soil and priced bids accordingly.

Having a broad range of tools in the contracting tool box means that UDOT can choose the best method to reduce time and cost to find the balance point or best value solution for UDOT and road users.  UDOT also uses strategies in the form of to bidding time savings along with each contracting method.  All contracts include limits for lane use and restrictions on construction operations. Large, high cost projects with high public impact are the best candidates for finding solutions that meet UDOT’s stringent limitations focused on reducing traffic delay.


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