WSDOT Design-Build report notes progress, recommends improvements

WSDOT is doing many things well when implementing design/build projects but could take steps to improve, according to a recently-completed report prepared for the State’s Joint Transportation Committee (JTC).

Bob Adams (Atkinson Construction) represented AGC on the panel charged by the Legislature with identifying potential changes in law, practice, organizational structure or policy that will allow WSDOT to optimally employ DB delivery to maximize efficiencies in cost and schedule.

“WSDOT practices that contractors find particularly beneficial are a two-step best value selection that encourages innovative proposals, confidential one-on-one meetings during the bidding period to openly discuss alternative approaches, a fair and reasonable allocation of risk to the party best able to manage the risk, and the payment of stipends to partially offset pre-bid engineering costs,” Adams told members of the JTC at a hearing convened to discuss the report’s findings. “There are a number of suggested improvements to the DB method in the report” Adams said, but for contractors, "it really boils down to three overarching principles: consistency in the use of DB best practices from project development through procurement to contract administration; flexibility in the willingness to consider alternative approaches that open up the opportunity for contractors to innovate, and ownership of the process by dedicating trained WSDOT staff that has delegated authority to provide design and construction oversight and maintain the momentum of the project.”

The report makes a number of recommendations regarding staff training and retention (the report notes that “excellent WSDOT DB staff are often hired away by local industry”), and to more widely disperse the skills of DB project managers among WSDOT regions.

WSDOT Chief Engineer Linea Laird noted that WSDOT is already underway with the development of standard templates, a DB manual and training programs.

For example, the AGC/ACEC/WSDOT Design-Build Team, co-chaired by Paul Mayo (Flatiron) is completing updates to the WSDOT Design-Build manual that provides policy and guidance for the planning, development, procurement and administration of DB projects statewide. The report recommends that WSDOT continue to use DB for smaller, less complex projects and to experiment with alternative DB delivery strategies (such as “progressive DB”) that improve the efficiency for delivery for high risk, complex projects. The Legislature could also play a role in improving DB projects, according to the report.

Current incremental funding of projects can reduce the effectiveness of DB delivery by constraining the ability of the design-builder to expedite design and construction activities to their full potential.

For more information on the DB report, click here.