By Steve Rizer
There is good news and bad news to report for construction professionals who favor legislation promoting design-build project delivery, with several key developments recently taking place at both the state and federal levels.
On the plus side for design-build advocates, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) last week signed into law a bill (S.B. 33) authorizing the state’s Department of Transportation to use design-build as an alternative to the customary design-bid-build process. Adoption of the measure is expected to help improve Connecticut’s ability to secure any new federal funding that may become available. Only three states – Iowa, Nebraska, and Oklahoma – remain without any design-build procurement authority for transportation projects.
Furthermore, Minnesota has enacted a measure (S.B. 2131) requiring the state transportation commissioner or a designee from the State-Aid Division to select, evaluate, and support design-build projects on county and municipal state-aid systems. Section 1 of the bill also eliminates the requirement that the Project Selection Council report annually to the legislature. The section expires upon completion of nine design-build projects.
However, not all of the news at the state level is positive for design-build proponents. The Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) reported that Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation, under court orders, has been compelled to use design-build only on a low-bid basis. “In meetings with Pennsylvania legislative leaders and the governor’s office, staff indicated they have reached agreement on most of the provisions in the P3/design-build bill (H.B. 3 and S.B. 344) and are hoping for a final vote in 2012,” DBIA stated. “We also discussed possible legislative solutions to the [Pennsylvania] DOT design-build short listing problem.”
At the federal level, DBIA has experienced mixed fortunes in trying to get its recommended provisions included in transportation reauthorization legislation, which is undergoing review in a congressional conference committee. The association was successful in getting financial incentives encouraging the use of design-build included in the Senate’s version of the bill, but these incentives do not appear in the House version. DBIA failed to push through a provision allowing the U.S. Department of Transportation to use “best value” procurement and any procurement method allowed under federal law. However, the association is pleased that both versions of the bill prescribe increasing funding for the Transportation Infrastructure Finance Innovation Act program from $250 million to $1 billion annually and making it easier for states to use P3s on transportation projects.
“If the conferees cannot reach agreement on a comprehensive bill, they will have to pass another extension by the end of June before funding runs out,” DBIA said. “House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has expressed interest in a six-month extension as opposed to a 30-day one.”
There also is language favorable to design-build in the House-passed Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies appropriations bill. Specifically, the bill states, “Military Construction Project Delivery – [We are] aware that the design-build project delivery method is conducted under one guaranteed contract, offers fast-track aspects, cost savings, and decreased litigation claims. The design-build method reduces construction costs, speeds up construction time, and guarantees quality in all measured categories. Therefore, [we encourage] the use of this method, when appropriate, in order to provide greater efficiency [and] lower life-cycle costs, and [to] expedite construction, repairs, and alterations of federal buildings.” However, DBIA reported that the bill faces a presidential veto threat and that the Senate’s version of the spending legislation does not contain similar design-build language.
A DBIA spokesperson did not immediately respond to ConstructionPro Week’s request for additional information.