Impaired access to a job site can be a source of delay, disruption, decreased productivity and increased expense. In many cases, however, these problems should have been anticipated prior to bid submittal, allowing the contractor to plan for the mitigation of the impact and account for the cost.
Pre-Bid Site Inspection
A thorough familiarity with the physical site is essential. A prospective bidder should take advantage of every opportunity afforded by the project owner to observe the site and draw reasonable inferences regarding the impact of the physical conditions on the intended method and sequence of construction. This includes, of course, roads, rights-of-way and other means of access not within the work area itself, as well as utility lines and other potential obstructions.
Failure to conduct a thorough pre-bid site inspection can be devastating. A contractor is legally charged with all information that could have been reasonably deduced during observation. In the case of existing structures or subsurface conditions, a contractor is generally not expected to conduct destructive, invasive or diagnostic testing. But, a contractor is expected to employ the knowledge and instincts of an experienced industry professional. The failure to do so not only complicates the performance of the work, it also compromises any remedy under a differing site conditions clause.
Contract Documents and Public Records
Contract drawings frequently contain considerable information relating to site access. This may spur a bidder to ask questions and do some research. Is a right-of-way available for the contractor’s unlimited use? Does the depiction of railroad tracks actually indicate rail access to the site? Will construction of temporary roads adjacent to wetlands be allowed under applicable land-use regulations?
Timing can be an issue. The contract documents may represent that the project owner will obtain a right-of-way or will construct an access road. A bidder should question whether these promises will be honored in a timely manner, accommodating the intended schedule and sequence of work.
Site access via public roads can be problematic. Neither the project owner nor the contractor can control the use of these roads. Public ways are subject to closures, weight restrictions, separate utility projects and numerous other contingencies that may impair site access. These possibilities should be contemplated prior to bid submittal.
Examination of documents should not be limited to the bid package itself. Contractors are charged with knowledge of all information available in the public records. If that information is referenced in the contract documents, it should be investigated. And, there may be other public records that should be examined—records that may answer questions raised by the site inspection and contract documents.
Work Area Restrictions
When contemplating the method and sequence of work, a bidder should consider factors that may not be obvious from the parameters of an empty site. These involve adequate space for equipment operation, crew activities and material storage. Adverse weather, such as rain, snow or ice, may affect soil conditions, making it more difficult to lay down materials or operate equipment.
When multiple trades are working in a constrained area, there can be a significant impact on productivity and cost. If those trades are subcontractors, the contractor can devise a sequencing strategy to address the issue. But, if there are multiple prime contracts involving different trades and the contractors are to be coordinated by the project owner or its construction manager, the likelihood of impaired site access is increased.
Finally, a prospective bidder should consider how the owner’s use of the job site might impact contract performance. Some of these issues, such as relocating tenants or otherwise discontinuing current use, may be apparent. Other issues, such as security clearances, work hour limitations or noise restrictions, may be more subtle. The relocation of utility lines is usually an owner responsibility and is a common source of site access problems. As with other aspects of site access, there is no substitute for researching and asking a lot of questions.