When thinking about getting the best value for money, do you always strive for the lowest price, or do you also consider additional factors like speed, quality and risk?
The process of building infrastructure projects can be compared to that of a homeowner hiring contractors for home renovations. If all you need is a simple paint job, the lowest priced contractor may be the best choice. But, if you are considering a complete renovation with complex design elements, you may want a contractor with specific expertise. In other words, there are more factors to consider than the price.
This same calculation applies to major infrastructure works. Unfortunately, a few outspoken voices have questioned the methods employed by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to complete construction projects across the state. They are wrong.
The intention of these voices is to undermine the CDOT and its ability to use “alternative delivery” as one of the tools to quickly obtain infrastructure funds for projects that improve Colorado’s commutes, improve safety and move traffic and goods more efficiently. Again, these voices are wrong and can hamper our ability to build infrastructure. It is the worst thing we can do to our already challenged system.
Alternative delivery allows owner agencies to consider factors other than the lowest offer. These are factors that can bring added value to the taxpayer, including: completion of the project in a shorter timeframe; expertise in design and / or construction; proven ability to solve problems; innovation; and the protection of owner agencies, such as CDOT, from potential risks associated with the construction process.
For most CDOT projects, the traditional low bid system is and will continue to be standard practice. In fact, around 80% of CDOT’s construction budget is allocated to low-supply contracts. For these projects, the low bid methodology offers the taxpayer the best value for money. However, for some projects that are complex or present unique challenges, alternative delivery may be the best choice. The alternative delivery process facilitates the early involvement of the contractor and provides expertise in the design process which ultimately provides a more streamlined, buildable and efficient end product.
Alternative delivery is not necessarily new and is not unique to CDOT. In the United States, 45 state DOTs have used an alternate delivery solution for some of their construction projects. That includes conservative âredâ states, deep âblueâ states and everything in between. In addition, many local agencies, as well as the private sector, regularly use some sort of alternative service for their more complex projects.
The Colorado Contractors Association (CCA) has been the industry’s leading voice for almost 90 years, representing 400 member companies large and small. CCA believes it is important to preserve CDOT’s ability to make the decision to use the right tool for the job – and this includes the ability to build projects using another benefit.
CCA has always advocated and will continue to strive for a balanced CDOT program that includes full transparency and the ability to use the full range of project delivery tools. The balance should include: a mix of smaller, medium and large projects; use of traditional design-offer-build (low offer); and alternative distribution systems, where appropriate.
Earlier this year, the General Assembly passed a much needed increase in transportation funding for Colorado and also included additional CDOT requirements to ensure that when alternative delivery is used, the rationale for its use is clear and the selection process is fair and transparent. .
Additionally, the recent passage of federal infrastructure law translates into billions of additional investments to come for Colorado over the next five years. Alternative delivery will be needed to speed up many of the projects our state desperately needs. Using alternative delivery on a portion of these projects will speed up delivery and provide hundreds of millions of dollars to create jobs and support local subcontractors and minority-owned businesses.
CCA will continue to work with CDOT and all owner agencies to find new ways to ensure that the most appropriate delivery process is used for each infrastructure project. In order to be the most efficient, we need to keep all the tools in the toolbox.
Tony Milo is the executive director of the Colorado Contractors Association.