Why Design-Build is Many States’ Go-to Delivery Process

March 28, 2017

Day two of the 2017 Design-build in Transportation Conference in Minneapolis began bright and early with a wide-reaching general session led by DBIA Transportation Committee Vice-Chair Jim Avitabile. Panelists talked about opportunities for design-build nationwide. They included some of the nation’s top transportation design-build owners, including; Peter Davich, Minnesota DOT, Andrew Hoenig, Georgia DOT, Art McCluskey, Washington DOT and Larry Ritchie, Florida DOT. While each state’s experiences are unique in approach, legislative authority, project details and location it was clear they all share a commitment to design-build and the core belief that alternate project delivery can enhance any state’s program.

Minnesota first used design-build in 1996, receiving full authority in 2001. MNDOT’s Peter Davich says the state has saved millions in project costs thanks to design-build. “Our management is very supportive of design-build because of the innovative delivery, the ability to transfer risks and the traditional reasons we all use design-build. We’ve seen $50 million in savings through ATC’s and a 3% reduction in change-orders.”

The state of Washington has delivered 32 projects in 16 years at about $4.5 billion in projects according to Washington DOT’s, Art McCluskey: “Our sweet spot for design-build seems to be the 20-150 dollar range for projects; although our legislature has given us the authority to use design-build for projects down to $2 million. We’re heading in that direction.”

In Georgia, design-build is relatively new (2008) doing 1-2 projects a year but has been building rapidly on its successes. As Georgia DOT’s Andrew Hoenig described, “We’ve delivered all kinds of projects from a million dollar lighting project for an exchange to safer crossings at schools, all the way up to P3, a $600 million job was the biggest done to date. One of the most important points is we’ve delivered 13,000 jobs and 300 new lanes in our state.”

Florida DOT has been using design-build since 1987 on both big and small projects.  Since then the state’s DOT has delivered 475 design-build projects worth $14 billion, with 70 active design-build projects worth $5.5 billion currently underway. Larry Ritchie with Florida DOT says the state “we do a lot of design-build, big projects and small projects, a whole variety.  The department really likes doing the design-build method because it’s so efficient for us, allowing us to deliver more quickly than we could otherwise plus gain innovation from the industry.”

Beyond offering their perspectives on the growth of design-build nationwide, this experienced panel of transportation owners also provided conference attendees a first-hand look at how some states now P3’s, HOT lanes, HOV lanes, transportation corridor projects, dynamic tolling and many other innovative approaches to improving transportation in their states. As one practitioner in the audience said today, “there’s nowhere else you can get that many state DOT’s together in one room to offer such a broad conversation for practitioners.”

We couldn’t agree more…and the week has just begun.