Legislation to reform Alabama’s prison system, which also provides design-build authority to the Department of Corrections, is working its way through committee with a hearing in the state Senate this week. The Montgomery Advertiser reports:
“The current prison system is plagued by overcrowding, dwindling corrections officer ranks, increasing levels of violence and a notable lack of mental health and substance abuse treatment. At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday afternoon, those opposed to the prison construction bill voiced their concerns about the bill.”
“Ward also addressed concerns that the bill would not be properly bid on and that Alabama contractors would be cut out of the bidding process due to the design-build method Dunn is looking to employ, a method that would allow a single firm to control both designing and building a new facility instead of all parts being bid on and a method Sen. Bobby Singleton said would “eliminate (local contractors) directly. ‘Look at the number of times in (the bill) we talk about bids, bidders and those who will bid in this process,’ Ward said. ‘There will be a competitive process. Design-build has worked in every other state in the country including the federal system except ours.’ ”
Alabama proposes to consolidate the state’s largest prisons from 14 to six, including four modern state of the art prisons including a new women’s prison. The Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn says the state simply can’t afford this massive undertaking without the efficiencies that design-build brings to the project:
“Dunn stressed more than once that the plan to be affordable depended on lawmakers approving a one-time exception to the state’s bid law that would allow the DOC to bid out the design and construction work and give both to just one company in a competitive bid process. If that exception was not granted, then the DOC would have to bid out each new prison to likely a host of companies which Dunn said would drive up the overall costs by at least a $100 million.” …Birmingham News
The Alabama legislature has already granted design-build authority to the transportation department last year. Today, the Engineering News Record reports that the final phase of the I-20/59 bridge replacement in Birmingham will now take advantage of that authority, since the first round of project bids exceeded state estimates. Transportation Director John Cooper says rebidding the project allows the state to seek alternative technical concepts potentially improving outcomes.
“Cooper says contractors will be asked to augment their bids with alternative construction methodologies and sequencing strategies that could help expedite the project’s completion, and limit the amount of time that through traffic is diverted onto other highways. Currently, the I-59/20 bridges handle approximately 160,000 vehicles daily, double their original design capacity.”
Cooper says because ALDOT already has a base design in place for Phase 3, the rebid project is not a “full-blown” design-build project. However, last year’s design-build legislative authorization will allow them to seek alternative technical concepts.