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Current Design-Build Practices for Transportation Projects

1. Introduction

1.1. Overview of Report

Design build is a relatively new project delivery method that is being applied or considered by numerous transportation agencies. As such, transportation agencies recognize the need to share information regarding all aspects of the design-build delivery process. The Design-Build Users Group is an informal group of State, Federal and local transportation agencies who wish to share current design-build practices with other agencies.

This Current Practices Report summarizes the current design-build practices of various participating transportation agencies. The original framework for the Current Practices Report was a September 2002 report titled: "Design-Build Practice Report," which was developed for the New York State Department of Transportation by Parsons Brinckerhoff, Quade & Douglas, Inc. The AASHTO Joint Technical Committee on Design-Build published web versions of the Design-Build Current Practices Report in November 2003 and January 2005.

The information provided herein is for knowledge sharing purposes only and does not constitute technical or policy recommendations on the part of AASHTO or FHWA.

1.2. Background on Design-Build

Design-build is a project delivery method under which a project owner executes a single contract for both architectural/engineering services and construction. The design-builder may be a single firm, a consortium, joint venture, or other organization. However, the fundamental element of design-build delivery remains that one entity assumes primary responsibility for design and construction of the project.

Design-build has long been used by some project owners (including the U.S. Department of Defense and the power industry) as a project delivery method. Starting in the late 20th century, private sector use of design-build, primarily for vertical buildings, expanded rapidly. Interest in design-build delivery spread more gradually within the public sector, and was primarily used for vertical projects but also included horizontal transportation projects.

A number of factors have led owners to consider the design-build approach. Design-build delivery provides owners with the benefit of a single point of responsibility for the majority of project development, which can streamline coordination between the design and construction teams. It can reduce the owner's administrative burdens by eliminating the need to coordinate or arbitrate between separate design and construction entities. With the primary designer and the contractor working as a team, scheduling considerations can be addressed up front, often leading to more efficient implementation. Together with these efficiencies, the fact that design and construction activities can proceed concurrently also creates the potential for time savings and, ideally, will lower implementation costs.

Design-build can also promote innovation by utilizing the designers' and builders' separate strengths to develop new design and construction techniques. The innovations can be included in proposals in order to gain a competitive advantage in the selection process, or as part of the project implementation phase in order to cut costs, speed implementation, or gain maximum benefit from any incentive programs. Because of these factors, design-build delivery is often chosen for complex projects or when fast track implementation is a priority. Design-build contracts are frequently on a fixed-price basis, thus providing cost certainty at a relatively early stage of project planning. This is particularly beneficial for projects facing budget limitations and can be a key factor in obtaining project financing.

Design-build has proven to be a successful project delivery method for implementing transportation projects. The FHWA's January 2006 Report to Congress, titled: "Design-Build Effectiveness Study" documented that design-build reduces the project delivery duration, and may produce project savings and may maintain the same level of quality as the traditional design-bid-build project delivery process.

1.3. Public Agency Input

The initial respondents for the September 2002 "Design-Build Practice Report" included the following participating agencies:

  • Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority (ACTA)
  • Arizona Department of Transportation (AZ DOT)
  • South Jersey Transportation Authority et al (Atlantic City/Brigantine Connector) (AC/BC)
  • Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT)
  • Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)
  • Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT)
  • Greenville County, South Carolina
  • Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC)
  • Ohio Department of Transportation (Note: in 2009 Ohio DOT indicated that the information in this report for Ohio was no longer current; however, due to personnel limitations, Ohio was not able to provide updated current practices.)
  • South Carolina Department of Transportation (SC DOT)
  • Orange County Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA)
  • Utah Department of Transportation (UT DOT)
  • Utah Transit Authority (UTA)
  • Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT)

Additional agencies that have contributed information since the initial survey include:

  • Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (LADOTD)
  • North Carolina Department of Transportation (NC DOT)
  • Maryland State Highway Administration
  • Massachusetts Highway Department (MassHighway)
  • Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)

Additional input is welcomed and encouraged from other State DOTs and public transportation agencies that have experience with the design-build procurement process, including updates to existing information. Please submit contributions to gerald.yakowenko@dot.gov.

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Updated: 06/27/2017
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