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Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)

Right-of-way Design-build And Alternative Contracting Peer Exchange

IV. Roundtable on Observations and Lessons Learned

All Participants

In a roundtable format, participants were given the opportunity to ask questions, discuss observations made during the meeting, and share additional insights on alternative contracting projects. Participants also noted some of the general lessons their agencies had learned in efforts to develop and enhance use of alternative contracting mechanisms.

To continue these discussions, FHWA will consider sponsoring additional opportunities to promote peer networking and knowledge-sharing on alternative contracting and ROW topics, potentially including follow-up peer exchanges, webinars, or other outreach events.


Lessons Learned

Questions, Answers, and Comments

Question: MoDOT took responsibility for delivering all project ROW while Utah handed this over to the design-build contractor. Did the Utah model cost more?
Answer [from Utah DOT]: It can be cost and time efficient to have the State DOT purchase all of the required ROW upfront, prior to turning ROW over to the designer and engineer. On the other hand, purchasing all ROW upfront can result in delay while the contractor waits to begin construction. Consider a dual approach, whereby the DOT acquires some of the ROW early and allows the contractor to acquire the remaining properties.

Question: When acquiring ROW upfront, is it possible to run the risk of purchasing ROW that is not needed? How can an agency determine whether it overpaid for ROW or whether it was worth it to purchase all ROW upfront?
Answer [from Utah DOT]: In most cases, agencies can recoup the money later; for example, if there is surplus ROW at the end of a project, the agency can sell that back to recoup costs. However, when using the design-build method, there is a chance that the agency will purchase more ROW than is required due to the fact that only partial project design is available. In many States, the design-build method is still relatively new and agencies have not yet determined the impact of early ROW acquisition.

Question: Does Utah have an approved list of on-call consultants that are pre-approved?
Answer [from Utah DOT]: Utah DOT does have a preapproved list but the design-build contractors do not have to pull only from the list; they can also partner with other ROW firms.

Question: Utah DOT mentioned that it offers incentives to contractors based on their ability to positively respond to community preferences, and this is assessed by polling the public after project completion. Would FHWA be willing to pay for these incentives?
Answer [from FHWA headquarters]: It appears that these types of incentives respond to FHWA's priorities to promote livability and context-sensitive solutions in a ROW context. FHWA could participate in these incentives, if they are structured in terms of early community involvement.

Question: The environmental process seems to be a risk that is not typically shifted to contractors during a design-build process. Have any of the participants seen an opportunity within State DOTs to shift environmental risk to the design-builder?
Answer [from West Virginia DOT]: It might be possible but it is extremely important to proceed with caution when considering transferring environmental risks to the contractor. The contractor might be dealing with a diverse range of stakeholders, including: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, State Historic Preservation Organizations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and citizen opposition groups. For a substantial project with complex environmental issues, the amount of time that environmental reviews require might preclude contractor involvement.

Question: Using a design-build process, is it difficult to go through the NEPA process and obtain buy-in from resource agencies on a partially designed project?
Answer [from West Virginia DOT]: This can be very difficult, but good relationships are crucial. State DOTs should promote good working relationships with resource agencies so as to encourage conversations on environmental issues even without full project design.

Question: Is the alliance contracting approach applicable to other types of alternative contracting?
Answer [from the International Right of Way Association]: In concept, yes. The alliance contracting emphasis of bringing all project parties to the table early on in project development is certainly a transferrable concept.

Updated: 9/5/2014
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