Michigan bill seeks to fast-track road work

| 7/3/2007

A bill in Michigan is intended to put transportation projects in the state on the fast track to completion.

Sponsored by Sen. Jud Gilbert, R-Algonac, the bill would require that all “federal aid” road and bridge work and any other project of the Michigan Department of Transportation exceeding $5 million use the so-called “design-build” concept.

About 40 states now use design-build in some capacity. The process allows contractors to submit plans to design and construct each project. Traditionally, one firm designs a highway and another builds it, with the two tasks bid separately.

Michigan law allows the state to study design-build and report to the legislature findings, but the state Transportation Department isn’t allowed to use the contracting process.

Supporters say the process is a way to speed construction and save money, while improving accountability. Opponents say the practice falls far short of the goals promised by its backers. They also say it creates a huge windfall for just a handful of big construction companies.

The bill – SB116 – is in the Senate Transportation Committee.