Michigan bill seeks to fast-track road work

| 9/25/2007

A bill in Michigan that is intended to put transportation projects in the state on the fast track to completion could draw consideration in the waning months of the legislative session.

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 contracting process allows contractors to submit plans to design and construct each project. Typically, 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. All legislation must be approved by both chambers prior to the end of the regular session, which is scheduled for late December.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Michigan in 2007, click here.