Another Voice

By Thomas J. Spearing III

Poor road conditions and traffic congestion cost drivers about $6.3 billion statewide, or an average of $694 per driver, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers report card on New York’s infrastructure. Of the state’s 17,000 bridges, more than 50 percent are more than 75 years old.

Funding infrastructure improvements continues to be challenging, but a proven project delivery/procurement approach called design-build continues to be promising. First passed in New York in 2011 as part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s tax and jobs creation bill, design-build has already saved the state money and reduces project completion time. Applying design-build to the new Tappan Zee Bridge is expected to trim project costs by $1.1 billion and lead to completion 18 months earlier than originally scheduled.

Another example is the first phase of the statewide accelerated bridge program, which has produced an estimated savings of 27 percent over traditional procurement, according to the New York City Citizens Budget Commission.

Design-build is an integrated approach that links project design firms and contractors or builders under one contract with a single point of responsibility, unifying design and construction from initial concept through completion. In today’s environment, design-build represents a tremendous opportunity over the traditional “design-bid-build” project delivery process where design and construction are split – separate entities, separate contracts and separate work.

Under current legislation, New York’s Department of Transportation, Department of Environmental Conservation, Thruway Authority, Bridge Authority and Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation are authorized to use design-build in awarding contracts.

For New York, the problem is that the current legislation limits the use of design-build to these agencies. Making it available to all government agencies maximizes its effectiveness and savings.
The State Legislature failed this year to extend its use to New York City agencies. This proposed expansion was supported by a wide range of constituents including New York City, private companies, think tanks, building trade organizations and labor unions.

New York City is preparing for an unprecedented building and rebuilding period, including the Gateway tunnel, new Penn Station, LaGuardia Airport and the East River streetcar system in Brooklyn and Queens.

New York’s citizens deserve a significant improvement in the infrastructure they use and rely upon every day.
Expanding design-build’s availability to all agencies in the state must be a high priority for Albany in the January session.

Thomas J. Spearing III is senior vice president of HNTB Corp.