V.I. Public Works Department changes bidding process for federal road projects

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ST. CROIX - The V.I. Public Works Department is planning to start using a different procurement method aimed at getting federal road projects in the territory from design to construction and completion more quickly.

"It's set up to be a faster process. It gets you to construction much faster," said Wystan Benjamin, Highway Program manager for the V.I. Public Works Department.

The method is called "design-build," and involves a single entity conducting both the design and construction phase of the project, Benjamin said. Because it goes through one bidding process for both design and construction, and because often building can begin on one aspect of a project while other aspects are still in the design phase, it saves time, according to Benjamin.

Public Works currently has a design-build project - a request for qualifications for the design-build of improvements to about 1.2 miles of Melvin Evans Highway on St. Croix - posted on the federal government's business opportunities website, www.fbo.gov.

The Eastern Federal Lands Highway Division in conjunction with Public Works is hosting an information session in the territory next week related to upcoming design-build projects, so contractors interested in bidding can find out about the procedures and requirements associated with federal aid projects, according to a statement Government House released.

The session will comprise representatives from the Eastern Federal Lands Highway Division explaining the design-build procurement and contract administration process, then taking questions.

"We're introducing a new method of project delivery to the territory," Benjamin said. "We want to give the contractors a heads-up, a workshop to go through what that process is about."

Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls said that the design-build concept for road projects is part of the "Every Day Counts" initiative of the Federal Highway Administration. That initiative is aimed at getting highway projects delivered to the public faster.

"The federal government has realized it has taken too long for projects to get from design to construction," Smalls said.

Public Works hopes to bring the whole design-build concept to the territory's federal road projects, he said, citing the length of time it has taken for a number of road projects in the territory to be completed.

The Christiansted bypass took more than 30 years from the drawing board to completion last year. The 1.2-mile roadway that winds through the hills above Christiansted opened in January 2013.

Smalls said that adding the design-build concept to the way the territory procures federal highway projects has been in the works for some time. He and Benjamin have wanted to do it since they heard about it at an Every Day Counts conference a couple of years ago, he said.

"All we're doing, based on the conferences we're attending, is seeing how it's applicable to the territory," Smalls said.

Benjamin said a couple of big road projects in the territory are expected to come online soon, and officials want to use the design-build method to get them completed more quickly.

One of those is the Melvin Evans project on fbo.gov right now. Smalls declined to say what the other project is, noting that it is still in the development stage. It has not yet been posted on fbo.gov.

The information session on design-build is scheduled from 9 to 11 a.m. Tuesday at UVICELL, at No. 2 John Brewers Bay on St. Thomas. Those interested can attend remotely via teleconference from the University of the Virgin Islands' St. Croix campus, in Room 807 of the Evans Center.

For more information, contact the Public Works' Office of Highway Engineering at 776-4844.

- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email jblackburn@dailynews.vi.

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