- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 24, 2015

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - A report from New York University on Wednesday projected major savings from combining contracts to design and build public works, citing savings from the approach already in use on the new Tappan Zee Bridge.

NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management said 41 states use so-called design-build for most public construction, while New York four years ago first approved it for five state agencies. They include the Thruway Authority, which contracted with a consortium that designed and is now building twin replacement spans over the lower Hudson River.

“This is a way to remove these unnecessary kind of bottlenecks in the process of getting things built,” said Mitchell Moss, NYU professor of urban policy and planning. It removes delays and shortens procurement and construction time, and contractors responsible for both functions remain accountable, he said.

The report, also citing other design-build projects, noted reductions in the volume and cost of change orders by contractors. Federal agencies were generally required to contract separately for designs and building starting in the 1930s, and states followed.

“So many times you hire someone to design a project that is not buildable,” Moss said. “Sometimes a designer is a visionary but not really aware of the constraints of building. … This allows us to keep architects from becoming dreamers.”

The report cited $1.7 billion in savings from an initial estimate of $5.6 billion to replace the Tappan Zee, with an estimated construction cost now 30 percent lower at $3.9 billion. The Federal Highway Administration has found the approach shortening project completion times by 14 percent and average costs 3 percent, it said.

State legislation to expand design-build to New York City, with about $11 billion in capital commitments this year, and other state agencies hasn’t been enacted.

It could work not just projects like bridges, but also construction of schools and other buildings, said Bill Goldstein, infrastructure adviser to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.”I just know we commit billions of dollars in capital work … and we could save both time and money, how much I cannot give you off the top of my head.”

The report was sponsored by RBC Capital Markets and the Association for a Better New York.




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