State and city officials have been beating the design-build drum for some time — but with $100 billion planned in infrastructure projects, the call to expand the procurement process has intensified.
New York lags behind the rest of the country in terms of who can implement the project delivery system: Only a few state agencies can actually employ design-build, while in 25 other states, all agencies can use it, the New York Times reported. Earlier this year, the state expanded design-build authority to the Empire State Development Corporation, paving the way for the system to be used on the $1 billion expansion of the Jacob K. Javits Center. Still, a bill seeking to expand the practice to all state agencies and to some New York City agencies died in committee last year despite vocal support from public officials and prominent trade groups. The issue is expected to surface again in next year’s legislative session.
Design-build is touted as a time and money saver, since it involves only one contract and places the onus of staying on schedule and on budget on the private sector. State officials estimate that the $3.9 billion replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge saved at least $1.5 billion because of design-build. Critics, though, worry that expanding the practice could lead to fewer public sector jobs as more and more work is contracted out by government agencies.
“In that subjectivity a whole host of sins can be camouflaged, and you risk creating a system rife with favoritism and corruption,” James Cahill, president of the New York State Building & Construction Trades Council, told the Times. [NYT] — Kathryn Brenzel