By NEMS Daily Journal
Thousands of Pontotoc countians who left for work as the sun rose Monday morning returned later in the day to a new four-lane highway that opened by late morning, linking U.S. 78/Sherman with U.S. 278/Mississippi 6 north of Pontotoc.
The old Highway 9 is of course still open, and it soon will be resurfaced before becoming a county road.
However, the new Highway 9 – many engineers, transportation advocates and politicians of all stripes hope – is a virtual demonstration project for a new way in Mississippi of building highways quickly, start-to-finish, fully financed on the front end, and handed off from contractors to the state ahead of schedule.
Preliminary work had been under way for several years when, in spring 2011, five contractors and/or joint venues prequalified and made proposals to build the new Highway 9.
Eutaw Construction, at $87.46 million was far-and-away the lowest proposal; the highest was $121 million.
Eutaw and all the other bidders are well-known names in Mississippi roadbuilding.
There was special emphasis in the Highway 9 specifications on timely completion, with an incentive attached.
Construction started July 5, 2011, and the highway opened July 30, 2012, well within the 540 days on its contract proposal.
MDOT announced well in advance its intent “to enter into a Design-Build contract with a Design-Build Team, possessing both professional engineering design capability and qualified construction contracting capability” for “a new alignment of State Route 9 in Pontotoc County.”
MDOT adopted an accelerated project delivery method in the Federal Highway Administration’s “Every Day Counts” innovation initiative.
A federal highway website describes its innovation:
“With the traditional Design-Bid-Build (DBB) highway construction method, highway projects may take up to 13 years to deliver. The Accelerated Project Delivery Methods (APDM) initiative is designed to help reduce the time it takes to deliver highway projects … We are confident … State DOTs can deliver projects 50 percent faster….
“With DB project delivery, the designer-builder assumes responsibility for the majority of the design work and all construction activities. This provides the designer-builder with increased flexibility to be innovative, along with greater responsibility and risk.”
MDOT’s pre-contract rules included these standards: “The estimated cost of this project is anticipated to be between $75 to $100 Million. MDOT requires that the construction be completed before December 31, 2012.”
Many Mississippians remember the days of routine 13-year highway projects.
Design-build should be examined for its fullest potential in a broad swath of future highways.