Local Agency Bridge "Bundling"

Local Agency Bridge "Bundling" – Creating efficiencies, and speeding repairs through economies of scale and standardization

Nearly 500 bridges on local Michigan roads are rated in serious or critical condition, and more than 1,000 currently have load restrictions due to their condition or structural capacity. 58 local agency severely deteriorated bridges are currently closed for safety reasons, restricting commerce and emergency services – not to mention resulting basic transportation inconvenience for the affected communities.

Michigan's Local Agency Bridge program provides $48 million in state and federal funds per year for repairs through a competitive selection process, though roughly $300 million in candidate projects are submitted. It's estimated that Michigan's local bridges need $850 million to $1.2 billion to meet an aggressive goal: zero serious, critical or closed bridges by 2025.

To achieve this, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) proposes to partner with local agencies to "bundle" similar bridge repair projects together to take advantage of economies of scale for streamlined design and construction, providing more repairs for lower costs.

Q – How would bridge "bundling" reduce costs?

A – Typically, a bridge repair project is done with a single design and construction contractor for a specific bridge, with costs for design, construction and administration unique to that project. By grouping bridges of a similar design, location or construction method, costs for each component can be broadly applied over the bundle of bridges, resulting in a lower cost per bridge and accelerated schedule for repairs through efficiencies and mass repetition.

Q – Is bridge bundling a new method?

A – No. Several other states have demonstrated this method can address many bridge repairs at lower cost over a relatively short period of time. Missouri DOT's Safe and Sound Program fixed 802 bridges for $685 million over five years, and PennDOT's Rapid Bridge Replacement Program fixed 558 bridges for $899 million over three years. Also, MDOT bundles projects often, such as with large roadway corridor projects, combining road reconstruction with bridge repairs and sign upgrades.

Q – How would bridges be selected for bundled contracts?

A – Bridge projects would be grouped using several criteria, such as geographic location or bridge type, bridges with similar scope of work or construction constraints, environmental permitting, construction schedules and readiness, project delivery methods, and of course working with local agencies regarding their preferences and restrictions.

Q – How much money could bridge bundling save?

A – Actual savings will depend on the contracting method employed, though other states have reported significant savings through bundling projects. For example, Pennsylvania saved 20 percent when compared to similar non-bundled contracts. Savings are achieved by advancing work, avoiding inflation and increased labor and material costs from the current approach, with costs rising for each project each year they are postponed.

Q – How would bridge bundling contracts be organized?

A – Bridges could be repaired using the standard design/bid/build process, in which a contractor designs and performs construction through a low-bid contract. Public Private Partnerships (P3) or design/build/finance/operate/maintain agreements could also be employed, with contractors providing the necessary funding for repairs and maintenance, for payments over time. Those options will be analyzed for each situation – no "one size fits all" approach.

Q - What other benefits does bridge bundling provide?

A – Other states using bridge bundling have found that bridge closure durations have been shortened along with overall construction times, minimizing delays for drivers and other users. A shortened window for construction has provided additional employment and economic benefit, while reducing management time and construction administration for local bridge agencies. Grouping projects also streamlines coordination and the permitting process.

Q – Is MDOT proposing to just come in and start rebuilding local agency bridges they do not own?

A – Absolutely not. MDOT will work with local bridge owners to develop flexible agreements covering design, construction administration, materials testing, inspection and other aspects. Where allowable, MDOT can participate as much or as little as the local agency prefers – again avoiding a "one size fits all" approach.