Highway Design Services

CDOT uses a variety of outside consultants to help them design, construct and repair the state’s transportation system. They have a large number of in-house engineers, but those staff members often need additional support for large or specialized projects. Within CDOT, businesses that provide professional services such as engineering, bridge inspection, surveying, environmental projects, construction management, and traffic-related design, are called Professional Service Consultants

How Does CDOT Buy Highway Design Services?

In most cases, CDOT contracts for Professional Service Consultant services based upon an evaluation and selection of the most qualified firm for the job rather than price. Consultants are selected for either a specific design project or for a set of services that may be used on several projects. The first type is what is called “Project Specific” or PS. Project-specific requests outline a scope of work for an specific construction project and detail the type of work that is required to design the project. 

The second type is called a “Non-Project Specific” or NPS contract and is similar to a blanket purchase order. These are often awarded to multiple firms or teams based upon the team’s ability to provide a wide range of expertise. CDOT uses NPS contracts frequently for Consultant services because it allows them to have a preferred vendor list to call upon whenever a new project requirement comes up. These contracts do not have a set contract amount. Rather, the Consultant provides estimated hours and rates for each task order they are awarded.

Prequalification

All professional service firms that want work with CDOT as a prime or sub consultant must first be prequalified by CDOT. This is a two step process that starts with a Technical Prequalification. Consultants need to register in CDOT's Supplier Self-Service Portal (SuSS) and complete the online application under the RFx and Auctions section of the site. Follow the instructions for using the portal to help with the registration and submission process. The next step is Financial Prequalification which results in a rate schedule called a Master Price Agreement (MPA). Detailed instructions are outlined in CDOT's Financial Qualification Brochure

Types of Solicitations

CDOT uses a selection process based upon the most qualified Consultant for the job. They will put out a Notice to Consultants and a Scope of Work for the project. Proposers are required to respond with a Statement of Interest or "SOI." The SOI format includes a cover letter, a description of team and individual qualifications, the firm’s capability and capacity to provide the requested services, and a work plan that describes your understanding of the project or types of projects that will be included in the contract. 

All prime consultants must be prequalified by CDOT prior to proposing on a project. The prequalification application is based upon a firm's experience rather than a construction project cost level that is based upon bonding.

How To Submit an SOI

SOI’s are submitted electronically through the CDOT Self-Service Portal (SuSS). Prime Consultants will generally request that subconsultants provide information similar to what is required for the SOI format prior to submitting the SOI. Standard page limits apply with each section being between 2-5 pages, however, page limits can be expanded for a specific project, so be sure to read the Notice to Consultants.

A CDOT evaluation team reviews all SOI’s and each evaluator scores each section of the SOI individually using a qualitative scale from 1 to 5 on a Consultant Scoring Form. The scores are then tallied and the firm with the highest score is awarded the contract. In some cases, CDOT may “short-list” the top 3 scoring firms and require an oral interview with the teams. Price is not submitted or considered as a factor in selection. Rather, proposed hours and rates are negotiated after the contract is awarded.

Where Do You Find Opportunities?

Finding consultant opportunities is quite a bit different for consultants than it is for contractors. Because highway construction projects are generally awarded based upon lowest bid, prime contractors are most interested in using subcontractors that give them the best price. Since consultant contracts are based upon qualifications, primes are looking for firms they believe can bring expertise to their team and make their SOI look better. 

Teaming is the name of the game for CDOT design and engineering projects. Prime consultants are looking for experts with skills that they cannot or do not want to perform themselves. You will have a much better shot at getting work if you make an introduction and get to know the key players in the industry. Be on the lookout for upcoming projects and get to know CDOT Prime Consultants and Resident Engineers. Networking is critical if you want to be considered for a highway design project.
  

DBE and ESB Firms

Most CDOT projects are funded either partially or fully with federal funds from FHWA or FTA. Because of this, the requirements are pretty stringent and there are a lot of rules and paperwork, including reports that are mandated by the federal sponsor. Therefore, it is more difficult for small businesses to be a prime consultant on these projects. However, the DBE Program and ESB Program both apply, which provide additional opportunities and competitive advantage for certified firms.