New U.S. DOT rule allows states flexibility to build roads, bridges faster

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States will have more flexibility to build roads and bridges faster under a new rule that will allow design work and environmental reviews to occur concurrently, U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters said Thursday, Aug. 16.

The final rule amends Federal Highway Administration regulations to allow states to use various innovative contracting methods ranging from basic design-build contracts to long-term public-private concession agreements while simultaneously pursuing federal environmental approvals. The rule also increases the opportunity for smaller projects to use design-build contracts by eliminating a required dollar amount for projects.

“This new flexibility will help states build needed roads and bridges faster, while at the same time protecting the environment,” Peters said.

The rule allows certain design work to begin while the National Environmental Policy Act process is under way, still ensuring that the full range of alternatives is considered. Using this process, states are able to expedite the contract award process and start preliminary design while ensuring the objectivity of the NEPA decision-making process.

“Innovative contracting leads to speedier project delivery,” said Federal Highway Administrator J. Richard Capka. “The new rule will help to mainstream the approach and reduce the costs for states wishing to enter into public-private partnerships.”

Capka added that a quicker process would save taxpayers time and money. Overall, design-build has been proven a successful contracting tool, reducing average project delivery time by 14 percent.

The rule, which was open for full public comment before publication, can be viewed at