Did design-build have anything to do with the long delays in completing the tricky Route 20 road and bridge reconstruction project in Oregon? The original design-build joint venture team for the 6.5-mile project, which broke ground in 2005, is now off the job.
The project principal for that joint venture suggests that in light of what happened, design-build isn’t suitable for difficult sites.
“Design-build is more of a risk on sites with extreme and challenging geotechnical issues,” says Bill McGowan, who works for Watsonville, Calif.-based Granite Construction Co., the leader of the design-build joint venture called Yaquina River Constructors. “It may not be the best type of project for design-build.”
But that contention doesn’t sit well with those who promote design-build as a project delivery method especially suited to difficult sites where coordination between design and construction is vital. One attorney suggested that it may not have been design-build that failed when work bogged down on Route 20 due to complex differing site conditions on mountainous terrain.
Instead, Robynne Parkinson says, the trouble may have been the contract language, the inability of the design-builder and owner to work together without shifting blame—or both.
Although she is not familiar with the details of the Route 20 project, Parkinson says it is unreasonable to expect either the design-builder or owner to shoulder the entire cost of differing site conditions on such a project.
Yaquina River Constructors reached a termination agreement on May 3 with the Oregon Dept. of Transportation, under which Granite Construction Co. and its partners will pay the agency a net total of about $9 million. ODOT has since turned over the remainder of the job, substantially redesigned, to another contractor.