San Diego Workload
Your article "San Diego Sets Out Welcome Mat for Job-Hungry Contractors" left the impression that our local contractors are unable to handle the local workload (ENR 02/10 p. 17). Nothing could be further from the truth. You report that the City of San Diego is planning on replacing 60 miles of water pipeline per year. At a recent meeting, one local contractor stated that were he to choose to bid city projects he could complete over 100 miles of pipeline per year. Clearly the problem, since at least partially solved, was not a lack of contractors, but a lack of those willing to bid city work.
A coalition of six contractor groups consisting of the National Electrical Contractors Association, the Engineering and General Contractors Association, American Subcontractors Association, the Black Contractors Association, Latino Builders and Women in Construction set out to identify problems in the City of San Diego's Engineering and Capitol Projects Dept.
The coalition worked closely with the city's Public Works Advisory Committee to come up with solutions for problems such as slow pay, high retention, delays in change order approvals, and long delays between award and notice to proceed. The coalition also worked with city estimators to bring their estimates more in line with current economic conditions.
The result is that more local contractors are bidding the work and the bids are in line with the project estimates. Where previously there may have been one to three bidders on a job, now there are six to eight. Any out-of-town contractor looking for an easy payday will be surprised by the extreme competitive bidding that now exists.
Be Careful What You Say
I recently read your article "economic Uncertainties Draw Browsers to World of Concrete" (ENR 2/17 p. 12). The asphalt industry has also been affected by the downturn in the economy so I found the article to be very informative. What troubled me was a comment made by Suneel Vanikar, the Federal Highway Administration's concrete pavement engineering team leader, who commented that "concrete pavement can be up to 5% more capital intensive than asphalt despite its longer life cycle."
Your readers should be aware that often the initial cost of concrete can be as high as 20 to 30% more that asphalt. At least that's what life cycle cost analyses shows here in Colorado. Also, to make a blanket statement that concrete pavement has a longer life cycle is wrong. Over 90% of all pavements are asphalt.
FHWA has a great reputation of providing technical support and assistance in pavement engineering. It would be a shame for that reputation to be tarnished by voicing in on product promotion issues.
San Diego Workload
March 24, 2003