Work Zone Mobility and Safety Program
Photo collage: temporary lane closure, road marking installation, cone with mounted warning light, and drum separated work zones.
Office of Operations 21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

Contracting Strategies

drum-separated work zone

In traditional highway construction contracting (design-bid-build), cost is generally the one criterion that determines the winning bid. As State and local agencies strive to meet customer needs, factors such as quality, delivery time, social and economic impact, safety, public perception, and life-cycle costs have gained in importance. Since the 1990s, FHWA has been supporting the use of innovative contracting methods to help achieve these goals. This page includes information on several innovative contracting strategies, as well as overall contracting and contract administration techniques:

Alternative/Innovative Contracting

A + B Bidding

  • Example: A+B Bidding Reduces Construction Time in Iowa - Article in the October 2008 issue of Innovator that discusses how the Iowa DOT used A+B Bidding, in combination with other strategies, to reduce construction time on the 24th Street Bridge replacement project in Council Bluffs from 2 years to 1 year.

Accelerated Construction


  • Incorporating Work Zone Safety and Mobility in Design-Build Projects - To ensure good work zone planning, design, and operations on a design-build (DB) project, it is important to develop a strong request for proposals (RFP). FHWA resources are available to help with RFPs and effective work zone management on DB projects.
  • Example: Nevada I-15 Bridge Construction - As part of a design-build project, the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) used accelerated bridge construction to move a bridge 60 feet across I-15 in Mesquite in approximately six hours without closing the road. This effort was part of the West Mesquite Interchange project to widen Falcon Ridge Parkway in Mesquite, Nevada, and increase capacity for future traffic demand. NDOT wrote the request for proposals for the project knowing that there could be significant closures and impacts on I-15. In addition, NDOT assumed the rebuilt interchange would need to be placed in a new location, which would add to the cost. The winning contractor proposed a plan that used ABC to construct the bridge off-site and move it into place, allowing the bridge to be kept it in its existing location, and reducing the original project estimate of $25 million to less than $15 million and the duration of traffic disruptions from months to days.
  • Highway Projects: Some Federal and State Practices to Expedite Project Completion Show Promise - GAO report indicates that 79% of States surveyed agree that design-build contracting allows for potential time savings in highway construction projects. The report also presents other initiatives for expediting the completion of highway projects.
  • Example: Massachusetts Cedar Street Bridge Replacement - The use of design-build project delivery, along with accelerated bridge construction and incentive/disincentive contracting allowed the Massachusetts DOT to replace a bridge over a busy stretch of Route 9 in Wellesley in 62 hours, making it the state's fastest bridge replacement ever.
  • Construction Quality Assurance for Design-Build Highway Projects (PDF, 237KB) - Clarifies the roles, responsibilities, and activities related to construction quality assurance on design-build highway projects.
  • NCHRP Synthesis 376: Quality Assurance in Design-Build Projects - Examines how state transportation agencies have successfully approached quality assurance for design-build, including in procurement, design, construction, and post-construction operations and maintenance.
  • The Impacts of Design-Build on the Public Workforce - Explores the impact of design-build project delivery on a state department of transportation's professional workforce. The findings indicate that implementing design-build contracting by a DOT that is new to the delivery method will not have a negative effect on its public engineering workforce. When applied to the appropriate projects, design-build can be more efficient than the traditional design-bid-build method.
  • Example: Massachusetts FAST 14 Project - Using the design-build project delivery method helped Massachusetts DOT and its contractor shrink a four-year $98 million bridge project to just one summer on the "Fast 14" project to replace 14 deteriorated bridge superstructures along I-93.
  • Example: I-85 Interchange Design-Build Project Using Prefabricated Bridge Elements in West Point, Georgia - Describes Georgia's first project to use design-build contracting and prefabricated substructure elements. An economic analysis including construction costs and user costs shows that the project saved about $1.98 million (about 45 percent) over traditional contracting and construction methods.

Performance Contracting

  • Performance Contracting for Construction (PDF 1.6MB) - A Guide to Using Performance Goals and Measures to Improve Project Delivery - FHWA guide on performance contracting for reconstruction/rehabilitation projects. Includes recommended processes for project selection, performance goals, measurement methodology and associated incentive/disincentive fee structure, sample enhanced low bid and best value awards, SEP-14 applications, and lessons learned and sample materials from a pilot project done by Michigan DOT.
  • Video on Performance Contracting - Overview of performance contracting developed by the FHWA Highways for LIFE program.
  • Example: Performance Contracting for Construction on in Michigan - As part of a Highways for LIFE Demonstration Project, Michigan DOT (MDOT) used performance contracting for construction (PCfC) on M-115, a two-lane rural highway in Clare County. Through the use of PCfC, the project was completed with minimal disruption to the traveling public, and provided MDOT with a safer, smoother pavement with a 5-year warranty and lower life-cycle costs.

Other Resources

  • Using Safety Contingency Funding to Address Unforeseen Safety Needs During Construction in Texas — Factsheet (HTML, PDF 709KB)
  • Work Zone Road User Costs - Concepts and Applications (HTML, PDF 2.9MB) - Provides information on performing work zone road user cost (RUC) analysis, including possible RUC components that agencies can select depending on work zone scenario being analyzed, step by step RUC computation instructions, and applications in Maintenance of Traffic alternative analysis, project delivery/contracting strategies, and benefit-cost analysis.
  • Evaluation of Alternative Contracting Techniques on FDOT Construction Projects (PDF, 1.3MB) - Explores the performance of various Florida DOT roadway construction projects delivered with alternative contracting techniques. Project performance was evaluated with regard to time, cost, contractor performance, and value.
  • Ohio DOT Innovative Contracting Manual - 2010 Edition (PDF, 268KB) - Describes ways to select innovative contracting methods and contains a matrix that shows what innovative methods would be appropriate for various typical project types.
  • Performance Effectiveness of Design-build, Lane Rental, and A+B Contracting Techniques (PDF, 436KB) - Minnesota DOT report that compares the effectiveness of different innovative contracting methods. This study resulted in 15 recommendations for improving the use of innovative contracting for transportation projects.
  • Example: Incentives Speed Construction in Arizona - Article in the December 2007 issue of Innovator that describes how innovative contracting methods, extra safety measures, and careful construction sequencing accelerated work and made it safer for drivers and workers on a $50 million highway reconstruction project in Arizona.

Project Delivery

Contract and Contract Administration Resources

PDF files can be viewed with the Acrobat® Reader®.

Videos in Windows media format can be viewed with the Windows Media Player.