FDOT Implements New Online Bidding System

Wed November 24, 2004 - Southeast Edition
Renasia Scott

With its Sept. 29, 2004, letting, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) began accepting bids from contractors via Bid Express. Bid Express is an online information service for transportation bidding provided by Bidx.com, an Info Tech company based in Gainesville, FL.

Bid Express is a two-way service offering contractors published bid-related information from FDOT and allowing online, secure-bid submissions from the contracting community to FDOT.

By purchasing a $40 recurring subscription, prospective bidders can submit proposals and bid bonds to Bid Express at www.bidx.com, saving companies time, paper and excessive traveling to attend various lettings. Contractors also can browse future projects and bid on transportation projects in various states across the country, while accessing real-time bid results.

Juanita Moore, FDOT Contracts Administrative Office manager, sees the online service to be more convenient to bidders. Other states such as Georgia and South Carolina have employed online bidding as well. Moore said the successful implementation has shown benefits for the bidders and the state agencies.

“I feel it will result in faster, more efficient bidding and will eliminate errors in bids,” Moore said. “It will also save contractors time by not having to deliver bids to department facilities.”

Although the process is more cost effective, using Bid Express currently is not mandatory for FDOT contractors. The department will continue to send the bidding documents directly to potential bidders. Bidders will have the option to submit their bid electronically or deliver it to one of the designated locations in the state. Moore suggested interested contractors should visit the Contracts Administration Office Web site (www.dot.state.fl.us/cc.admin).

After pilot testing the Bid Express service for a year, FDOT announced the implementation of online bidding this past August. Currently, the online bidding process only is available for projects let in the Tallahassee, FL, office. Plans are under way to phase in the district offices beginning in January 2005. This will allow contractors to bid on projects in all district offices using the same digital ID.

A participant in the pilot testing of Bid Express, Stephanie Montisanti, executive assistant in estimating of the Middlesex Corp., discovered the process to be “effortless.

“I just found it to be easier with a click of a button,” Montisanti said. Her company is based in Massachusetts, where bids are handwritten. “Through the Internet, [bidding] was much faster. All the information was right there. You can’t go wrong.”

With roughly 450 pre-qualified contractors doing business with FDOT, the state agency is leading the process too 100-percent online bidding in the future.

“Bid Express helps to achieve our goal of increasing efficiency,” Moore said.

In previous lettings, companies turned in a diskette and hardcopy version of the bid. Contractors bidding district projects had to submit handwritten bids. Soon, online bidding will be available to all bidders.

Using Bid Express service is entirely electronic based. Contractors will prepare proposals using Trns*port Expedite Bid, a program that allows contractors to enter and save bid data. The information is then submitted to Bid Express. To present a bid through the service, a company has to purchase a digital ID, the equivalent of a handwritten signature. Currently, each ID is $75 for each individual within a company that will bid. Contractors much purchase a digital ID for each state in which they bid. Once submitted to Bid Express, the company’s proposal is secured and encrypted to ensure confidentiality until the department’s bid opening.

Contractors also can electronically create and enter bid bonds to Bid Express via Surety 2000, an Internet based surety processing, verification and security system developed in cooperation with the surety industry. It will be the bonding agent’s job to access Surety 2000 prior to the bid letting and request a bid bond for each project the contractor is bidding.

Moore said the use of the electronic-bid bond will eliminate contractors failing to inlcude the bid bond in the bid. Use of the Surety 2000 feature is not mandatory, as contractors can still submit the hardcopy of the bid bond directly to the department prior to the deadline for submitting bids.

(This article was reprinted with permission of “Florida Transportation Builder.”)