State DOT Board Approves Non-Bid Road, Transit Projects

Wed February 04, 2004 - Southeast Edition

MACON, GA (AP) The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) Board has approved plans for road and transit projects that are not subject to competitive bidding laws, such as toll roads built by private contractors.

The board, which meets three times a year outside Atlanta, adopted rules Nov. 20 allowing the GDOT to enter partnerships with firms willing to front design and construction costs. The companies could recoup their investment and profit through “innovative” financing plans.

Transportation projects in Georgia typically are financed by the state and go to the lowest qualified bidder.

Critics claim the new rules open a door to abuse, allowing too much deal-making outside public view. Details of a project proposal are not required to be made public until 15 days before a final contract is signed.

Board Chairman Johnny Gresham said the deals will let the state speed up projects in traffic-congested areas at a time when money is tight. Transportation projects already planned and fully funded by the state are not eligible.

To ease secrecy concerns, the board’s rules require public notification of a proposal within five days. The state law had given the department up to 30 days to advertise a proposal. The public then gets a month to comment. The department also will take public comment before a contract is signed.

After a proposal is submitted, other contracting firms have at least 90 days and potentially as many as four months to submit competing proposals.