Missouri House OKs bill meant to ease road-contracting process

Tuesday, May 5, 2009 | 6:52 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri lawmakers gave final approval Tuesday to a bill granting the state Transportation Commission greater flexibility in awarding contracts for roads and bridges.

The legislation expanding the state's design-build contracting authority now goes to Gov. Jay Nixon.

Normally, design and construction contracts are awarded in separate phases. But transportation officials say that combining the design and construction aspects into a single contract can sometimes save time and money for the state.

A 2002 state law already allows the Department of Transportation to award single design-build contracts for three projects. Those already have been committed for the Interstate 64 reconstruction in St. Louis, a bridge over the Missouri River in Kansas City and a package of smaller bridge projects around the state.

The legislation given final approval Tuesday by the House allows the Transportation Commission to award combined design-build contracts on up to 2 percent of its projects annually. The Senate passed the bill previously.

The additional authority to use single design-build contracts extends only until 2012, which is the same expiration date from the initial 2002 law.

The Transportation Commission awards about 500 road projects per year, which means about 10 projects annually would be eligible for a design-build contract.

Under the bill, the Transportation Commission also could award a design-build contract for improvements on Missouri 364 in St. Charles and St. Louis counties and for the intersection of U.S. 169 and 96th Street in Kansas City. Rep. Steve Hobbs, R-Mexico, who leads the transportation committee that approved the legislation, said those projects wouldn't count against the 2 percent annual cap or be subject to the 2012 expiration date.

The House on Tuesday also gave final approval to legislation eliminating a legislative staff position that was intended to provide oversight to the Department of Transportation.

The position drew scrutiny when former Rep. Neal St. Onge, R-Ellisville, secured an appointment to a $60,000-per-year job as the inspector general for the Joint Committee on Transportation Oversight. Before St. Onge claimed the post, it had been vacant for three years.

St. Onge quickly was forced out of the job after other lawmakers objected.


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