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New York City pushes for new method to build big public projects
[NEW YORK] The notion that governments can build big public projects on time and on budget may be a long-running joke for some skeptics, but New York City is not laughing.
The largest US city is not allowed to use a project delivery method called "design-build" that other cities around the country - and New York state - have increasingly adopted to save time and money on major infrastructure projects.
But city officials and industry firms are making a final push for the power to use this method before the state's legislative session ends on Wednesday.
Due to New York's existing statutes, the city must continue using the traditional design-bid-build method, which employs a different party for each stage instead of the more streamlined single entity that collaborates on all aspects of a project from the start under design-build.
A bill before lawmakers would allow three New York City agencies, including its Department of Transportation, to deploy design-build for eight specific projects, with provisions for using organized labor.
"We will use it to save the taxpayers money, to speed up projects, and to bring innovation," said New York City DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg in an interview. "We will use it for good purposes just as the state has done and just as almost every city and state across the country is doing." Trottenberg wants to use design-build for the biggest, most complicated project on her department's roster: a US$1.9 billion renovation of a "triple cantilever" section of an old, heavily used expressway, where three tiers of traffic are stacked atop each other as they curve through the borough of Brooklyn over 21 individual bridges.
Just a few miles away from the cantilever, on a separate section of the same highway, the state successfully used design-build to construct the first span of a new US$555 million Kosciuszko Bridge, which opened on time and on budget in April.
Firms that build and finance major New York projects - including Skanska AB, AECOM, HNTB, Citigroup Inc., RBC Capital Markets and Delta Air Lines Inc. - sent a letter on Monday to state lawmakers urging them to pass the bill without delay.
Lisa Washington, executive director of the Design-Build Institute of America, said New York City is "behind everybody else. It seems unfortunate that everything around these core infrastructure projects is reaping the benefits (of design-build) and New York City ... has been unable to."