DOT Reform Legislation Introduced

On July 14, a group of Republican legislators led by Senator Chris Kapenga (R – Delafield) and Representative Joe Sanfelippo (R – New Berlin) introduced legislation to make various operational reforms at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT).

In particular, the bill provides DOT with multiple project delivery options. DOT currently designs a project, asks contractors to bid on the cost, and then awards the project’s construction to the lowest bidder. In addition to this method, the bill allows DOT to award a project to a contractor that will do all architectural, surveying, engineering, and construction work in a process known as design-build.

The bill also allows for a delivery method called construction manager-general contractor, in which all services unrelated to construction are provided by a contractor who, subject to approval by DOT, provides construction services as well.

The legislation also allows for design-build-finance where the design and construction services are provided by a single entity that also provides financing in whole or in part. Finally, DOT is allowed to engage in a process called fixed-price variable-scope. In this process, a contractor provides the maximum amount of work at a cost not to exceed a price fixed by DOT.

The bill also extends these project delivery options to counties, towns, cities, and technical colleges.

The legislation also includes policy initiatives previously introduced in separate bills. For instance, the bill calls for local approval of roundabouts, repealing prevailing wage requirements on DOT projects, and allows for local governments to raise transportation revenue through the creation of wheel tax. However, a proposed wheel tax would require referendum approval by local voters.

The group of Republican legislators introduced the legislation in efforts to save costs on DOT road projects in the future. In a written statement, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R – Rochester) said, “I support many of the reforms and would like to see them included in a comprehensive package to address the transportation needs in our state. I agree with the bill’s authors that a full repeal of prevailing wage is an essential component of a DOT reform package.”

The bill is currently open for cosponsorship until July 21. It may receive a public hearing after that date.