Taking the fast lane: Alaska DOT&PF aims to streamline contracting process with Bid Express software


The Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT&PF) will offer a new electronic submission process for all large procurement construction contracts starting for all contracts advertised after May 14, 2018. All contractors will be required to create bids using the free AASHTOWare Project Bids software and will have the option to mail in/hand deliver bids or submit bids electronically through Bid Express as a way to streamline the process. The use of Bid Express online bidding is a part of the Department’s overall AASHTOWare Project software implementation which will facilitate the construction contract lifecycle from planning through construction and closeout.

“There are many benefits to online bidding,” said Sara Jarvis, AASHTOWare project manager and SiteManager system administrator for DOT&PF. “It will be less labor-intensive because fewer paper copies will change hands. Contractor information will be entered once into a reusable profile. The software will result in better accuracy with their bids or modification to bids.”

Bid Express is an out-of-the-box software designed to work with the existing AASHTOWare suite that helps transportation professionals comply with Federal Highway Administration regulations, standards and best practices, as well as state-to-state differences that could affect a project. Created in 1999 by Info Tech, Bid Express is a proven online bidding service used by 38 other states. Jarvis said DOT&PF is in the final testing phases and expects everything to be ready for the launch May 14.

“This is going to save us a lot of time, especially when it comes to processing bids. What used to take us six to eight hours will now take us five minutes.”

DOT&PF Commissioner Marc Luiken added, “Adopting Bid Express is part of the department’s larger initiative to move to electronic processes that allow us to track and measure our efficiency so we can continue to improve. We are working to be an organization that leverages available and tested technology to the benefit of our department and partners.”

Between now and May 14, Jarvis said the State of Alaska is providing video links and scheduling web training for contractors April 17, 19 and 24. Contractors can view these tutorials and subscribe to the Alaska DOT&PF AASHTOWare website for email notifications at dot.alaska.gov/aashtoware/contractors.shtml. Jarvis also encourages contractors to get their company on the Alaska DOT&PF AASHTOWare vendor list by visiting the same URL as it will be required to submit bids and register on plan holders lists. There is a subscription fee associated with the Bid Express service: $100 for a digital ID (one-time fee), plus a $60 per month fee, or $720 per year.

Though the ultimate goal is to go paperless, the DOT&PF will still take paper submittals, Jarvis said. Contractors choosing this option will still be required to create their bid using the free Bids software provided by the department on its Bid Express site. Completed bids will then need to be printed, and a USB drive containing the completed bid file must be sent with the paper submission.

“We are keeping this option for those who may not have the same level of technological access, but ultimately we would like to see all bids submitted electronically.”

Vendor IDs required for bidding will be generated from the state’s IRIS accounting program. This will allow for faster, more accurate payments once the AASHTOWare Project Construction & Materials module is launched and contractor payment information can transfer directly into IRIS.

 

Rachael Kvapil is a freelance writer living in Fairbanks.