Following state law, the Secretary of Transportation awards the construction contract to the lowest responsible bidder, a private contractor, who is obligated to build the project according to the plan requirements and specifications upon which the bid was received.
The exception to this process is a method called "design-build." These types of contracts are awarded to a team of designers and builders based on technical presentations and cost. Having one contract for design, environmental permitting, right-of-way acquisition, utility relocation and construction reduces overall construction time, helps NCDOT avoid cost inflation, and allows the contractor to make innovations that save taxpayers money, lessens environmental impact, and alleviates driving delays for motorists.
Typically, a project may be considered for a design-build procurement if it falls within at least one of the following broad categories:
- Projects where design and construction need to be expedited for the public good or to capitalize on advanced or specific funding opportunities
- Emergency projects
- Projects with complex constructability or traffic phasing issues
- Projects affording opportunities for innovation
- Unusual projects that do not lend themselves to the normal design-bid-build procedures
Based on the categories noted above, the following types of projects are particularly suited to the design-build process:
- New location projects
- Large interstate widening or rehabilitation projects
- Projects with heavy traffic volumes
- Large or unique bridge projects
NCDOT's Division of Highways administers the contract. An NCDOT resident engineer and his/her staff provide local project management, and along with project inspectors interpret plan details and contract requirements, test for quality, check for conformity with contractual requirements, and document the quantity of work performed so the contractor can be paid on a monthly basis. The resident engineer and staff also make certain the environment is protected, manage traffic flow along the project, work with adjacent property owners, observe work zone safety, and oversee coordination with state and federal agencies.
Before a road opens to traffic and before the project is considered complete, an NCDOT team not involved in the construction conducts a final inspection to verify it has been completed properly.