District 2 introduces new seal-coat warranty bid process

District 2 experimented with a new form of bidding on seal-coat projects that could pave the way for a new process within the district and possibly statewide.

Two seal-coat projects, bid as a single contract this summer, used a warranty concept similar to the Montana Department of Transportation. Under the new seal-coat warranty, the contractor is responsible for the quality and initial durability of the product.

Knife River Inc. of Idaho bid $735,000 to complete seal coats on two segments of highway: from Culdesac to the Spalding Bridge on U.S. 95 (about 13.2 miles) and from the Kamiah Bridge to the west Kooskia Bridge on U.S. 12 (seven miles). The bid was based on 335,616 square yards of surface, or about 47.6 lane miles, explains District 2 Engineering Manager Pat Lightfield.

The unique part of the contract, however, was a warranty on the end product. Knife River had the option of accepting 85 percent of the contract amount this year and the remaining 15 percent next spring, or posting a bond to ensure the seal coat would perform well through at least the following March.

Knife River elected to post a bond.

District 2 introduced the new bidding concept on a trial basis after incurring major costs associated with a failed seal coat on U.S. 12 last winter. The warranty ensures that contractors are responsible for the quality of their work, Pat says.

“We found that contractors are willing to follow specifications – that they want to do the right thing – without direction from ITD. They take full responsibility for their work.”

The warranty process also enables contractors to make more decisions, such as traffic control and the timing of their work. Contractors are more accountable for the final product, which allows ITD to be less involved in the process. The district used fewer inspectors on the two seal-coat jobs than in previous projects, resulting in a cost savings, Pat explains.

“We found it to be a willing compliance with specifications. We’ve very pleased with the results so far.”

District 2 worked with state construction engineer Fran Hood at Headquarters and Associated General Contractors of Idaho to create a mutually accepted warranty process.

Initial bids on the District 2 contact were higher than for other similar projects, but that was expected because contractors are taking a greater risk, Pat says. The process is to use an “end-result specification: rather than a method specification,” meaning there is greater emphasis on the final product than the process to achieve it.

The savings to ITD comes through efficiency and an assurance the seal coat won’t fail in the first year.

Seal coats generally last about seven years, depending on traffic volume and winter conditions. They are designed to seal highway surfaces and prevent moisture from creating cracks and potholes, thus extending their functional life. Seal coats also improve traction for motorists.

Pat said the sea- coat warranty process seems to be successful, although the final verdict won’t be pronounced until next March. The district plans to continue the new bidding format in the future. Other districts have followed the progress and have the authority to implement seal-coat warranty bidding at their discretion, says Chief Operations Officer Paul Steinman.

Published 9-16-2011