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ACEC is strongly opposed to a proposed change from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to the regulations governing the procurement, management, and administration of engineering and design services by local governments on federally funded projects. 

Under the proposed rule, compliance with QBS would be optional for local projects funded through FHWA discretionary grants. The agency would remove the requirement that local governments award contracts for engineering and design-related services in accordance with QBS. It would also remove the requirement that contracts comply with the Federal Acquisition Regulation cost principles, another critical protection. 

“We believe the changes would be counterproductive to our shared goal of successful implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” Council President and CEO Linda Bauer Darr wrote in a comment letter to Administrator Shailen Bhatt. “Existing FHWA requirements directly impact public health and safety and play a key role in controlling costs and promoting project success. They ought to be maintained.” 

The Council highlighted several key issues in the comment letter. First, current law requiring QBS works well and leads to better project outcomes because it represents best practice for the procurement of engineering and design services. Removing the QBS mandate would undermine successful project delivery through increased project costs and delays.  

Second, the changes will cause confusion for contractors and sponsors through a myriad of inconsistent procurement rules and may lead to less competition for contracts and fewer options for local governments. These changes will also lead to less competition and fewer options for local governments. Lastly, the letter notes that the changes would reverse a decade of regulatory certainty and clarity. It has always been expected that federal rules attach to federally funded projects regardless of whether it was a state or local government recipient, or formula or discretionary program funds. 

“A better solution for FHWA would be to continue to bolster its technical assistance capacity for facilitating local compliance,” wrote Darr. “ACEC has greatly appreciated the collaboration and coordination with the U.S. DOT in this regard, and we are strongly committed to continuing to work with the Administration to facilitate efficient and effective project delivery under the IIJA. We are eager to partner with FHWA on education, training, and outreach programs for local officials managing federal funds.” 

ACEC members are encouraged to submit their own comments in opposition to the rule, which can be filed here. The comment deadline is Monday, April 1. 

 Click here to view the ACEC comment letter. 


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March 25, 2024



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