Avoid the Common Mistakes

The following is a list of common errors observed on federal-aid projects. These mistakes have resulted in project delays and, at times, a loss of federal funds. If you’re aware of a mistake that’s not included in this list and may be helpful to others, please share it by adding it below in the comments.

1. Authorizations

  • Agency performs Preliminary Engineering, utility relocation or right-of-way (R/W) work prior to authorization.
  • Agency advertises project prior to construction authorization.
  • Agency certifies the project is in the FSTIP at the time of authorization request but the project is not in the FSTIP, or the scope is different from that indicated in the FSTIP.
  • Agency does not have annual DBE program approved prior to request for authorization.

LAPM, Chapter 3

2. Environmental

  • Agency proceeds with final design, utility relocation or R/W acquisition prior to environmental clearance.
  • Agency changes the scope, funding, or construction limits during the environmental process without noting the revisions or re-evaluating their effects in the project studies, or does not re-evaluate project with prior environmental clearance when changes occur.
  • Agency does not obtain required permits or does not adhere to permit requirements or conditions.
  • Agency does not ensure that environmental mitigations and restrictions are met.
  • Agency obtains CEQA approval, but not NEPA approval.

LAPM, Chapter 6

3. Consultant Selection

  • Agency does not include applicable Federal contract provisions in consultant contracts.
  • Agency inappropriately awards consultant contract without open, competitive, qualification-based selections.
  • Agency does not get pre-award audit for consultant contract over $1,000,000, or executes contract prior to pre-award audit.

LAPM, Chapter 10

4. Right-of-Way

  • Agency begins property acquisition discussions with owner prior to environmental approval and/or appraisals being completed.
  • Agency performs right-of-way activities in violation of the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Properties Act, including failure to upgrade certification 3 to a certification 1 or 2 prior to opening bids.
  • Agency inappropriately issues a “No Right of Way Certification” for projects that involve utility relocations and/or construction easements.
  • Agency does not obtain specific authorization to relocate utilities or does not obtain approval of utility agreement.
  • Agency hires consultants that are not qualified to appraise and acquire property.
  • Review appraisers are not being hired to review consultant’s appraisals.

LAPM, Chapter 13

5. Construction Award

  • Agency awards to other than the lowest responsive and responsible bidder; awards to suspended or debarred contractor; or negotiates work with low bid contractor prior to award.
  • Agency does not have an approved Quality Assurance Program prior to construction authorization.
  • Agency awards contract to lowest bidder who doesn’t meet the Federal DBE requirements, without documenting a good faith effort.

LAPM, Chapter 15

6. Non-Competitive Bidding

  • Agency uses sole source, force account labor, or it’s own equipment or materials in construction without documenting and obtaining required approvals.

LAPM, Chapter 12

7. DBE

  • Agency does not enforce contract DBE provisions with regard to utilization, substitution, or good faith determination and documentation.

LAPM, Chapter 9

8. ADA & Design Standards

  • Agency does not conform to ADA design standards, such as installing curb ramps where needed, or not correcting substandard ramps within project improvement area.
  • Agency does not incorporate design standards into plans, or does not document design exceptions/approvals to applicable standards.

LAPM, Chapter 11

9. FHWA Form–1273

  • Agency does not incorporate FHWA Form–1273 into construction contract or does not enforce its provisions (i.e.: EEO, civil rights, wages, materials, subletting, safety, clean air & water, lobbying, convict labor, hiring preferences, Buy America, use of trainees, etc.).
  • Agency fails to perform check of federal wage rates within ten days prior to bid opening.

LAPM, Chapter 12

10. Construction Oversight

  • Agency does not provide adequate oversight, enforcement of labor compliance requirements, and quality assurance of construction to ensure completion in accordance with plans, specifications, and contract provisions.
  • Agency does not maintain adequate construction records to document compliance with federal law.
  • Agency does not adequately document contract change orders.

LAPM, Chapter 16

11. Materials

  • Agency does not submit a materials certificate or does not implement an approved testing program.
  • LAPM, Chapter 17.
  • Agency does not meet the requirements as provided in the “Buy America” clause and allows the use of foreign made steel or iron in permanent improvements.

LAPM, Chapter 12

12. Maintenance

  • Agency does not adequately maintain the completed project.

LAPM, Chapter 18

*If you’re unable to get the referenced LAPM chapter links on this page, the Division of Local Assistance updates the LAPM here.

About David Giongco

David is a registered civil engineer with the Caltrans Division of Local Assistance. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter and at LinkedIn.

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