TxDOT Contracting for Services Clarified

Wed, 2013-07-10 16:51 -- Douglas Loveday

(The following is a summary of discussions held at a recent meeting between TSPS and TxDOT representatives.)

Re: Meeting 6/12          TxDOT Austin offices (Riverside Drive)

TxDOT Attendees:
Lauren Garduno, P.E., Chief Procurement Officer and Deputy Administrative Officer
Brian Barth, P.E., Deputy District Engineer Ft. Worth District

TSPS Attendees: 
Curtis Strong, RPLS, President of TSPS
Michael Parker, RPLS
Mark Hanna, TSPS Legal Counsel
Chris Freeman, RPLS, TSPS TxDOT Liaison

Following inquiries, comments, and questions received by TSPS members, TSPS President Curtis Strong requested this meeting in a letter dated May 13 to discuss the TxDOT Contracting for Architectural, Engineering, and Surveying Services which became effective February 21, 2013. The rules can be found in the Texas Administrative Code, Title 13, Subchapter C, in Section 9.34(b), 9.35(b), and 9.36(b) respectively. The TSPS Governmental Affairs Committee took those concerns to the TSPS Board of Directors at the May 4, 2013 Board Meeting, where a motion was approved to request a meeting with TxDOT to clarify the new contracting process.

The TxDOT contracting process is a dynamic one. The process has undergone some recent changes, and most certainly will continue to evolve. TxDOT hopes such changes enhance the process and make it more efficient for those involved and so that the public ultimately is better served. Since late 2012, TxDOT had begun to develop their new process and had made informational webinars available for interested parties and solicited comments. Follow-up webinars were held in early 2013 before the new process was finalized. TSPS had worked during that period with the TxDOT Standing Committee on Surveying, through the TSPS TxDOT Liaison, to help advertise the webinars and encourage interested members to participate.

The “Professional Engineering Procurement Services” (PEPS) wording in recent TxDOT Notices of Intent for Professional Land Surveying Services has caused some confusion among TSPS members. The TxDOT officials were clear that including the word “Engineering” may have been misinterpreted to imply that some surveying services will now be classified under Engineering and under the control of the Texas Board of Professional Engineers. They stated that dropping “Engineering” from the phrase will be considered to clarify any confusion related to Land Surveying Services Contracts.

TxDOT officials clarified the concern raised whether a surveying firm needed to have a PE on staff, or had to sub-contract with a PE or engineering firm in order to pursue the traditional surveying contracts. The answer was a resounding NO.

No intent was made to include or move any survey services to fall under the Engineering Practices Act. Thus, as is the present situation, a surveyor will not be in violation of either the TBPLS or the TBPE if performing any of the current work categories. TxDOT officials concurred that professional surveying standards as offered by groups such as ACSM and TSPS are good and should continue to be cited in contract language.

The last several years TxDOT moved to a Regional concept for contracting purposes. There were 4 regions (East, West, North,  South) that grouped the traditional Districts by geographic location. That concept is now changing to a system whereby there will be 5 major metro service centers (Dallas, FW, Austin, Houston, San Antonio,) plus El Paso due to certain special considerations probably due to its location along the U.S. border with a major foreign city adjacent; the respective metro service center would service their respective metro area only. All other TxDOT contracting outside those metro area service centers would be serviced by one other service center.

Additionally, individual TxDOT Districts will now be allowed to solicit and control the selection of other professional services within their District, up to a certain dollar amount ($1M?). This development has 2 implications: 1.) Possibility of more contracting opportunities, and 2.) While the integrity of the process will be maintained, this may favor smaller local firms who may be quicker to respond to TxDOT requests, and also have local familiarization and even a tract record with the District.

TxDOT officials agreed to continue the strong relationship between TSPS and the TxDOT Standing Committee on Surveying (SCOS). A suggestion was welcomed to possibly arrange for a contracting process seminar/presentation to better educate interested Surveyors and/or firms on the process, changes, and opportunities. TSPS again offered assistance to spread the word to its members, as it has done in the past. A direct line of communication to the TxDOT officials was agreed upon.

I understood comments from the TxDOT officials that the services under the TxDOT Category 15 (Surveying and Mapping) are not subject to the Administrative Qualification under the TxDOT Standard or Small contracting process as long as state funds are used to pay for surveying services. However, the AQ will be required for contracts under the Federal process (to comply with the Federal Acquisition Regulations or FAR). If a firm has not undertaken the steps to establish a Federal Audited Rate, they may opt to use a TxDOT “Self Audit Process”. Contact TXDOT and they will be happy to help you understand this process.

I believe that at least from the TSPS side, this was a positive and productive meeting where all parties seemed to be on the same page and that no major differences were encountered. Clarification was provided on many items, and a willingness to go forward working together seemed to be the goal of all. TSPS is willing to assist TxDOT in their evolving contracting process, with a goal to ensure that the citizens of Texas are protected and can be assured that quality professional land surveying services will continue to be an integral element of the transportation system of our State.

Curtis Strong, RPLS, President Texas Society of Professional Surveyors
Chris Freeman, RPLS, TSPS Liaison to TxDOT