WSDOT’s new PDMSG provides objective criteria

Feedback from construction community will help shape project-delivery selection guidance process

David DHondt

WSDOT’s new project-delivery method selection-guidance (PDMSG) process is now in effect. PDMSG is a process to evaluate projects and select the most appropriate project-delivery method (PDM) based on each project’s attributes, opportunities and risks that result in the most cost-effective and best-value project delivery.

Historically, design-bid-build (DBB) has been the default PDM for all WSDOT projects, unless an alternative such as design-build (DB) or general-contractor/construction-manager (GCCM) was pursued. In those cases, internal approval was required from the WSDOT chief engineer. Now, no default delivery method is assumed; each project is subject to the PDMSG to select the most appropriate method.

The new selection methodology takes effect as WSDOT’s use of alternative delivery methods, particularly DB, is expected to increase significantly. Legislation that passed this year not only reduced the project-cost threshold at which WSDOT is authorized to use DB from $10 million to $2 million, it also included language stating that WSDOT is “strongly encouraged” to use DB.

With nearly 30 design-build projects under its belt and more expected, WSDOT, with input of the AGC/WSDOT Design-Build Team, implemented the PDMSG for all new projects in late October.

“We want objective, consistent criteria to be used to select the most appropriate delivery method,” said State Construction Engineer Chris Christopher. “Most other states that use a lot of design-build have some sort of delivery-method selection criteria, and we looked at many of them. Ultimately, we based ours on the Project-Delivery Selection Matrix from University of Colorado, Boulder and Colorado DOT.”

Even with the Legislature’s strong encouragement of DB, the PDMSG was created to provide objective guidance with regard to delivery-method selection. “We’re mindful that there are not insignificant costs to industry to develop DB proposals, so we want to be careful in making a determination,” said Christopher. “At some project-cost level, it may not make sense to require the money and effort from firms to make a DB proposal.”

With that in mind, WSDOT’s PDMSG document says, “It should be noted that, based on industry practice and opinion, projects with costs between a $2 million and $10 million are less likely to have the attributes that benefit from DB, although they should still be evaluated for potential benefit. Projects with costs that are $10 million or greater, but less than $25 million, are more likely to have the characteristics that benefit from an Alternate Delivery Method (DB or GCCM) while projects over $25 million would typically have the characteristics that benefit from an Alternate Delivery Method.”

How the PDMSG is put into play is generally as follows: The scope, budget, schedule and risks developed for the project summary are used to determine the probable PDM. Part I of a “selection checklist” allows quick identification of DBB projects, or eliminates GCCM based on project cost. Part II provides quick identification of the probable PDM or possible delivery options. Part III confirms that the RCW requirements for an alternative PDM are being met.

Christopher says that the PDMSG document should be considered a living document. “As we use it and see gaps or things that need modifying, we’ll change it as needed,” he said. “We’ll keep it current, and whenever a change is made, the latest version will immediately be posted on the website.”

Christopher said input from the construction community is always welcome. A PDMSG comment form is available on WSDOT’s website,

David D’Hondt is the executive vice president of the Associated General Contractors of Washington. He can be reached at