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Bill to sanction use of found materials on road projects

By: Nate Beck, [email protected]//March 26, 2021//

Bill to sanction use of found materials on road projects

By: Nate Beck, [email protected]//March 26, 2021//

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State lawmakers have reintroduced a bill that would encourage contractors to use materials found on-site for road projects.

The bill, labeled Senate Bill 218, requires the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to encourage builders to use materials sourced from the right-of-way on road projects. The measure, co-authored by Sen. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere, aims to save money on roadwork by allowing contractors to use materials found on a jobsite.

Lawmakers introduced a previous version of the bill in the last legislative session, but it failed to pass the state Assembly. The GOP proposal did not garner any support from Democrats in the last legislative session and hasn’t drawn bipartisan support since it was introduced in the state Assembly last week.

Jacque said the proposal should help save money on roadwork by allowing contractors to include potential cost savings from using found material in their bids.

“I think in the discussions that we’ve had there isn’t really opposition to it and its a good idea with a lot of merit,” Jacque said. “There’s the opportunity to realize taxpayer savings and get more projects done.”

WisDOT currently allows bidders to propose the use of materials sourced from the right-of-way, for a fee, according to an analysis from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

The bill, however, would prohibit WisDOT from charging contractors fees for using materials found on a project site, in addition to allowing the use of such materials. The bill would also allow companies to include potential cost savings in bids for roadwork.

The measure, however, would hold bidders responsible for unanticipated materials costs if materials taken from a right-of-way don’t meet specifications, or are more costly to use than expected. Bidders would also be held responsible if they don’t get proper permission to take found materials.

In a 2019 fiscal estimate with the previous bill, WisDOT expected the measure, if successful, would require the agency to perform an environmental analysis to identify backfill that would be needed to replace material taken from a right-of-way for a road project.

The agency would also need to identify the effects of losing materials from the right-of-way, which could cost staff time. That time could cost about $15 million a year, but would vary with project scope, location or resources present at the site. The agency did not register for or against the proposal during its last iteration in 2019 and hasn’t taken a position on the bill after it was reintroduced.


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