Minnesota Department of Transportation

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About the program

Design-build is an innovative contracting method used throughout the transportation trade with its roots in the vertical building industry. MnDOT uses the flexibility DB offers to maximize the value received per dollar spent, in a variety of situations. With growing public pressure to minimize traffic disruptions, utilize innovative approaches and deliver projects quickly, design-build has become an important contracting option for the department. 

At a high level, DB projects increase MnDOT’s ability to be both nimble and responsive as conditions change during project delivery. This is accomplished, in part, by requiring designers and contractors to team up and work together as opposed to having them work consecutively on projects. This arrangement serves to increase the reliability, speed and quality of a project. Furthermore, the more complicated a project is, the higher the likelihood that it will be completed at delivered for a lower cost using DB.

MnDOT received legislative approval to use this contracting method in 2001. Since that time, 24 projects have been awarded using design-build. While this is a small number of projects, it includes a wide variety of project types, including the emergency construction of the I-35W Bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis.


  • DB contracts can be advanced from the preliminary design stage to letting (and ultimately completion) much more quickly than the more standard design-bid-build projects given that design and construction activities can occur simultaneously following letting.
  • The DB method encourages the design-build teams to propose new and/or innovative techniques using performance specifications, Pre-Approved Elements, Alternative Technical Concepts, and other techniques.
  • DB offers a number of techniques that enhance the department's financial effectiveness such as ‘Best Value’ award structures including ‘fixed price, variable scope’, the transference of project risks (i.e. earthwork calculations) that the design-build team is better equipped to manage, the flexibility associated with performance specifications and ATCs, etc. ATCs in particular are estimated to have saved MnDOT $45 million during the 20 projects on which this data was computed.

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