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Contractors’ and Agency Decisions and Policy Implications in A+B Bidding

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Abstract

The focus of this study is on the A+B transportation procurement mechanism, which uses the proposed cost (A component) and the proposed time (B component) to score contractors’ bids. Empirical studies have shown that this mechanism shortens project durations. We use normative models to study the effect of certain discretionary parameters set by state transportation agencies on contractors’ equilibrium bidding strategies, winner selection, and actual completion times. We model the bidding environment in detail including multi-dimensional bids, contractors’ uncertainty about completion times, and reputation cost. The latter refers to a private penalty that accrues to tardy contractors from increased cost of posting bonds and reduced prospects of winning future projects. Our model explains why contractors may skew line-item bids and why winners frequently finish earlier than bid. It has several policy implications as well. For example, we recommend that agencies set the daily incentive, disincentive, and road user cost to be equal and not cap incentives. This is a departure from current practice, where incentives are often capped and weaker than penalties. Furthermore, we show that agencies may be justified in setting daily road user cost strictly smaller than the true cost of traffic disruption during construction.

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