We have talked in earlier posts about the need to select your consultant in accordance with the Federal Consultant selection process, in order for you to be able to get reimbursed for their work once you have a Notice to Proceed on your project. The TDOT Local Programs Guidelines manual refers you to TDOT Policy 301-01 (attached Policy301-01) which explains how TDOT selects it’s consultants.
The problem with 301-01 is that it describes how TDOT does it’s selection, but not directly how local governments should do their selection. The short version about what the Federal guidelines require, is that you must do a “qualifications” based selection of an engineering consultant. That means you base your selection on the firms qualifications and not the price. The price is to be negotiated after the best qualified firm is picked.
The question becomes, “Well, shouldn’t you select on price?”. The answer is no, and there are several reasons why. First off it is against Federal rules. Secondly off at this stage of the project you are not exactly sure what the total scope of work would be for the project. So any price offered by a consultant group would be a guess. You wouldn’t be able to compare “apples to apples” on price anyway since no two firms would submit for exactly the same scope.
The following documents, one from the University of Tennessee MTAS Qual Based Selection 2009 bw and the other from the American Council of Engineering Companies TN-QBS-Brochure do a good job of outlining how you as a local government should select your consultant.