Step By Step on How to Select Your Consultant

So I have talked a lot about how the Federal Qualifications Selection Process works. What I  have not done is give you the Local Government step by step instructions on how to do it. Well this will fix that:

Purpose: The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) requires that Local Governments hire a TDOT pre-qualified Engineering Consulting firm as part of their Locally Managed Project.

The Problem: TDOT tells local governments to follow TDOT Policy301-01 in how they select their Engineering firm. This is NOT the same as a “low bid” selection. Because Federal funding is involved, Local Governments are required to follow a Federal Qualifications Based Selection process.

So what exactly does that mean? How should Local Governments select their consultants? How much choice do Local Governments have in this process?

Steps for Selecting your Consultant Group: The following are the steps that you will need to follow to select your consultant for your TDOT Locally Managed project.

  1. Step one is running the attached advertisement Sample Consultant Advertisement for letters of interest 1 just once in the local paper and Grand Division newspaper (the Jackson Sun for example). Give the due date for qualifications from engineering firms at least 15 days after the last day the ad is ran. You, the Local Government can have the submissions be hard copies or via email, that is your choice.
  2. When the due date is up you will have a stack of qualification from several different firms. You can select based on the qualifications that you sent out in the newspaper. You can have one person decide which firm is to be selected (Highway Superintendent, Public Works Director, Mayor) or have a group decide (City Council, County Commission, or City/County Staff). You don’t have to make a big meeting out of it unless you decide to.
  3. Once the most qualified firm is selected, then you will notify them as well as other firms that were not selected. You can do this by letter, phone, or email.
  4. Once the Local Government has made their selection, you will then begin negotiating with a contract for the engineering work for the projects with the most qualified firm which you all selected. The way it will happen is that the firm will come up with the contract, which includes the fees, between the engineering firm and the County. You will talk about it and then when you are satisfied you will sign and execute that contract. The TDOT Local Programs Office will want to have you email them a copy of the contract for their records once it is all signed by everyone.
  5. Then, once you received your Notice to Proceed for the first phase of work Preliminary Engineering for the Environmental Document (PE-NEPA) you can actually put your consultant to work and be reimbursed for it.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can you select your engineering firm based on the lowest bidder? The answer is NO. TDOT Policy and Federal law is very clear that selection for Engineering Consultants on projects involving Federal funding be based on qualifications and not fees.
Remember, you don’t have to hire the highest ranked firm if you are unable to reach an agreement on cost with them. If this is the case you just move on down the list to the second highest ranked firm and negotiate with them.

Does TDOT care which firm gets selected? The short answer is no. As long as you follow the Federal Consultant Selection process to select your consultant, and that consultant is on the TDOT pre-qualified list as “unlimited status”, then the TDOT Local Programs Office does not care which firm that is.

You as the Local Government have the freedom to decide which TDOT pre-qualified firm you wish to help you manage your project.


About arran375

I work for Askew, Hargraves, Harcourt and Associates, Inc. here in Nashville, Tennessee. The short version of what I do is that we help local governments spend the Federal funds they get from TDOT on road, and bridge projects.
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