Preparing the Bid and Other Bid Requirements

Preparing the Bid and Other Bid Requirements

This tab discusses many of the steps you are likely to take while bidding as a subcontractor on ADOT projects.

Learning about upcoming projects

There is no prequalification process for construction subcontractors. Subcontractors do not contract directly with ADOT and instead deal directly with prime contractors authorized to work with ADOT. Prime contractors may have their own prequalification requirements.

There are two general routes for subcontractors to learn about upcoming opportunities. The first is to pay attention to upcoming projects and try to identify parts of those projects your firm can complete. See the page on bidding opportunities to learn more. 

The second is to get to know prequalified prime contractors and ask if they might see a place for your firm in any upcoming projects. You can find a list of prequalified contractors in the Contracts and Specifications section of the ADOT website. You might also reach out to other subcontractors in related lines of work to offer become a second-tier subcontractor for them.

You are encouraged to speak with ADOT project Managers about upcoming projects before they are advertised. You can also access an Active Project List for ADOT and Local Public Agencies, including the name and contact information of the Project Manager for the project and when bids will be advertised In the Project Resource Office section of the ADOT website. 

A list of approved construction projects to be advertised are listed on the State Five-Year Transportation Improvement Program (STIP).  A copy of the STIP and any Amendments can be found on the Transportation Programming section of the ADOT website.

Note that you are not permitted to speak to any ADOT staff about projects once they are advertised.  Communication during advertisement must be submitted in writing to the procurement staff listed in the advertisement/solicitation document. 

One way to get to know other contractors is by attending public meetings, trainings and networking events sponsored by ADOT’s Business Engagement & Compliance Office specifically for DBEs and small businesses. You can learn more about those opportunities on the DBE/Small Business Assistance page. 

Connect with Prime Contractors for Potential Subcontracting Opportunities

Once invitations to bid have been issued for a project, you can reach out to plan holders for that project and let them know you’re interested in submitting a bid. You can find lists of planholders for each advertised construction project in the Contracts and Specifications section of the ADOT website.

Obtaining Plans and Specifications

Obtaining plans and specifications is critical, as it allows you to know exactly what is involved in the project and which of your services a prime might need. Plans and Specifications are now available online on the Contracts and Specifications' Current Advertisements page. 

DBEs and SBCs are able to view plans and specifications on large monitors in the Business Engagement and Compliance Office (BECO).  This information is available for review free of charge as a service to DBE and SBC registered firms. Call 602.712.7761 for details.

Information about project materials is available from:

Contracts and Specifications Section
Arizona Department of Transportation
1651 W. Jackson St.
Room 121F
Phoenix, AZ 85007-3217
Phone: 602.712.7221

Some project plans may also be available online from the Bid Express website. 

Specification manuals, standard drawings and similar resources that may be useful to you while developing your bids are also available for purchase from:

Engineering Record Section
Arizona Department of Transportation
1655 W. Jackson St.
Room 175, MD 112F
Phoenix, AZ 85007
Phone: 602.712.8216 or 602.712.7498
Fax: 602.712.3235

A list of publications for sale can be found on the Contracts and Specifications page. The order form can be found in the same place.

Prepare to Quote

Once you’ve identified specific projects and contractors looking for bids, it’s time to prepare a bid for them. While all bids are different, a key aspect of bidding is unit pricing. ADOT maintains a searchable historical price index, which allows you to see how others have priced the same items in the past. This database can be found on the ADOT website. 

In general, it is important to be clear about the scope of work you propose to do, the items included in your quote, and any items that are excluded. The specific project you are providing a quote for and how long the quote will remain valid are also important to include.

Prime contractors appreciate bids from potential subcontractors that are complete without exclusions. This enables them to assemble a team of subcontractors without having gaps in the required work.

Along with pricing, you’ll also want to demonstrate to the contractor that you’re experienced, skilled, and financially equipped to handle the project. The prime contractor might also require you to obtain a surety bond. If you are new to bidding on ADOT projects, or if you just feel your bid could use a boost, consider seeking advice from business specialists or well-established contractors. For tools and information that may help you do this, see the DBE/Small Business Assistance page. 

Three different quote examples, provided by a local contractor as demonstrations of acceptable quote documentation, can be found below:

Bidding and Estimating Tips

The Associated General Contractors of America AZ Chapter have provided some general tips for subcontractors preparing bids for general contractors:

  • Make your best effort to contact the prime contractor days in advance of the bid to let them know you are interested in teaming up with them to bid the project and find out the name of the estimator handling your part of work.
  • Go through the plans and specifications in detail in regards to your work. Communicate to the prime contractor any concerns or clarifications to your portion of the project.
  • Ensure that you can comply with the prime contractor’s insurance requirements and indemnity language before spending time and money preparing an estimate.
  • If bonding is necessary, put together budgetary numbers to major items early to give notice to your bonding company of the potential size of the project.
  • Offer to help the general contractor with preliminary budget numbers to give to their bonding company. Most prime contractors will not need help because of their past pricing history, but this does show them that you are willing to help them be successful.
  • Instead of simply faxing a quote to every plan holder on the bidders list, send a quote, by name, to the person you previously found out was handling your scope of work. Faxing quotes to all companies on the bidders list is very impersonal, and will not help you build relationships or make your quote stand out from others. It also means that you are essentially spamming companies that ultimately decided not to bid on the project.
  • Present your bid in a legible, accessible, and preferably typed format.
  • Include your scope of work 48 to 72 hours before the bid that you are pricing.
  • Include in your proposal the ability to bond (if applicable), your SBE/DBE vendor number, and possible availability of crews.
  • Include work durations, as this helps the general contractor understand how you priced your work. It also helps them determine how long they will need to support your work with supervision and/or items which are excluded from your proposal (for example, dust control, traffic control, or bonding).
  • Be clear about what your pricing does not include, and whether you expect the prime contractor to supply things such as staging, traffic control, or water. prime contractors often look at exclusions on a proposal before looking at the price. If it turns out that you are excluding work specifically required under the bid items you’re proposing on (i.e., night work, limited access), your proposal may be deemed non-responsive.
  • Excluding Davis-Bacon wages on a prevailing wage job likely means you will not be considered for that job.
  • If you are going to exclude materials such as concrete on a concrete quote, make sure it is very clear that you are making a labor-only bid. You might even provide an optional item giving the contractor the ability to add excluded items to your proposal.
  • You can exclude anything you want, but if you exclude necessary materials such as spoils or asphalt patch back, you should provide quantities of the excluded materials. This allows the general contractor to accurately add to your price to cover these items. If you do not quantify them, the general contractor may just add an arbitrary high number to your bid, making your bid higher than your competitors bid who includes the items you excluded.
  • Clarify whether your proposal is submitted as a whole package, or whether there are any items or categories of work that could be awarded individually. If there are categories of work or bid items that could be awarded individually, identify them clearly.
  • Acknowledge the exact number of addenda you have considered while making your bid. Do not simply put “all addenda” because you could have missed one and not know it.
  • When possible, proposals should be valid for the same number of working days as required by the prime contractor. It is difficult for prime contractors to use quotes that expire soon after a bid is made.
  • Time is very precious on bid day. If you can provide pricing prior to the actual bid date, you should. You always have the ability to revise it up to bid time.
  • If you cannot provide pricing until bid day, at least provide an abstract bid listing scope and exclusions. This helps the prime contractor, and reminds them that you are intending to submit a bid.

Submit Quotes to Prime Contractors

Many firms interested in subcontracting on a project will submit quotes to multiple prime contractors.

While their preparation of a bid often continues to the last minute, contractors appreciate having a complete quote from subcontractors with time left to carefully evaluate it. 

Review Prime Contractor’s Decision

Once the prime contractor has evaluated your bid, it may or may not accept it and list you as a subcontractor in its bid. Prime contractors do not always inform you if they choose not to go with your bid. If you don’t hear from them, you should contact them to be sure. If they decide not to go with your bid, you may want to ask them for a reason, and for advice on how to submit a better bid in the future.

After a Prime Contractor Accepts your Bid

The next step is to wait until the bid opening. You can check bid results in the Contracts and Specifications section of the ADOT website.  However, note that the project does not always go to the low bidder.

Reading of Bid Results

Once the submission deadline has passed, bids are opened and publicly read. The date and location of the bid opening is typically listed in the advertisement for that project.

As-Read Bid Results

As-read bid results list the overall bid on a project for each bidder as well as the project cost estimated by ADOT. They can be found in the Contracts and Specifications section of the ADOT website. . 

Bid Tabulations

Bid tabulations show what each contractor bid for each item and their overall bid. Bid tabulations are often posted after the bid results are read, and reviewing them can help you by showing you areas where your competitors are competitive on pricing and areas where you might have an advantage. They can be found in the Contracts and Specifications section of the ADOT website.