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Allegheny County Goes Electronic for Painters Run Road Bids
By John Menniti, Pittsburgh Section

It was not business as usual for the Allegheny County Department of Public Works for the bidding of the Painters Run Road Reconstruction project. The Department broke into a new technological frontier by instituting an all-electronic bidding process based upon a custom website developed by Pelleon, LP, of Wexford, PA. In lieu of the conventional paper proposals and bid bonds, Contractors prepared and submitted their bids online. Allegheny County is the first public agency in Pennsylvania to solicit unit-price construction bids electronically.

The electronic process started when the project was advertised on April 22, 2002. Interested contractors were instructed to register online with Pelleon and obtain the contract documents (plans and project manual) on CD-ROM from Pelleon, rather than purchasing paper documents directly from the County. Distributing contract documents on CD-ROM has been done by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for several years, and this method also proved efficient for the County. Contractors received the CD-ROM at no charge, and then printed in-house or through a reprographer the plans and specifications at their discretion.

Pelleon and the County managed the bidding process entirely on the Internet via a custom home page created specifically for the Painters Run project. Bidders, potential subcontractors and suppliers, County personnel including the solicitor and controller, and the general public received up-to-date information about the bidding via the Internet. The prebid question and answer process was also conducted through the project home page, with all questions and answers immediately viewable by all interested parties. One addendum was issued for the project, which was announced on the project home page and emailed to all contractors on the bidders list.

Registered contractors on the bidders list then entered their bid data directly into Pelleon's secure web servers. A bidder electronically "submitted" their bid, which was legally binding. Electronic bids could be changed and resubmitted anytime prior to the bid date of May 15, 2002 at 11:00am. Bid data could not be viewed by anyone other than the submitter prior to bid date. A reverse auction process was not conducted; therefore bids stored in Pelleon's servers at 11:00am were final legal bids. Bid bonds could also be submitted electronically via Surety2000, Inc., however the County also allowed paper bid bonds to be submitted prior to the bid date.

Eight bids ultimately were submitted online on bid day, with four electronic bid bonds and four paper bid bonds. The bid results were viewed immediately online by the contractors, County, and general public through Pelleon via an "electronic" bid opening.

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