Crain’s New York Business has published a comprehensive article describing the status of New York businesses and contractors interested in bidding for parts of president Donald Trump’s southern border wall, but the story indicates that they have an uphill battle in winning the work.
Hundreds of companies across the country have expressed interest in helping him, lured at least in part by an estimated budget of more than $20 billion. But despite the potential windfall, only 11 New York–based firms have so far been attracted to the job.
The challenges: In addition to hostility to the concept from NY state legislators, the wording the “design-bid” model for proposed for bidders goes against public sector practices within New York.
That’s because the RFP asks respondents to describe their experience with “high visibility and politically contentious design-build projects.”
Design-build, a bidding process that allows engineering and construction projects to be contracted together rather than separately, is used extensively throughout the rest of the country. But not in New York, where various construction groups have long prevented the framework’s wide implementation out of fear that streamlining the building process could mean less work. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed expanding the policy in the state budget, but that won’t make up for years of lost opportunities.
Crain’s reports the RFP sets out both vague and specific requirements for potential wall project bidders:The government’s request for bids was notable for both its specificity and its lack of detail.
Provisions include that the wall should:
- “be constructed with reinforced concrete.”
- “be physically imposing in height.” The government wants a 30-foot-tall wall but says 18 feet may be acceptable.
- not allow “a human to climb to the top” or “access the top of the wall from either side unassisted (e.g. via the use of a ladder, etc.).”
- “include anti-climb topping features that prevent scaling using common and more sophisticated climbing aids (e.g. grappling hooks, handholds, etc.).”
- “prevent digging or tunneling.” The wall must extend 6 feet below ground.
- “prevent/deter for a minimum of one hour the creation of a physical breach (e.g., punching through the wall) no larger than 12 inches in diameter or square using sledgehammer, car jack, pickax, chisel, battery-operated impact tools, battery-operated cutting tools, Oxy/acetylene torch or other similar hand-held tools.”
- “be aesthetically pleasing in color, anti-climb texture, etc.,” on the U.S.-facing side.
- “be constructible to slopes up
to 45 [degrees].”
have fittings and fixtures “secured on the north side to shield from external attack.”
- “be cost-effective to construct, maintain and repair.”
The project has an estimated budget of more than $20 billion. Trump has asserted that Mexico will need to pay for it (a concept the Mexican government has declined to accept) but reportedly the president is seeking $1.5 billion to begin work.
Crain’s reports that in February, US Customs and Border Protection, which will manage the wall project, issued a request for information from potential vendors. So far, at least 734 companies nation-wide have signed up.
In mid-March the agency issued a more specific request for proposals, which included the minimum-bid requirements that the reinforced concrete structure would need to be at least 18 feet high (though the department would prefer 30 feet) and run underground to a depth of at least 6 feet.. Roughly 200 firms have so far expressed interest in submitting bids.