EXCLUSIVE: Underground Construction’s 12th Annual Municipal Survey: Year of Hope and Caution

Recession Causes Budget Concerns While Stimulus Stirs Excitement, Potential Windfalls
February 2009 Vol. 64 No.2

As in the past few surveys, cities strongly believe that quality if the most important feature they look for in contractors (cited by 86.6 percent). Timely completion of projects was also critical to municipal personnel as indicated by 76.5 percent; experience was cited by 74.8 percent; effective dealing with the public, 59.7 percent; and low cost was cited by 50.4 percent.

Consulting engineers

The performance rating for consulting engineering firms increased slightly, reversing a five-year trend. On a scale of one to 5, engineers received a 3.61 rating, up slightly from the 2008 rating of 3.59.

Quality remains the most important feature that cities look for in consulting engineering firms as cited by 85.7 percent of respondents. Understanding new technology was noted by 64.7 percent; productive relationships with contractors, 52.1 percent; and only 50.4 percent cited cost of an important quality of engineering companies.

A Florida respondent believes the consulting engineers should be “trustworthy and anticipate client needs.” A Kentucky city official stressed that engineers should “take the interest of their client above their need to make a buck.” This Ohio respondent wants consultants to be more forward thinking: “Engineers should be understanding and responding to my particular needs instead of doing things the way they’ve always done it.”

This Texas municipal official reflected a familiar theme that has been prevalent in past years as well, suggesting that engineers need to “visit the job site. Too many engineers never get out of the office and end up designing things that look good on paper, but are not practical for the field.”

An Iowa respondent stressed that engineers need to obtain “a better knowledge of the infrastructures of each city that they work with instead of going on what they are told or shown by other engineering firms.”

A Maryland city official suggested that engineers must take “more care in designing projects. The young staff engineer doesn’t have the knowledge of pipe fitting and clearances that we need.”

A Montana survey respondent wants consulting engineers working with his city to “be familiar with various technologies rather than pushing one favorite.”

Summary