Monday, March 28, 2011

RFP Competition for Internet-based Planroom and Construction Document Printing Services - Illinois Tollway Authority

Recent competition for reprographers to provide “Internet-based planroom services and printing services for construction documents for the Illinois Tollway Authority …..

From the “introductory” section of the RFP document:

The Illinois State Toll Highway Authority (“Tollway”) is requesting Offers (bids / proposals) from responsible Vendors to meet the State’s needs. Below is a brief description of our needs with detailed requirements in subsequent sections of this solicitation. If you are interested and able to meet these requirements, please submit an Offer.

Brief Description: The Tollway is seeking a Vendor to provide on-call printing services of construction contract documents, as well as a website with the capacity to host Web-Based Plan Room Services for advertising, distributing, and archiving contract and utility permit documents, in addition to timely issuance of addenda (within 24-hours) to the Tollway's perspective bidders for projects included in the Tollway's Congestion Relief Program (CRP) and its annual Non-CRP projects.

The Vendor is to host a web-site to advertise bids on the world-wide-web to encourage competitive bid solicitations from contractors within and beyond Illinois’ borders. Contractors will have the ability to view and order construction contract documents as advertised by the Tollway. Additional capabilities include issuing and confirming receipt of addenda as authorized by the Tollway, archiving construction contract documents, utilities and permits, distributing the Tollway's Standards and Specifications, and providing on-call printing services. The web-site also provides transparency by allowing the contractors and Tollway personnel the ability to track plan holders for each contract.

To see the “Request for Proposals” document, clink on this link:

To see the “Bid Results” document, click on this link:

Joel’s comments:

Apparently, only two reprographics companies submitted proposals.

Given the state of the economy in the reprographics industry, I was very surprised to find out that only two reprographics companies submitted proposals. Perhaps that was an issue driven by location? I was “kind of expecting to see” ARC and ABC Imaging (who both have Chicago area operations) involved in this competition. Maybe this competition required vendors to be “small” or “disadvantaged” or “minority-owned” or “women owned” businesses? I don’t think that was the case, and, frankly, I have no interest in reading through the entire RFP document. I did notice that “price” was only 37.5% of the total evaluation factor. That was very surprising.


  1. There were two bidders: BHFX and Accurate Repro (out of Naperville). This RFP was for renewal of the Tollway's standing contract for provision of Web-based planroom services. BHFX had been providing Web access to Tollway construction plans since 2004.

    I think BHFX may have lost because they were gouging. Their viewer app was very slow, would load only one sheet at a time, and had only two quickly accessible zoom settings--full-sheet view (too small to allow any detail to be seen) and 1:1 view (showed too little of the plan sheet, generally in an awkward location). Plans on CD cost about the same as a set of paper plans.

    Illinois DOT has a much better model of provision: plans go directly up on the Web, where anyone can view and download them free of charge. Missouri DOT contracts for planroom services, like the Tollway, but at least plans are free for vendors to download. Other state DOTs (Minnesota DOT, Nevada DOT, Wyoming DOT, . . .) contract for reprographics services too but typically the download cost per plans set is low ($10 per set for QuestCDN, for example) or a fixed subscription charge can be spread over an unlimited number of plans sets.

    I think the cost of obtaining plans through BHFX must have generated a lot of complaints in the contracting community, because highway construction plans (unlike house plans and the like) tend to have high sheet counts and are sought after not just by prime contractors but also by subs, suppliers, and members of the general public. It also looks bad for one major public-works agency to allow extortionate charges for plans while the peer agency in the same state allows them to be downloaded for free.

    For a brief period in the spring of 2010, BHFX did cave in and make the plans available (in PDF) for download free of charge. By June 2010, however, they had reinstated the viewer app and the punitive pricing.

    I don't know enough about Accurate Repro to say whether they would try imitating BHFX's pricing policies. The RFP doesn't seem to disallow it.

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