MnDOT operates its striping division as a business. When making bids, the division calculates the cost of wages, fuel, paint and other materials, trucks and other equipment, motels, meals, training, inspectors, paid time off, overhead – even part of the commissioner’s salary, says MnDOT’s Brad Lechtenberg.
Each year, MnDOT quotes a flat price statewide. It’s a price private contractors can’t beat.
For latex, the state charges 5 cents a foot. That goes head-to-head with the best prices private contractors can offer, Lechtenberg says. For epoxy, it’s no contest: The state charges 15 cents a foot; private contractors charge twice that.
“If we weren’t here, contractors could name their own price,” Jim Godfrey says.
Epoxy is more expensive because it lasts longer. Latex is more affordable but can wear down in a year. Traffic volume has some impact, but the snowplows and sanding of winter are the biggest reasons stripes wear down, Gene Schimmele says.
Contract flexibility keeps state competitive
A special memorandum with AFSCME helps make the striping division a success. Among other provisions, the MOU allows crew members to work outside their home district. “It’s driven costs down quite a bit,” Lechtenberg says. “It’s a great partnership that works well. It shows we aren’t always adversaries.”
The state also has gotten more efficient by winnowing the number of crews down from 11 to 7. That has saved the state $20 million over five years.
Occasionally, the state crews even save local taxpayers money, too. They have won bids to stripe roads in Olmsted, Sibley, St. Louis and other counties, even though counties don’t get the state’s rock-bottom rate. “They like the quality of the work,” Lechtenberg says.