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Milligan Strives to Make TxDOT’s Contracting Process Easier and More Efficient

by: Julie Devine
Duane Milligan
Duane Milligan
Throughout 18 years with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), Duane Milligan, P.E., has taken on many challenges, from managing some of the highest-visibility mega-projects to now modernizing TxDOT’s contracting process.

Milligan became Director of TxDOT’s Construction Division in January 2021 and has been working on electronic contracting and other initiatives to make the division’s work faster and easier for employees and contractors.

The Construction Division oversees TxDOT’s low-bid construction program throughout the state, including contractor pre-qualification, bid proposal issuance, and construction and maintenance contract letting. After contracts are awarded, the division consults with TxDOT districts on project management, regulatory compliance, and construction inspection.

Milligan previously served as Deputy Director of the Construction Division and as Director of Construction for TxDOT’s Dallas District. In recognition of his outstanding contribution to transportation in the State of Texas, he won the Luther DeBerry Award in 2019.

Before the age of 40, Milligan oversaw many notable projects, including construction of the first project undertaken by TxDOT under design-build legislation passed in 2011. The $798 million Horseshoe project in the heart of downtown Dallas broke ground in 2013 and finished four years later. Throughout construction, Milligan and his team ensured maintenance of the original number of lanes – a necessary but difficult accomplishment with two of the freeway sections ranking among the most-congested in the nation. Each day, 460,000 motorists travel through the Horseshoe’s I-30/I-35E interchange.

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Milligan also managed construction of the state’s first deck park over a highway. The $52 million Klyde Warren Park, completed in 2012, capped a depressed section of Woodall Rodgers Freeway in Dallas. It incorporated a new material for TxDOT at the time – geofoam – which ensured that the 5.2-acre deck park drained water correctly without overburdening the support structure.

Around the same time, Milligan also oversaw the $182 million Woodall Rodgers Extension, including construction of the cable-stayed Margaret Hunt Hill bridge that helps define the Dallas skyline. That project received an Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement Award from the Texas section of the American Society of Civil Engineers, as well as a European Convention for Constructional Steelwork Award for Steel Bridges.

In 2009, Milligan won the TxDOT Construction Award, given to a project manager and contractor for their partnership in facing adversities in a complex project. The award resulted from his role in the $216 million State Highway 161 Western Extension project, which faced a very compressed schedule and an immovable deadline: the 2011 Super Bowl.

Milligan began his TxDOT career in 2003 as an Engineering Assistant in the bridge design section. Prior to that, he earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 2000 and a master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Houston in 2002.

In his interview with Texas Contractor, Milligan shares the lessons he learned in his career and the priorities for TxDOT’s highway improvement and maintenance contract letting.

Why did you choose a career in engineering?
My whole life I’ve been interested in how things are built. As a kid, I loved taking things apart to see how they were made. That curiosity compelled me to pursue a degree in civil engineering because I wanted to design and build things myself.

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What lessons have you learned in your professional life?
The most important lesson I learned is to never say no to a challenge. I’ve been presented with many challenges during my career – some that I doubted I had the knowledge and ability to handle – but I never said no. I always accepted the new challenges and learned from them.

What professional achievement makes you proudest?
I’m most proud of the construction projects I personally managed in the field. Some are well-known, like the Margaret Hunt Hill bridge or Klyde Warren Park, but some are small projects that no one notices. They’re all important to me and I learned something from each one.

What are the Construction Division’s priorities?
Our top priority is customer service. We serve many different customers, from TxDOT districts and other divisions to members of the contracting industry and the general public. We pride ourselves on giving good service to all of these customers.

What is the biggest challenge for your division?
The monthly highway letting. It’s our responsibility to make sure everything goes smoothly in letting an average of around $500 million in highway improvement projects, along with the state-let routine maintenance and materials contracts. This is a very key part of TxDOT’s mission and is critical for us to conduct professionally and transparently.

What changes do you foresee in TxDOT’s contract letting?
I’ve been working to modernize some operational areas to make things better and easier for our own employees as well as the contractors who do business with us. One such initiative is electronic contracting. Currently we mail paper contracts for contractors to sign, send to their bonding company to execute the bond, then return to us for final execution. This process usually takes weeks to complete. I have a group working to deliver the contracts electronically and accept electronic signatures. That will save time, money, and effort for all parties.

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What advice can you give contractors wanting to bid on TxDOT projects?
Always ask questions. Whether it’s a question regarding how to get prequalified to bid, how to bid, or how to interpret the plans and specifications, there are avenues to send us questions and qualified people on our side ready to answer.

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