The push to seal the U.S.-Mexico border moved ahead as federal authorities published two official requests for contractors to propose prototype segments of a border wall.
Construction of the segments will proceed quickly, with plans to begin within three months, putting the work on the wall prototypes solidly in the middle of the hot summer months in the Southwest.
The prototypes are a precursor to the border wall that was a signature campaign promise of President Trump, though the full-length wall itself is expected to be built through a separate bidding process later.
Trump’s budget directs $2.6 billion to border wall — and that’s not all
The specifics of the prototype project and the bidding process are detailed in two, nearly identical 132-page Requests for Proposals, posted Friday night to the Federal Business Opportunities website.
What kind of wall?
Each prototype will be 30 feet long and built in San Diego, according to the requests for proposals.
Beyond that, bidding contractors have much latitude in what kind of wall they propose.
Under the new timeline established in the documents, interested bidders will have two weeks to create and submit a design concept of what the border-wall prototype will look like, with two design options for companies.
One will be exclusively for “reinforced solid concrete” prototypes, while the second for “other” materials is more vague and does not specify the type of materials that can be used in the design.
Other requirements include:
• A “physically imposing” height of no less than 18 feet but preferably 30 feet tall.
• Anti-climbing mechanisms, either by ladder or other tools like hooks that humans may be able to get across.
• Prevent tunneling 6 feet below ground.
• For breaches to the wall (using building or cutting tools, or torches) to take at least one hour in concrete designs, and 30 minutes in the “other” designs.
• Accommodate surface draining, a particularly sensitive issue in the uneven, Arizona desert that can easily flood with heavy rains.
• Be able to accommodate “pedestrian and automated mechanized vehicle sliding gates.”
The Request for Proposals for the “other” designs also says the first 12 feet must incorporate a way to see through the wall to the other side, to help “situational awareness.” There is no such stipulation for concrete designs.
The documents also make no mention of wildlife or environmental concerns, other than saying that they will be taken into consideration when evaluating the proposals.
Federal law already allows officials to declare exceptions to various environmental restrictions for construction of border fencing.
After the March 29 deadline to submit the prototype, U.S. Customs and Border Protection will take an additional two weeks to evaluate the submissions. It will then narrow the field of the applicants to “up to 20” per type, with no more than 40 combined for both categories of designs.
At that point, private contractors still in the bid process will have 30 days to create and submit a full proposal, which includes a breakdown of costs, labor hours, materials needed, a 30-day build schedule and subcontracting plans.
CBP said it will then take two weeks to evaluate the full proposals and award an unspecified number of contracts, with a 30-day construction period to follow. The contracts will be for five years and potentially worth up to $300 million each. But CBP estimates that building the wall prototypes will cost between $200,000 to $500,000, according to the documents.
The two documents also detail a series of basic requirements for the wall prototype designs. Noticeably, they require that the north side of the wall, the one facing the United States, be “aesthetically pleasing in color, anti-climb texture, etc., to be consistent with general surrounding environment.” They make no mention of aesthetics on the south-facing side.
During the first half of the 30-day construction period for the prototypes, each contractor must also build a 10-by-10-foot mock up of their design that CBP will test for breaches, but not for climbing or digging.
Construction of the prototypes is expected to begin sometime in June, according to the timeline. Traditionally, that’s just past the peak season for Border Patrol apprehensions along the southwestern U.S. border.
Trump designated $2.6 billion in his fiscal year 2018 budget proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Before Friday’s officials requests, more than 640 contractors, including more than 40 from Arizona, had already expressed interest in construction of a wall prototype.
With more than 640 private contractors expressing their interest in designing and building wall prototypes along the U.S.-Mexico border, U.S. Customs and Border Protection now says it is considering creating two separate categories of barrier designs.
CBP is expected to issue the request for proposals (RFP) for the project as soon as Wednesday, and award several lucrative contracts over the next few weeks. Until those RFPs are made public, it’s not known exactly what kind of wall the agency will seek.
On Tuesday, though, the agency said that because of high interest in designing the prototypes, it is considering breaking down those submissions based on the materials used.
“We currently contemplate releasing two RFPs — one focused on concrete designs, and one focused on other designs,” the brief update posted to the Federal Business Opportunities website reads.