Leave it to the government to do things the hard way. Somehow they've figured out how to make it almost impossible for us to bid on federal projects, unless we have access to a blueprint printer.
They used to mail you plans for upcoming jobs. Now they give you a web address where you download a bunch of zip files in the least accessible formats.
It would all work, however awkwardly, if I were the one doing the estimating. Because the Boss has no computer at the Nevada office where he works, nor any desire for one, I have to reduce the drawings to printable size and fax them to him. Since I can barely make out the details on this end, I'm sure that his ten-years-older eyes are squinting at nothing but blurs after it's all been degraded over the fax line.
As for the text, it takes a page and a half to describe the actual work, and a hundred more for the legal boilerplate. Conferences, notifications, certifications, restrictions, codes, tolerances, inspections, compliances, verifications, safety requirements, access to facilities, environmental regulations, definitions of terms, noise control, traffic control, daily reports, progress schedule, record keeping, testing and design calculations — it's all there in 12-point Courier.
It's exhausting, and we have to wade through it all to make sure we're not missing anything that really matters. Some of the paragraphs are duplicated in different sections of the documents. Others are entirely superfluous because they don't apply to a particular project but are included in all federal bids because the bureaucrats are afraid to leave it out.
Plus, somewhere amid all this verbiage is a word or two on the scope of work we're actually trying to bid on. Sometimes just finding that is the hardest part.
If our government is overpaying for public construction projects, this is part of the reason. If it's easier for large companies with attorneys on staff to fulfill all the arcane bid requirements, that leaves dinky little businesses like ours out of luck.