DBE Utilization on Federal Projects

by Keith Jones

Public works organizations and their contractors building the nation’s transportation infrastructure know (or should know) about the Federal Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations governing the participation of Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs) on federally funded projects. These programs are administered by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Transit Authority (FTA). These regulations govern program requirements for DBE participation such as:

  • Administrative requirements
  • Goals, good faith efforts and counting
  • Certification standards
  • Certification procedures
  • Compliance and enforcement

An unfortunate few understand the implications of not living up to the standards. In our backyard, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has lowered the boom on the joint venture (Seattle Tunnel Partners – STP) that is currently constructing the largest-diameter-ever single bore tunnel on the Seattle waterfront. A recent FHWA audit found this mega-project to be non-compliant with its DBE program. Counsel to the WSDOT recommended that the contractor be declared in default. While stopping short of declaring the contractor in default of the contract, the WSDOT notified the contractor that it is in breach of contract and has given mandatory actions to come into compliance.

The ability to meet specific project goals is dependent on many factors, including the availability of DBE contractors with the requisite capabilities. However, every project is expected to show good faith efforts in meeting DBE goals. Particularly for mega-projects, a project website is a first step in establishing a presence in the local contracting community. Some of the simple capabilities of a project website that can address good faith efforts include:

  • Allowing contractors and sub-contractors to register in a project database
  • Notifying contractors of upcoming subcontractor bid opportunities
  • Posting projects and bid documents for download and viewing

Our eBid eXchange system is used by many of our public works and general contracting clients to do these things as well as facilitate online bidding. In addition to providing an opportunity for sub-contractors to participate in public or invitation-only bid opportunities, the reporting capabilities in eBid eXchange facilitate complete and efficient reporting on good faith efforts and compliance with contracting goals. Please contact us if you would like to learn more about how eBid eXchange can serve as a key part of your good faith effort and compliance reporting program.