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More work opportunities, stronger partnerships: WSDOT, FHWA, Seattle Tunnel Partners announce agreements on DBE Program

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Date:  Thursday, March 20, 2014

Contact: Travis Phelps, WSDOT communications, 206-715-9887

SEATTLE – Generating more work for the disadvantaged business enterprises (DBE) on the State Route 99 Tunnel Project has been the first consideration for the Washington State Department of Transportation as the agency works to reform its DBE program and to respond to a Federal Highway Administration report issued last year.

Today, WSDOT announced two separate agreements outlining how it will oversee and enforce requirements for the tunnel project contractor, Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP), to provide work to qualified DBE firms.

"WSDOT has taken tangible, measurable steps toward increasing opportunities for disadvantaged businesses and for ensuring that our programs and actions comply with FHWA requirements," said state Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson. "We've made great strides in recent months to ensure a level playing field for those small, disadvantaged businesses qualified to work on WSDOT projects, both on the AWV Replacement Program and throughout the agency, and today’s announcement confirms that we are on the right track."

FHWA and WSDOT signed a Conciliation Agreement (pdf 306 kb) – a formal response to FHWA’s report –which memorializes the actions WSDOT is taking to increase oversight of DBE participation at both project and program levels. The agreement contains the steps both agencies have agreed are necessary and outlines the additional resources that WSDOT and the tunnel contractor are dedicating to increased DBE participation. It also includes the reporting mechanisms that will remain in place through the life of the project.

WSDOT began implementing many of the specified actions last year, but Thursday's agreement officially resolves a claim (pdf 631 kb) against the contractor building the State Route 99 tunnel regarding disadvantaged firms seeking work on the project. It also sets the course for WSDOT's DBE efforts moving forward.

Meanwhile, under a separate agreement (pdf 712 kb) reached this week between WSDOT and STP, the tunnel contractor is now contractually required to award $96 million in work on the tunnel project to certified DBE firms. The contract change order also specifies additional resources that must be provided to STP’s subcontracting efforts, including a third-party independent program coordinator to review their DBE subcontracting activities and procedures and to verify that their actions are in compliance with the appropriate federal and state regulations as well as WSDOT contractual requirements.

Under the terms and conditions of the change order, WSDOT has withdrawn its earlier finding against the firm for breach of contract. Should STP fail to comply with the terms or conditions of the change order, WSDOT may either reinstate the finding or implement other appropriate contract actions.

WSDOT is also hiring an AWV DBE Program administrator, a position which will oversee the contractor’s DBE recruitment and subcontracting activities and works with members of the DBE community to increase economic opportunities for these businesses. The hiring process is near completion and an announcement is expected shortly.

For more information about the SR 99 Tunnel Project, part of the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program, visit http://www.alaskanwayviaduct.org/.


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