TriMet’s light rail project making a $170 million difference to small businesses

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2014 DBE Champion award winners announced

When it opens in 2015, the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project will improve transit and connections throughout the region. But the project has been benefiting the community since construction began in 2011, especially small firms owned by people of color and women, or Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) firms.

At TriMet’s DBE/Small Business 2nd Annual Celebration, the agency announced that the $1.49 billion light rail project has delivered record levels of contracting for any regional project:

Workers pouring concrete as part of the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project.

Workers pouring concrete as part of the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project.

  • 538 firms have been hired to work on the project with 80 percent from Oregon
  • 130 of those firms are DBEs, representing nearly 25 percent of all contracting firms working on the project
  • A record $170 million in contract work has gone to DBE contractors
  • To date, almost 12,800 jobs have been created

“When we committed to expanding our transit system with this project, we made a promise to maximize this investment for everyone in the community,” said TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane. “We are delivering on that promise beyond just growing our transit system. This project has been an economic catalyst that has helped grow our economy and all communities along the way.”

TriMet’s award-winning DBE program promotes a level playing field, removes barriers and increases contracting opportunities for people of color and women in both the professional and construction fields.  

Jobs now, jobs for the future
The light rail project is also bringing family-wage jobs to more of the region’s residents. Twenty-five percent of the construction jobs are held by people of color and over 17 percent by apprentices. With this influx of new labor, the DBE program is not only providing jobs now, but creating the workforce of the future.

TriMet created its innovative award-winning DBE program back in 2000 when it was getting ready to build the Interstate MAX Yellow Line project. The community had concerns that past projects didn’t provide enough local opportunities. TriMet delivered $36 million in contracts for that project; $62 million for the MAX Green Line, and now topping $170 million for the Portland-Milwaukie project. These successes have made TriMet’s DBE program a model for the nation.

“Inclusive contracting is part of how we do business, and our prime contractors embrace that same vision to make sure DBE firms have a shot at these contracts,” said TriMet Executive Director of Capital Projects Dan Blocher.

2014 DBE Champion of the Year – Individual Award
Dr. T. Allen Bethel was the first recipient of the agency’s DBE Champion of the Year Award last year due to his unwavering commitment to DBE advancement, as a community activist and a member of TriMet’s board of directors. Dr. Bethel announced that Daryle Low of Hoffman Construction was selected for the 2014 DBE Champion of the Year Award. Dr. Bethel noted that Low, who is a project manager for Hoffman “has helped strengthen the capacity of small businesses and achieved more than 30 percent DBE participation while building General Contractor capacity for a DBE firm.”

2014 DBE Champion of the Year – Organization Award
Dr. Bethel announced that Prime Contractor Stacy and Witbeck was selected as the DBE Champion of the Year Organization Award. Dr. Bethel said that Stacy and Witbeck’s commitment to inclusive contracting is “part of its DNA. They’ve consistently identified new opportunities for small firms and have mentored and helped build capacities of these firms.” Stacy and Witbeck has achieved more than 22 percent DBE participation on the light rail project.

Tilikum Crossing lights up the sky!
During the awards celebration, the nearby aesthetic lighting test for the Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People began. DBE firm O’Neill Electric Inc. installed the lighting and electrical components as part of the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project’s Public Art Program.

The light rail project is on time and on budget and set for its Sept. 2015 opening.

About the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project
The 7.3-mile project is the region’s sixth MAX construction project and will improve transit in this corridor that extends from the terminus of the MAX Green and Yellow lines at Portland State University in Downtown Portland to South Waterfront, SE Portland, Milwaukie and North Clackamas County. About the project:

  • 7.3 miles
  • 10 stations
  • The first of its kind multi-modal bridge in the U.S. will carry light rail and streetcar trains, buses, bicyclists and pedestrians, but no private vehicles.
  • Opens Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015
  • Expands the MAX system to 60 miles and 97 stations  

Project partners
The Federal Transit Administration, State of Oregon, Clackamas County, Metro, City of Milwaukie, Multnomah County, City of Oregon City, Oregon Department of Transportation, City of Portland, Portland Development Commission and TriMet.