Employment and M/W/DBE Policies for Architectural and Engineering Contracts Set by RTA

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The first policies establishing contracting criteria for equal employment opportunity (EEO) and the involvement of minority, women and disadvantaged businesses in the development of regional transit services has been approved by the board of the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority. The first set of policies applies to architectural and engineering (A & E) consultant contracts because those will be the first major requests for proposals issued by the RTA. However, the A & E policies will provide the model for developing additional policies and strategies for other areas of RTA contracting and employment.

The policies are based on the Guiding Principles for Employment and Contracting adopted by the RTA Board prior to the public vote on regional transit funding last November. The Guiding Principles call for the RTA to pursue policies that maximize the employment of women and ethnic minorities, the use of local and small businesses, and the involvement of M/W/DBE firms in RTA contracts.

Rather than the traditional approach to employment and M/W/DBE policies of relying primarily on numerical targets for hiring and subcontracting, the RTA policies for architectural and engineering services ask potentialcontractors to include in their bids their proposed strategies for maximizing hiring and subcontracting involving women and people of color. Bidders are also asked to propose strategies for maximizing the use of local firms and small businesses. The policies also require the RTA to pursue providing direct contracting opportunities for small businesses and M/W/DBE firms.

This approach gives potential contractors more flexibility in designing their approach to hiring and subcontracting, and will encourage bidders to develop strategies that maximize the involvement of small businesses, minorities and women on RTA projects, according the Alec Stephens, M/W/DBE program supervisor for the RTA.

"The RTA's goal is to develop and implement policies and strategies that result in creative approaches that really work in meeting M/W/DBE and EEO objectives instead of meeting a numerical target." Stephens said.

A series of public meetings is underway to discuss additional policies affecting contracts for professional services, and for goods and services vendors. Public meetings regarding EEO and M/W/DBE policies pertaining to construction contracts will be scheduled in the latter part of the year.

The adoption of employment and contracting policies is one of the first steps toward implementing Sound Move: The Ten-Year Regional Transit System Plan which was approved by Puget Sound area voters last November. The plan calls for a mix of express bus, commuter rail, light rail and numerous supporting transit improvements to be developed over the next 10 years. A draft Implementation Guide, outlining a sequence for the design and construction of the many projects that comprise Sound Move, has just been issued by the RTA Board for public review and comment.

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Sound Transit plans, builds and operates regional transit systems and services to improve mobility for Central Puget Sound.