FHWA wants to help small businesses compete for federal highway contracts

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is trying to improve the ability of small businesses in the Atlanta area to compete for federal highway contracts and engage more minorities and women in construction careers.

To help with this mission, FHWA held a workshop on May 11 in advance of advertising contracts for Atlanta’s $1 billion I-75/I-575 Northwest Corridor project so that these businesses could participate in the bidding process.

“Small business drives the U.S. economy and we are anxious for Atlanta’s small businesses to take part in the important transportation projects that are shaping this nation,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Putting small businesses to work on projects like Atlanta’s Northwest Corridor will help our nation win the future.”

The Northwest Corridor project will reduce traffic congestion by adding 16 new miles on I-75, 12 miles on I-575 and one mile on I-285. The project, which will serve Marietta, Kennesaw and Acworth, among other suburbs in Cobb and Cherokee counties, is expected to include the construction of two reversible managed lanes on I-75 between I-285 and I-575 to provide improved local express bus service. Traffic growth in the area, home to two large shopping malls, Dobbins Air Force Base and numerous major corporations, has exceeded existing road capacity.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of the American economy,” said Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez. “By helping them compete, we can keep the cost of transportation projects low, create jobs and put people back to work.”

U.S. Department of Transportation officials will meet with small and disadvantaged business owners, state and local transportation officials and others in coming months about major projects in other states. The next meeting will take place in Portsmouth, VA, in August 2011 concerning the $1.9 billion Downtown Tunnel/Midtown Tunnel/Martin Luther King Freeway Extension project.

The Atlanta workshop is the ninth in a series of national forums held to share the best practices of the Wisconsin, Missouri and Virginia departments of transportation, which achieved Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) goals on major projects.

Since last year, FHWA has hosted similar meetings around the country to focus on opportunities for minority- and women-owned small and disadvantaged businesses. The meetings helped prepare small businesses to compete for federal projects valued, in total, at more than $19 billion.