The large number of contracts on the bridge program presented ODOT with a perfect opportunity to encourage companies of all sizes to participate. The bridge program recognized four certifications for businesses historically under-represented as subcontractors on highway construction projects: Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, Minority Business Enterprise, Women Business Enterprise and Emerging Small Business or, collectively, DMWESBs. Early on, the bridge program diversity team set out to raise awareness among these companies about opportunities statewide to secure contracts for professional services with design firms or for construction specialties with prime contractors.
First, the team identified best practices of other states, the Federal Highway Administration and Oregon governmental agencies. Through interviews with groups across the state, the team determined the expectations of Oregon's diverse communities: what to them would constitute success for the bridge program. In response, we looked for ways to provide DMWESBs with technical assistance; set aspirational goals for construction and professional services; notified diverse communities outside the metropolitan areas about ODOT projects six months prior to the anticipated bidding date, with updated notices two months and one month prior; and in general reduced barriers and increased ODOT's visibility among minority and women communities in the eastern part of the state.
The bridge program diversity team wrote new DBE and MWESB aspirational and construction specifications, approved by FHWA in fall 2005. The bridge program was one of just a handful in the nation that consistently tracked and reported the participation of DMWESBs during both design and construction.