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Feds May Relax Local Hiring Rules

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

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Federal transportation officials are looking at new contract rules that would make it easier for states and cities to hire local residents for transportation projects.

Traditionally, federal rules prohibit the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration from allowing contract provisions that do not directly relate to the bidder's performance of work; therefore, local hiring provisions have not been allowed.

Now, however, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has announced a year-long pilot program that will take a closer look at that longtime prohibition.

I-710
Caltrans

A new federal proposal could open the door to more local hiring on projects like California's  federally supported I-710 (Long Beach Freeway) Long Life Pavement Rehabilitation Project.

Mayors of three cities—Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, Kasim Reed of Atlanta, and William Bell of Birmingham, AL—joined Foxx at the announcement March 3 as a show of support.

Boosting Local Economies

“When we invest in L.A. infrastructure, we want to maximize our investment in L.A. jobs, and this provides us with a new way forward to boost our local economy as we cut traffic and fight smog,” said Garcetti.

“I thank Secretary Foxx for his commitment to strengthening my city and communities across the nation.”

The program accompanies a recent Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would allow localities to "impose geographic-bassed hiring preferences wherever not otherwise prohibited by Federal statute."

"Local workers often have the greatest stake in local road and transit projects, but federal rules make it hard for communities to ensure that their workers reap some of the benefits, and that's just not right," Foxx said.

Hiring Locally

Many local governments have local hiring provisions for procurements that don't involve federal funding.

local hiring transportation
©iStock.com / TommL

The DOT's new year-long pilot program will allow the FHWA and FTA to test and evaluate the merits of local hiring provisions. Comments on the proposed rule will be accepted through April 6.

Such provisions are intended to ensure that communities where projects are located benefit from the jobs that result from their investments.

The pilot program will allow the FHWA and FTA to test and evaluate the merits of such provisions and whether the existing competitive bidding process can be improved.

"Transportation plays a critical role in connecting Americans and communities to economic opportunity," said Greg Nadeau, deputy administrator of the FHWA.

"This measure will go a long way to bridging the gap between the qualified workers who need work and projects that need them," Nadeau said.

Transforming Communities

The purpose of the pilot program is to determine whether such requirements "unduly limit competition."

The U.S. Department of Transportation is particularly interested in contracts for which bidders wish to use local or geographic  hiring preferences, economic-based hiring preferences, or hiring preferences for veterans.

"We want to create ladders of opportunities for them, as well as for low-income workers and veterans, to help put some of the transportation investments we make in the hands of those who would benefit most," Foxx said.

DOT Anthony Foxx
©iStock.com / shotbydave

Federal officials say the plan could create "ladders of opportunities" for local workers, low-income workers and veterans, helping those individuals share in the transportation investment.

The agency will not approve projects that would involve altering the requirements of the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program.

Therese McMillan, acting administrator of the FTA, added: "The investments we make in local communities are truly transformational.

"These investments should not only change the landscape of a community, but it should also transform and improve the lives of its residents, too."

Commenting Period Open

The pilot is proposed as an experiment under FHWA's Special Experimental Project No. 14 (SEP-14) and FTA experimental authorities. These provisions, made possible by Congress, allow the agencies leeway in finding new and more effective means of building, maintaining and managing federal transportation projects.

The DOT published a related proposal in the Federal Register to modify the "common grant" rule geographic preference provision applied to USDOT programs.

Comments on the proposed rule will be accepted through April 6.

   

Tagged categories: Contractors; Contracts; Department of Transportation (DOT); Federal Highway Administration (FHWA); Government contracts; Hiring; Transportation

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