Borris Miles demands more minority contractors

A lack of minority and women-owned companies on one of Houston’s largest road projects has drawn a demand from State Sen. Borris Miles, D-Houston, that highway officials do much better.

Blueridge Transportation Group – a consortium of engineering, finance and construction companies – is building a four-lane toll road in the middle of Texas 288, as part of a 50-year agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation to operate and maintain the tollway and freeway. As part of winning the $2 billion job, Blueridge agreed to have 12 percent of its contracts filled by companies owned by women and minorities.

Miles, in an at-times terse letter to Tryon Lewis, chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission, said the company has only filled four percent of its contracts with so-called disadvantaged businesses.

“Moreover, of that 4 percent, less than 1 percent of the (disadvantaged) participation is from African-American companies,” Miles wrote. “This is simply unacceptable, especially when there are plenty of well-qualified local minority contractors within the state….The Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program exists to ensure that local small,

minority, and women-owned companies within the state of Texas are given the opportunity to do

business with TxDOT. Unfortunately, this goal continues to be grossly underachieved in my

senatorial district and across the great state of Texas.”

Miles said it was especially galling given the Texas 288 project “disrupts a local community that is predominantly minority.”

The problem, Miles said, is one state officials must address, noting TxDOT’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program has so far been seen as a “continuous lack of commitment” in his district and statewide.

TxDOT officials, in a statement, said they are “committed to making improvements in this area across the state.”

The 288 tollway project, meanwhile, has a lot of work to go, and many jobs and subcontractors have not been hired.

“Our developer has assured us that the project is on pace to achieve the 12 percent (disadvantaged business) goal set for project,” officials said.