Photo Credit: TRIBUNE PHOTO VIRGINIA WERNER - Crews use thermite to will weld the final section of rail for the 7.3-mile Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Line in place on Nov. 18 at the corner of Southeast 21st Avenue and Adams Street in downtown Milwaukie.The Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project is not scheduled to be completed until next September. But TriMet says the project has benefited the community since it started in 2011, included $170 million that has gone to small companies owned by women and people of color.

In the construction business, such companies are known as Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) firms. TriMet announced the figure at the second annual the DBE/Small Business 2nd Annual Celebration on Friday.

The $170 million figure is a public construction project in Oregon. The total cost of the project is around $1.49 billion.

“When we committed to expanding our transit system with this project, we made a promise to maximize this investment for everyone in the community,” says TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane. “We are delivering on that promise beyond just growing our transit system. This project has been an economic catalyst that has helped grow our economy and all communities along the way.”

According to TriMet:

• Almost 12,800 jobs have been created to date.

• 538 firms have been hired to work on the project, with 80 percent from Oregon.

• 130 of those firms are DBEs, representing nearly 25 percent of all contracting firms working on the project.

• Over 17 percent of the workers are apprentices learning job skills. TriMet also announced two awards at the celebration:

2014 DBE Champion of the Year – Individual Award

Daryle Low of Hoffman Construction was selected for the 2014 DBE Champion of the Year Award. According to Dr. T. Allen Bethel, a TriMet board member and first recipient of the award, Low "has helped strengthen the capacity of small businesses and achieved more than 30 percent DBE participation while building General Contractor capacity for a DBE firm."

2014 DBE Champion of the Year – Organization Award

Prime Contractor Stacy and Witbeck was selected as the DBE Champion of the Year Organization Award. The company has achieved more than 22 percent DBE participation on the light rail project. Dr. Bethel says Stacy and Witbeck's commitment to inclusive contracting is “part of its DNA. They’ve consistently identified new opportunities for small firms and have mentored and helped build capacities of these firms.”

TriMet created its award-winning DBE program in 2000 when the regional transit agency was preparing to build the Interstate MAX Yellow Line project. According to TriMet, the community had concerns that past projects didn’t provide enough local opportunities. In response, TriMet delivered $36 million in DBE contracts for that project. It then delivered $62 million for the MAX Green Line.

“Inclusive contracting is part of how we do business, and our prime contractors embrace that same vision to make sure DBE firms have a shot at these contracts,” says TriMet Executive Director of Capital Projects Dan Blocher.

Project facts

The 7.3-mile project is the region’s sixth MAX construction project. It is intended to improve transit in the corridor that extends from the terminus of the MAX Green and Yellow lines at Portland State University in downtown Portland to South Waterfront, inner southeast Portland, Milwaukie, and north Clackamas County.

The project include 10 new stations the Tilikum Crossing, the first of its kind multi-modal bridge in the U.S. that will carry light rail and streetcar trains, buses, bicyclists and pedestrians, but no private vehicles.

The opening is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015. When it opens, the new line will expand the MAX system to 60 miles and 97 stations.

In addition to TriMet, project partners include: the Federal Transit Administration; the State of Oregon; Clackamas County; Metro; the City of Milwaukie; Multnomah County; the City of Oregon City; the Oregon Department of Transportation; the City of Portland and the Portland Development Commission.