Today marks the 1-year anniversary of the signing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). As the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) continues to implement the BIL, jurisdictions across the country are preparing to secure federal dollars to support their state and local programs and projects.
Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) works directly with FHWA and has developed statewide programs to secure and obtain federal funds for local projects. As such, they are responsible for the proper expenditure of FHWA funds and have created a manual on statewide policies and standards for local agencies to follow, titled “Local Agency Guidelines”, or LAG. The LAG identifies requirements related to prevailing wages (Davis-Bacon), Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE), and Buy America, among others.
As we expect more federal dollars to flow into the Public Works sector of our business, we thought we would share some insight about a few of these requirements and how Blueline’s inspectors ensure and verify compliance.
Prevailing Wage Requirements
The US Department of Labor defines prevailing wages as the average wage paid to similarly employed workers in a specific occupation in the area intended employment. The requirement is that the contractor shall pay, as a minimum, prevailing wages to all employed workers that perform work as part of the project. Blueline’s inspector will conduct interviews of employees working on the project and complete a form with the necessary information to compare and verify with certified payrolls that are submitted by each contractor.
Certain projects require that the successful low bidder utilize Disadvantaged Business Enterprises DBE to perform a portion of the work required by the contract, known as a “DBE goal”. WSDOT local programs will set the DBE goal at the design phase and at bidding and award, DBE certifications and participation will be verified. According to FHWA, this program is intended to ensure nondiscrimination, help remove barriers to the participation of DBEs, and assist with the development of firms that can compete successfully in the marketplace outside of the DBE program. Blueline’s inspector will conduct an “on-site review” for all DBEs that work on the project. This review includes several assessments, like checking vehicles for markings and interviewing employees. The completed and signed forms will be reviewed by WSDOT local programs for compliance with the program.
Buy America FHWA Policy
“Buy America” is another FHWA policy that provides for a domestic manufacturing process for any steel or iron products that are permanently incorporated in any project funded under Title 23. United States Code, Title 23, Chapter 3, Sec. 313 states “the Secretary of Transportation shall not obligate any funds authorized to be appropriated to carry out the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 or this title and administered by the Department of Transportation, unless steel, iron, and manufactured products used in such project are produced in the United States.” To verify compliance with this requirement, Blueline’s inspectors will visually inspect all steel and iron products that are delivered to the site and note the origin of the product. In many instances, there is a visible “Made in the USA” stamp, but all products and materials will also be verified against the material submittal sheets approved for the project.
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