- Construction has started on the final 52.5-mile piece of Houston's $1.28 billion Grand Parkway, or State Highway 99, the Houston Chronicle reported. When complete in 2022, the 184-mile parkway will be the largest highway loop in the U.S.
- The Texas DOT entered into an $855 million agreement with Grand Parkway Infrastructure to design and build the three-segment project. Ferrovial Agroman leads Grand Parkway Infrastructure, but also includes joint venture partners Webber and Granite Construction. Road design, right-of-way acquisitions and utility relocations are in progress, and the construction phase will include a tolled, two-lane controlled access facility, four toll lanes, upgraded tolling equipment for existing lanes and 75 new or rebuilt bridges.
- The first segment of the Grand Parkway opened for traffic in 1994 and the last in March 2016, though planning for the giant loop has been ongoing since the 1960s. The project will be funded through bond sales and Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loans.
Disadvantaged and minority business enterprises typically play a big role in state and federally funded infrastructure projects, and the Grand Parkway project is no exception. Grand Parkway Infrastructure said it has prioritized the engagement of disadvantaged business enterprises through effective communication and relationship-building and is seeking bids from specialty subcontractors, including those in the concrete, asphalt, earthwork, stormwater drainage and flatwork businesses.
However, finding qualified subcontractors in this tight market is no easy feat, and it is even more difficult when narrowing that search to those certified in a minority or disadvantaged category.
Subcontractors in these categories sometimes face barriers to entry, including a lack of the capital necessary to obtain payment and performance bonds for large projects and a shallow bench of managers and superintendents with enough experience.
Offering assistance, at least at the federal level, are small business liaison officers installed within each agency. Their sole purpose is to explain to business owners the requirements for working with federal agencies and to help them navigate the processes of becoming certified and bidding on work. The Army Corps of Engineers alone has multiple offices across the country, each with its own small business contact. Armed with the right information and an understanding of the rules, federal and state projects can provide small and minority contractors with a lucrative niche.