- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 8, 2003

The Metro Board of Directors voted yesterday to award an additional $16 million worth of contracts to small businesses in the Washington area, part of the agency’s trial program to give more work to regional companies.The two-year project has so far brought $46 million to such businesses.”This is a truly meaningful program that will support our small businesses,” said Metro Board member Jim Graham, the Democratic D.C. Council member who represents Ward 1. “How many opportunities do you get to pour $46 million into local businesses?”The contracts will be awarded on projects of $100,000 or less. Metro awards $700 million to $800 million a year in contracts, and about $80 million of that is for projects costing less than $100,000, said James Zingale, the agency’s managing director for procurement. The agency’s procurement office will now award the contracts — for machine parts, chemicals and gases, landscaping services and supplies. Mr. Graham praised Metro for supporting the local economy but questioned the definition of an area business. The query drew a defensive response from board member Dana Kaufman, a Democratic Fairfax County supervisor. He said limiting the region might cost Metro because such a move could also limit competition for contracts. “We should balance the desire to support local businesses with the desire to save every nickel we can,” Mr. Kaufman said.He also said the Norfolk and Hampton Roads areas have more small businesses than Northern Virginia. So if the definition of a local business is limited to Northern Virginia, the contracts would go mostly to Maryland and the District. “I’m not embracing this program,” Mr. Kaufman said. “It’s something that may prove worthwhile.” Metro officials also agreed to spend an additional $12 million on the upcoming New York Avenue station to cover project management and increased insurance costs. The total cost of the station is now more than $300 million.The final design is complete and Metro is conducting workshops on how to minimize disruption to passengers. The station is expected to open in late 2004.Board members questioned why there are no plans to connect Metro bus service to the station. “It seems kind of goofy to have a major point of access in the Metro rail system not connected with our bus service,” said board member Christopher Zimmerman, a Democratic Arlington County supervisor.Project manager John Thomas said a bus line would run nearby. And board member Gladys W. Mack, who represents Mayor Anthony A. Williams, said the matter was being addressed. That did not satisfy Mr. Zimmerman, who rejected Mr. Thomas’ suggestion that Florida Avenue was too busy for pedestrians to cross safely. “The way to get pedestrians across Florida Avenue is they walk, and the way to let them walk is to get the cars to stop, and the way to stop the cars on Florida Avenue is called a stoplight,” Mr. Zimmerman said.


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