Diversity concerns putting electronic tolling contract on hold

TransCore plans to spend 2% of contract on "disadvantaged firms"

CHELSEA, Mass. (State House News Service) – Amid concerns about the state EZPass contractor’s commitment to supplier diversity, the Massachusetts Transportation Board on Wednesday tabled discussion of a $205 million 10-year contract for the company to run planned all-electronic tolls.

TransCore L.P. currently runs the EZPass program with an office in Auburn, and state Highway Adminisrator Frank DePaola said the company was selected out of a field of four bidders to operate the new tolls that will bill cars directly through transponders or mailings.

DePaola said TransCore was “the best value,” but chairman John Jenkins was unimpressed by its commitment to spend 2 percent of the contract on disadvantaged firms.

“I don’t think they’ve made much of an effort, at all,” Jenkins said, of TransCore’s supplier diversity plans. He said, “It’s a joke to me to say, ‘Hey I can find 2 percent in a $200 million contract.’ ”

MassDOT is planning to replace its toll booths and toll-takers with electronic devices aimed at reducing traffic, and a pilot program is underway on the Tobin Bridge.

DePaola said Raytheon has received a construction contract, and said TransCore would need to begin performance testing in the spring of 2016. The company has 140 employees, and expects to add 55 staff, he said.

TransCore traces its history to a toll road in Pennsylvania in the 1930s and says it now operates in “more than 52 countries.” The other bidders were Egis, Accenture and Xerox.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has made strides in increasing diversity since 2011, making its diversity officials sought-after speakers around the country.

“Without sounding Polyannna-ish I’m very pleased to say that we are in good shape with civil rights at MassDOT,” Stephanie Neal-Johnson, who heads up the agency’s diversity office, told transportation board members during their meeting Wednesday.

As of August, white men made up 57.3 percent of the MassDOT workforce, a 3 percent decline from 2011, and non-Hispanic white men decreased from 50.4 percent of the MBTA workforce in 2011 to 48.5 percent this August.

Neal-Johnson said state transportation agencies had been criticized for not attracting Hispanic workers. The Hispanic female population at MassDOT increased 8 percent at MassDOT and the Hispanic male population increased 20.7 percent, according to Neal-Johnson, though at both the MBTA and MassDOT the percentage of male and female Hispanic workers is in the single-digits.

Women make up 29.3 percent of the population at MassDOT and 24.3 percent at the MBTA.

Neal-Johnson said other transportation agencies have flown in MassDOT officials to talk about diversity.

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