The U.S. Dept. of Transportation said on May 7 that it is proposing changes in its requirements for disadvantaged-business-enterprise firms (DBEs), which include small companies owned by women and minorities.

The last highway-transit authorization, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: a Legacy for Users and other statutes, set a goal of having at least 10% of the federal funds for highways, transit and airport construction go to small businesses controlled by those who are "socially and economically disadvantaged."

The proposed rule, to be published in the Federal Register on May 10, would increase the ceiling on a DBE owner's net worth to $1.3 million, from the current $750,000. The $750,000 net-worth cap has not been changed since 1989, DOT said.

The department says its plan also would make it easier for a firm to be certified as a DBE in more than one state, requiring each state to accept other states' certifications, unless they determine there is "a good reason not to," DOT says.

DOT says the proposal aims to make state and local agencies more accountable in the DBE area. Under one provision, if state and local transportation agencies do not achieve goals for DBE contract participation, they would have to examine why they missed the targets and provide ways to meet the goals.

DOT says it will take comments on the proposed DBE rule until July 11.