U.S. Reps. Jesse Jackson Jr., Bobby Rush and Danny Davis, lead protesters in a march on Jackson Boulevard against the Metra contract bidding process that they feel unfairly excludes African-Americans.
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Three congressmen called on the Metra board today not to approve a proposed contract for the Englewood Flyover rail bridge on the South Side because not enough minorities would be working on the $141 million project.
Rep. Bobby Rush called the contract "a shame (and) repugnant to my community."
Rep. Danny Davis called the proposed contract "one of the greatest insults to the people" of the Englewood community.
And Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. said awarding the contract to the apparent low bidder will "disenfranchise" the Englewood community. "African-Americans have been on the other side of the construction tracks for too long."
All three say the apparent low bidder does not have enough minority contractors and would not provide enough jobs to people in the Englewood neighborhood.
About 50 people jammed the Metra board room, many carrying signs saying "No work without us" and "Metra re-bid the contract." After addressing the board, the congressmen left with the crowd and headed to a rally at the Thompson Center.
Metra acting chairman Larry Huggins said Metra has delayed awarding the contract "in the hope that everyone can come together and work it out."
Huggins, a successful minority contractors, noted that he grew up in the Englewood community.
Metra has said it worked for the past two years to ensure participation by disadvantaged businesses, and spent $300,000 in outreach efforts to the Englewood community.
But in a letter to the commuter rail agency earlier this month, Rush, Jackson and Davis, all Chicago Democrats, charged that contract would give less than 1 percent of the work to an African-American firm, and less than 3 percent to a disadvantaged business enterprise.
Metra has said the low bidder, Elgin-based IHC Construction Companies LLC, met the contractís goal of 25 percent participation by disadvantaged businesses. These can include black, Hispanic and woman-owned firms with a net worth of less than roughly $1 million, under federal law.
Metra originally planned to award the contract May 11 but has said it would postpone the awarding of the construction contract until its June 15 meeting.
The project, designed to relieve congestion, was originally scheduled to be done in June 2014, but Metra said it now expects to take until the fall of that year. The railroad bridge is intended to ease rail flow on tracks used by Metra, Amtrak and freight railroads.