Dovetail Consulting found niche in rail safety

Date: Thursday, December 15, 2016

Safety and security are always a priority on light rail projects, and Dovetail Consulting’s job is to make sure that safety-related details from overhead wires to pedestrian crossings are impeccably planned and executed.

Mignon Allen, founder and owner of Dovetail Consulting.The Atlanta-based firm is the safety and security consultant on the METRO Blue Line Extension LRT Project.

Mignon Allen, Dovetail’s founder and owner, has built the company over its 14-year history with an eye toward detail and meticulousness.

“We’re known for having very high quality standards,” Allen said. “When we do an assessment, someone else may do a five- to six-page report. We’ll do a 150-page report.”

Owner credits DBE program with helping her firm to thrive

Dovetail’s work has included light rail and streetcar projects across the nation, and Allen credits the Disad­vantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program for helping her firm continue to thrive.

Requirements for participating in the DBE program include limits on per­sonal net worth (less than $1.32 mil­lion). Also, participating firms need to meet Small Business Administration size standards as measured by annual gross receipts. Those standards vary by industry. Ownership must also be at least 51 percent female or persons of color.

Dovetail has been a DBE contractor working on transit projects around the nation since it was first founded in 2002.

“I don’t think people choose to work with us because we’re a DBE, but it’s an enhancement,” Allen said
. The DBE program “does vet firms and yields qualified participants,” she said, and the process of maintaining DBE cre­dentials requires responsible owners.

The DBE program allows contractors such as Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc., the prime engineering contrac­tor on the Blue Line Extension, to know there are small firms with a solid accounting system and the technical qualifications to do the job, Allen said.

Allen recruited from Spelman College by Atlanta’s transit authority

The planned METRO Blue Line Extension will operate about 13 miles northwest from downtown Minneapolis through north Minneapolis, Golden Valley, Robbinsdale, Crystal and Brooklyn Park.The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) recruited Allen in 1994 as she was finishing her under­graduate degree at Spelman College in Atlanta. She started at MARTA doing work in planning and moved into engi­neering and later rail transportation.

Seven years later, as she was finishing an MBA degree at Atlanta’s Emory Uni­versity, Allen decided to join a consult­ing firm and helped roll out the state of Georgia’s first regional express bus system.

In 2002, she started Dovetail with a business partner, specializing in bus and rail planning. One of her long-time employees is Fred Mead, her com­pany’s vice president, who had worked on the METRO Blue Line (Hiawatha) LRT back in the early 2000s before he joined Dovetail. Kimley-Horn also worked on the Hiawatha Line, which opened in 2004.

When Kimley-Horn was looking for a subcontractor to do safety and security-related work on the Blue Line Exten­sion, Dovetail’s track record on similar projects around the country helped it win the contract.

Staff expertise includes law enforcement, fire and safety specialists

Dovetail’s staff has expertise on the various components of light rail proj­ects, including an architect, retired law enforcement officials and fire captains, and safety specialists. “We’re practitio­ners who were in these departments in the transit system, so we know how it’s supposed to work,” Allen said.

Dovetail has worked on the Blue Line Extension’s safety and security manage­ment plan, and is now moving onto other items, including a preliminary hazard analysis, said Paul Danielson, a Kimley-Horn senior vice president and the Blue Line Extension’s project man­ager for engineering services.

A third focus for Dovetail will be safety certifiable items for the Blue Line Ex­tension, Danielson said.

An example of safety certification would include checking the slope of an access ramp on an LRT station to meet Americans with Disabilities Act guidance. Dovetail will make certain the station design meets that requirement. Project designers will check it again, and construction field staff will verify that the ramp was built to stan­dards.

After construction, Dovetail also does a field audit on a cross-section of the project’s various components to make sure the plans on paper are reflected in the finished product.

“[Dovetail’s] role is to get this ready for the design team and make sure the construction staff is doing what they said,” said Danielson.

Dovetail also does state safety over­sight, reviews accidents and audits bus and rail transit systems. “When we’re part of a design and construction project,” Allen said, “we have that lead several years before operation, and we can identify what the potential issues might be.”

DBE goal for Blue Line Extension is 19%

The DBE goal is 19% for the Blue Line Extension engineering contract and for the Green Line Extension Proj­ect’s advanced design contract.

Small minority-owned or women-owned companies that want infor­mation about the DBE program and working on LRT projects should contact senior equal opportunity consultant Andrew Larson of the Metropolitan Council’s Office of Equal Opportunity at or 612-373-3896.

More information

Posted In: Communities, Council News, Planning, Transportation

Upcoming Events