DBE Program Waiver

The purpose of this is to inform you of recent correspondence from the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) regarding the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) program and WSDOT’s initial response to that correspondence.

To receive federal financial-aid WSDOT is required to implement a DBE program. One of the objectives of the DBE program is to ensure WSDOT creates a level playing field for the participation of socially and economically disadvantaged business enterprises on federally funded transportation projects.  

WSDOT conducted a DBE program disparity study in 2012, as required by federal law. The study, conducted between January 2012 and December 2012, used methodologies accepted at the time and was based upon contract data from 2005, 2009 to 2011. This disparity study provides the data currently used by WSDOT for setting DBE goals for federally funded transportation projects.

The 2012 disparity study found that, based upon available data, non-minority white women-owned businesses were being “overutilized” on federally-funded WSDOT contracts compared to the availability of such firms in WSDOT’s marketplace, thereby supporting the inference that there was no statistical evidence of discrimination.  

Based upon the study’s findings WSDOT requested a waiver on March 28, 2014 from the Secretary of USDOT to remove non-minority white women-owned DBEs from credit towards meeting race-conscious DBE contract goals.  On December 19, 2016, WSDOT received a letter dated December 8, 2016 from USDOT approving the waiver. A copy of that letter is attached.

WSDOT’s civil rights program has made significant progress since the 2012 disparity study and the 2014 waiver request. The agency is presently conducting a new DBE program disparity study, which began in April 2016 with results expected in May 2017.  The new disparity study uses contract data from October 1, 2011 through September 30, 2015 and incorporates improvements to study methodology that have been developed since 2012. At the conclusion of that study, WSDOT will once again assess whether non-minority white women-owned businesses should continue to be subject to this waiver.

As this is a very sensitive issue, WSDOT will be proceeding carefully but expeditiously to address the letter WSDOT received from FHWA on December 19, 2016. We will have more information regarding this matter available soon and will be reaching out to engage program stakeholders to incorporate their advice into our response.

Read the Letter (pdf, 171kb)