DBE Waiver for Federal Highway Administration projects

Why does WSDOT have a DBE program?

To receive federal financial-aid, WSDOT is required to implement a Disadvantaged Business Enterprises program. One of the objectives of the DBE program is to ensure we create a level playing field for socially and economically disadvantaged businesses to participate on federally funded transportation projects. 

One of the ways we do this is by setting goals for utilizing certified DBE firms to complete a percentage of the work on federal-aid projects.

How does WSDOT implement its DBE program?

To ensure this program is in conformance with the DBE program regulations, an approved method to ensure WSDOT’s program is narrowly tailored is to conduct a “disparity study.” One of the elements of a disparity study is a comparison of the percentage of available DBE firms as a percentage of all firms in the market area, to the utilization of available DBEs on WSDOT contracts and subcontracts.

This information can be used to assist us in setting the overall DBE goal for federal-aid highway contracts and DBE goals on specific contracts.

Our last completed disparity study was conducted in 2012. The 2012 study reviewed data from 2009 to 2011. A new disparity study began in April 2016, with preliminary results expected in May 2017. More detailed information about the current study is available at: http://wsdot.disparity-study.com/

What was the result of the 2012 disparity study?

The 2012 disparity study found that, based upon available statistical data, non-minority white women-owned businesses were not underutilized on federally-funded WSDOT contracts compared to the availability of such firms in WSDOT’s marketplace.

How does this affect WSDOT’s DBE program?

Based on this finding, we submitted a waiver request in March 2014 to the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) to have white women-owned DBEs removed from credit toward meeting DBE contract goals on projects that include funds from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). 

WSDOT’s request was granted on Dec. 8, 2016 by the Secretary of USDOT. A copy of that letter is available. (pdf 171kb) As this is a very complex issue, WSDOT will be proceeding carefully, but expeditiously, to address the letter. We will have more information regarding this matter available soon and will be reaching out to obtain valuable feedback from program stakeholders.

What are WSDOT’s next steps?

WSDOT’s Office of Equal Opportunity continues to make significant progress in its implementation of the federal DBE program. WSDOT is increasing its monitoring of the DBE Program through an electronic diversity software tracking system. WSDOT is also working on enhancing its state contracting Minority, Small, Veteran Women Business Enterprise Program for  state funded contracts; more information is available here: www.wsdot.wa.gov/sites/default/files/2016/05/11/OEODiversityRoadmap.pdf

As mentioned above, we are in the process of conducting a new DBE program disparity study. At the conclusion of that study, WSDOT will assess the more recent contract and economy-wide data and anecdotal information.

For more information, please contact:
WSDOT Office of Equal Opportunity
360.705.7090
DisparityStudy@wsdot.wa.gov