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2012 Disparity Study Overview

Welcome to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) disparity study homepage. This page provides information about:

  • Study background and purpose;
  • Study findings; and
  • How WSDOT engaged the community in the previous disparity study process.

Please make use of the informational links that can be found on the sidebar to the left.

Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program disparity study submitted on March 28, 2014:

Proposed Federal Highway Administration Overall DBE Goal (pdf 473kb)
Revised Proposed Amended FHWA FFY 2014 – 2017 Overall DBE Goal & Methodology (pdf 14.4 mb)
WSDOT DBE Goal Questions and Answers (pdf 99 kb)
WSDOT Proposed Waiver 3-28-14 (pdf 39 kb)
WSDOT Proposed Waiver Rev. 11-9-15 (pdf 438 kb)
Disparity Study - Executive Summary (pdf 350 kb)
Disparity Study - Final Report (pdf 9,535 kb)

For more information, please email or one of the key contacts noted below.


WSDOT receives funds from the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) to build, operate, and maintain the state's various transportation systems. Because WSDOT receives USDOT funds, it must implement the Federal DBE Program. The program is designed to ensure nondiscrimination in the award and administration of DOT-assisted contracts in the Department's highway, transit, airport, and highway safety financial assistance programs. The goals of the program are to remedy past and current discrimination against disadvantaged business enterprises, ensure a "level playing field" in which DBEs can compete fairly for DOT-assisted contracts, improve the flexibility and efficiency of the DBE program, and reduce burdens on small businesses.

The study kicked off in December 2011 and was completed in December 2012 (see links above for the Executive Summary and full Final Report).

Purpose of the study

One of the primary purposes of the WSDOT disparity study is to examine whether there are disparities between:

  • The percentage of total transportation-related construction and engineering contract dollars that minority- and women-owned businesses received on WSDOT prime contracts and subcontracts between October 1, 2008 and September 30, 2011 (referred to as a utilization analysis ); and
  • The percentage of dollars that those firms would be expected to receive based on their availability to perform work on such prime contracts and subcontracts (referred to as an availability analysis ).

In addition, the study will examined other qualitative and quantitative information related to:

  • Legal considerations surrounding implementations of the Federal DBE Program;
  • Marketplace conditions for minority- and women-owned businesses;
  • Contracting practices and assistance programs that WSDOT currently has in place;
  • Helping WSDOT set its overall annual aspirational goal and projecting the portion of the goal that could be met using race- and gender-neutral program measures; and
  • Potential program measures for WSDOT to consider implementing as part of the Federal DBE Program.

Key Contacts

If you have any questions or comments regarding the 2012 WSDOT disparity study, please contact:

Jackie Bayne
Business Development and Compliance Consultant
Office of Equal Opportunity
PO Box 47314
Olympia WA 98504-7314
Email :
Phone : (360) 705-7084
Fax : (360) 705-6801

Study Progress

WSDOT will provide regular updates about recently completed milestones and next steps throughout the course of the disparity study. Please check back periodically for those updates.

Recent Milestones

Project initiation. WSDOT and the study team initiated the 2012 WSDOT disparity study in mid-December 2011 with meetings in Tacoma and Olympia. The study team met with WSDOT management and staff as well as with WSDOT's DBE Advisory Group to introduce the study and to answer questions. See materials that the study team presented during the project initiation meetings (pdf 223 kb) . Also, see more information about the DBE Advisory Group (pdf 59 kb) .

Utilization Analysis. BBC collected contracting and vendor data from the Construction Division, Consultant Services Office, the Aviation Division, Public Transportation Division, Washington State Ferries Division, and subrecipient local agencies. Based on those data, BBC has developed prime contract, subcontract, and vendor data tables for the utilization analysis.
BBC conducted utilization telephone interviews with businesses that were utilized on WSDOT transportation contracts during the study period. As part of that process, the study team attempted to contact businesses that WSDOT utilized during the study period on transportation-related construction and engineering contracts. BBC collected information related to each business's primary line of work and business characteristics such as size and race/ethnicity and gender of ownership.

Availability Analysis. BBC finished conducting availability telephone interviews with Washington businesses that work in industries that are relevant to the transportation contracts that WSDOT awarded during the study period. BBC compiled and analyzed data from the availability telephone interviews for the availability analysis.

Legal Framework and Analysis. BBC and Holland & Knight developed the legal framework and analysis for the study. This information appears in the final disparity study report.

Explanations for Any Observed Disparities. BBC compiled data related to bid outcomes on transportation-related construction and engineering contracts that WSDOT awarded during the study period. BBC used that information to conduct a case study analysis of bid outcomes that examined potential explanations for any disparities that the study team observed between utilization and availability.

Quantitative Analysis of Marketplace Conditions. BBC conducted quantitative analyses of Washington marketplace conditions in the areas of entry and advancement; business ownership; success of businesses; and access to capital, bonding, and insurance. BBC also analyzed existing data related to the effects of Initiative 200.

Qualitative Analysis of Marketplace Conditions. BBC collected qualitative information about Washington marketplace conditions through 40 in-depth anecdotal interviews with local business owners and managers; several public meetings and hearings throughout the state; and several meetings with trade association and business organization representatives. Qualitative information is summarized in the final disparity study report.

Reports. BBC delivered the final disparity study report at the end of December, 2012.

Overall DBE goal. WSDOT has submitted a proposed overall DBE goal for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) of 11.6%. This 11.6%, upon approval from FHWA, would amend the present federal fiscal year 2014 DBE goal of 15.17% and be effective federal fiscal years 2015, 2016 and 2017. Based on disparity study results, only those DBE groups for which sufficient evidence of discrimination in the local marketplace exists will be considered eligible for the race- and gender-conscious measures that WSDOT chooses to use as part of its implementation of the Federal DBE Program. Those groups are Black American-owned businesses, Asian-Pacific American-owned businesses, Hispanic American-owned businesses, Native American-owned businesses, and Subcontinent Asian American-owned businesses.

WSDOT will request a waiver from USDOT to consider women-owned businesses as ineligible to participate in any race- and gender-conscious measures. Businesses that are owned by minority women will still be eligible for DBE contract goals if they are DBE-certified along with their corresponding minority groups. WSDOT will regularly monitor any changes in the participation of women-owned businesses — particularly, in the participation of non-Hispanic white women-owned businesses — that result from WSDOT's revised implementation of the Federal DBE Program. WSDOT will engage in such monitoring on a semiannual basis.

For more information, please email or one of the key contacts noted above.