DBE Waiver for Federal Highway Administration projects

Why does WSDOT have a DBE program?

One of the objectives of the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program is to ensure we create a level playing field for socially and economically disadvantaged businesses to participate in 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 compliance with the Federal DBE program regulations, an approved method to ensure WSDOT’s program is narrowly tailored is to conduct a “disparity study.” One of the most widely accepted statistical methods of measuring disparity is to compare 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 is used in setting the overall DBE goal for federal-aid highway contracts and DBE goals on specific contracts.

What is the waiver?

In this case, a waiver is a request to adjust the DBE program to account for market conditions experienced in any individual state. 

It requires U.S. Department of Transportation approval. 

Why did WSDOT request the waiver?

WSDOT is required to maintain a narrowly tailored DBE Program, which means that only groups which face discrimination can participate in the race or gender-conscious portion of the program.

WSDOT requested the waiver based on the analysis of data from federal fiscal years 2009-2011 contained in the 2012 WSDOT DBE Program Disparity Study (pdf 9 mb). The results of the 2012 DBE Program Disparity Study established that no substantial disparities were found for non-minority women owned DBEs.

Accordingly, an approved waiver would give WSDOT the ability to modify its approach to the non-minority women owned DBEs and race or gender-conscious DBE goals.

How will the waiver be implemented?

A DBE must be classified as underutilized (UDBE) to qualify for all things associated with Condition of Award (COA) goals. WSDOT will establish all UDBE contract goals based on factors such as opportunities for UDBEs within the contract and availability of UDBEs.

How long will the waiver remain in effect?

Until it is no longer determined to be necessary; then, a request to rescind the waiver is made and approval is granted by USDOT.

The request to rescind can be based upon significant changes in participation, another disparity study, or other marketplace conditions which would impact the waiver’s necessity. 

What will WSDOT do to monitor non-minority women participation?

WSDOT is implementing B2GNow, a diversity software tracking system, and will monitor all presumptively disadvantaged groups’ participation.

Does this affect all DBE work in Washington state?

No, Sound Transit, the Port of Seattle and King County currently have DBE programs without waiver.

Does this affect all WSDOT projects?

No, WSDOT has state funded projects as well, which we are enhancing to increase diverse business participation through race-neutral means. The waiver only applies to the WSDOT FHWA DBE Program. Local agencies (e.g. cities, counties) that receive FHWA funds through WSDOT will be utilizing the waiver. 

WSDOT also has a Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) DBE Program. FTA projects are typically Washington State Ferries projects and FAA is a reasonably small program.  Be sure to read the General Special Provisions, or contract language, to determine if UDBE or DBE applies.

Will WSDOT be providing training to contractors and consultants?

From May 22, 2017 through May 26, 2017, WSDOT Office of Equal Opportunity traveled the state and provided training on the approach WSDOT will be taking to implement the waiver.  A copy of the presentation is available here: Waiver Training Presentation (pdf 171 kb).

What other steps is WSDOT taking to increase inclusion?

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 and Women Business Enterprise Program for state funded contracts; more information is available on our OEO Diversity Roadmap (pdf 274 kb).

For more information, please contact:
WSDOT Office of Equal Opportunity