Sunday, June 05, 2005

VDOT After Shucet

Outgoing VDOT Commissioner Philip A. Shucet did such a great job of turning around the chronically mismanaged agency, according to today's glowing editorial in The Washington Post, that he has "taken from the politicians a convenient excuse for not providing the road-building funds Virginia needs."

Shucet is "an exceptional pro," the paper says, with a no-nonsense approach that helped show VDOT how to be on time and on budget. "VDOT is up to the job," the Post says. "Whether the same can be said for the state's political class is less clear."

Well, maybe. Shucet undeniably has improved VDOT's performance. But his exit begs the question: has VDOT really turned the corner? Will his changes outlast him, or will the old VDOT culture reassert itself?

Shucet's replacement - appointed last week by Gov. Mark Warner - is 17-year VDOT veteran Gregory A. Whirley, who will take over as interim commissioner on July 1. Whirley has been inspector general of the agency since 2000, and reportedly plans to reclaim that job when Warner leaves office in January.


At 8:02 AM, Blogger Jim Bacon said...

Bob, You have identified a meme that will be replicated endlessly by the Mainstream Media: The notion that now that Philip Shucet has cleaned up VDOT, there's no excuse for opposing higher taxes for more roads.

All the evidence I've seen indicates that Shucet has done a great job at VDOT. He's slashed payroll and brought in a significantly higher percent of transportation projects on time and on budget. We can all hope that the changes he implemented to VDOT's management culture will stick. But there's no way of knowing what will happen now that he's gone. The political pressures on VDOT are remorseless.

The larger, and more important, point is that VDOT's failings are not the root cause of Virginia's transportation woes. Assuredly, endless delays and cost overruns on Interstate mega-projects have made a bad situation worse. But the Post ignores the underlying cause of traffic congestion, which has been Virginia's monomaniacal focus on increasing transportation capacity rather than a balanced aproach to building capacity and dampening the relentless climb in Vehicle Miles Traveled.

There's not enough money in the world, no matter how efficient VDOT gets, to build enough roads to keep pace with the increase in VMT. We must work on both sides of the equation.

At 10:02 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Automobiles cost more, per foot, than roads do. How is it we can afford one and not the other?

New homes today are nearly twice the size they were 30 years ago, and yet ther is more rented storage space today than ever. I believe Marshall has more rented storage spaces than it has homes.

Just as larger homes and lots are representative of our increased affluence, so is VMT.

Anyway how do we determine that the climb in VMT is relentless? Hasn't some of it come from women entering the workplace and won't that effect diminish over time? If VMT growth relentless is compared to population, then what about compared to GDP?

If it is keeping pace with GDP then how can we say we can't afford new roads?

Yes, we need better balance, too.

At 7:33 AM, Blogger goraya said...

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