Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Is VDOT a Big Fat Target?

State Sen. Marty Williams, R-Newport News, thinks so. This Virginian Pilot story outlines Williams' plan to get a General Assembly-sanctioned study commission created with an eye to cutting VDOT from its current 9,000 workers to below 5,000.

'Williams, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said he believes the state should turn over engineering and design functions to private contractors. He also wants more private involvement in road maintenance.

Williams said such a massive overhaul of the agency could be phased in over three to five years. “I’m real serious about it, but I also don’t want to alarm a state agency as large as VDOT that we’re going to just go out there and rip them to shreds,” he said.'

Merry Xmas, VDOT workers.

Didn't Virginia go through this in the 1990s under George Allen - a bunch of senior staffers headed for the exits and the department suffered? Sure enough.
'In 1995, Gov. George Allen reduced VDOT’s workforce by offering cash buyouts and fatter pensions to 1,249 employees.
A 1999 study by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, the legislature’s watchdog agency, found that road-building costs rose after the downsizing because VDOT paid private companies steep sums to perform work previously done in-house.'


At 11:10 AM, Blogger Jim Bacon said...

Williams' idea is not far removed from one recently advocated by former VDOT commissioner Philip Shucet. (If you're out there, Philip, I wish you would weigh on this topic.) I refer readers to our post of Oct. 21, 2005, "The Shucet Solution: Outsource Maintenance."

While Shucet's focus was outsourcing maintenance, as opposed to A&E services, the underlying logic was similar: VDOT needs to change its organizational culture from that of doing everything itself to setting goals and specifications, and becoming a sophisticated and demanding buyer of services on the behalf of the public. As Shucet wrote: "Shifting the delivery of maintenance services to the private sector offers an opportunity over time to develop a substantially smaller, yet more productive, program-focused state transportation agency."

I'm not privy to Williams' thinking, but I suspect that's what he has in mind.

11:09 AM


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