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Gubernatorial Candidates Criticize DOT at Transportation Summit

Posted April 15, 2008

— The state Department of Transportation, dogged in recent months by a state audit and a consultant's report that described it as lacking direction, received more criticism Tuesday.

Republican and Democratic gubernatorial candidates took part in a Transportation Summit at the Embassy Suites in Research Triangle Park.

"The bureaucracy there (at the DOT) causes traffic jams, not just internal to the department but on our highways," Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue said. She's seeking the Democratic nomination.

Delays in highway and bridge construction cost North Carolina taxpayers at least $152 million in recent years, according to a state audit released in February.

The State Auditor's Office examined 390 highway and bridge projects completed across the state between April 2004 and last March and found that work on almost three-fourths of them didn't start in the year they were supposed to start. Forty percent of the projects started more than a year late.

"It's an organization that has not been innovative and it's an organization not preparing for growth. It's reacting to growth, and once you react, you waited too long," Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, a Republican candidate, said.

A consultant's report, released late last year, said DOT projects proceed slowly because of a lack of prioritization, accountability and coordination.

"There's been a failure of leadership," McCrory said of the DOT.

DOT workers, interviewed for the consultant's report, said the agency is too political. Many also said there was a lack of vision and accountability at the DOT, and one employee wrote that it seemed like no one is in charge.

"We can't keep doing things the same old way," Perdue said of the DOT.

International management consultant McKinsey & Co., which prepared the 472-page report, is helping the DOT implement efficiency changes.

"We're gonna have to have new leadership at the DOT and we're gonna have to have a new culture at the DOT,"  Sen. Fred Smith, a Republican candidate, said.

"It's not just the secretary. It starts with the governor's office. The first thing the governor should do is not politicize the board in which he appoints," McCrory said.

A DOT spokesman said Tuesday he was not surprised the candidates criticized the agency. Transportation is a hot issue this election year, he said.

Of the candidates for governor, State Treasurer Richard Moore, who's seeking the Democratic nomination, was the only no-show at the Transportation Summit.


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  • NCSULandscaper Apr 16, 2008

    The DOT should be criticized, as a landscaper, we were awarded a winning contract to do some repair work for the DOT last year, had the contracts signed and did the work, only to be told that they were not going to pay, even though we did the work to everyone's satisfation. So thats how the DOT treats the contractors that work for them also. So now we will let the courts decide.

  • VT1994Hokie Apr 16, 2008

    Hey,mojo31979!!!! I want to thank you for the comments that you wrote regarding DOT. It pretty much had the same tack about how I feel about wasting tax dollars. I see four standing around and 1 person supervising too!!!! Kudos my friend.

    You need to write a letter to the Gov. Easley, and all of his Executives that you made in this comment. Tell me if you will write.

  • mojo31979 Apr 16, 2008

    The debate is pointless. The damage is already done and pointing fingers only fuels a useless debate. Things need to change if the Tri-angle area is to prepare for future growth. The next administration will have to clean up where the previous one has left off. It seems to be a very large mess, Stevie Wonder (no offense to blind people) could have planned out the 440 and 540 more effectively than these morons. The state and federal Government has always made a habit out of wasting tax payers money. The road operation need to be split up, leave the major highways and bi-ways to large,privately owned, construction companies. Because to any business, Time ALWAYS equals Money. Roads will be build quickly, efficiently, and designed well. Instead, I watch the DOT leech off of the government and the tax payers. I just love seeing 4 men standing around doing nothing while one works! It's good to see my hard earned tax dollars go to good use!

  • john60 Apr 16, 2008

    Actually, Fed funding ranges from 50% to 90% depending on what kind of project it's used for. The Highway Trust Fund was set up for urban interstate loops at first, but politicians soon turned it into just another pot of money to get "their" road built faster. Now it's badly depleted too.

    The Fed isn't "withholding" money (although we are a donor state); no, what's hurting the state now is these big, expensive, multiyear projects. They each eat up so much of the state's annual Fed highway money there's little left over, so for each one that is built several others get delayed, they get more expensive as the years go on, and the cycle repeats.

    Oh, and ncwebguy, I-440 between Wade Avenue and US 1/64 predates Governor Hunt's "four lane highway" decree by at least 30 years. It was part of the original Raleigh Beltline; do some research next time, please. And US 64 is hardly a "road to nowhere"; it was a needed route to the coast and still is.

  • RocknRollDoctor Apr 16, 2008

    ncwebguy, you're pretty far off on your take of DOT.

    Projects are delayed by funding. However, 80% of that funding comes from the Feds who have been withholding billions over the past several years. Our highway trust fund can not cover the total cost without pooling funds from several projects. Hence delays and backlogs.

    The gas tax cap will only worsen the existing problem. But, there again, the state level funding is not really the main source of the problem.

    DOT was extremely productive under Jim Hunt and many of his appointments remain in place. Easley never really took control of the DOT. One of the first things the new governor will do is study and re-arrange the TIP. There are few ties to Martin left in place.

    Easley should have cleaned house when he took office. He failed to take control of our state government and simply left the majority of his predecessors appointments in place.

  • chfdcpt Apr 16, 2008

    Actually, I thought it was democrat Jim Hunt that decreed that everyone needs to live near a 4 lane highway. So it doesn't matter if the governor is republican or democrat; the main problem is that the leadership at DOT is a political appointment.

    I remember that one of those 4 lane highways to nowhere was US 64, from Raleigh to Wilson; the home of Jim Hunt.

  • ncwebguy Apr 16, 2008

    Projects are delayed because they don't have funding.
    Delayed projects cost more.
    Delayed projects result in more traffic.

    Republican gov. candidate Bill Graham pushed for the gas tax cap and now we have it. This will cap road funding, which results in delays and increased costs.

    Republican gov. Jim Martin decided everyone needs to live near a four lane highway, which led to the roads to nowhere east of I-95 and useless four lane (two each direction) beltines in Raleigh (440 Wade Ave to 1/64) and Charlotte (485 south side). And every appointment Martin made was political.

    Republicans are to blame, but want to point the finger elsewhere. That is their idea of personal responsibility.

    Easley should start cleaning house now since he is a lame duck. But if he does that, he'll be blamed for not letting the new govenor implement his/her strategy, so he can't.

  • Bob Sidel Apr 16, 2008

    Fred should be well aware of the shoddy work that contractors do and get away with in this area

  • raynda Apr 16, 2008

    Yep. And they're even harder to deal with than MFM! MFM and DOT do work together on certain things though. I don't know if DOT is under DOA though.

  • RocknRollDoctor Apr 16, 2008

    raynda, isn't MFM under the Dept of Admin?