Local Politics

Consulting Firm Will Help Restructure DOT

Posted October 23, 2007 5:49 p.m. EDT
Updated October 23, 2007 7:04 p.m. EDT

— The North Carolina Department of Transportation on Tuesday outlined a plan to correct problems in the way it operates to improve transportation services in the state.

At a Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee meeting, Chief Financial Officer Mark Foster said the department has paid $3.6 million to an independent consultant, McKinsey & Company, to help restructure the agency, which he said, has been operating on a model from the 1960s.

"We're not ready for the 21st century needs," Foster said.

The DOT's goal is to prioritize projects across the state, be more efficient with its money and time and prevent problems of the past from being repeated.

For example, the newest stretch of Interstate 540 in Wake County, N.C. 540, was supposed to ease congestion onto Interstate 40, but engineers eliminated an exit lane, causing long lines on the exit ramp where vehicles are trying to exit for both east and west on I-40.

"It's incredible to me that nobody is one is ultimately responsible," said Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake. "How can you design a new interstate and not have access to get off of it? I mean, one-lane access off a four-lane highway – it's just ridiculous."

The DOT admitted to poor planning and that it should have looked at ways to avoid the problem before opening the roadway in July.

And improper construction on a 10.6-mile stretch of I-40 through Durham County cost $21 million to repair a botched paving job.

In 2003, crews began widening I-40 to six lanes from the Durham Freeway to U.S. Highway 15-501. The project, cost $50 million and was completed about a year later. But in 2005, the top layer of the two old lanes of the interstate began crumbling.

A final report with recommendations is expected next month, but there are already suggestions such as offering incentives to crews that finish a project on time or ahead of schedule.