Local News

Tolson Outlines DOT Changes

Posted March 1, 1998 6:00 a.m. EST

— Exactly 45 days after getting marching orders from Governor Hunt, the new Secretary of Transportation has outlined his plans to clean up the DOT. Unfortunately, the road to restructuring the department may have already hit a speed bump.

It's a new day at the DOT, and there are new plans under a new Secretary. Norris Tolson unveiled changes in a department that has been the focus of controversy for months.

Top priority on Tolson's list of changes is opening the road construction process to the public, making sure people know which roads will be built and why. We'll have a lot people out holding forums, talking to groups, answering questions and making sure that the public gets as much input as they feel like they need.

Tolson also says he's making sure that no one DOT employee will have special influence in approving road projects. Tolson announced that he's removing current highway administrator Larry Goode. My analysis was that too much power was in the hands of one individual and to make that easier, it just seemed to me that I needed to remove that particular individual from the power focus.

Larry Goode has been removed from that position, but not fired from the department. Instead, Tolson says Goode will be on permant loan to NC State's Institute for Transportation Research and Education.

It's a move that's not sitting well with conservative groups.

"I think it's worthy of some serious follow-up," says Don Carrington of the John Locke Foundation. "By what authority can we do this-- can we take a state employee and assign him somewhere else at the same pay."

As for the Board of Transportation, Tolson will recommend that the Governor expand the board to include more members with experience in dealing with transportation issues.

It's a good start, a start to put this Department's past behind it.

Tolson plans to meet with transportation board members this week to talk about ethics and conflicts of interest. The Secretary hopes to help the board come up with strict guidelines to try to take the "politics" out of the process.