Local News

DOT realigns to become more efficient

Posted August 7, 2008 10:59 a.m. EDT
Updated August 14, 2008 6:54 p.m. EDT

— The Department of Transportation is reorganizing to make the state agency more efficient, Secretary Lyndo Tippett announced Thursday.

The changes, which affect all seven divisions of the department, come after an 18-month internal review and are aimed at making the agency more strategic, accountable, efficient and effective.

“With demand on the state’s transportation system increasing, the cost of doing business rising and revenues remaining relatively flat, we cannot continue to do business as usual,” Tippett said.

Officials say that ultimately means more checks and balances and more communication between those involved in delivering DOT projects, products and services.

"The effort here is to reduce the layer of government – bureaucracy – to get people talking to each other and make sure we are doing things consistently and right – to reduce the silo mentality we're seeing within the department," DOT communications manager Ernie Seneca said.

The DOT is also creating a new unit called the Office of Inspector General, which will be responsible for quality control and risk management. About 50 employees will be reassigned to the unit.

Managers will begin reassigning existing positions immediately, and the new organizational structure should be in place by Sept. 2.

Tippett called the realignment a significant move that will affect everything the DOT does.

"We will make these (changes) work," he said following his announcement to a group of senior DOT staff and managers Thursday. "We will adjust this organization to reflect the needs of the 21st century as we have been talking about for almost seven years."

In recent years, the department has been riddled by delayed and troubled road projects, including a botched paving job on a 10.6-mile stretch of Interstate 40 in Durham County that cost the department $21 million from its administrative budget to fix.

That prompted the DOT to spend $3.6 million for international management consultant McKinsey & Co. to evaluate the agency.

Among McKinsey's findings in its 472-page report was that the DOT's structure prevents divisions from working well with each other. It also identified a need to improve productivity, use key performance indicators and increase accountability within the department.

Workers also complained about low morale and a lack of vision.

"It's been more or less business as usual, and it was time to make a change to upgrade the department to make it more efficient and more effective," said Doug Galyon, chairman of the North Carolina Board of Transportation. "I think you're going to see a re-energizing of the people who work for the DOT."

Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee member Rep. Ty Harrell, D-Wake, who has been critical of the DOT and its leadership, said he is encouraged by the realignment but that it is still too early to tell what the long-term results of it will be.

"I'm optimistic to the steps DOT is taking right now, and hopefully, they're going to be serious about revamping, revising and being more accountable to the citizens of North Carolina," Harrell said.