Monday, June 02, 2008

"TxDOT was 'out of control,' advancing its own agenda against objections of both the Legislature and the public."

Upcoming Sunset report cites "distrust and frustration" with TxDOT

June 02, 2008

Peggy Fikac
Houston Chronicle
Copyright 2008

Saying there's an atmosphere of "distrust and frustration" surrounding the Texas Department of Transportation, the Sunset Advisory Commission staff is poised to recommend big changes at the agency.

The report won't be released until tomorrow, but according to a bound copy shared by a source close to the process, among proposals are:
  • Replace the five-member commission with one appointed commissioner, who would get a two-year term instead of the current six-year term.
  • Establish a Transportation Legislative Oversight Committee including House members and senators.
  • Establish a "transparent, well-defined, and understandable system of project programming within TxDOT that integrates project milestones, forecasts and priorities."
  • Require TxDOT, with input from transportation partners and policymakers, to develop a system to measure and report on progress in meeting transportation goals and milestones.
  • Require TxDOT to develop and implement a public involvement policy that guides and encourages more meaningful public involvement efforts agency-wide.
  • Continue TxDOT for only another four years before the agency again undergoes comprehensive sunset review. The normal period between reviews is 12 years.
"The Sunset review of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) occurred against a backdrop of distrust and frustration with the Department and the demand for more transparency, accountability, and responsiveness. Many expressed concerns that TxDOT was 'out of control,' advancing its own agenda against objections of both the Legislature and the public," said the report.

TxDOT spokesman Chris Lippincott said he can't comment on the report until it's released but when asked about the concerns that are raised in it, he said by email, "The confidence of the Legislature and the public are very important to us. We still have work to do, but we are confident that our ongoing efforts to improve the transparency and accessibility of TxDOT are making a positive impact. We look forward to our continued work with the members and staff of the Sunset Commission."

© 2008 Houston Chronicle

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