Tuesday, July 22, 2008

"There will be a downsizing of sorts."

TxDOT undergoes reorganization; some may lose jobs


By Brandi Grissom / Austin Bureau
El Paso Times
Copyright 2008

AUSTIN - About 600 Texas Department of Transportation workers statewide, including 48 in El Paso, will see some big changes in their jobs and could even lose them as the agency reorganizes in the face of legislative scrutiny.

"There will be a downsizing of sorts, but I wouldn't say layoffs exactly," said TxDOT spokesman Mark Cross. "We're going to try to make sure nobody gets left without a job altogether."

Trying to save about $35 million and show lawmakers the agency takes their concerns seriously, TxDOT is starting a restructuring plan to weed out redundancies among its more than 14,000 employees, Cross said.

During the 2009 legislative session, lawmakers are expected to call for major changes at the department. In recent years, public outcry has grown over toll plans and multibillion-dollar long-term contracts with private companies and legislators frustrations have mounted with a perceived lack of accountability from transportation leaders.

"TxDOT implemented the restructuring plan to streamline operations, improve productivity and save money," Cross said.

The plan, he said, will happen in two phases. The first phase will start in September. Overlapping planning and development jobs in 25 TxDOT district offices will be combined at four new regional offices.

El Paso will report to a regional office in Lubbock.

The restructuring, said Chuck Berry, El Paso district engineer, will affect 48 of the 345 TxDOT employees in El Paso. Some will remain in El Paso but report to managers in Lubbock.

Those who can't work remotely but want to stay with TxDOT will be able to either take different jobs in El Paso or move to Lubbock.

"We're trying do everything we can help our employees," he said.

The second phase of the restructuring will affect only Austin employees, and won't start until 2010.

State Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, often a TxDOT critic, said the reorganization is a healthy exercise, though he hopes no one loses their job.

"It's good business practice to take a step back and look at your procedures," he said.

Brandi Grissom can be reached at bgrissom@elpasotimes.com; (512) 479-6606.

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