The Washington State Auditor’s Office conducted extensive citizen outreach during 2006 and 2007, when concern was expressed toward administrative expenses across all areas of government. This research highlighted transportation as an area of concern, and the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).
- Effectively managing its highway projects in order to minimize engineering costs, environmental and permitting costs, other costs, and unnecessary change orders that result in extra costs. If not, what is the magnitude of the opportunity lost in terms of cost, and what can be done to correct it?
- Effectively managing its highway projects in order to minimize unnecessary delays in project completion. If not, what is the magnitude of the opportunity lost including cost, and what can be done to correct it?
Overall, the audit found that the WSDOT is a leader among state transportation departments, and is already following several industry best practices. In addition, the audit identified further opportunities for improved efficiency.
The most significant recommendations included:
- Designating construction project cost engineers whose primary function is to oversee and scrutinize project costs, including change orders. The estimated cost savings for future planned construction projects is $36 million.
- Replacing the Department’s current consumable inventory management system would result in $5.6 million in improved efficiency, primarily through increased inventory turnover.
- Explore increasing allowable levels of recycled asphalt pavement.
Once the audit was conducted, PlanB’s estimated cost savings for future planned construction projects to be $36 million. This was determined by designating construction project cost engineers whose primary function is to oversee and scrutinize project costs, including change orders.
In 2006, an overwhelming number of Washingtonians identified transportation as one of their top three priorities, along with education, health and social services. The main point of concern with transportation for the people of Washington was the increase in congestion. Congestion incurs substantial costs in terms of time lost due to overcrowding, fuel consumption, environmental cost and freight costs, which drive up consumer prices.
PlanB, in partnership with Talbot, Korvola and Warwick, LLP, developed a Congestion Audit for the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to review the following:
- The effectiveness of the WSDOT’s current highway investments and infrastructure usage, given current and projected highway user volume over the next five years.
- The financial and non-financial costs of any recommended improvements over the next five years.
After a thorough assessment of the congestion in Washington, the report makes it clear that congestion in the Puget Sound is a solvable problem. Many of the solutions put together by PlanB and Talbot, Korvola, and Warwick, are issues that can be resolved in the next five years and with WSDOT’s existing resources. Other solutions will take longer and will require the WSDOT to invest more thoroughly.
In addition to the time and cost savings, the reduction of vehicle emissions and improved access between employees and employers could potentially reach $300 million to $400 million. This would result in a total economic impact to the Puget Sound region of $600 million to $800 million per year.
The actions to follow, as documented in the report include:
- Investments to improve vehicle flow using existing infrastructure and resources;
- Increasing efforts to have people use carpools, transit and telecommuting;
- Coordinating traffic lights on major arterials; and
- Continuing to improve operational efficiency.
The Congestion Audit report states that if the above actions are followed over the next five years, Washington could reduce hours of traffic delay by 15 percent to 20 percent. This would result in a 12 million to 16 million hours reduction — saving the average commuter roughly 10 hours of delay each year, and the region $300 million to $400 million in travel time and vehicle operating costs per year.