Cherry, Bekaert & Holland has released a completed audit of the Virginia Department of Transportation that detailed almost $1 billion of unspent money. “McDonnell’s Millions” will run this holiday season as Gov. Bob McDonnell announced that VDOT would award $800 million to $900 million in maintenance and construction contracts by Dec. 31.
Not surprisingly, my good friend at ENR, Bruce Buckley pointed to poor management of available resources. The Washington Post opined that the found money was nice, but that accurately, “this money is a drop in the bucket and will hardly make a dent in Virginia’s long-term transportation needs.”
We have already written about Virginia’s regional delays in spending stimulus transportation funding, and also in more detail at the here. Having a sense of urgency to create jobs seems self evident. The VDOT audit points to federal data that for each $100 million spent on highway construction and maintenance projects, 3,000 jobs are created or supported, $250 million in economic activity is generated and $7.2 million in state revenues is created.
I had an initial impulse to condemn VDOT. On reflection, I think the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance has it right in its quote of the audits “final thoughts” in a recent NVTA e-mail blast:
In order to put the challenges facing the (Virginia) Department (of Transportation) over the last couple years in perspective, both external and internal events need to be considered. First, the Department had to deal with (an) unprecedented drop in revenues, requiring a number of mid-term adjustments that cut billions out of the six-year capital budget, and a painful downsizing and reorganization. Second, in the middle of the downsizing effort, the Department received $650 million in new federal funding with a short turnaround time (to invest). Finally, there have been seven changes in leadership at the Commissioner level over the past 12 years, each with its own set of strategic priorities.
Maybe asking VDOT to dump tons of people and revenues only to follow that demand by insisting they spend piles of money instantly was just a little too much. Still, $900 million unspent dollars amounts to 27,000 very badly needed construction sector jobs, so let’s get it done!
This article is copyrighted 2010 by the Washington Business Journal, used by permission and originally posted here.