Posted by Jeff Mullan, MassDOT Secretary & CEO
Recently, the New England Center for Investigative Reporting undertook a review of the progress we have made since we began implementing transportation reform in 2009. I am glad that they did, and thank them for their review of the information and the record. The most critical outcome of the review is whether transportation reform is on track to save “over $2B” over the next twenty years, as we are currently trending, or “up to $6.4B” as a national financial consultant had estimated was possible prior to the passage of the reform law.
This is a good problem to have – how many billions of dollars are we saving the Commonwealth’s taxpayers, farepayers and tollpayers? For the record, every cent we save is important, and we are proud to have documented such a large savings in just 18 short months. Indeed, the amount we have documented is conservative. Some of the efficiencies that have been created such as the restructuring of our snow and ice program that we estimate has achieved $50 million in savings are more properly characterized “avoided costs.”
The published report also focused on the number of DOT employees. When the merger was announced, we estimated that 300 positions could be eliminated due to administrative duplication. This is a common occurrence in mergers, and we have documented that we have achieved this reduction. However, we never sought to stop investing in the Commonwealth’s infrastructure – and we need people to do that. Thanks in part to the Governor’s historic Accelerated Bridge Program and in part to the Federal stimulus projects, we have grown our highway and transit reinvestment program by over 100% in three short years. Hiring engineers and other professionals to manage these projects has very nearly evened out employee reductions that we achieved by the merger.
When we began to design a new unified transportation organization at the direction of Governor Patrick, we developed four goals against which we would measure our success:
• To save money
• To improve customer service
• To invest in every region of the Commonwealth
• To improve employee morale and workplace culture
With the support of the legislature, the Governor signed transportation reform into law two years ago and MassDOT saw its first official day on November 1, 2009. Nearly two years later, while we are making progress in fulfilling all of these objectives, we are far from being done implementing the law and all that it represents. We are committed to doing so.
We will continue to work toward saving every bit of money we can, and, as I have told all who will listen, after 18 months it is simply too early to project how much transportation reform will save over the next 18 years. What’s important is that the savings are large regardless of who is counting, that we are working hard to save more money every single day, that we are putting people to work on the front lines rebuilding Commonwealth roads, bridges and transit systems, and that we are making progress on improving our customer service and employee morale.