The co-chairs of the Legislature’s Joint Audit Committee say reforms could be in store for the state Department of Transportation, following the release of an audit showing the agency greatly underestimated the costs of multiple road projects.
The report released Thursday showed the agency failed to account for the effects of inflation and cost increases when planning projects, which resulted in the price tag for 16 current road projects rising by a total of $3 billion more between the time they were approved and last August. State auditors said the DOT should have done a better job of controlling costs for things like engineering and maintenance.
State Sen. Rob Cowles (R-Green Bay) said the report raises serious concerns that a lot of money has been wasted. The Green Bay Republican said he plans to push for the DOT to act quickly on the 24 recommendations included in the report. “This is going to take a lot of work by the agency to digest this and actually do it,” he said.
Cowles added that how quickly the DOT responds will also play a huge role in upcoming budget talks, as lawmakers prepare to deal with a $1 billion shortfall in the transportation fund. “I cannot imagine giving them any more money until we tighten it up,” he said.
Rep. Samantha Kerkman (R-Salem) also said the audit shows more legislative oversight may be needed, even it’s just having the agency make annual reports to the Legislature on project costs. “I think we need to have reform on how our budgeting and planning process is done.”
DOT Secretary Dave Ross promised the audit findings will lead to improvements at the agency, saying in a statement that is “provides a roadmap to improved efficiency and transparency at the DOT.”