Gray Transition Committee Slams DDOT for Mismanagement

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK

    The mayor's transition team has come out with its suite of reports on what to do with the government, and in those that fall within Housing Complex's world, the Transportation and Infrastructure document is more interesting than most: While giving good marks to agencies like the Department of Public Works, it excoriates Gabe Klein's Department of Transportation for being careless with city funds.

    The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, headed by Fort Lincoln developer Cellerino Bernardino and former City Administrator Thomas Downs, is the same body that booted Klein from his post, and their report almost reads like someone had a grudge against him from the get-go.

    The agency, it says, "skirted accountability and mismanaged the transportation program," saddling Vince Gray's administration with a bunch of half-finished and now underfunded projects.

    Among the allegations:

    • Silly streetcars: Tracks were laid on H Street NE without providing for a power source, a storage shed, or a place to turn around. DDOT failed to do the environmental studies that would have made the project eligible for federal funding. And the three streetcars that have been purchased -- at a cost of $10 million -- cannot be used, since they're not in compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. (A DDOT spokesperson says this isn't true; I'll update when he gets an official response).
    • Number fudging: DDOT has been using its WMATA subsidy to fund project and operating costs as reumbursable projects without Council or Congressional approval, which is a violation of the Home Rule Act. The report also says that DDOT's long-term financial plan is based on "deliberately overstated" federal earmarks.
    • Lavish spending: DDOT's personnel expenses increased 47 percent between 2005 and 2010, and 25 percent of active projects have negative fund balances. "There has been no recognition of funding constraints," the report reads. "Large projects have been undertaken without credible funding sources."
    • Parking larks: DDOT has undertaken the development of an in-house parking ticket processing system and parking management software, which the committee says are "ill-advised" and should be abandoned. "Such attempts have proven to be fruitless and wasteful in every jurisdiction where they've been attempted," it reads.

    Most of these charges, which vindicate the Committee of 100's take on things, would probably fit under Klein's definition of running an entrepreneurial, flexible department with wide latitude to deploy DDOT's various revenue streams as needed.

    When he announced his departure, he knew that continuing to work for Gray would curtail that style. Reading the committee's recommended remedies -- adherence to procedure, better financial planning, and enforcement of relevant laws -- it appears that Klein was probably right.

    Gray Transition Committee Slams DDOT For Mismanagement was originally published by Washington City Paper on Feb 15, 2011