(OLYMPIA)– An independent review of the Washington State Department of Transportation’s management of its largest projects recommends improvements that will strengthen the agency’s delivery record and ensure better stewardship of taxpayer dollars.
The report was commissioned in March 2013 by Washington state Secretary of Transportation Lynn Peterson to provide specific recommendations on how the agency can learn from recent errors and prevent them from occurring on future projects.
The independent review found that while there are existing procedures and systems within WSDOT to appropriately manage these large projects, they were not consistently used, risk-management decisions were not always fully evaluated, and resources were limited in several key positions so that the level of oversight required did not occur. The report also found that more work is needed to ensure that staff with experience on the large projects is sharing lessons learned within the agency and being provided opportunities to apply that experience to other projects across the state.
Secretary Peterson received weekly updates on the report progress, and in some cases, moved quickly to implement changes as the authors shared their interim findings with her. Some of the recommendations already implemented or underway include: A new chief engineer with mega project experience has been appointed, and a deputy chief engineer position has been created to ensure there is capacity to provide oversight of the mega projects. A more robust analysis of how the agency contracts for work and how risk is shared with contractors is being developed. A new quality assurance manager position is being created that will report directly to the chief engineer to ensure that quality assurance protocols are followed across the agency. Also, opportunities will be created for agency staff to gain mega project experience, so that lessons learned on current projects can be applied to future programs.
In addition to those changes, Secretary Peterson earlier this year appointed a new bridge and structures engineer with 29 years of experience at WSDOT to lead the agency’s bridge office.
The agency, as part of Governor Inslee’s Results Washington Initiative, is currently developing a broader set of reform recommendations to improve WSDOT performance.