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The National Association of State Highway and Transportation Unions (NASHTU) is dedicated to ensuring that federal transportation dollars are spent on cost-effective, safe projects that serve the public interest. NASHTU is comprised of 38 unions and associations representing hundreds of thousands of state and locally employed transportation engineers, construction managers and inspectors, technical workers and related public servants from throughout the United States.

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Utah’s Legislative Auditor Balks at Spending “Significantly More” to Outsource

Utah’s Office of the Legislative Auditor General released a report this week finding that Utah’s Department of Transportation (UDOT) has systematically used consultants to replace vacant full time equivalents (FTEs) responsible for engineering, construction, and maintenance even though those consultants cost up to three times the cost of performing the work in-house.  The audit quotes many managers working within UDOT that have stated that they are instructed to not fill staff vacancies but to use consultants instead.  The audit also found that UDOT made these staffing decisions without adequately assessing the costs and benefits of doing so.  The audit recommends that UDOT can save money by conducting cost benefit analyses prior to deciding whether to outsource work.

The audit also assessed UDOT’s ability to appropriately oversee its consultant work given how much of the department’s work is outsourced.  UDOT currently outsources 85% of its engineering work and 65% of its construction work.  The audit cites cases of flawed consultant designs and incorrect placement of road signs that were allowed to proceed to construction before being identified as problematic.  The audit states that “as layers of contractors are used, thus increasing the distance between UDOT and actual construction, quality of projects can suffer.”  The audit recommends that UDOT reevaluate their quality assurance and contract oversight procedures to better ensure contract compliance with quality and safety.

NASHTU has long advocated for a requirement that states perform cost benefit analyses prior to outsourcing and that safety functions such as construction inspection be performed by public employees rather than private consultants.  NASHTU looks forward to continuing to press for these commonsense proposals to ensure safe and cost-effective project delivery.

2017 NASHTU Conference – New Venue, Earlier Date

NASHTU’s Annual Conference will move to a new venue in 2017 – the Washington Court Hotel in Washington D.C.  It is just down the street from the Hyatt (which could not accommodate us in 2017) and is a first-rate hotel.  The conference will be held Monday, April 24 through Wednesday, April 26, 2017.

At the 2017 conference, we will continue to advocate NASHTU’s priorities:

  • Require state and local departments of transportation to perform cost-benefit analyses prior to outsourcing
  • Ensure public safety by requiring public employees to perform the construction inspection on federally funded transportation projects
  • Oppose efforts that seek to mandate or incentivize the use of outsourcing on transportation projects

The NASHTU conference will also feature key Members of Congress and transportation policy experts.  In addition, we will have many informative panels on outsourcing schemes and issues affecting public sector labor unions.

NASHTU has secured a special room rate of $349 per night for the conference.  The hotel has also agreed to honor the group rate for the Saturday prior to our conference and Wednesday, April 26, based on hotel availability.  If you are planning to stay those nights, please make your reservations as soon as possible.  To make reservations, please call the Washington Court Reservations Department at 1 (800) 321-3010.

If you have any suggestions for speakers, panel topics, or interesting subjects for the conference, please let us know.

HR 1692: Ensuring Safety, Efficiency and Accountability on Transportation Projects

Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), has introduced legislation that requires public employees to perform the construction inspection on federally funded state and local transportation projects.  NASHTU has advocated for public inspection on transportation projects for many years.

The Safety, Efficiency, and Accountability in Transportation Projects through Public Inspection Act of 2015 (HR 1692) will ensure that public safety is protected, transportation funds are not wasted, and that projects are delivered in a timely manner.

On transportation projects, construction inspectors are the eyes, ears, and voice of the public.  Public inspectors ensure that construction standards are met, that projects meet safety requirements, and that the materials used will stand the test of time.

Please help generate support for this bill by personalizing and sending a co-sponsorship request letter to the members of your state’s congressional delegation.

To ensure the timely receipt of the letter, we would suggest that you e-mail the letter, fact sheet and disaster examples to the Legislative Directors of the Members of Congress.

News Stories

Which costs more for drivers – per-mile charge or gas tax? – California currently uses gas taxes collected at the pump to pay for road repairs, but as vehicles become more fuel efficient, tax revenues haven’t kept pace with the cost of construction. The state now finds itself in a $59 billion funding hole. So the California Department of Transportation has been running a pilot program to see if people could be charged not based on the fuel they use but on the miles they drive. – Meghan McCarty for 89.3 KPCC – August 5, 2016

Rates are so low … why aren’t we building our brains out? – Long-term rates are low and, even if the Federal Reserve raises rates this year, they’re likely to remain at a low level for a long, long time. So, why aren’t we building our brains out? – Ron Insana in CNBC – August 2, 2016

Audit reveals UDOT needs better oversight of contractors, consultants – Utah Department of Transportation contractors incorrectly installed 109 signs on a state road in Tooele and another dozen unsafe signs on Bangerter Highway, according to a new legislative audit. The Office of the Legislative Auditor General cited those mistakes as examples of UDOT needing to better oversee contractors and consultants on road projects. – Dennis Romboy in Deseret News – August 2, 2016