Phil Matier: $270K Study To Improve Caltrans Lacks Specifics
SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — When the bad bolts for the Bay Bridge’s Eastern Span became big news, Gov. Jerry Brown commissioned a transportation group from the University of Wisconsin to study Caltrans—at the cost of $270,000—and last week, their findings were released in a report.
It’s really interesting. It’s what I would call a ‘Dilbert’ report—there are few nuts and bolts included. Specifically, there’s no mention at all of about bolt boondoggle on the Bay Bridge and its resulting cost overruns.
It’s a more of a philosophical report about larger scope of Caltrans and direction it should be taking—should they just be in business of moving cars around or get into the freight business, high speed rail and other ways to be sustainable in the future?
The report points out that Caltrans was created to deal with people driving cars but that hasn’t been the only job they have been charged with under the numerous pieces of legislation that been handed down from Sacramento over the years.
This was supposed to be a top-to-bottom review of management: Are they overstaffed? Is it understaffed? Are they getting the job done?
Politically, the timing the report’s release is also interesting.
This report was originally commissioned by Brown when he came into office and was considering a more macro-managed approach to running government.
Then we had the Bay Bridge bolt problems—and remember, Brown was part of the bridge cost overruns from his days as Oakland’s mayor.
So when the heat was on the Governor’s Office, he said he commissioned the report to study Caltrans—not specifically to the Bay Bridge.
Then more recently, State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier lambasted Caltrans at hearings in Sacramento over their handling of the bridge and their management practices.
Now this report is released a few days later stating that they have taken a look and found a way to move on to the future.
It’s very convenient for Brown, it works wonderfully for the press because we follow it and it creates the perception that he took a look at Caltrans and found some answers.
But I’m not sure they even asked the right questions.