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RE: AP: Wash. State bridge

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Those who know me might find this surprising, but after my experience of 
five years working almost exclusively on Texas DOT projects in the late 
1990s, including close contact with TxDOT engineering and project 
management personnel, I came to the conclusion that the move to "privatize" 
 engineering design of transportation facilities was a huge mistake, and 
possibly the worst example of "crony capitalism" that you could find at 
that time - at the state level.

(Our current Federal government's "pay to play" and "investment" (in 
boondoggles) mentality makes it seem like child's play in comparison, but 
that's a different conversation).

The fact of the matter is, the move twenty years ago toward "privatization" 
 was pushed solely by a certain industry organization with whom most of us 
might be familiar, and aimed more at creating a comfy chair for "beltway 
bandits" than anything else. The fact is that despite the demonstrable 
waste that certainly goes on in huge state-level organizations like TxDOT 
(often called before the current era, the "Texas Department of Defense"), 
such waste can be handled best by adequate oversight of entities like 
Inspectors General.

Simply declaring that "the private sector can always do it better," when in 
 reality you're just grooming a small segment of large-dollar donors to 
receive all that work at a considerable mark-up, was folly to say the 
least. The best a "small player" is ever able to do in that climate, is 
latch onto a "sugar daddy" large-player organization such that some crumbs 
fall from the table. It was always about lining the pockets of political 
patrons, no more.

I detest "big government," whether it's represented by in-house 
organizations like the increasingly-menacing IRS, or a political player 
like SOLYNDRA. Calling this "privatization" is like a pimp calling his 
stable of whores "his family."

What I discovered in my discussions with the TxDOT Bridge Engineers in 
particular - people who live and breathe bridge engineering, participate in 
 research and even in development of the AASHTO design codes - is that they 
 spent easily TWICE the amount of time trying to ride herd on the private 
consultants whose understanding of the fundamentals of bridge design were 
laughably small in comparison, than if the bridge engineers did the work 

Yeah, there's waste in any large governmental organization. But you can 
address that without crony capitalist shenanigans that serve the public 
good not at all.


-----Original Message-----
From: seaint-seaosc(--nospam--at) [mailto:seaint-seaosc(--nospam--at)] On 
Behalf Of nma Sent: Monday, May 27, 2013 11:09 AM
To: seaint-seaosc(--nospam--at)
Subject: Re: [SEAINT-SEAOSC] AP: Wash. State bridge

Well, Jerry Brown, our current governor did away with California's Bridge 
Department in his first term.


On 5/27/2013 8:43 AM, Bill Polhemus wrote:
> TxDOT was - understandably - quite pissed when about 20 years ago the
> state legislature forced them to begin outsourcing some or even most
> of their engineering. Reasonable minds can certainly disagree on the
> wisdom of that. And it was, again, more about politics than the stated
> aim of providing services through the free market. That was kind of
> silly anyway, since they made sure that the State wasn't allowed to
> select consultants based on price.
> Crony capitalism yet again.
> Anyway, TxDOT "retaliated" somewhat by constantly hounding
> consultants, many of whom had little prior experience with
> transportation facilities design, such that any problems in
> construction or facility function brought out the flogs.

Truncated 337 characters in the previous message to save energy.

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