Analysis to help ensure fiscal responsibility
By State Sen. Luther Olsen
The Joint Legislative Audit Committee met last week and approved a proposal to audit the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) State Highway Program.
There are about 12,000 miles of highway in Wisconsin, including the interstate highways. They are critical to the economic prosperity of the state and are used by many of us on a daily basis.
Many people have strong opinions about the condition of our state highways and whether or not construction projects should be undertaken. An audit will give the legislature a chance to carefully analyze the State Highway Program and look for areas of excellence and areas where improvement is possible.
The DOT is responsible for planning, designing, constructing and maintaining highways throughout the state. During the last biennium (2013-15), the state spent approximately $3.6 billion on the State Highway Program.
There are five main parts to the State Highway Program:
• Rehabilitation and reconstruction of existing state highways and bridges;
• Development and construction of new or significantly improved state highways;
• The Southeast Wisconsin freeway megaprojects program, which includes the reconstruction of the Interstate 94 North-South freeway and the Zoo Interchange projects;
• The major interstate bridge construction and the high-cost bridge construction programs;
• The state highway maintenance, management, and operations program for maintenance and repair of existing state highways.
This is the first major examination of the State Highway Program in 15 years. The last audit was authorized in 1995 and resulted in three reports, which were issued over the course of 1996 and 1997.
According to Legislative Audit Bureau documents, the approved audit will:
• Examine changes and trends in revenue, expenditures, staffing, and state highway conditions over time;
• Analyze and consider potential improvements to DOT’s planning, design, construction, and maintenance processes for the State Highway Program, including the traffic forecasting, construction bidding, and engineering selection processes;
• Compare the estimated cost of state highway projects, as determined by DOT before project work began, with the actual cost of completed projects;
• Assess DOT’s performance measures, including those related to highway safety, and evaluate DOT’s use of such measures to inform its management of the State Highway Program; and
• Determine the extent to which DOT has implemented relevant recommendations made in our past audit reports.
Legislators hope the audit will provide insight to the DOT’s operations and spending and will analyze their processes and practices surrounding planning, design and traffic forecasting.
This analysis will help us make sure that money is being spent responsibly and will give the legislature a chance to evaluate the management and efficiency of the State Highway Program. Each of the items to be covered in the audit will provide valuable insight into the State Highway Program and I look forward to the Legislative Audit Bureau’s report.