Vt. auditor puts VTrans paving program under the microscope

Published: Mar. 20, 2023 at 5:24 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Is VTrans keeping its word when it comes to completing projects on time and on budget? State Auditor Doug Hoffer decided to take a look.

Hoffer started with two objectives. The first was to see if the VTrans paving program was adhering to cost and timeline estimates and the second was to see how much information the agency was collecting to analyze what happened along the way if schedules or costs weren’t met. What the auditor’s office learned was there is work that needs to be done.

A report from the state auditor’s office highlights VTtrans’ need to emphasize transparency in their planning process.

“The area where they had some problems was pre-construction, in planning and engineering,” Vt. Auditor Doug Hoffer said.

Hoffer’s report finds for complex paving projects, VTrans always exceeded the initial cost estimate provided to legislators by more than 50% and completed projects up to six years late.

“There were significant delays because of issues in the planning and engineering phase, much of which, some of which I should say is done in-house,” Hoffer said.

As for data collection, there weren’t clear answers for the delays in planning and costs.

“When asked about why, they didn’t always have a good answer. I don’t mean to suggest anything wrong, this is not about corruption or incompetence, it’s just they weren’t collecting that data,” Hoffer said.

According to the audit, VTrans lacks performance measures and data collection to explain the delays and cost increases on complex paving projects.

“While the audit was focused on specific objectives, we are using this as a way to potentially improve some specific processes,” said Jesse Devlin of the Vermont Agency of Transportation.

VTrans doesn’t dispute the findings in the report but they say complex projects are just that-- complicated. Pre-construction includes design, features, permitting and public engagement.

“All of which have impacts on project costs and schedule,” Devlin said.

VTrans says they will focus on recording cost and timeline deviation so they can report the new data. As for added performance measures, they plan to investigate the need for more.

“In order to develop a process and a tool that can help us accomplish that,” Devlin said.

Hoffer says he would like a firmer commitment to add performance measures to pre-construction estimates.

“It’s a little work to set up a system like that for performance measure, but once it’s in, you’re good to go,” he said.

Hoffer says the good news from this report is that the construction phase, the part Vermonters would notice or be impacted by, was largely on schedule and within a reasonable price range of what was estimated. He also says they will be doing a scheduled follow-up with the agency in a year.