Anybody paying attention already knows this, but a new report by the State Auditor’s Office reveals all the shocking details about just how incompetent the Washington State Transportation Department (WSDOT) truly is – in detail that should embarrass the Democrats running that shop.
But, WSDOT isn’t the only transportation agency to be suffering from rampant incompetency. In fact, we suspect that Sound Transit would give WSDOT a run for its money in a head-to-head match-up.
So, we decided to test our theory… with a head-to-head match up on five key “competency” factors. Without further ado, here are the results:
WSDOT: The lack of competent leadership at WSDOT became a big issue during the 2016 legislative session. Ultimately, all the problems the agency experienced culminated in the State Senate’s firing of Washington State Department of Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson. Though Jay Inslee claimed the decision was “partisan,” an audit report confirms the dismal lack of leadership Peterson provided during her tenure as the head of WSDOT. Unfortunately, with Democrats continuing to control the governor’s mansion in Olympia, future prospects of competent leadership at WSDOT looks bleak.
Sound Transit: An unelected, unaccountable body of local officials governs the Sound Transit board. Over the years, these unelected officials have demonstrated that they do little to deserve the voters’ trust in spending their money responsibly. Yet, this unelected board of officials keeps asking voters to trust them to spend billions of their hard-earned tax dollars. Republicans’ effort to reform the way Sound Transit is managed by changing the transit agency’s appointed board to one elected by districts has been blocked by Democrats who love the lack of accountability at Sound Transit.
Undistinguished winner: Tie. WSDOT’s position as the top state transportation agency makes incompetent leaders like Peterson intolerable, but the undemocratic manner in which Sound Transit continues to be managed is also disturbing.
WSDOT: The agency’s preferred solution to any problem is to first hope that no one notices, then (if caught) point the finger in hopes of escaping responsibility. WSDOT addressed the latest “computer error” that impacted its tolling scheme by blaming the contractor, Electronic Transaction Consultants. Prior to the news media picking up the story, WSDOT attempted to downplay the “glitch” by simply mailing out bills to impacted customers without any explanation or apology. As GOP state Senator Andy Hill pointed out, WSDOT’s tendency to point fingers rather than actually fix the problem only makes a bad situation worse.
Sound Transit: The agency’s first response to a problem is simple: ask taxpayers for more cash. Time and time again, Sound Transit has asked voters for more and more money for projects they started on and ran out of money to complete and/or for new projects before they even completed existing projects. The latest scheme is ST3 – a plan that would impose a sales tax rate of 10% in much of the greater Seattle area and 10.1% in Seattle, a property tax increase of 25 cents per $1,000 valuation, an increase in car tabs, and (adding insult to increase) the fact that these taxes will never end.
Undistinguished winner: WSDOT. It was a hard choice but, in the end, Sound Transit’s obsession with taxes is to be expected. However, WSDOT’s attempts to cover the truth/inability to accept responsible is a violation of the people’s trust.
WSDOT: The agency’s ability to adapt and meet new challenges with creative solutions is, by every indication, virtually nonexistent. If problems arise, WSDOT keeps on the same path as long as possible. Changes only occur when lawmakers force them on the agency — and Democrats often make the problem worse. Take, for an example, the I-405 tolling debacle. WSDOT insisted, until proven wrong by actual data, that tolling improved traffic congestion. Yet, even when proven wrong, officials made excuses for their failing scheme. When Republicans attempted to make substantive changes to the tolling debacle, Democrats blocked their efforts. In the end, Jay Inslee was forced to make some changes — though they do not go far enough.
Sound Transit: Like WSDOT, Sound Transit’s ability to meet challenges is nonexistent. Instead, the agency prefers to simply change its story and hope no one notices. A case in point was the unelected officials over at Sound Transit recently celebrating the completion of the University Light rail extension (a.k.a. U-Link), and claiming the link was delivered “on-time and on-budget.”
Unfortunately for taxpayers, those claims are only true if “on time” means 10 years late and “on budget” means at double the cost. You see, the U-Link project should have been completed by 2006 as part of its 10-year plan in what was known as ST1 (the first phase of light rail development). Sound Transit officials, after making a promise they could not keep to voters, revised the plan in 2008, giving themselves more time and money to complete the project.
No matter how much officials may want it to be true, meeting a deadline that was extended by 10 years isn’t exactly an accomplishment to be proud of.
Undistinguished winner: Sound Transit. The agency’s tendency to make up stories and present them as the truth seems to be a little worse than WSDOT’s tendency to sit on its hands and do nothing.
WSDOT: There is a clear lack of sensible decision-making at WSDOT. That might be a result of top officials’ refusal to shift from their liberal agenda. As Shift reported, in a 2008 presentation by the Puget Sound Regional Council, WSDOT officials pushed a plan to toll every highway by the year 2040 in order to raise billions in revenue to improve infrastructure. That motive appears to dictate many of WSDOT’s decisions. Though stymied by federal law, liberals (including Democrat lawmakers) continue to push such boundaries.
Sound Transit: The agency makes every attempt to appear in-tune with the desires of voters. Recently, officials have kept up appearances by holding “open house” meetings. However, Sound Transit revealed how little it actually cares about public opinion by the locations it picked. Though ST3 will severely impact the taxes of people in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties, three out of the seven meetings are going to be held in Seattle. You see, it is less likely officials will meet much resistance for their established plans from audiences in Seattle.
Undistinguished winner: WSDOT. The experiments with various tolling schemes have failed. Yet, WSDOT seems determined to continue down the path of excessive tolling.
5. Final product/outcome of projects
WSDOT: Nothing works as it should. From not pointing tolling cameras in the right direction to sending bills to the wrong addresses, it seems to be a collection of quite a few incompetent “mistakes” that produce an outcome of overall failure. Unfortunately, it’s taxpayers and commuters who pay the ultimate, hefty price.
Sound Transit: Nothing gets done on time and all promises to voters have been broken. If anything is true about the agency, it is that Sound Transit officials have proven themselves untrustworthy. They have wasted taxpayer dollars and have repeatedly broken promises made in the first two spending packages—ST1 and ST2. Now, rather than reforming the agency, officials want to be rewarded for their failures with a $50 billion dollar ST3 package.
Undistinguished winner: Tie. WSDOT can’t successfully deliver, but Sound Transit can’t deliver at all. Which is worse? We couldn’t decide.
So, who takes the incompetency prize? By our little test, WSDOT does…. but, barely. Both WSDOT and Sound Transit have problems that cannot be overcome without major reforms. For that to happen, liberals would need to get out of the way. And, until that happens, Washingtonians cannot place their trust in either agency.
Charlie Beatty says
Seems like both of them come up with the same inadequate solution to their failures. Get into the pockets of our taxpayers.
all of this could be fixed by privitization.