EDITORIAL: Making the call

New UDOT chief vows to turn agency around

Blog Entry October 04, 2013
Bill Wilson

Bill Wilson is the editorial director of ROADS & BRIDGES magazine and has been covering the industry since 1999. He has won seven Robert F. Boger Awards for editorial excellence, including three in 2011. He also was the creator of the Top 10, Contractor's Choice Awards and Recycling Awards platforms, as well as ROADS & BRIDGES Live.

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The plug for the jukebox is more securely affixed to the wall than it ever has been. The works of Patsy Cline and Frank Sinatra are well intact, too.

I was on a road trip with a colleague, and somewhere between Peoria, Ill., and Joliet he dove into this story about a guy who bought a restaurant in the urban depths of Chicago. It came with a jukebox, a jukebox with music older than the new owner. Using the phone number on the side of the music machine, a call was made, and the following conversation unfolded:

“Yeah, hi, I wanted to know if you could come and remove the jukebox from my restaurant. Nobody plays it, and . . .”

“Listen here, wise guy, that jukebox stays in that restaurant. You understand?”

“Well, um, I really do not want it here. Can I talk to your supervisor.”

“Absolutely. You know what? I’ll have my supervisor come to see you in person. How’s that?”

A day passed and Mr. Supervisor, check that, Mr. Big Supervisor, came through the door, and the following conversation unfolded:

“Yeah, I’m the supervisor. You had a question about the jukebox?”

“Yes. Thanks for coming. Look, the jukebox is old and is not getting any use and I just want you to take it out . . .”

“Listen here, that jukebox stays in this restaurant. You understand?”

“OK, um, can you at least update the music?”

“Sure, no problem. I’ll send out one of my boys next week.”

Needless to say, Cline and Sinatra still dine at this establishment, and for that courtesy the poor owner has to pay Mr. Big weekly.

For a while, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) operated under this shadowy mentality. Contractors were getting paid under the table; quality in workmanship was a mere side dish; and environmental stewardship was not even on the menu. The agency’s new executive director, Carlos Braceras, has vowed to dutifully wait on the general public with a platter full of honesty and integrity. He has broken down his platform into key sections, including: transparency, quality and collaboration.

With transparency, Braceras wants his team to ask the following when making a decision: Can you pass the headline test? In other words, will negative actions land on the front page of the local newspaper? Surprisingly, Braceras believes UDOT acted in the right after it doctored a scoring system, then paid off the contractor that finished second to avoid any conflict. “How we made that decision could have been better,” he admited.

UDOT also will most likely take its foot off the gas when delivering certain projects. Speed, according to Braceras, was put above all else. However, accelerated bridge construction, an example of quality creating quickness, will continue to be at the forefront.

You also can expect to see more multimodal efforts coming out of the UDOT office. Braceras is a big fan of spokes and rails and wants those in charge to collaborate at the front end of jobs to maximize land use.

Some of UDOT’s harshest critics actually like what is radiating off of Braceras’s cranium. It’s a nice, fresh attempt at recovery, but we will see if this rhetoric actually has legs. If it doesn’t, isn’t there a phone number somebody could call? R&B

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