MAINTENANCE: TxDOT considers private maintenance contracts on large chunks of highway . . . again

Experience in 1999 was not good, but agency hopes to cut down on overtime costs

September 04, 2012

Despite a bad experience dealing with private maintenance contracts, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) appears to be willing to give it another go.

TxDOT is currently engaged in a pilot project that deals with a 100-mile-long section of I-45—at a cost of $26 million—and includes routine repaving, crack sealing, mowing, litter pickup and sign repair. The agency believes the private maintenance contract will result in a savings of $2 million annually, and more like it could produce as much as $120 million in annual kick backs.

Since TxDOT cut its maintenance payroll from 5,109 workers to 4,533 over the past five years, overtime pay has taken up more and more of the budget. Private contracting could serve as a combatant, but Texas tried to outsource maintenance back in 1999 on I-35 and I-20, and the end results were “extremely disappointing.”

Former TxDOT director Amadeo Saenz testified in front of the state legislature in 2005 and said the pavement condition on both routes deteriorated during the private maintenance deal, and that the contractor often failed to perform scheduled work and during the four-year agreement more effort and time management was needed than when TxDOT handled the duties.

TxDOT spokesperson Kelli Reyna said contractors currently handle approximately half of the agency’s routine maintenance