ROADS/BRIDGES: State attorney says Iowa DOT handled $9.5M expansion of roadside assistance program appropriately

Spending on the roadside assistance program does not require approval by the transportation commission, says general council for the Iowa DOT. 

Funding News September 10, 2015
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A staff attorney told the Iowa Transportation Committee that the Iowa Department of Transportation was justified in spending $9.5 million to expand its roadside assistance program without notifying the commission.
Lawmakers questioned commission members about spending $9.5 to expand “Highway Helper” shortly after passing a 10-cent-per-gal gas tax increase. Commission members said they had no knowledge of the expense and therefore had no way to defend it. The commission and the DOT make some joint decisions and independent ones.
Iowa Code does not require external approval for expenses, even in  the million-dollar range, when it comes to regulating the highway system, said David Gorham, general counsel for the Iowa DOT.
“When you look in terms of the planning/policy function of the commission, relating primarily to construction, maintenance and improvement, the Highway Helper does not fall within that category,” Gorham said.
The Iowa DOT is charged with maintaining the road system, especially in regards to safety initiatives. This puts the Highway Helper program, which was being expanded to Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs and Des Moines, within the agency’s internal discretion, Gorham said.

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