State DOT mission evolution.
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State DOT mission evolution.

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  • Abstract:
    This paper highlights the challenges faced by six state departments of transportation (California, Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, Missouri, Oregon) and the views of their respective chief executive officers within the context of national trends. Each CEO has extensive experience within his department or in a transportation-related segment of the private sector. Collectively they have 126 years of practice in transportation.

    The paper explores the remarkable transformation of the modern DOT from its roots as a public works road department to the multimodal engine of today by examining the mission statements of all 50 states and the organizational structure of 30 states. It then looks at specific challenges DOTs face and some changes they are implementing. For example:

    • The growing demands to become more intermodal and supportive of economic development—without accompanying resources—is exasperating to the six CEOs, a view shared by many other DOTs.

    • The funding gap for surface transportation is large and growing, as deferred maintenance and mounting congestion create an expanding backlog of needed work. Twenty-five states are now publically discussing how to increase funding to transportation, ranging from $500 million to $3 billion annually.

    • The CEOs all report having to increase their emphasis on operations and maintenance in the absence of resources for construction and reconstruction of their aging networks.

    • Over the course of the last two decades, DOTs have greatly expanded their communications efforts to engage the traveling public.

    • Nearly all the state DOTs have now implemented traffic management centers to manage their systems more actively.

    • Many DOTs are relying more on the private sector for traditional DOT services, and nearly all would like to utilize public-private partnerships to help fund large projects that can no longer be afforded with existing resources.

    The CEOs share their views on emerging responsibilities and what a state DOT could look like in its next iteration. All six are concerned about the preparedness of their DOT staff to create a more business-oriented department that can engage the private sector and ensure the taxpayer is getting value. They unanimously stressed a need for succession planning within their organization.

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