Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDot) has come up with something called “Practical Design.” “Many DOTs across the nation are finding it more and more difficult to work within their budgets due to rising fuel and construction materials costs, growing economic concerns and decreasing state and federal funds,” said MoDOT Chief Engineer Kevin Keith. “Money is dwindling while the competition for these resources is increasing. That is requiring DOTs to find ways to get the biggest bang for every transportation buck.” By using Practical Design, MoDot saves money by customizing its highway construction projects to fit specific needs rather than applying generic standards across the board. The “generic standards” approach is used by most highway departements across the nation. It’s easy to just look up the standard(s), apply it whether it’s needed or not. Over the past three years, this method has saved more than $500 million that has been reinvested in additional transportation improvements. So far in fiscal year 2009, MoDOT has delivered $118 million of work with a savings of $2.4 million, or 2 percent, under budget. While 2% does not sound huge, in a time of rapidly rising prices for constuction materials this is significant savings. Pete Rahn and Kevin Keith are to be commended for finding a way to bring a practical money saving and common sense idea to the Missouri transportaion proram.
Shirley Ybarra is a former senior transportation policy analyst at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets.