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Highway Robbery II: The Many Problems With Outsourcing Transportation Projects

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With tens of billions of federal dollars funding transportation projects and state agencies deciding whether to farm out the design and engineering work or do it themselves, the nation’s leaders need to debate and decide the policies that will make sure that the taxpayers get the most for their money. This report seeks to encourage and inform this much-needed national discussion.

This report explores:

  1. The increasing size and scope of the outsourcing of design, engineering, and related work on federally funded transportation projects;
  2. The growing body of research suggesting that outsourcing design and engineering is inherently more costly than doing it in-house;
  3. The ways in which the excessive reliance on private consultants depletes the professional staffs of state and local departments of transportation;
  4. The issues of accountability that arise when state transportation departments lack the staff to supervise the consultants’ work, and private consultants increasingly conduct inspection and management, as well as design and engineering;
  5. The problems that arose when design and engineering, and often management and inspection as well, were contracted-out in major projects in Massachusetts and California.
  6. And a proposal that has been presented in Congress to require state departments of transportation to justify their use of private consultants to do design and engineering work on federally funded projects, as well as similar initiatives in the states and other positive proposals to promote accountability.