Sen. Steve O’Ban’s measure to increase transparency and accountability within the state Department of Transportation passed with a near-unanimous vote in the House of Representatives on Wednesday.
The bill would require engineering errors costing more than $500,000 to be reported by WSDOT to the Legislature within 30 days of their occurrence. Additionally, details including how the error happened, the department responsible, the corrective action that was taken, and recommendations on how to avoid similar errors in the future, must be submitted.
Because the Legislature is meeting in a special session the bill had to be approved again so the state Senate can consider it.
O’Ban said that while WSDOT may track errors internally, there is no requirement to report them to the Legislature or the public, and more important, come up with a plan to prevent such errors from happening again. The bill, he said, was inspired by the recently exposed engineering errors involving the leaky State Route 520 pontoons and the bridge across the Columbia River in southwest Washington.
“Our taxpayers pay the second highest gas tax in the country and are absolutely entitled to know when costly transportation-project errors have resulted in waste,” said O’Ban, R-Pierce County. “Our road dollars should be spent responsibly; people need to trust that their tax money is going to be used to effectively address our transportation needs.”
O’Ban introduced House Bill 1986 while he was still serving as state representative for the 28th Legislative District. While he believes the legislation should be enacted without further delay, he is realistic about its chances.
“The Senate is extremely focused on finalizing the operating and capital budgets, so I do not anticipate that the bill will become law this year. However, the current problem of hidden waste isn’t going to go away on its own; I will be reintroducing the measure next year and plan on fighting for it until it hits the governor’s desk for his signature.”