More on RIDOT’s Saving Money with In-House Road Painting


Following up on my article, last week, concerning the expectations of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) that the agency can save 31% by using unionized state employees to paint marks on the state’s roadways, I turned my attention to the $6.25 million RIDOT cites as “the historical values for Statewide pavement marking only contracts.”  Upon request, RIDOT provided the following contract amounts currently in effect, all of them for two-year terms:

  • Beginning February 2015:
    • North region: Traffic Markings, Inc., $2,493,107.
    • East Bay region: Roadsafe Traffic Systems, Inc., $2,341,254
  • Beginning February 2014:
    • South region: Safety Markings, Inc., $2,069,287
    • Central region: Safety Markings, Inc., $2,415,116
    • Limited Access region: Roadsafe Traffic Systems, Inc., $2,845,634

That $12.2 million every two years, or around $6.1 million per year, is further augmented, according to RIDOT, with $250,000 per year for police details.  RIDOT spokesman Charles St. Martin states that, when it comes to state workers, “all maintenance staff are flagger certified, so police details would only be used sporadically, as needed.”  Those costs are presumably included in the original estimate for in-state work.

Here’s the wrinkle: Used together, the state’s transparency Web site and the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s RIOpenGov provide six full years of actual payments to these three companies, and the average annual payment is $4,436,625, with no gigantic increase over time.  Fiscal year 2010 had only $2.9 million while 2011 had $5.4 million, but that may have been the timing of payments, and the two years average to $4.2 million.

In other words, while there may have been a increase of less than $200,000 per year, a jump to $6.1 million starting this year would be very suspicious, indeed.  (I’ve requested information on the previous round of contracts to see how well the contract amounts correspond with payments.)

These actual payments of $4.44 million on average and $4.89 million for 2015 compare with the state’s estimated annual “in-sourced cost” of $4.84 million.  Under this comparison, if there are any actual savings to in-sourcing, they would mostly come from $550,000 less oversight (including the planning implicit in contract preparation) and the assumption that the new state workers would spend the winter performing other tasks that are currently outsourced, while taxpayers would bear all of the risk that comes with operating $3.65 million in trucks, using around $2 million in gas and materials every year, and employing two crews of unionized employees, with their health benefits and pension promises.

  • Max

    I wonder how many lay-offs will be incurred in order to provide somebody who knows somebody a job they could never get on their own…I’m sorry, was that too cynical?

  • Max

    “RIDOT is heading into this winter with 13 new plow trucks, which will be
    added to RIDOT’s fleet of 115 trucks. An expanded fleet will increase
    RIDOT’s snow fighting capability, supplementing outside vendors during
    storms and provide additional coverage in case of equipment breakdowns.”

    I thought private vendors supplemented RIDOT and not the other way
    around. Maybe it’s the skeptical Rhode Islander in me but does this mean
    private vendors are being phased out and union guys are in on overtime?

    • Mike678

      Hmm. You’d think Global Warming would allow us to have fewer plows :)l