RIDOT, Transparency in Word and Deed


The Providence Journal has presented an interesting juxtaposition, between yesterday’s paper and today’s.  Today, reporter John Hill gives the Rhode Island Department of Transportation the equivalent of free press-release promotion:

Normally, a department of transportation would be expected to boast about a new bridge that spanned a river, or a new highway interchange. But this week the Rhode Island DOT’s proudest accomplishment is a 100-page report.

It is the first edition of the agency’s newly formatted quarterly report, which lists the hundreds of projects that the agency has in various stages of completeness, their cost and timetables for completion. It is available on paper and at the department’s website,dot.ri.gov/news/rhodeworks.php

Department Director Peter Alviti said the report represents the department’s effort to be more transparent and accountable to the public.

There will also be large plywood-sized signs at every job site clearly marked to indicate whether the project is on schedule and on budget, and we can absolutely trust RIDOT to ensure that the information on the signs is accurate and updated.

Hill’s article allows Alviti to take credit for reforming a dysfunctional department, although two omissions are significant in that regard.  First, the findings and solutions that Alviti promotes as if they were his own work largely derive from a report that the department commissioned under Governor Lincoln Chafee (D).  In other words, the process of assessing and resolving management troubles in the department was already underway.  Alviti and Governor Gina Raimondo (D) are just trying to reap the good PR.

Second, the article offers no context of RIDOT’s current challenges with transparency.  For that, turn to yesterday’s op-ed from Republican Representative Patricia Morgan (Coventry, Warwick, West Warwick):

Although the administration of Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo worked to obscure the issue, we now know that the 6-10 Connector makeover was the reason the toll law had to be fast-tracked. Truth is, a plan was in place to fix all our deficient bridges and return maintenance to satisfactory levels. That’s the same 10-year plan that the Rhode Island Department of Transportation is using now. …

The scope and price of that project, which would involve creating a tunnel and a boulevard, is impossible to determine. Not that we haven’t asked. The weaving and dodging are evident. Honest and straightforward answers are simply impossible to come by. It appears that Director Peter Alviti has discovered the value of labeling everything “preliminary.” By doing so, he can avoid supplying forthright answers.