Caltrans costs overruns linked to management lapses


This article was originally on a blog post platform and may be missing photos, graphics or links. See About archive blog posts.

Some Caltrans construction managers monitored projects primarily by tracking hours -- not costs -- and as a result overshot their budgets by tens of millions of dollars, State Auditor Elaine Howle said.

In a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown, Howle said the practice was one reason the agency overspent its staff-support budget of $1.1 billion by $305 million on construction projects in the last three years.


The other reason was large salary boosts for Caltrans employees. The auditor found that some workers, including engineers, received salary increases of more than 40% in the four years ending July 2009, and, because their bosses paid more attention to how much time they worked than dollars spent, costs quickly mushroomed.

Caltrans officials said they agreed in general with Howle’s conclusions and have been working to adopt her recommendations to control costs.

Howle’s review of 766 projects, including freeway work, built in the last three years found that 62% exceeded their staff support budgets. Staff support, which includes preparing and overseeing Caltrans construction projects, is supposed be about one-third of total Caltrans project costs.

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento