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Highlights

The District of Columbia's (the District) transportation system is critical to the District's residents and businesses, the federal government, and the millions of tourists who visit the nation's capital annually. To help build and maintain its bridges and roads, the District receives federal highway funds from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). All of the District's bridges and about 30 percent of its roads are eligible for these funds; the remaining roads are maintained under the local transportation program using District funds. In 2003, the District expended a total of about $242 million on its bridge and road infrastructure, of which almost $158 million were federal-aid expenditures. To better manage its transportation services, the District reorganized its transportation infrastructure functions, creating a stand-alone Department of Transportation in 2002. According to the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center (Volpe Center), a lack of resources and inadequate attention to emerging infrastructure problems allowed local road conditions to decay to the point that in 1999, nearly 50 percent of local roads were rated fair or poor by FHWA. In addition, the District Department of Transportation's (DDOT) stakeholders believed that the organization was reactive, lacked vision, failed to communicate with citizens, and was unable to quickly respond to problems. Furthermore, we noted in 2000 that according to FHWA, the District's average processing times for transportation infrastructure design and construction contracts were lengthy--over 25 and 21 months, respectively, from notification of obligation ceiling to notice to proceed. To bring enhanced attention to transportation planning and management functions, as well as to improve processing times and overall performance, the Department of Transportation separated from the Department of Public Works and adopted a project management team approach to improve the planning, design, and construction of infrastructure projects. The reorganization is expected to provide more focus and leadership on transportation services and increase accountability for service delivery. A Member of Congress asked us to provide information on (1) the District's reorganization of its transportation department, (2) the department's performance measurement system, and (3) the District's use of federal-aid funds, including the average time frames for processing design and construction contracts.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
District of Columbia 1. The Mayor of the District of Columbia should direct and support the Director of the District Department of Transportation as he develops and implements a comprehensive plan for its transformation that reflects key practices and addresses the challenges the agency is facing. Such a comprehensive plan should include implementation goals, measures, and a time line to show progress toward the agency's transformation.
Closed - Not Implemented
GAO's recommendation spawned a number of initiatives at the District's Department of Transportation (DDOT). DDOT conducted a review of and documented its business process. DDOT also started issuing substantive annual reports, which specifies how DDOT measures performance. Both the review of DDOT's business plan and the annual reports were utilized in the formulation of DDOT's strategic plan. The strategic plan identifies performance goals and key practices that should allow DDOT to address the challenges that they face.

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