By Maria Saporta
Leave it to Georgia to put the train in reverse while the rest of the country is moving forward.
Vance Smith, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Transportation, distributed a memo on Thursday, Oct. 15 announcing proposed “organizational changes” in his department.
“Over the last few months, we have worked diligently to strategically reorganize the Department to achieve greater efficiency in both functional alignment and program delivery,” Smith wrote in the memo.
He then released the new organization chart which diminishes the role of transit and intermodal transportation in the department.
The Intermodal Division, which had been upgraded just last November, named Erik Steavens as its first director. At the time, it was viewed as though GDOT, often just referred to as the highway department, was finally broadening its mission to other modes of transportation.
But in the new organizational chart, there is no longer an Intermodal Division. Instead, “Intermodal Programs” is listed underneath the Division of Engineering, a demotion no matter which way one looks at it.
And the timing couldn’t be worse. Last month, Ray LaHood, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, came to Georgia where he criticized the state’s lack of planning and development of transit and rail.
Georgia already is being scrutinized closely in Congress for sitting on $87 million in federal funds that are supposed to have gone towards building a passenger rail line between Atlanta and Lovejoy (or preferably Griffin or Macon). The state has been told that it will lose those dollars if it doesn’t move forward with the project.
Georgia also has been slow to plan for development of high speed rail. Compared to North Carolina and Florida, Georgia is riding in the caboose.
So doing anything that dampens the state efforts on intermodal transportation options, with transit and rail in particular, hurts Georgia when it comes to Washington, D.C. and the Obama administration.
After Smith’s memo was released, reaction among transit advocates and progressive modes of transportation was swift.
“This move couldn’t be more out of step,” said an observer who didn’t want to be identified.
It is expected that several GDOT board members and state legislators will “go nuts” when they realize that the reorganization is a demotion and backward step for Intermodal, the observer added.
Once again, Georgia appears to be paving its way to the past, complete with out-of-date transportation solutions.
Here is a copy of Vance Smith’s memo:
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION STATE OF GEORGIA
INTERDEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENCE FILE:
DATE: October 15, 2009
FROM: Vance C. Smith, Jr., Commissioner TO: GDOT Employees SUBJECT: Organizational Changes In accordance with recent legislation, I wanted to share with you the proposed organizational changes that I shared with the Board just moments ago. Over the last few months, we have worked diligently to strategically reorganize the Department to achieve greater efficiency in both functional alignment and program delivery. Certain structural changes are reflected at the Division level, to include those legally mandated divisions such as Planning, Engineering, Finance, Administration and Local Grants. The statute also provides for optional divisions such as Construction, Operations, Permits, and Public Private Partnerships (P3), which we have chosen to establish. Additional features of this realignment include the following personnel appointments and functional placements:
Appointment by the Governor: Todd Long, Division of Planning Commissioner’s Executive Technical Staff
• Vicki Gavalas – Special Assistant to the Commissioner for Strategies and Development
• Stephanie Carter – Special Assistant for Policy and Projects
Deputy Commissioner’s Executive Technical Staff
• Greg Mayo – Asset Management, to include Strategic Planning
Chief Engineer’s Executive Technical Staff
• Meg Pirkle and Ben Rabun – Executive Assistants to Chief Engineer
• Engineering Services, to include Environmental Compliance
• Program Control, previously in Pre-Construction
• Program Delivery (recent project management initiative)
• Darryl VanMeter – Innovative Program Delivery, previously under Urban Design
Division of Engineering: Ben Buchan
• Intermodal Programs
• Russell McMurry – Design, combining Road and Urban
• Bridge Design, to include Bridge Maintenance (previously in Maintenance)
• Brent Story – Design Policy & Standards, to include Computer Support Engineering (previously in IT) and Location Engineering (previously in Environment/Location)
• Right of Way, to include Property Liquidation & Disposal (previously under Property & Equipment)
Division of Construction: Thomas Howell
• Bidding Administration (previously under Procurement)
• Materials & Research
Division of Permits & Operations: Keith Golden
• Maintenance, to include Permits
• Traffic Safety & Design
• Transportation Data, previously under Planning
Division of Local Grants & Field Services: Mike Thomas
• State Aid
• Property and Equipment
• Field Districts
o David Millen – District Engineer, District 3
o Todd McDuffie – Acting District Engineer, District 1
o Bryant Poole – Resumes role as District Engineer, District 7
Organizational Changes Page 3 October 15, 2009 Division of Finance: Angela Whitworth
• Budget Services
• Financial Management
• General Accounting
Division of P3: Earl Mahfuz (Dual role as Asst. Treasurer)
• Public Private Partnerships
Division of Administration/General Counsel: Sandra Burgess
• Legal Services
• Construction Claims
• Human Resources
• Office of Audits, previously under Finance
We recognize that questions may arise from the newly announced structure and ask for your patience and cooperation as additional organizational details will be forthcoming. Please know how proud I am to be serving as your Commissioner. Together, we represent a long history of dedicated service for the citizens of Georgia. As we continue to move forward, let’s remain focused on our shared vision and mission to implement a comprehensive plan that meets our state’s 21st Century transportation needs.
cc: Gerald M. Ross, P.E., Deputy Commissioner/Chief Engineer