DOT budget crisis

DOT budget crisis
YAKIMA, Wash.-- When interstates and bridges need repairs, the Department of Transportation has always been there. As more fuel-efficient cars hit the roads, the DOT is struggling to get enough money.

"The gas tax is just not keeping up with the cost of just maintaining our roadways," said Don Whitehouse, a Regional Administrator with the DOT.

These days, cars are more fuel-efficient, and less gas means less funding.

"This year the cars get 25 miles per gallon and next year it'll probably be 30 and the year after that is 35," Whitehouse said.

The money they get now is worth less than years ago.

"8 cents per gallon,” he said. “10 years ago was 8 cents and today its 8 cents. Well the buying power went down about 50% since then."

The funding crisis is hurting transportation nationwide and locally. It could become a danger for drivers.

"When we don't do that regular maintenance, not only structurally have we compromised the road but we get ruts, which causes hydroplaning and can be a safety thing," Whitehouse said.

To prevent dangerous situations the Department of Transportation has to save money, so DOT workers have lost their jobs.

"We've continually downsized,” he said. “As a matter of fact my engineering work force right now, I'm down about 55 employees."

All projects that have begun are already fully funded and will be completed. New projects are now on hold.

"There's no money for any big new projects,” Whitehouse said. “We're worried about just having enough money to maintain the roadway at this point."

The DOT is brainstorming ideas to get out of this budget crisis without taking more taxpayer money. Last year, the Washington State D-O-T finished more than 90% of projects on time and even under budget.