LANSING – In a joint meeting yesterday of the House Transportation Committee, Oversight and Ethics Committee, and Appropriations Transportation Subcommittee, state Rep. Scott Dianda (D-Calumet) demanded that the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) be held accountable for problems concerning unused railcars and road work warranties. The committees brought MDOT Director Kirk Steudle in to answer questions about two recent state audits questioning the railcar purchase and the lack of oversight on warranties.
“We need answers from the department on what I consider their lack of being good stewards of taxpayer dollars, but we didn’t have time to really go in-depth on this in our meeting yesterday,” said Dianda. “The unused railcars are costing MDOT millions of dollars, and their lack of oversight on road work warranties has cost money that arguably should have been paid by those companies who did the work. The department needs to do a far better job of managing taxpayer dollars.”
The Michigan Auditor General recently issued two audits of MDOT that took the department to task for the railcars and the warranties. The railcars were purchased as part of a plan to create a commuter rail system between Ann Arbor and Detroit, but that project has been delayed because of federal decisions. MDOT has kept the cars and has so far been unsuccessful in efforts to sublease them. The audit on road work warranties found that the department hadn’t always monitored warranties, so costs that belonged to companies that did the work instead had to be covered by the state.
“I felt that we were rushed through our hearing this week and that’s not what my constituents want from me as their elected official. I’m in Lansing to work, and if that means meetings early in the morning or into the night then that’s what I want to do,” said Dianda. “I was ready for our hearing on Wednesday to go into the evening, and failing that to schedule a second hearing with MDOT to get to the bottom of the problems found in these audits. These audits are in possession of the House Oversight and Ethics Committee, so I strongly encourage the chairman to schedule a second joint hearing quickly so that we can come to some resolution on what the department is going to do to manage these situations, and taxpayer dollars, better.”