Many of us in the transportation community have been lamenting the lack of action at the federal level in the reauthorization of transportation programs. We have been operating on continuing resolutions and loans from the general fund for a very long time and Congressional action still seems years in the future.
I recently had the chance to hear from the heads of two state departments of transportation, both of whom have been fairly successful at a state level in gaining support from their elected policy makers. Deb Miller, Secretary of the Kansas DOT, and Paula Hammond, Secretary of the Washington DOT, spoke at the TRB Fourth International Conference on Performance Measurement. Both of their agencies have gotten high marks from state media and both have fared reasonably well in the struggles for revenue. Their secret, which they shared with 150 conference attendees: they share information easily and often with the people of their states and with elected policy makers. They do this regularly, not just when they need a revenue boost. And they do it in a manner that is understandable to the non-technical person. In short, they use performance metrics and performance management techniques to illustrate the condition and needs of the transportation systems they manage and of the performance of their agencies. Most notably, they share the bad news as well as the good.