council and the department do not reach an agreement by June 15,
some or all of the state's federal transportation financing
would be jeopardized, principal planner Heather Dunigan told the
council's governing body. But all indications at the meeting on
May 5 were that that will not happen.
Reeb, designated representative for transportation secretary
Nathan Hayward on the council, said the department has no
problem with the course of action the panel adopted unanimously.
He and Lee Ann Walling, Governor Ruth Ann Minner's
representative, voted in favor of it.
Nevertheless, there was uncharacteristically strong criticism at
the meeting regarding the way that DelDOT sliced $202 million
worth of work from its agenda for the fiscal year beginning July
1. That reduced the plan by about a third to $445 million.
Delaforum first reported, word of the cutback reached the
council on the evening it was scheduled to vote to approve the
2006-08 Transportation Improvement Plan which the Council had
produced through a public review and prioritization process on
the basis of DelDOT's original proposals for each of the three
planning council concluded at that meeting in March that it had
been blindsided and deferred what was expected to have been
routine endorsement of the plan.
it was told what the cuts would be, it was given no information
on "who made the cuts or the basis for removing or reducing
[state financing for] these particular projects" from the plan,
Dunigan told the May 5 meeting.
later was disclosed, during Hayward's presentation to the
General Assembly joint committee considering state government's
proposed fiscal 2006 capital spending, that DelDOT officials did
the paring in response to a directive from the state budget
told the council meeting that there had been no prior commitment
to spending $647 million in the coming year and that revising
the original plan "makes sense when you don't have all the money
you need." He said DelDOT put forth the larger amount in the
original version of the plan because that was what would be
needed "when we added up what everybody wanted to do."
described the budget office's limit as reasonable. "Although
some people think that the sky is falling, we're spending more
money than we did last year," Reeb said. He was not able to
immediately provide comparative figures.
most significant cut from the initial plan was $33.6 million for
replacing the interchange between Concord Pike and Interstate
95. Also cut was $17 million to replace 68 Delaware Transit
buses and $8 million to repave the Korean War Veterans Highway
between Tybouts Corner and Hares Corner Road. Reductions
included $8 million from support for development of Christina
Riverfront in Wilmington and $5 million from bicycle and
pedestrian paths in Brandywine Hundred and the Newark area.
council's public advisory committee called the cuts and
reductions the result of an "arbitrary and capricious
decision-making process" at DelDOT.
projects that were cut back had strong public support," said Tim
Plemmons, chairman of the committee. What amounted in effect to
circumventing the planning council's role in providing public
participation in the transportation decision-making process was
"a breech of public confidence," he said.
is far too much confusion about how and why these cuts were
made," said Joseph Mitchell, a member of the committee for 14
council's technical advisory committee also objected to the way
the cutbacks were made.
activist Fritz Griesinger said cutting $1 million originally
slated for initial planning for an extension of Churchmans Road
through Delaware Park racetrack to Kirkwood Highway amounted to
jeopardizing public safety in order to save two-tenths of 1% of
the now proposed budget. "If you don't start now the project is
not going to happen," he said.
contrasted unwillingness to spend that much money to support the
expansion of Christiana Hospital with DelDOT's spending or
committing $70 million to provide roads to benefit Astra
Zeneca's expansion. "That was about jobs; this is about saving
lives," he said. He refereed to the additional time it takes
emergency vehicles to reach the hospital through traffic
congestion or having to take a circuitous route.
knew we only had $400 million to work with," the council's
professional staff could have reduced the originally proposed
plan in a way which would have included meeting public
priorities, Dunigan said.
noted that proportionately higher cutbacks were made "at the
expense of [public] transit and 'nonmotorized' projects."
council voted to table a resolution to approve the plan and
directed to the staff to apply its prioritization process to a
revised plan to be presented to the council for its approval at
a special meeting to be held in time to meet the June 15 federal
deadline. No date was set for that meeting.
agreeing that that can be accomplished, Dunigan cautioned that
the council "is not in a position where we can force DelDOT to
do any project."
Transportation Improvement Plan it finally approves is advisory.
However, she said, DelDOT will not receive federal financing for
any project that is not in the approved plan.
council is the designated planning organization for complying
with the federal requirement that public opinion play a
significant role in determining which transportation projects
the Federal Highway Administration will help to finance in New
Castle County and Cecil County, Md.
council also voted unanimously to approve the portion of the
Transportation Improvement Plan which applies to Cecil County.
receiving favorable votes on those two motions Charles Baker,
who represents County Executive Christopher Coons on the
council, proposed that it ask the General Assembly to "come up
with money to 'fund' some of these projects" that were cut at
the behest of the budget office. The "extra" money that would
require would be available as the result of increases in the
amount of state revenue that the Delaware Economic & Financial
Advisory Council is projecting for the current fiscal year since
the governor submitted her proposed capital-spending budget, he
resolution failed to get the necessary quorum majority vote when
five of the nine council members, including Reeb and Walling,