USDOT Sec. Chao says red tape, not budget, to blame for road project delays

Updated Mar 10, 2019

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Federal red tape negatively affected construction projects, and the U.S. Department of Transportation is paying attention.

Making infrastructure construction more productive by cutting “red tape” at the federal level remains one of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s overarching goals, according to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in the AASHTO Journal.

The report says that during the keynote address at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials 2019 Washington Briefing on February 27, Chao referenced a 2017 McKinsey study. It found the construction industry has an “intractable productivity problem,” which is exacerbated by excessive federal regulations.

“Money aside, as important as that is, the department is striving to make structural changes – streamlining the permit process so projects can be delivered more quickly while protecting the environment and maintaining safety standards,” Chao explains in the AASHTO Journal.

“The goal here is to make every dollar invested in infrastructure to go further without compromising outcomes.

The McKinsey analysis said construction productivity has been flat for 30 years – and clearly too many [transportation] projects are over budget and behind schedule due in part to federal red tape. Project delays and cost overruns have a real negative impact; you all know that.”

Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao.Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao.

Sec. Chao also stressed, in the article, that America’s transportation networks “are central to our local and state economies and the national economy as well; the effects of the state of our infrastructure is incalculable in terms of the quality of life to our citizens.”

Beyond that, she notes that the infrastructure “is among the top two or three policy matters that leaders of both parties are supporting with a bipartisan approach.”