A Times article reported that Gov. George Deukmejian signed new legislation which would allow state freeway planning and design to be performed by private firms (Part I, Feb. 12). In the past, this work has been done by Caltrans civil service engineers.
What the article didn't report was that in the past three years, the governor has reduced the number of engineers employed by Caltrans at a time when funding and highway program needs have increased dramatically. This has been the cause of the increasing traffic congestion we now face in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
The results of this legislation will be the Eastern-style political pork barrel spoils system at its worst. Private engineers, controlled by developers, will locate and design our freeways. Small wonder that the California Transportation Commission, now packed with developers and builders, strongly supported the measure.
The clear impact on all of us will be more delays and more congestion. The law will be challenged in the courts as being unconstitutional. Even if it is upheld, the time to develop contracting criteria, advertise projects, request proposals, accept and evaluate bids, and so forth will delay projects for months and even years.
Recent well-documented experience in California and Texas shows that such design work by private firms costs the taxpayers 75% more than if the work were done by the state highway department.
Caltrans staff has planned and designed all state highways and freeways in the past. They have done a good job. The current congestion problems are a result of a lack of funding and staffing, not poor design.
Now that adequate funding for highway improvements is finally becoming available, wouldn't it make much more sense for Caltrans to hire the engineers to do the job?
BRUCE J. BLANNING
Professional Engineers in