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Archive for January, 2011

It seems that a court will ultimately decide this outcome, but given the number of years it has dragged on, the recent spate of problems within DelDot, and the Minner-Carney Administration’s larding up of the Transportation Trust Fund (with no effort by the current administration to fix it), is it an wonder that DelDot is broke(n)? Who will fix it?

 

MACTEC REJECTS ALLEGATIONS MADE IN DELAWARE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION LAWSUIT

ALPHARETTA, GA. Jan. 31, 2010 — In response to a Jan. 28th lawsuit filed by the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) in connection with the Indian River Inlet Bridge (IRIB) replacement project against bridge design firm Figg Bridge Engineers, Inc. (Figg), MACTEC, a sub-consultant to Figg, denies the allegations in the lawsuit and cites DelDOT’s actions, project management, and decision-making as the factors that led to increased costs for the bridge.  MACTEC is confident that a truly objective, fact-based review of the chronology of events, DelDOT’s responsibilities, and DelDOT’s decisions, including withholding of key information from Figg and MACTEC with the approval from the highest level in DelDOT, will result in dismissal of the complaint.

“We have worked with state Department of Transportation (DOT) agencies in almost all of the  states for more than 65 years and have successfully designed hundreds of DOT infrastructure projects,” said MACTEC President/CEO Ann E. Massey.  “Our track record speaks for itself.  We believe that DelDOT is not following its own processes and procedures, nor has it reasonably considered the impacts of its own decisions.  MACTEC looks forward to participating in a fair and impartial proceeding to resolve this matter.”

Multiple key points highlight DelDOT’s responsibilities and support MACTEC’s position:

  • In 2003-2004, the Figg/MACTEC design team’s work was examined by DelDOT, a University of Delaware professor, the well respected design team of T.Y. Lin and Schnabel Engineering, and the Federal Highway Administration.  All parties commented on and ultimately approved the design. Based on these reviews, MACTEC met all contractual requirements.
  • In November 2005, despite the fact that the original bridge design was canceled, DelDOT authorized spending millions of dollars to construct embankments for the original bridge.  DelDOT knew and understood that the original bridge would never be built and that any other bridge design would require that changes be made to the embankments which would likely include the removal of large sections.
  • In response to preliminary concerns about embankment settlement, DelDOT retained the services of an ”independent” geotechnical firm, with which DelDOT began to have secret meetings.  The geotechnical firm ultimately reported in August 2007 that the settlement would be greater than anticipated and would take longer than anticipated.  However, the report was based on incorrect assumptions and minimal information and proved to be inaccurate before the deconstruction of the embankments commenced. Despite requests from Figg and MACTEC, DelDOT, with approval from the highest level in DelDOT, refused to share pertinent information with the design team.
  • In October 2007, DelDOT prepared a Proposed Path Forward. When this document was reviewed by the Federal Highway Administration, they labeled it as “full of scare tactics and misdirection to avoid doing the proper engineering.” Rather than performing the engineering requested by the federal government’s primary technical agency for bridge design and construction, DelDOT forged ahead on its predetermined path without involving the design team.
  • In January 2008, DelDOT hired outside counsel and two consulting claims firms to assist in the investigation at an estimated cost of $2.1 million.  Neither consulting firm was asked to review/recommend methods to address technical issues of concern.  Instead, the firms were requested to determine the fault of the design team. Three years later, each firm issued reports. Both firms have acknowledged they cannot support the report of the ‘independent’ geotechnical firm upon which the DelDOT Proposed Path Forward was based, that they had not considered the bases of DelDOT’s decision, and that they did not investigate the installation of certain critical aspects of the embankments by the contractor.  In short, DelDOT retained three firms who worked over 3 years to get the answer DelDOT wanted, rather than to assist DelDOT to fulfill its stated mission to provide a safe, efficient, and environmentally-sensitive transportation network.
  • In April 2008, geotechnical monitoring data showed that the embankments had reached the required settlement and the original bridge design plan could have been constructed without removal of the constructed embankments. The predictions on the amount and length of time for settlement by the “independent” geotechnical firm were clearly overstated.
  • In May 2008, DelDOT, again, authorized spending millions of dollars to deconstruct the embankments. DelDOT claims the decision to be based on the engineering report from the “independent” geotechnical firm. Factually, however, this expenditure was the direct result of DelDOT’s 2005 decision to proceed with building embankments for a bridge design that was never intended to be built. DelDOT had to accommodate the new bridge design by removing significant amounts of the embankment on both sides regardless of the accuracy of any predictions made by anyone as to settlement.
  • Disagreements and disputes on construction projects are routinely discussed and resolved with full disclosure of all facts and information by all parties, not by one party publicly rendering biased judgment based on its opinions before the contractual disputes process is complete.

MACTEC (www.mactec.com) is an award winning national engineering, design, and construction firm with 2,700 employees in 70 offices nationwide. MACTEC consistently ranks in the top 10% of Engineering News-Record’s Top 500 Design Firms.

 

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Letter sent today to Gov. Markell from Reps Lavelle and Hocker:

January 31, 2011

Governor Jack Markell
Tatnall Building
Dover, DE 19901

Governor Markell,

Given recent events, we are deeply concerned that questions over management of the Delaware Department of Transportation have seriously crippled public confidence in the agency and impacted its ability to operate effectively.

Our apprehension involves a long and well-publicized list of missteps, miscues, and questionable deals and is highlighted by news stories that surfaced today regarding two lawsuits in which the agency is currently engaged.

The first involves action the state is taking in Chancery Court, alleging a 66-year lease NKS Distributors received from DelDOT for a prime parcel of land along Delaware 1 was a “typographical error.”  NKS, not surprisingly, is challenging that notion, contending that they have spent hundreds-of-thousands of dollars developing the site based on the long-term nature of the deal.

A second civil action involves MACTEC, a sub-contractor that provided technical information essential to the construction of two earthen approaches for the Indian River Inlet Bridge (IRIB) replacement bridge project. In its response to the lawsuit filed against it on Friday “the company claims DelDOT hired outside counsel and two consulting claims firms to assist in the investigation at an estimated cost of $2.1 million.”

On this second suit, we’d like to know if the claim MACTEC makes is correct.  Did we spend $2.1 million for these services?  Also, we would like to know how much bonded protection the agency had required from the companies it is suing.  Neither of these items should be relevant to the ongoing litigation and we’d appreciate any assistance your administration could provide to get these answers.  Our repeated requests for updates on the I-R Bridge situation have repeatedly been rebuffed by DelDOT.

The lawsuits are not DelDOT’s only issues that have come to light recently involving the squandering of millions-of-dollars in taxpayer resources.  Problems continue to plague the new ferry DelDOT commissioned to replace the breakdown-prone vessel at the Woodland Ferry crossing.  Questionable land deals connected to the proposed U.S. 113 Bypass near Millsboro have also cast serious doubt on the agency’s handling.

This latter example is perhaps the most troubling of the aforementioned list of DelDOT’s failings because it highlights the agency’s seeming immunity from accountability.  In the report you ordered, fingers were pointed at two DelDOT staffers for entering into highly suspect land deals that needlessly wasted more than $1.2 million.  One of these staffers quickly announced his retirement, while the other was shuffled off to a merit employee position within the agency.  This is this DELDOT’s unfortunate legacy.  Blunder after blunder, each costing millions, comes to light and little changes except a couple of names on office doors at the agency’s headquarters.

In the instance of DelDOT’s failed attempt to build the earthen bridge approaches at the Indian River Inlet, the agency continued to deny there was a problem until the sagging, bulging and stability issues – apparent to the naked eye by any motorist passing the site – became too big to ignore.  Reluctantly, transportation officials were forced to recognize that the entire concept was flawed, tearing down the old mistakes and building new solid structures in their place.  We suggest that DelDOT itself can be compared to that disastrous project and respectfully suggest the time has come to fundamentally reassess the organization.

At a time when it appears the state taxpayers will soon be asked to take action to keep our Transportation Trust Fund solvent, we need to assure the public that the agency charged with setting our state’s transportation priorities and spending hundreds-of-millions of dollars of their money is trustworthy of their hard-earned dollars.  As our state’s chief executive, it is up to you to chart a course to accomplish that objective.  We urge you to do so and stand ready to support you in that effort.

We look forward to receiving your response.

Sincerely,

State House Minority Leader Greg Lavelle

State House Minority Whip Gerald Hocker

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Several years ago, there was all this talk about how the Arab “street” hates America. Of course, Egyptians are not simply Arabs nor are Yemeni’s simply Arabs, but the mainstream media does like to dumb things down for their readers. The basic narrative was that it was America’s support of Israel that led to terrorism and anti-American protests. These folks living in the Middle East love their countries and governments, and if only America would force Israel to disband, everything would be chick peas and pita.

To support the narrative, President Obama went to Egypt and apologized for America.

Now, however, the Arab “street” is protesting… the dictators who have really been causing the problems in their countries — poverty, lack of education, lack of jobs, etc. Gee, maybe it isn’t evil America after all. The London Telegraph article on the riots can be found here. You’ll note scant coverage in domestic papers because the protests aren’t about America.

Egyptian police have been fighting protesters in intensifying clashes, and demonstrations have reported from Yemen and Gabon – a sign that defiance against authoritarian rulers in the Middle East is spreading.

The question is, will the President make a strong statement in support of the protesters? After all, they are just asking for liberty, self-government, and opportunity. Aren’t these things that we support?

The following link takes you to raw footage of an unarmed protester being shot in the street.

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Here is a great example of an entrepreneur trying to make his way.  PlentyofResumes.com may or may not be the next Facebook, but you never know.   We all have to start somewhere.   Like Charlie said the other day, government needs to get out of the way and let guys like this do their thing.   The government “investing” in new technologies and regulating business is no good for the economy.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

FOR MORE INORMATION, CONTACT: Matthew McGeehan, PlentyofResumes@gmail.com

Local Salesianum graduate and current University of Delaware student, Matthew McGeehan, has launched a free job search website to both employers and prospective employees.

PlentyofResumes.com was recently opened to the public for registration from both employers and job seekers. The site is free to everyone, a fact which major competitors such as Monster.com do not share. “At PlentyofResumes.com it is my hope to take away any barriers for someone either searching for a job or someone looking to post a job opening. It is my belief that every citizen has the right to employment and no company should be profiting in any way from someone seeking to exercise this right, ”states founder Matthew McGeehan.

The company’s main focus for the time being will be attracting both employers and job seekers alike in the state of Delaware with hopes of forming and maintaining a useful service for the community.

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Willfully Stupid

Juan Williams was on O’Reilly last night. He was defending the idea that the government should invest more in infrastructure to benefit the economy. He gave the example of China and India’s economies which are booming and pointed out that China is “investing”.  Never mind the admiration for the communist model.
What is China investing in? From the New York Times:

“Every week to 10 days, another coal-fired power plant opens somewhere in China that is big enough to serve all the households in Dallas or San Diego.”

So, they are building coal fired power plants to produce the cheapest electricity possible (half the price of gas and nuclear and a fraction of solar and wind) to make their products as inexpensive as possible so that there exports continue to grow.  And India is right behind them in building coal plants and expanding trade.
What are we doing?  Why, we are investing in “Green Technologies” and in so doing, making our products more expensive to produce so that we can kill our export market further.  While China and India are exempt from any proposed greenhouse gas rules, they seem quite supportive of this “strategy”.  I wonder why. We are even expanding the failed ethanol program to increase fuel costs and unemployment more than killing off Gulf oil drilling has already done.  Obama conspires to increase the costs of our stuff while they decrease the cost of theirs.  They should pay him or at least give him a state dinner to thank him!

I understand that Obama will be suggesting tonight on The State of the Union that we double down on this stupid, stupid pursuit.  And there will be “Much Rejoicing” (obscure Holy Grail reference) from from the House floor.   Amazing.

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Whither Delaware

The last week has seen the front page of the News Journal finally verify what I have been saying (and what I tried to get recognized in Delaware’s Government) for almost a decade. I guess better late than never comes to mind. However, it is a bit frustrating when in 2007 I issued a lengthy, detailed report on the state of the State’s Medicaid system defining the problem. Only now does the Governor recognize the problem (at the same time that he endorses the “ObamaCare” legislation that makes Delaware’s problem even worse? Pander, pander, pander)?

For years I have been asking “where will the job growth come from?”

From a post I made in October 2009:

It is true that our unemployment rate is currently below some other States’ and the national rate. However, we have no growing industry (a legacy of Minner/Carney). In short, our unemployment rate will reach the national rate in the not too distant future.

Looking at the most recent employment reports, Delaware’s “official” unemployment rate (which woefully under-reports unemployment) has Delaware’s rate moving up to 8.5% while the national rate has come down to 9.4%. Of course, adjusting for the reduction of people looking for work, our rate shoots up to the federal rate and beyond.

All of this was obvious (Why Chip Flowers didn’t see it is an open question that I’m sure he’ll answer as he gets his new office of economic forecasting into the Treasurer’s Office).

I must admit that this whole thing makes me a bit angry. Here are 3 Reasons:

  1. Quoting Roger Roy on infrastructure spending? Mr. Roy was a leading proponent of cronyism and slush funds when he was in charge of the State’s Bond Bill. He was a leader in raiding the Transportation Trust Fund so that it faces today’s deficits. Now he’s promoting tax increases to cover his failed policies? (The following is a quote from a letter Mr. Roy sent to DelDot in 2005: “Please transfer $13,959 from my Oldest Miscellaneous Drainage Account to fund one-half of the above referenced estimate.” — I never had a single “miscellaneous drainage account” let alone multiple ones from which to choose…)
  2. Rich Heffron from the State Chamber stating that he had heard rumors for 6 months about HSBC’s job cuts, and yet Alan Levin, who was once Board President of the Chamber, knew nothing of the pending cuts? Is this the Delaware way? No one picked up the phone? Or did they pick up the phone, but there was no follow through?
  3. The News Journal editorial today’s headline: “Can Delaware learn how to create jobs again?” — State’s don’t create private sector jobs, they only destroy or create the conditions that attract entrepreneurs. In 1802, E. I. du Pont determined that the geography of the Brandywine Creek was optimal for building powder mills. Government had nothing to do with it. However, government could have passed regulatory burdens to shut down the nascent operation. Fortunately for Delaware and the World, government stayed out of the way. In the early 1980’s, several bankers came to Delaware with an idea for the Financial Center Development Act. For the industry to be a success, it was required that government get out of the way — which under Pete du Pont & Mike Castle, government did. However, the idea did not originate with Government, but with entrepreneurs. The Markell Administration has done just the opposite, injecting itself into the economy in dozens of ways, continuing the trends of former Governor Minner & Senator Carper. Entrepreneurs, ladies & gentlemen, can solve the problem — if you’d just let them. BTW, W. L. Gore was started in a basement. Today’s aggressive New Castle County regulations won’t allow a new Gore to start. No new businesses, no new jobs.

Do I know what the next “Big Thing” will be? Nope. To quote Steve Jobs from about 5 years ago, “I never would have thought that the application to drive smart phones was going to be maps.” If Steve Jobs can’t predict the next big thing, I have no hope. However, I know that there are hundreds of risk-takers plugging away on new ideas and new businesses. If given the opportunity, they can bring their drive, dreams, and energy to Delaware.

Given the current state of the State, they’re not coming here.

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ABC News is reporting that Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee) has compared Republican opponents of the Healthcare Bill to Goebbels & Nazis (The article can be found here & it includes the video footage).

“They say it’s a government takeover of health care, a big lie just like Goebbels,” Cohen said. “You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, and eventually, people believe it.  Like blood libel.  That’s the same kind of thing.” And Congressman Cohen didn’t stop there.

“The Germans said enough about the Jews and people believed it–believed it and you have the Holocaust.  We heard on this floor, government takeover of health care.  Politifact said the biggest lie of 2010 was a government takeover of health care because there is no government takeover,” Cohen said.

I look forward the mainstream medias condemnation of Rep. Cohen’s intolerance. He even compares the fight against the Healthcare bill as being like the “blood libel”. I look forward to Governor Palin’s response. ;-)

Glad that the Democrats were serious about setting a new tone in Washington…

 

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