Thursday, April 26, 2007

Public Roads, Private Engineers

Sometimes one is necessary to keep the other built and running effectively. Public private partnerships are an important and necessary aspect of effective government.

Daniel Weintraub: Buy design? The fight over engineers at Caltrans
By Daniel Weintraub -
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, April 26, 2007

When California voters approved Proposition 1B last year, thus agreeing to spend billions building new roads, ramps and bridges around the state, they triggered the need to hire hundreds of professional engineers to design those projects.

They also poured gas on an old debate around the Capitol: Should the state put all of those new engineers on the government payroll or use private consulting firms to perform much of the work?

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signaled last week that he likes the private option. The governor hailed a state Supreme Court ruling that ended six years of litigation by the state's union of state engineers, which sued to block a voter-approved ballot proposition that was supposed to make it easier for the government to use private-sector road designers.

The court decision, Schwarzenegger said in a statement, would bring the Proposition 1B projects and the traffic relief they promise to commuters "faster and more efficiently." He pledged to work with the Legislature on the details of such a policy.

But the government engineers won't be giving in so easily. The people and the Supreme Court may have ruled against them, but there is still the Democratic majority in the Legislature.

Those Democrats have long been allied with the state-employed engineers.