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Project on Government Oversight
 

 

 

 

National Transportation Program Benefits Contractor at the Expense of the Traveling Public, USDOT IG Finds

December 14, 2009 

 

A new Department of Transportation IG (DOT IG) report on the Transportation Technology Innovation and Demonstration (TTID) program blames congressional influence and a lack of control and oversight by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for failures in an important national transportation traffic contract. The IG's report confirms the Project On Government Oversight's (POGO) concerns, which led to our calling for an investigation in 2007. The program is intended to distribute real-time traffic information, including traffic volume, lane occupancy, and speed, to travelers in many of our nation's most traffic-congested cities.
 
"The contract between FHWA and Traffic.com has hurt taxpayers and travelers," stated Scott Amey, POGO's general counsel. "This is another example of the politics of contracting, where financial interests handcuff agencies as well as hurt the public. Agency acquiescence to the contractor has created a bottleneck preventing information from getting into the hands of cities and travelers." 
 
The report mentions congressional involvement in the process, including preventing competition and keeping traffic information in the hands of Traffic.com rather than the public. Additionally, the DOT IG's report confirms allegations involving poor agency contract planning, management, and oversight of the underlying traffic data contract:

  • "FHWA focused on addressing congressional interest and minimizing the [Traffic.com's] financial risk to prevent program disruption."
  • "FHWA allowed [Traffic.com] to interpret ambiguous task order language on revenue sharing to provide less to the public partners. Further, because the task order granted [Traffic.com] complete control and ownership of the data collected through the federally funded program…."
  • "FHWA's inadequate enforcement of its service quality requirement reduced the reliability of travel time estimates and traffic operations."

In other words, the FHWA completely mismanaged the TTID program for years, creating a program that used over $50 million in public funds to benefit a single company and short-change the traveling public.
 
The TTID program dates back to 1998 and has evolved through the years. In late 2007, POGO called for an investigation of the TTID program and subsequently urged the DOT IG to investigate the program's congressional authorization and the contract's revenue sharing provision.

POGO analysis of the DOT IG's report leads us to believe that more work is needed to fully expose the politics behind this troubled traffic contract. 


Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO's investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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