More Reaction to PEER Report

We have more reaction to the legislative report which criticizes how the Mississippi Department of Transportation operates.

The PEER committee, a legislative watchdog group, found mismanagement and questionable accounting practices at MDOT.

The department which oversees the building of new roads has come under fire. And some of the criticism sounds familiar. Gerald Blessey and Royce Hignight raised similar issues in a series of articles and public appearances.

Blessey says MDOT needs to reconsider its basic philosophy of road building. And the legislature should demand changes.

"To build doable, urban thoroughfares that use existing right of ways like Royce and I have been writing and talking about," Blessey said.  "Existing intersections. And make it within a cost acceptable level. And get going now. And they're going to have to mandate that in the law I think, otherwise we're not going to get the roads. We're not going to get our fair share."

Southern District Transportation Commissioner Wayne Brown talked with WLOX News by phone about the PEER report. He wants to emphasize two main points. First, Brown says the report found no deep problems with the fundamentals at MDOT. Secondly, the commissioner says he supports the recommendation that M-DOT move toward a system of building roads where they're most needed.

"Accounting and estimating procedures will get the most attention," Brown says. "We've been too focused on building the projects and not keeping track of running estimates."

Gerald Blessey says state lawmakers must take action to make sure MDOT responds to the report recommendations. "The coast legislative delegation must come together and assert itself. And take leadership and mandate in the law precisely how MDOT is to spend the gaming roads money from here on out," Blessey said.

Commissioner Brown says "There certainly will be some changes with the department. We wanted an outsider to tell us what's wrong."

The 150 page report suggests several things are wrong at MDOT. It's now up to department officials and state lawmakers to decide on possible changes.