by Andrew Walden
Does the Hawaii Department of Transportation spend $77,962 per mile administrative costs each year?
The Reason Foundation says so. In its 22nd Annual Highway Report released September 22, Reason found Hawaii’s per-mile administrative costs to be second-highest in the USA. The number is only slightly lower than the $90K per mile administrative costs cited in Reason’s 2014 report.
But HIDOT spokesperson Tim Sakahara disagrees. The Star-Advertiser September 28 paraphrases Sakahara as saying, “most of Hawaii’s 2013 administrative total actually went toward debt service on DOT projects, and if stripped away the administrative costs per mile were closer to $18,000.”
With HIDOT pushing for more tax and fee hikes, these figures will surely be cited in the upcoming legislative debate.
So which is correct?
The day the Star-Advertiser article ran, Hawai’i Free Press contacted Sakahara and the authors of the Reason study and asked each to detail the sources of information which justify their conclusion.
Within a few hours, Reason study co-author David T. Hartgen, Ph.D., P.E., Emeritus Professor, UNC Charlotte, got back to us with this reply:
Our numbers come from the DOT submittals to the federal government for the HI state-owned road system, so if they are ‘wrong’ then the DOT needs to say why they submitted them ‘wrong’. I am attaching the spreadsheet I use for my report, Table SF-4 from ‘Highway Statistics’ 2013 (also here: www.fhwa.dot.gov -- look in statistics and pubs, then Highway Statistics, then 2013.)
This table shows that in 2013 Hawaii, with a small state-owned highway system (1016 miles), spent $207.2 million on capital and bridge actions, $64.47 million on maintenance, and $79.177 million ($77,962/mile of responsibility) on administration and planning. Debt service is a payment on prior projects, and is an annual payment and part of each state’s budget. The table also shows that HI paid $20.245 million in interest, and $30.813 million in principal. But those are SEPARATELY reported, not in the ‘administration’ category in the table, so I am confused about the spokesperson’s explanation. I also note that HI is one of just a few states that spent more on administration than on maintenance. But even assuming the Dot spokesperson is right, an administrative disbursement of $18,000/mile of responsibility is almost twice the national average ($10,051). If HI’s administrative cost/mile is $18,000, its overall ranking would be 47th, instead of 48th.
My report also finds that although HI has about 2½ times the average state’s money, per mile, to work with, yet HI ranks 48th in percent of deficient bridges, 40th in congestion delay, 46th in rural primary condition, and 50th in urban interstate condition (HI has no rural interstate roads). These are also the state’s statistics as submitted to FHWA. We rated the system 48th overall in cost-effectiveness.
I would be very curious as to their explanation of how, with 2½ times as much money, per mile, as the average state, they rank in the bottom fifth in terms of condition.
One would expect Sakahara to have a ready source for his $18,000 figure. But after two days, the HIDOT spokesperson wrote back:
I am gathering information on your request and will respond as soon as possible.
That was Friday September 30. If Sakahara gets back to us with a substantive answer, we will update this report.
Attachment: Hawaii Spreadsheet
Background: Cost-Effective? Hawaii Highways Rank 48th Thanks to HIDOT ‘Administrative Disbursements’