Caltrans Wins Golden Fleece Award for Its $10 Billion Highway Robbery: News Releases: The Independent Institute

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News Release
August 23, 2016

Caltrans Wins Golden Fleece Award for Its $10 Billion Highway Robbery

OAKLAND, CA— The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has won the Summer 2016 California Golden Fleece Award, an “honor” given out quarterly to state or local agencies or government projects that swindle taxpayers and violate the public trust.

“With primary responsibility for highway maintenance projects in California, the irresponsible Caltrans has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars and even lied to lawmakers to cover its tracks,” according to Lawrence J. McQuillan, an economist and Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute, the Oakland-based non-profit organization that sponsors the Award.

Among the agency’s offences, according to McQuillan, are the following:

  • Caltrans’ maintenance division was found to have lied for 7 years to state legislators, falsely claiming it had implemented the recommendations of a 2009 efficiency study when it hadn’t actually done so;
  • Discrepancies between Caltrans workers’ timesheets, work schedules, and available-leave balances have contributed to large increases in maintenance costs;
  • Tens of thousands of service requests from the public have gone unresolved for more than 90 days (including 30,000 unresolved requests from just three of the state’s 12 transportation districts);
  • With a workforce of about 19,000 employees, Caltrans is overstaffed by 3,300 to 3,500 workers, according to some estimates.

To modernize California’s antiquated transportation and infrastructure system and rescue it from the mismanagement of a state agency with an annual budget exceeding $10 billion, McQuillan recommends the following:

  • Use competitive bidding among private contractors for all highway and bridge repair and construction, rather than an inefficient Caltrans workforce;
  • Auction off the highways to private companies, as has worked in Chile and elsewhere, and use the proceeds to pay down state debt;
  • Transition to mileage-based user fees to pay for maintenance and new construction, reduce traffic congestion, and cut down on air pollution.

“Private ownership, competitive bids on repair contracts, and road-usage fees would revolutionize the state’s transportation network and fix its crumbling highways and bridges,” says McQuillan.

Winners of the California Golden Fleece Award are announced quarterly. Nominations for the award can be submitted at For media inquiries, please contact Communications Manager Rob Ade at 510-635-3690 ([email protected]).

The Independent Institute is a non-profit, research and educational organization that promotes the power of independent thinking to boldly advance peaceful, prosperous, and free societies grounded in a commitment to human worth and dignity. For more information, visit

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