Delaware transportation secretary highlights fiscal priorities and challenges

Delaware’s secretary of transportation says the agency has developed a spending package for Fiscal Year 2013 he calls “robust, realistic, and responsible.”

The agency’s budget plan was presented Monday to members of the General Assembly’s Joint Finance Committee in Dover.  It came after a year in which DelDOT’s controversial land deals were scrutinized, and the release of a report which detailed a dire future for the Transportation Trust Fund if funding issues were not settled. 

Transportation Secretary Shailen Bhatt, who has been in office for nearly eight months, detailed a recommended total operating budget of $346.4-million – about 36-percent of which would go toward debt service, and down by about $7.5-million from the current fiscal year. 

Bhatt said the agency faces a number of budget challenges, which include rising fuel and energy costs, the unpredictability of the weather and other emergency situations, continuing reform of DelDOT itself, and the future of federal funding allocations.  Also, while demand for Delaware Transit rail service and paratransit bus service has been on the rise since 2003, the costs of operating those services have also been steadily increasing. 

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However, near the end of his presentation, Bhatt said “we’re headed in the right direction.” 

Future projects will be developed after a careful examination of “want vs. need.”

“What we want to do is, as we move forward, talk about ‘what is the dollar figure needed’ to maintain a state of good repair,” Bhatt added.

Lawmakers raised questions about specific road projects, the quality of resurfacing, red light cameras, and the future of the problem-plagued Woodland Ferry downstate – all of which Bhatt said will be examined.

JFC member, Representative Joe Miro (R.- Pike Creek) said roads in the various developments need more attention.  “The needs exceed the amount of money that we get,” Miro said.  “That translates to every district, not just my district.”

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