Click here to watch Mr. Panos’ testimony.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), welcomed Wyoming’s own William “Bill” T. Panos to the committee. Mr. Panos is the director for the Wyoming Department of Transportation.
Mr. Panos was testifying before the committee at an oversight hearing on “Infrastructure Project Streamlining and Efficiency: Achieving Faster, Better, and Cheaper Results.” The hearing focused on the need to make infrastructure projects more effective and efficient.
In his opening remarks, Chairman Barrasso welcomed Mr. Panos to the committee. “Wyoming Department of Transportation Director Panos' diverse experience makes his participation today particularly helpful to our committee,” said Barrasso. “He has served as an environmental regulator, construction program executive, and now as a state transportation agency CEO.
“He has seen these issues from many perspectives. As the director’s testimony notes, it is important to move the projects associated with additional funding through the review process promptly, responsibly, and get them built. I agree and I think it can be done responsibly.”
In his written testimony, Mr. Panos noted his remarks were on behalf of the departments of transportation of four rural states, in addition to Wyoming. “I appear today to present a statement on behalf of my own department and also for the transportation departments of Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota,” said Mr. Panos.
Mr. Panos’ testimony emphasized two reforms at the federal level that would enable state departments of transportation (DOTs) to use taxpayer dollars more effectively and efficiently
The first is to improve the project review and delivery processes. A major issue projects face is schedule and timeliness. Small projects, in particular, can face substantial delays when larger agencies are involved. Mr. Panos noted, “State DOTs wait for permits or for jurisdictional determinations from other agencies as to whether there is even any issue for those other agencies to review.”
Streamlining small projects would make the process more efficient and enable projects to be completed faster. Projects involving multiple agencies have the opposite effect and can cause delays. “A coordination process for smaller projects could complicate rather than streamline the review of such projects,” said Mr. Panos.
The second way to streamline infrastructure projects is to reduce regulation and give states increased flexibility. Mr. Panos discussed how federal one-size-fits-all rules are not the solution to addressing the challenges rural states face. “One concern that we have is that rules sometimes are not merely burdensome, but – maddeningly – subject rural states to requirements intended to help address traffic congestion in America’s largest metropolitan areas.”
“If new legislation provides additional funding for highway and other infrastructure, the success of that initiative can be better assured if states have flexibility in putting the funds to work,” said Mr. Panos.