The Orange County Transportation Authority on Monday told its staff to come up with a plan to use private consultants, rather than Caltrans staffers, for the design, engineering, construction management and some other work on its billions of dollars in transit work.

Orange Mayor Carolyn Cavecche, the OCTA board member who offered the proposal, said the board wanted to help private industry during these harsh economic times.

“At present,” said Cavecche following the meeting, “there is no policy by the board of how much work the private sector should do and how much Caltrans should do.”

The policy would cover final design, environmental issues, project study reports, acquisition of right-of-way and management of the construction contractor.

“I don’t see it as changing how we do things,” she said. “I just see it as putting a policy in place.”

She said California Department of Transportation workers report to their agency heads in Sacramento, but private contractors would be directly controlled by OCTA.

Over the years numerous government agencies, most recently Boston with its financially disastrous “Big Dig” tunnel, have gotten into deep financial and quality problems by not carefully and strictly managing how public money was spent and ensuring that proper construction techniques and materials were used.

“I do believe we have a strong management (oversight) team,” she said.

And, she said, OCTA has a strict system for ensuring that only qualified contractors and consultants are hired.

“The present process at OCTA is very detailed,” she said. “We need to be good stewards of the money.”

In the next seven years, OCTA is scheduled to handle 14 freeway projects costing more than $3.4 billion.


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