The Alabama Department of Transportation announced this week that it’s taking a step toward a structural reorganization by reconfiguring its nine numbered operating divisions into five geographically named regions.
The logic behind the shift is consolidation, said Tony Harris, a spokesman for ALDOT. While the internal structure will be rearranged to promote efficiency, Harris said, the public will not notice any significant changes during the streamlining.
“Right now, it is not affecting anything in Anniston,” he said. “The consolidations really are more significant internally than externally. For example, you go from having nine division engineers to five region engineers, so you have streamlined your management structure.”
Harris said it was too early in the process to determine how much money reorganization will save the state. In addition, he said that ALDOT had lost 400 jobs statewide due to attrition since 2011. This means that after certain employees retired, their positions were not subsequently filled.
“We are doing more with less,” he said. “You are seeing that all over state government and there are definitely cost savings there.”
The current jobs of ALDOT employees are not affected, Harris said. He pointed to the first consolidation of the Mobile-Grove Hill area, which he viewed as a success.
“Those two areas, encompassing about a dozen counties, consolidated last August under a region structure,” he said. “The second step is the Montgomery-Troy region, but that first one did not close offices or cut personnel.”
In a press release Tuesday, state transportation director John Cooper said the process would be a slow and deliberate readjustment.
“When we announced the process of consolidating our nine divisions into five regions, we recognized it would be a phased process,”Cooper stated in the release. “We are now seeing the right timing for consolidating the Sixth and Seventh Divisions, and will begin looking at the right timing for the remainder of the consolidation process.”
Following its introduction in the spring of 2013, the streamlining is expected to be finished in mid-2015, Cooper said.
The North Region will consist of 13 counties formerly covered by offices in Guntersville and Tuscumbia. The West Central Region will include Tuscaloosa and several other counties and the East Central Region will be a merger of the division based in Birmingham.
Calhoun County will be included in the East Central Region headquartered in Birmingham, according to Harris. This will move the Calhoun-Talladega area from its former place of coverage in the Fourth Division, which has been headquartered in Alexander City.
“We have 22 district offices in a way that centralizes them in geographic service areas,” he said. “Those are scattered, even up in [Calhoun County], and none of those will be closed and the field personnel will still be there.”
Harris said the public will not be affected by these changes and they will be implemented to ultimately provide better services for the people of Alabama.
“To the public, this should be very seamless and transparent,” he said. “When a business or property owner wants permits, we hope we will be able to deliver those services in a faster and more efficient way and where our local projects are involved, we hope this will improve our ability to plan management more efficiently.”