The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) in the US is planning to outsource complete routine maintenance of interstate highway stretches in an attempt to save at least $120m over the next five years.

Routine maintenance works on the state’s highways will include sealing and repaving of cracks, mowing, litter removal and sign repair.

A $26m pilot outsourcing programme on the 100-mile-long stretch of Interstate-45, which runs through Galveston, Harris and Montgomery counties, has already commenced this summer, reported The Austin American-Statesman.

Under the five-year project for I-45, Australia-based contractor Transfield Services is expected to save at least $2m a year, a total of 28% savings.

As a first step in outsourcing the contracts, the department is expected to issue a request for information to private companies in a bid to understand their interest in managing all upkeep works on parts of I-35, which runs from San Antonio to Dallas, and Dallas to Houston.

TxDOT spokeswoman Kelli Reyna has been quoted as saying that the savings will come from the elimination of the need to pay overtime to the department’s maintenance corps.

Employing private workers to do all work on some roads would allow TxDOT workers to carry out maintenance on other highways of the state, Reyna pointed out.

However, similar pilot programmes taken up in the past did not yield the expected results.

In a legislative testimony in 2005, TxDOT’s former chief Amadeo Saenz pointed out that when the department outsourced the maintenance of the I-35 and I-20 stretches in 1999 to a private company through a four-year contract, the results were disappointing.