Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Is the 3-C destined to repeat history's mistakes?

The Big Dig is the name of the project that rerouted Boston's primary highway through the heart of the city into a 3.5 mile underground tunnel.

In 1982, the project was estimated to run $2.8 billion to complete. When it finally finished, the final cost, with interest, was $22 billion in federal and state dollars.

The project manager was Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhof.

Parsons Brinckerhof? That name sounds familiar.

It's the same Parsons Brinckerhof that was awarded $23 million this week by the state controlling board to complete a study that would produce not quite half of the final design of Ohio's 3-C Slow Speed Choo Choo.

An article from Boston in 2006 provides Ohioans a word of warning:
Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff was technically supposed to act as owner's engineer on the project. But it had several other responsibilities that directly conflicted with the mandate of an owner's engineer. Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff also drew up the preliminary designs for the entire endeavor, and then managed the overall design and construction processes. So when it came time to act as an owner's engineer, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff was, in effect, policing itself.


...who was left to mind the shop? Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, which had an enormous conflict of interest because it also designed and managed the Big Dig.

The need for independent and dedicated oversight of Massachusetts highway projects is no longer an abstraction. With the terrible loss of Del Valle, it's a matter of life and death. While lawmakers, engineers, and criminal investigators rightly sift through the wreckage to determine what went wrong with the design and construction of the ceiling that collapsed, we also need to set out a course for the future. We must rewrite Massachusetts laws to ensure that the major construction projects of tomorrow never again endanger innocent human lives through indifference or ineptitude.

To provide some context to the above, massive cost overruns weren't the only problem with the Big Dig. The lack of adequate oversight led to a loss of life due to unnecessary construction flaws.

And now it seems Ohio is repeating the same mistakes Massachusetts made. By awarding the design portion of the contract to Parsons Brinckerhof, they have provided PB the exact same incentives they had during the Big Dig.

Before taking on a massive and costly project like the 3-C, Ohioans deserve a substantive analysis of cost and projected ridership from an independent voice, not one with a financial incentive to fluff their results.

This project is more focused on being Ted Strickland's political tool than a serious development project for Ohio. And the voters deserve an honest review of the worth of the project before investing millions of taxpayer dollars.

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like Governor Strickland will let that happen.

Join the Derail the Ohio 3-C Rail Project facebook group and let your voice be heard.

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