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Breakfast links: Where's the money?


Photo 'money pile' by hmcharg on Flickr.
Silver Line Audit: The USDOT has serious questions about how federal funds for the Silver Line have been managed. A report cites improper use of funds (including lobbying payments to retired MWAA board members) and lack of support for expenses. (Post)

$1.1 trillion winners and losers: The omnibus spending bill that passed Congress has no funds for high speed rail and cuts to several HUD rent supplement programs. On the plus side, Amtrak will get a major cash infusion. (NextCity)

Riverfront retail bubble?: The rapid expansion of retail space around the ballpark may be too much of a good thing. What should happen at the street level of new buildings when a neighborhood can't handle more restaurants and grocery stores? (City Paper)

Penn Daw gets green light: As a condition of approvals for redevelopment of the Penn Daw shopping center in Huntington, the developer must use their "best efforts" to land a grocery store tenant. Any car-focused uses, like drive-through pharmacy or bank, or a gas station, would mean starting the process all over again. (WBJ)

Our invisible aging infrastructure: A research team drove every street in DC and discovered nearly 6,000 natural gas leaks and 12 manholes with potentially explosive concentration. The culprit? Aging cast-iron pipes from the turn of the last century. (Post)

Parking wars, teacher safety edition: Residents of Manor Park put orange cones on a street near Capital City Public Charter School to stop teachers from parking there. They parked farther away, and two were mugged. (NBC4)

Picking up your pothole tab: Recent temperature swings have created even more potholes in area roads, and a big one can do a number on your ride. Did you know that you can file a claim with your local government to cover the damage? (WJLA)

And...: A UMD student was killed in a hit and run this morning crossing Route 1. (WJLA) ... Loudoun will outsource the development and operation of Silver Line garages. (WBJ) ... Tesla will install a "supercharging" station at Westfield Montgomery Mall. (BethesdaNow) ... Does using Google Glass count as distracted driving? (Fox Business)

Have a tip for the links? Submit it here.
Sam Sherwood moved to DC in 2007, and has lived on the same block of T Street NW (albeit in two different apartments) ever since. He is a commercial real estate appraiser with Integra Realty Resources, and spends his evenings playing guitar for Mittenfields

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Thank god someone is looking into the Silver Line. The system itself is a good thing, but the management and oversight of it has been the hyperbole of lobbyist and connected rainmaking.

The problem that arises whenever a project like this goes the way it has, is opponents of transit start using it as an excuse as to why we don't need to spend on transit. Of course, the same kind of shadiness happens at VDOT and with road construction, but those projects rarely approach 10 digits.

by Navid Roshan on Jan 17, 2014 8:58 am • linkreport

Amtrak Northeast Corridor ticket pricing is getting painful. Buy your tickets as far in advance in possible. Flying has become very cost competitive with Amtrak. I write this as some who frequently trains up to New England.

Amtrak really does need new cars, so glad to see this "cash infusion." I feel I'm revisiting my youth each time I board one.

by kob on Jan 17, 2014 8:59 am • linkreport

On the riverfront retail bubble, vacant retail space is about the healthiest economic land use you can find. What it forces the developer to do is to lower price (they aren't just gonna let it go fallow) and lower the term of the lease (because they are hunting for that big fish).

In the meanwhile they will make deals with small business entrepreneurs who have been priced out due to lack of space elsewhere.

If I were someone looking to start a small furniture, design studio, yoga place, etc I would be intently looking at these areas.

Now, if it remains under 50% leased for more than 48 months then there might be a bigger issue on hand.

by Navid Roshan on Jan 17, 2014 9:01 am • linkreport

Re omnibus spending bill. If Cali wants HSR then they should have to pay for it.

by Fitz on Jan 17, 2014 9:08 am • linkreport

Because CAHSR won't benefit the US as a whole?

by MLD on Jan 17, 2014 9:10 am • linkreport

Misappropriation of taxpayer funds on a large public works project? Shut the front door!! I bet absolutely no one thought it was a terrible idea to give an agency that much money when they have absolutely no experience executing a project of this scope. What's telling is these thieves couldn't even be bothered to cover up their shenanigans. They know there won't be any consequences.

Not that Metro doesn't deserve plenty of criticism, but.. It's slightly irritating how the uniformed public will quickly jump down WMATA's throat even though it's not their project.

by dcmike on Jan 17, 2014 9:12 am • linkreport

*uninformed

by dcmike on Jan 17, 2014 9:13 am • linkreport

The Silver Line has been an embarrasment from the start, the funding vehicle, the procurement, the construction management, and so on.

And when the heck is it going to be open. Here we are mid January 2014 and we are what...still a few months away (best case because MWAA and WMATA have gone silent on the matter) from it being open. Didn't we have folks here telling us as recently as last November that there is no way it would open later than January 1?

by DTR on Jan 17, 2014 9:15 am • linkreport

@DCMike

You are probably right, most people will think WMATA was responsible for the construction, which lets MWAA off the hook.

But

I would say, with some of the big politicians in this area leaving office, and a few others already looking into what happened that will be remaining, we may actually see some confrontation especially with the politicization that will be inevitable regarding the toll road increase when it comes to whoever ends up running for retiring Frank Wolfe's seat.

by Navid Roshan on Jan 17, 2014 9:15 am • linkreport

@DTR, you talking to me? I think you should look back at what I said. I said, at the time, the only thing we've been told is that the date would be December 31st, and then it was shifted to 1st week of December. That was prior to the issue of the signalization.

You will also note that I said, if someone has better information about why some massive delay was going to happen, that they should whistle blow and let it become public because MWAA was surely not providing transparency.

I ended the statements with caveats each time that noted, I am not part of the construction team, and anyone else who is, who was guessing to an opening, was just throwing darts and had no clue (just like I don't either).

My guess ended up being wrong, I am ok with this considering the entire time I kept saying it was a...

Guess

by Navid Roshan on Jan 17, 2014 9:19 am • linkreport

*Shifted to 1st week of January is how that should have read -> via the Ari Ashe story on WTOP

by Navid Roshan on Jan 17, 2014 9:20 am • linkreport

People,

If you want DDOT to make sure only residents on a block can park all day on a street then there is a process for that. RPP already exists! Putting orange cones on public property is just petty.

by drumz on Jan 17, 2014 9:34 am • linkreport

I'm kinda interested in the pricing of the Loudon county metro garages. From the article, it seems that they're going to have a price outside of the standard metro price for parking (what is it $5 now?). We talk a lot about adjusting it to market and it seems like in a couple of years we might start getting an answer to what that really is.

by jj on Jan 17, 2014 9:34 am • linkreport

Tragic as the Route 1 hit and run it, I suspect that the design of Route 1 there and the pedestrian friendliness of College Park is not the main cause of the incident at 2am.

It is a dangerous spot, with a lot of people trying to pass through the center of the town as quickly as possible without paying much attention to peds safety. This could have happened at 2pm without alcohol involved easily.

by Richard on Jan 17, 2014 9:42 am • linkreport

I'm not so sure when it comes to Loudoun's garages. The article seems to be confusing contracting with privatization. But at least one board member says that the prices will be subject to control unlike the Greenway.

by drumz on Jan 17, 2014 9:42 am • linkreport

The Loudoun County Metro garages will be like those in Silver Spring and Bethesda, not operated by Metro and with a completely separate parking fee structure.

by MLD on Jan 17, 2014 9:43 am • linkreport

Neither side in that school parking story comes out well. Calling "dibs" on public parking is unnacceptable. Like Drunz said, there is a process for RPP if residents want that. You also see the old "we need this parking for elderly" trope that people who aren't elderly often use to protect their own interests. Like RPP, there is also a process for handicap parking that the residents can pursue if they are genuinely in need of it.

Alternatively, I don't think there is any causal arrow between the teachers having to park a few blocks away and the muggings. I don't think teachers should have any particular right to park immediately next to their school.

by TM on Jan 17, 2014 9:49 am • linkreport

Another issue I'd question in the school parking story is whether increased lighting would help. Bright lights increase shadows and contrast, making it harder for people to see beyond the bright part. The link between brighter lighting and decreased crime is tenuous. Urban muggers seem to be just as scared of the dark as those on whom they prey.

by Sally M. on Jan 17, 2014 10:02 am • linkreport

RE: Manor Park parking

Can you park on both sides of the street there? Seems like if you could that might help things. They're local streets so it shouldn't be an issue if the street gets slimmed down a bit.

by MLD on Jan 17, 2014 10:02 am • linkreport

While there will a lot of fuss over the MWAA sloppy book-keeping and the handing out of money in questionable "consulting" contracts, the stated amounts are small compared to the size of the project. One would hope that VA and the local governments will closely monitor MWAA for Phase 2, as there is no direct federal FTA funding for Ph 2, hence less federal oversight.

While the delay for starting Silver Line Ph 1 service has been frustrating, IF it passes the upcoming simulated service tests, then the Ph 1 segment could be turned over to WMATA in early February. Which leads to a likely May or late April start of service date. 4 to 5 months late. The lack of public communication in advance about the delays and the recent period of dead silence on progress since the beginning of December are not an example of good public relations.

by AlanF on Jan 17, 2014 10:03 am • linkreport

Navid,

Did you used to post under the name Tysons Engineer?

If so, your posting didn't have the qualifiers you seem to remember (see link)
http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/19268/breakfast-links-is-it-secret-is-it-safe/#comment-189383

Point is, when the Final EIS was published in December 2004, the document that set the budget to base DTR toll increases on, that started in May 2005, and the timeline. At that point, the opening date for phase 1 was late 2011 and the total cost (phase 1&2) was 4.5 billion. By 2007 that price was 5 billion.

In Mid 2012, MWAA and Metro were telling us 3rd qtr 2013 (~September). By Mid 2013 it had slipped to the end of 4th qtr 2013, and now it looks like 2nd qtr 2015 is the earliest it will open.

And anyone who has ever watched a public transit project get constructed in the DC region (anywhere in the US really, especially one where WMATA is involved, knows they are always substantially late and usually criminally over budget. The price of this thing was 4.5 billion when approved, and is now 5.8 billion (30% over budget) and phase 2 hasn't started yet.

by DTR on Jan 17, 2014 10:03 am • linkreport

Cast-iron pipes from the turn of the century? Those things can't even last 15 years?

by iaom on Jan 17, 2014 10:04 am • linkreport

" 2nd qtr 2014"

by DTR on Jan 17, 2014 10:05 am • linkreport

I can't say I see the need to either dig up old comments from people or rehash what amateur commenters on a website thought back then about when the project would be completed.

People were wrong. Get over it.

by MLD on Jan 17, 2014 10:06 am • linkreport

Because CAHSR won't benefit the US as a whole?

At first glance, no. Given the price tag, and the likelihood of it increasing precipitously...heck no.

If Cali wants the benefits of HSR then it should come from their taxpayer revenue, not everyone else's.

by Fitz on Jan 17, 2014 10:10 am • linkreport

Ca is a net donor state though - it supports other states.

by h st ll on Jan 17, 2014 10:14 am • linkreport

Re: School parking
Unfortunately the established RPP program in neighborhoods around DC schools is under fire - DDOT is trying to remove established RPP zones around Dunbar High School to give parking to teachers and take it away from residents. They 'miscalculated' the parking required for the new school and now they want to correct it by allowing them to park on the street near their school. Sorry but if you don't avail yourself to public transportation, then you have to find available parking like anyone else who comes into DC to work.

by Rob on Jan 17, 2014 10:17 am • linkreport

The Manor Park parking issue highlights what is likely to be a growing problem, as the number of charter schools increases. At root is the fact that schools are matter-of-right uses in residential zoning areas. This works in the 1950s context when the zoning regulations were written in which students (and perhaps faculty) walked to their neighborhood schools, but will cause conflicts when schools that draw from all over the city are sited in residential areas.

At minimum, some form of a transportation demand management plan needs to be a part of the charter school chartering process. That is, before a school opens, it needs to figure out how many faculty, staff, and students will get there, how they're likely to get there, where all the cars will fit, and whether there's anything they can do to encourage non-car transportation.

I would go one step further, and combine this with the call for neighborhood preference in charter schools: As a part of the school's TDM, it should define a parking impact zone, and then offer admissions preference to families that are within the parking impact zone.

But in the present case, the orange cones need to go. The street doesn't belong to the adjacent residents. As others have pointed out, this is what RPP is for. Perhaps the cone-placing residents want both to have the street to themselves and don't wish to pay for RPP stickers?

by thm on Jan 17, 2014 10:17 am • linkreport

@FitzIf Cali wants the benefits of HSR then it should come from their taxpayer revenue, not everyone else's.
California pays US federal taxes too, a lot of it.(12% of the total) That they want some of it back to be spent in their state is natural.

by Richard on Jan 17, 2014 10:19 am • linkreport

MLD,

I didn't call out Navid, he called himself out and then I simply looked up what he said.

However, it is that enabling attitude that allows projects like this to completely snowball out of hand without consequence, costing billions more in upfront capital expenditure, and tens of millions more a year in O&M.

"Oh, so the project is ~2 years late and 30% over budget so far, no biggie".

Road project, transit project, parks project, whatever...will only ever be sucessful and a useful investment of public tax dollars if the people in charge are accountable. What we see "every" single time in these projects (like this was in 2004) are sold to the public on a song, promises are made on cost and schedule and then it is all downhill from there.

by DTR on Jan 17, 2014 10:22 am • linkreport

What we see "every" single time in these projects (like this was in 2004) are sold to the public on a song, promises are made on cost and schedule and then it is all downhill from there.

So? The economic benefits of the project are going to far outstrip even the over-budget cost.

Transportation networks cost billions - regardless of whether they are roads/rails whatever. One just has more easily measurable costs than the other.

by MLD on Jan 17, 2014 10:25 am • linkreport

Speaking of the silver line, there's no word on the MWAA to WMATA handover date is there? Last I saw it was delayed from September to November. However, MWAA was silent till December only to say that "additional tests are needed" and the "The additional activity is expected to take several weeks to complete."

Importantly, they didn't appear to set a new target handover date, so while "several" may mean "more than two but not many" to us, but apparently it means at least seven to MWAA, probably more.

I also find it curious that MWAA hasn't put out a Dulles Metro newsletter since November.

by Jared Christian on Jan 17, 2014 10:26 am • linkreport

@DTR, going back to the proposed schedules in the December 2004 FEIS does not say anything about the project management because the start of construction for Phase 1 was delayed several years due to getting the funding in place, the debate over above ground vs underground in Tysons, and the political process. It is routine for the for major projects that the major delays from the initial proposed schedule are in getting to the contract award, not in the construction phase (there are exceptions of course, see East Side Access). The construction phase will miss the completion goal by 3-4 months. IIRC, the target completion date for Phase 1 was September 2013 going back to 2011 or earlier.

As for cost increase, inflation is a consideration for a cost figure in a 2004 FEIS. Which is not a final design, BTW, just an preliminary design estimate.

by AlanF on Jan 17, 2014 10:27 am • linkreport

Judging by what has been in WMATA budget documents it seems like they are expecting to start Silver Line service in mid-2014.

by MLD on Jan 17, 2014 10:29 am • linkreport

So? The economic benefits of the project are going to far outstrip even the over-budget cost.

There's no way to prioritize spending without knowing the true cost (or close to it) of the various alternatives. That's why accounting, planning, and analysis are important.

by Falls Church on Jan 17, 2014 10:30 am • linkreport

Does the no-HSR funds apply only to "real" HSR (e.g. dedicated ROW, 120 mph+, California) or also to various projects to increase speeds across the country?

I'm thinking, for example, of projects like the one that's going to cut 2 hours(!) off of the Chicago-Detroit line by upgrading much of it to 110 mph and better separating freight from passenger traffic.

by Jack on Jan 17, 2014 10:34 am • linkreport

@Jared Christian, you missed the news on Wednesday about the software problems have apparently been resolved and that formal simulated service testing is scheduled to take place in the evening of January 25 with 10 eight-car trains running between Wiehle Ave and East Falls Church. If the system passes the tests, then MWAA could turn the tracks over to WMATA in early-mid February. Which would then start the up to 90 day shakedown and service spinup period for WMATA.

by AlanF on Jan 17, 2014 10:40 am • linkreport

Does the no-HSR funds apply only to "real" HSR (e.g. dedicated ROW, 120 mph+, California) or also to various projects to increase speeds across the country?
I'm thinking, for example, of projects like the one that's going to cut 2 hours(!) off of the Chicago-Detroit line by upgrading much of it to 110 mph and better separating freight from passenger traffic.

My understanding is it did not remove any funding from CA or many of the stimulus efforts from years past but that it did not provide any new money for any of these projects. The only money that I saw removed was from the NE corridor improvements.

by Richard on Jan 17, 2014 10:42 am • linkreport

"So? The economic benefits of the project are going to far outstrip even the over-budget cost"

Wow..I know views here tend to be highly hypocritical but this takes the cake, especially when you aren't paying for it (at least I don't think you are a VA resident). Why even have a budget or a schedule then. I guess with it comes to rail transit, we should simply hand over the amex card and say "get back to us when you are done, take as long as y ou need".

I will be sure to use that "excuse" the next time folks here are raging against some non-popular GGW project.

by DTR on Jan 17, 2014 10:44 am • linkreport

@DTR

That particular link was in reference to Ari Ashe report that delayed it a week, and that day people had jumped all over it as if it was some massive change. My comment, in hindsight, proved to be wrong but in other posts on the subject on this site and elsewhere I qualified that I have no idea when it will open. Even in that post I said I would be surprised.

Well surprise, I'm surprised that a subcontractor actually tried to cut corners on signalling on a WMATA metro system construction that is the largest infrastructure project in the country.

That is very surprising, and at that time no one knew that was the case. If someone did know, (perhaps the people saying it would be 3-5 months delay) they should have come out of the shadows instead of being anonymous and told the public about issues occurring.

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

As far as your complaints about the price of the project. I dont know what to tell you, your approach to reforming contracts in this country is amateur. No amount of public oversight will change the systematic overcharging of projects in this country. I would also note that the Silver Line for the most part is coming in at the same equivalent costs as other infrastructure projects of this scale in this country.

The question on price that should come out is why in SouthEast asia and Europe is the price so much less? The answer is not "no unions" or "more public knowledge of bid costs" but in fact completely different contract structure which removes the pre-bid financing component which sets a precedence price.

by Navid Roshan on Jan 17, 2014 10:45 am • linkreport

@AlanF

Ah, thanks for pointing that out.

I guess I'm naive then. Instead of checking out the dulles metro website where notices and public information should be posted, I really should be reading the official newspaper of MWAA and WMATA: the Washington Post.

by Jared Christian on Jan 17, 2014 10:46 am • linkreport

I guess with it comes to rail transit, we should simply hand over the amex card and say "get back to us when you are done, take as long as y ou need".

That's basically what the commonwealth said to MWAA. But considering they have no more airports to build metro to after this its kind of a done deal.

NOVA's other major infrastructure project (the HOT lanes) said that if Transurban built it then they can keep the money as well. It's apparently how Virginia likes to operate for better or worse.

by drumz on Jan 17, 2014 10:50 am • linkreport

@Jared Christian,

It was a press release and public statement. WAMU, WTOP, and NBC4 all immediately ran the story also.

by Navid Roshan on Jan 17, 2014 10:50 am • linkreport

@Jack, the no-HSR rule does not apply to funds that have already been obligated and the Chicago-Detroit corridor has 100s of millions in obligated HSIPR grants. The upgrades that have been funded will trim about 1 hour, maybe a little more, off of the CHI-DET trip times. The corridor can still get more funding through the TIGER grant program which has $600 million in FY2014 and was expanded to include intercity passenger rail projects. But the TIGER program can only really provide $10 to $25 million grants, not large amounts to one project.

by AlanF on Jan 17, 2014 10:51 am • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by DTR on Jan 17, 2014 10:52 am • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Navid Roshan on Jan 17, 2014 10:58 am • linkreport

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

And if you think I am the only person in the entire region upset with the Silverline, then I also have some nice ocean front property in Ohio I'd love to sell you.

by DTR on Jan 17, 2014 11:00 am • linkreport

@DTR if you want fixes to contracts for large infrastructure projects, I'd suggest we find a better way to address it than focusing on monday morning qb'ing. You can keep copy pasting the same timeline all over the internet of how the prices went up, but that isn't going to fix anything, it just gives you one note.

It is the very outcry for preliminary cost estimates, and lack of direct funding instead of financing (which require precedence costs be publicly released giving contractors bidding on the project a basement for bid), that is championed by many people who are anti-transit that create the insane cost to these projects.

That process is not the case in Asia, it is not the case in Europe, and they end up with much healthier projects.

by Navid Roshan on Jan 17, 2014 11:09 am • linkreport

@ Navid Roshan

"What it forces the developer to do is to lower price"

Good point, but many urban commercial property owners, especially in DC, are way too stubborn. They often would rather storefronts sat empty for over a year, than to get a tenant at a lower rate.

Pop-ups are a great compromise, and seems to be a growing trend.

But doubt there's a Riverfront "retail bubble." Streetsense is underestimating full potential market, which also includes the many daytime workers, Nats fans, SW residents etc.

by Burd on Jan 17, 2014 11:26 am • linkreport

@Burd good points, and I can see why developers are hesitant, after all once they give one person a certain deal or price then set that as the expected rate for others. Not sure whether leases for retail space are public knowledge.

But I know for sure the worst case scenario would be the opposite, all the stores taken up by the same anchor retail we see in every new mixed use development. Makes it basically impossible for the small guys to do anything.

by Navid Roshan on Jan 17, 2014 11:35 am • linkreport


California pays US federal taxes too, a lot of it.(12% of the total) That they want some of it back to be spent in their state is natural.

As far as I know the federal budget process at any level doesn't give, nor should it, consideration to whether a state contributes a given towards federal tax revenue and how to what extent that affects the funding they receive. Either way it seems it would be more economical and efficient to decrease the amount of tax revenue taken in and allow states to pay project which they want with their own tax revenue as they see fit. Plus it would remove some of the strings which come attached to federal funding.

It makes no sense have Washington collect and disburse a given amount of money if the argument is "well such-and-such state contributes X amount of money in tax revenue, therefore they should receive more money for Z project." Given the line of reasoning you're presenting for many projects it simply makes no sense to have DC act as a third party.

by Fitz on Jan 17, 2014 11:51 am • linkreport

@Fitz -> watch out little states, your gravy train has ended. Kentucky, Indiana, Arkansas, Mississippi won't see another road project for 20 years if they had to pay for it themselves.

PS -> all for it, but I think those with conservative views might be whistling dixie when they threaten this as they know full and well it will be their own constituents hurt the most. But it is good for saber rattling thats for sure.

by Navid Roshan on Jan 17, 2014 12:00 pm • linkreport

"So? The economic benefits of the (Silver Line) project are going to far outstrip even the over-budget cost."
----

That's the best example of transit advocate arrogance and hypocrisy I've ever seen.

It basically says that because some developers are going to put up some high-priced projects along a rail line (we hope), it MUST be built, cost is no object, and whoever objects can just shut up because whether they use it or not "the benefits far outstrip the cost" - even with perpetual operating subsidies. Wow!

Meanwhile, whenever a road like the ICC is mentioned, we STILL see posts that exaggerate its cost and whine that it provides no value - simply because the complainers don't use it.

Then there those who see no value in ANY road - as if deliveries arrive on Metro.

by ceefer66 on Jan 17, 2014 12:01 pm • linkreport

@ceefer66, yes ignore the 200k jobs in the corridor, and the fact those buildings pay 25% of our tax revenue.

by Navid Roshan on Jan 17, 2014 12:06 pm • linkreport

And even after all the money spent - and misspent - we still don't know exactly when (the first phase of) the Silver Line will open.

But it's OK because MWAA has the Dulles Toll Road cash cow and all the time it needs.

And "The economic benefits ... are going to far outstrip even the over-budget cost" - (perhaps) in about 5 to 10 years once Tysons becomes Buckhead North and the horse farms near Leesburg are replaced with sprawl.

At least I get reimbursed for the Tolls.

by ceefer66 on Jan 17, 2014 12:11 pm • linkreport

Regarding comparing costs of infrastructure projects, the details matter A LOT.

To truly make a fair comparison, you must adjust for inflation. The more expensive the project and the longer delays persist due to securing funding, environmental reviews etc, the more it costs. Often times, the media either misses this or is just too lazy to report the correct information.

Also, when comparison costs to other countries you have to compare the labor and materials costs, regulatory environment, financial support, and availability of contractors. SE Asia would be a poor comparison because labor costs are much higher here. Western Europe is probably as close as any "peer."

My sense is costs for transit projects are higher in the US because the lack of consistent financial support for transit projects tends to drag out development timelines, which leads to a weak, inconsistent market for transit contractors, vehicles, etc. Our regulatory environment doesn't help, as projects can easily get bogged down by potential legal action. If, say funding for the New Starts program were increased ten-fold with a dedicated funding stream, and regulatory hurdles were streamlined, we'd see transit projects with lower price tags.

by Jonathan P on Jan 17, 2014 12:13 pm • linkreport

Labor costs in Japan and Taiwan are not that much lower than here. And those costs at the end of the day are still only 15-20% of the project cost (1st materials, 2nd primes overhead, etc). We in the US end up though we 3 times more expensive projects.

The reason is, as you said later, the financing structure.

By making this rely on outside gimmicks instead of fully funding directly you increase the costs by making it go through 3 or 4 wringers of cost precedence. Each time, a conservative estimate is made, and each time (guess what) the next estimator keeps just elevating the price because afterall its another couple years.

That process sets a ground level for bids.

Without the need to assure bond backing etc

It would be a more clear cut; provide us your bid, with no real knowledge for the contractor on the prior discussed estimates other than the basic range that is often provided.

Only then will you receive actual low cost bids.

Beyond that, Asia and Europe have the advantage of having done a lot more of these, and that has a way of creating a greater field of candidates and more efficient cost for those who do it.

by Navid Roshan on Jan 17, 2014 12:19 pm • linkreport

@ceefer66, yes ignore the 200k jobs in the corridor, and the fact those buildings pay 25% of our tax revenue.
-------
Well, Navid, forgive my ignorance but it's hard for me to get excited about the "value" of jobs and tax revenue that haven't materialized - and in fact aren't guaranteed.

"We plan to", "we hope", and "we expect" just don't cut it.

by ceefer66 on Jan 17, 2014 12:27 pm • linkreport

Have there been any studies to determine exactly which components cause the cost disparity in US infrastructure projects? Is it everything? Planning? Overhead? Materials? Labor? Legal issues?

by BTA on Jan 17, 2014 12:29 pm • linkreport

Ceefer, the darn corridor has 200k jobs today. Yeesh man

And there are already 7 highrises being built in Tysons because of it, and 1 at Reston. Those highrises (which aren't pie in the sky they are actually physically existing) constitute $8.5 million in tax revenue per year.

And the thing hasn't even been finished yet after only 4 years since the Silver Line gained approval.

Are you saying there won't be ANY more construction after those buildings in the corridor? Come on man, who is being the naive one now?

And yes, another 200k (on top of the 200k currently in existence) are anticipated over the next 35 years which is worth something (though retaining those 200k jobs would certainly be nice also).

by Navid Roshan on Jan 17, 2014 12:33 pm • linkreport

The audit found problems that are definitely wrong but aren't intrinsically rail related. The exact problems could have been uncovered if it was any infrastructure project. It proves nothing about the necessity for a metro line thru Tysons or not.

by drumz on Jan 17, 2014 1:10 pm • linkreport

As far as I know the federal budget process at any level doesn't give, nor should it, consideration to whether a state contributes a given towards federal tax revenue and how to what extent that affects the funding they receive. Either way it seems it would be more economical and efficient to decrease the amount of tax revenue taken in and allow states to pay project which they want with their own tax revenue as they see fit. Plus it would remove some of the strings which come attached to federal funding.

It makes no sense have Washington collect and disburse a given amount of money if the argument is "well such-and-such state contributes X amount of money in tax revenue, therefore they should receive more money for Z project." Given the line of reasoning you're presenting for many projects it simply makes no sense to have DC act as a third party.

Federal funding should go to where the population is. California also has 12% of the nations population, so again roughly 12% of Federal funding should be spent there.

The argument that Washington shouldn't tax the states and then spread the money around make some sense, we could just get rid of the federal government entirely and have each state constitute a nation. It certainly would be a very different way to do things. Ultimately there is nothing that the Federal Government does that everyone in the country needs or wants including defense.

by Richard on Jan 17, 2014 1:23 pm • linkreport

@Richard its a good point, essential what the modern conservative mindset leads us to is an extreme case of Jeffersonian anti-federalism that might as well be equivalent to the Greek City-States.

Flash forward, it doesn't end well cause each of the states start fighting each other for resources and supremacy to the point where inevitably violence breaks out.

But let's not let that get in the way of why a federal government is a good thing. Haha

by Navid Roshan on Jan 17, 2014 1:41 pm • linkreport

@Richard its a good point, essential what the modern conservative mindset leads us to is an extreme case of Jeffersonian anti-federalism that might as well be equivalent to the Greek City-States.
Flash forward, it doesn't end well cause each of the states start fighting each other for resources and supremacy to the point where inevitably violence breaks out.

But let's not let that get in the way of why a federal government is a good thing. Haha

So the argument against(or how much) government is a valid one that people could(and do) spend pages and pages discussing, but it too often is used as an argument against something they dont like. If we are going to be a nation that collects taxes, puts them in one pot, and then pays for projects and programs that the public supports then you have to abide by what the public supports and how they want to divide the money. You can't make the argument that the government shouldn't dole out money for transportation/education/whatever in different states but should be allowed to dole out money for corporate welfare, farm subsidies, and defense.

There are some true libertarians out there, who really do make the Jeffersonian anti-federalism argument well and they truly mean it for everything the federal government does. The quizzical thing is, right now the world seems to be moving in the opposite direction.

by Richard on Jan 17, 2014 2:30 pm • linkreport

Ceefer, the darn corridor has 200k jobs today. Yeesh man
And there are already 7 highrises being built in Tysons because of it, and 1 at Reston. Those highrises (which aren't pie in the sky they are actually physically existing) constitute $8.5 million in tax revenue per year.
------

And is STILL necessary to soak DTR users for 52% of the cost of building the Silver Line.

Keep coming back, Navid. You're doing well at proving my longtime point that the primary beneficiaries of the Silver Line boondoggle are hardly paying for the ride.

Thanks.

by ceefer66 on Jan 17, 2014 2:34 pm • linkreport

@Ceefer66, it's not my fault the state of virginia won't pay for infrastructure projects and instead continues to lean on these loophole schemes to avoid giving money back to NOVA. Sounds like you need to talk to your delegates. Doesn't change the fact that the Silver line is long overdue.

I'm sorry the DTR users are paying for 52% of the phase 2 project, I believe it was considerably less for phase 1, but thats how it ended up because it was the only political way to get it done. Would I have rather the state paid outright, yes absolutely.

They are two separate arguments however, and you discredit your valid points by making claims like the Silver Line isn't needed or that its a pipe dream that anything or anyone will benefit other than land owners.

by Navid Roshan on Jan 17, 2014 2:44 pm • linkreport

BTW, its not a very conservative thing to say that all of sudden businesses should cover all fees and infrastructure that is usually the responsibility of the state. (not that toll road users should instead).

The state should pay for the states obligations. You seem to be talking to the wrong people about that, I'd suggest you write your state legislator.

by Navid Roshan on Jan 17, 2014 2:46 pm • linkreport

Oops and I forgot the new Lerner 1775 that re-broke ground this week for construction siting the starting of the silver line operations as their catalyst and the Cleveland parcel at Scotts Run which is about to begin demolition (have construction fencing up last time I went by).

by Navid Roshan on Jan 17, 2014 3:07 pm • linkreport


watch out little states, your gravy train has ended. Kentucky, Indiana, Arkansas, Mississippi won't see another road project for 20 years if they had to pay for it themselves.

I'd be fine with that and I'm from a small state (NM). My dad does a lot of travelling throughout the state for sales. I've heard him mention in the past about quite a few unnecessary highways projects. Less carrots from the federal government will force states to focus and refine their priorities.

by Fitz on Jan 17, 2014 3:11 pm • linkreport


Federal funding should go to where the population is. California also has 12% of the nations population, so again roughly 12% of Federal funding should be spent there.

If that's the reasoning behind how certain types of projects should be funded then remove the middle man and reduce tax revenues. You'll remove the transaction costs for collection and disbursement, the costs involved with politicking and lobbying for them, federal mandates which may or not be optimal for certain states and you'll provide greater legitimacy because those jurisdictions who are directly receiving the benefits are paying for it.

Also pardon my horrible grammar and editing in the last comment, I was in a rush. Yikes!

by Fitz on Jan 17, 2014 3:18 pm • linkreport

@Navid
You're too quick to discount the frustration of Dulles Toll Road commuters. You can talk about the benefits for Tysons from Phase I all you want; DTR drivers are paying MWAA's share for Phase II. The fact that the Silver Line is "long overdue" doesn't change the fact that its financing is unjust (even if technically legal).

And I have no idea why you'd write, "its not a very conservative thing to say that all of sudden businesses should cover all fees and infrastructure that is usually the responsibility of the state." I didn't notice anyone else try to make this comment thread a partisan debate.

by Rich 'n Alexandria on Jan 17, 2014 5:08 pm • linkreport

Navid,

You're taking this to a level that is unnecessary and unbecoming. Even others are noticing.

I'm ending the dialogue and will refrain from responding to your comments going forward. Have a happy landing.

by ceefer66 on Jan 17, 2014 5:15 pm • linkreport

@Navid Roshan,

"BTW, its not a very conservative thing to say that all of sudden businesses should cover all fees and infrastructure that is usually the responsibility of the state"
-----
This from someone who complains that drivers don't pay enough for the infrastructure that benefits them.

by ceefer66 on Jan 17, 2014 5:26 pm • linkreport

Looks like the mismanagement and lack of accountability at MWAA is coming to and end. And it's long past time.

MWAA to get permanent federal oversight

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dr-gridlock/wp/2014/01/17/mwaa-to-get-permanent-federal-oversight/

by ceefer66 on Jan 18, 2014 12:05 pm • linkreport

Those of us who live and pay taxes in Maryland are lucky MWAA won't be building the Purple Line.

by ceefer66 on Jan 19, 2014 12:27 pm • linkreport

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