Construction Industry Challenges: Public Transportation Projects

construction industry challenges

The United States Northeast Corridor (NEC) is the railroad line that connects Boston to Washington, D.C., serving more than 80,000 passengers every day. In 2022, the FRA (Federal Railroad Administration) announced its plan to refurbish existing NEC lines. The $100+ billion project will continue through 2035. This is a repair-and-update construction industry project. It’s housecleaning.

No new lines. No line extensions. No new stations. Journalist Aaron Gordon wonders why other countries do so much more for less money.

The U.S. continually breaks its own records for most expensive track
miles on Earth, stretching the realm of credulity on costs for projects
big and small. The problem has existed for decades, but it has been
allowed to metastasize to such an extent that it is difficult to
even fathom where the money is going.
Motherboard

But wait. There’s more.

The NEC project plan includes a Gateway Project to upgrade and replace NYC/New Jersey bridges/tunnels. Everyone agrees the tunnels under the Hudson River are substantially deteriorating. But again, the Gateway Project portion of the costs ($37.5 billion) are off the charts.

Timewise, the entire NEC project should save DC/NYC and NYC/Boston travelers about 30 minutes. The Denmark/Germany Fehmarnbelt Tunnel road and rail project will cut a 5-hour commute to about 2.5 hours and create the longest immersed tube tunnel in the world for $6 billion less than the Gateway tunnels.

Why do U.S. construction industry public transportation projects cost so much more? One report indicates it’s “a complicated web” of:

  • Badly coordinated project phases and work between different entities
  • Not recognizing the differences between construction and infrastructure (using construction project standards to implement an infrastructure project)
  • Over-designing
  • Poor contractor/consultant management

…and no one seems to care about costs, continues Gordon. He cites one Transit Costs professional saying it’s a “staple job” of putting together a bunch of expensive…unrelated projects and calling it a “plan.”

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