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Published by The Charlotte Observer, April 3, 2004, p. 21A [www.charlotte.com]
TRANSIT HISTORY:  DUBIOUS POLITICAL LEADERSHIP – Would voters have approved costly system with such iffy funding? By Thomas J. Ashcraft The Democratic incumbents were unanimous.  The Republicans were split.  The Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, the uptown interests and the editorial line of The Charlotte Observer were supporting in lock step. On Nov. 3, 1998 the voters agreed to a new transit tax, and five and a half years later the taxpayers are about to be taken for a ride — the most expensive in the history of the Queen City.  The 2025 Transit System Plan, currently projected to cost $6 billion, dwarfs even the $265 million uptown arena now under construction.  In fact, you could buy almost 23 arenas for the price of the new mass transit system. Did the people of this community really consent to the present course?  Yes, said Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory recently on WBT radio.  But let’s review the history. In the spring and summer of 1998, chaffing under traffic congestion and so-called sprawl (byproducts of a growing local economy), politicians such as McCrory and then Mecklenburg County Commission Chairman Tom Bush, both Republicans, started talking up the idea of a new transit plan. First came a consultants’ study.  As reported in The Observer, it proposed five transit corridors leading to and from uptown Charlotte, despite some of the worst traffic congestion being in perimeter areas.  The original 2025 Plan employed railroad lines, light and heavy rail cars, and buses and busways.  The initial cost to build was put at $750 million, plus $321 million for operating, maintenance and other costs.  The official estimate of total cost through 2025 was about $1.1 billion. To finance the project, a half cent county-wide sales tax was proposed.  The idea was:  surely we’re willing to pay half a penny on every dollar we spend to curb congestion and sprawl.  With collections estimated to be $50 million a year, the new tax would bring in about $1.25 billion over 25 years.
On the surface, everything appeared hunky-dory:  cost a little over a billion dollars, with revenue from a “nothing” half cent sales tax generating about the same amount, plus prospects for state and federal subsidies. On July 27, 1998, the collective knees of Charlotte City Council jerked in affirmation.  They recommended a November referendum to approve the new half cent sales tax.  With McCrory’s support, the vote was 8 to 2, Republicans Mike Jackson and Don Reid dissenting. On Aug. 11, the County Commission agreed.  The vote was six to three, Republicans Joel Carter, George Higgins and Bill James opposing.  The referendum passed in November with a 58-percent majority. Thereafter the bureaucracy went to work.  Based on extensive study and public meetings, a new 2025 Corridor System Plan emerged and was adopted by early 2003.  Unlike the original one dangled before the voters in 1998, this new plan had a different price tag:  to build, $2.94 billion; to operate, $3.13 billion.  Total $6.07 billion. When City Councilman Don Lochman asked about this sixfold jump in estimated cost, he got the following answers from City staff last month:  The original 1998 plan included only “very rough estimates” and “was not a budget.”  The 1998 referendum was on increasing the sales tax, not on a particular transit plan.  The 1998 estimated costs, unlike those of 2003, did not allow for inflation and were not based on engineering studies.  And the 1998 plan has “evolved to include additional service and elements.” Further, City staff asserted, the $6 billion plan “is affordable within the projected revenues from the dedicated transit revenue under the assumptions used in the Financial Plan.”  Does that mean the half cent sales tax voters approved will pretty much pay the freight?  Not at all. According to staff, it is “assumed” that 82 percent of the capital cost of $2.9 billion will come from state and federal governments.  Further, some 36 percent of the 25-year operating loss of $3.1 billion is scheduled to come, not from the half cent sales tax, but from other local and state taxes. Bottom line:  The half cent sales tax voters approved in 1998 will cover only about 42 percent of the $6 billion cost of the new transit system. To put it charitably, there is no way voters in 1998 could have understood they were approving such a costly system with such iffy funding.  To put it cynically, the voters were hoodwinked. Did local elected officials bring us to this point through a deliberate strategy of bait and switch or by mere incompetence in controlling bureaucrats?  Only they know for sure.  In either case, taxpayers will get the bill. _________________________________ Observer columnist Tom Ashcraft is a Charlotte lawyer.  Write him at tashcraft@bellsouth.net.   
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Reality 101
It’s the congestion, stupid
BY TARA SERVATIUS
Published 09.27.06 (Creative Loafing article)
So by now, you’ve probably heard that they’ve messed up the light rail line.
But that’s not the real problem, it’s just a symptom. No, the real problem is the one this county hasn’t come to grips with yet — congestion.
Today, just four cities, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., have traffic delays of 50 percent or higher. That means that it takes drivers 50 percent more time to get where they are going in rush hour than it does regularly. A recent national study for the libertarian Reason Foundation by UNCC Professor David Hartgen found that if they continue down their current path, 11 other cities, including Charlotte, will join them in less than 25 years.
You’d never guess that reading the transportation action plan Charlotte’s city council passed earlier this year. Congestion is barely mentioned in the 36-page document.
“Charlotte will become the premier city in the country for integrating land use and transportation choices,” the plan’s mission statement reads. No congestion mitigation there. And though city transportation planners insist it’s an important part of the plan, reducing congestion apparently wasn’t important enough to be listed as one of plan’s five goals, either.
City officials insist that we can slow down the growth of congestion, but that we can’t turn the clock back. Hartgen and other planners say that’s hogwash. We can reduce congestion even as the county’s population booms. It would mean building about 900 more lane-miles than are planned now at a cost of $3 billion in today’s dollars. Sound like a lot? Even if you assume that inflation more than doubles the cost, it’s still less than the more than $6.5 billion we’re spending on mass transit, which will be used by less than five percent of our population.
Hartgen says folks around here need to wake up.
The county’s big bottleneck areas are conspicuous in their absence from our long-range regional planning, says Hartgen. It’s absurd that the section of I-77 south of uptown to Arrowood Road is no where on the current funding horizon, he says. Also missing from near-term plans is funding for adding lanes to I-485 between I-77 and Providence Road.
Meanwhile, the city and a regional body called the Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization plan to continue onward with the same old planning formulas that don’t prioritize congestion in selecting road projects, but weigh it equally along with other factors like whether a road provides good bike access or access to a transit or freight station used, again, by less than five percent of commuters.
Take Wilkinson Boulevard. At any time of day, drivers can cruise down Wilkinson with no problem. And yet the road is being widened. In the mean time, the widening of jammed up parts of I-485 isn’t even up for discussion.
Meanwhile, a list of potential projects to be paid for with a new tax is heavy with projects along the transit corridors. Though there are some congested areas on the list too, and some suburban ones, just about any route anyone who lives in the suburbs could conceivably use to get to the center of the county — and these are the most congested routes in the county — is listed on the city’s “Major and Minor Thoroughfares Not Anticipated to be Widened Through 2030” map.
Hartgen’s study, which got props in USA Today, hasn’t generated much more than a yawn around here. So far, suburban drivers haven’t figured out that city and regional planners are conducting urban warfare against them and their driving habits to the detriment of the entire region. These planners say that they don’t want to disturb the integrity of neighborhoods along I-77 by widening it, though Hartgen claims they wouldn’t have to do much of that. But keep in mind, these are the same people who had no problem with tearing down a whole street’s worth of houses on Masonic Drive off Central to create “green space” along one small leg of the new greenway.
Meanwhile, others cities like Atlanta and states like Texas are plowing ahead with programs that actually prioritize congestion reduction, a radical concept in modern transportation planning. And they’re getting the private sector to pay for most of it. Billions of dollars in privately funded road projects are in the works or proposed in Atlanta, including truck-only lanes to segregate slower moving trucks from traffic, bus lanes, toll express lanes for drivers willing to pay more to escape congestion and the widening of one section of I-75 to 23 lanes.
The vision, as described in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, is a massive, mostly privately funded expansion of the I-75/I-285 corridor that will turn this section of the interstate into a fast-moving zoom zone expanded to handle transfer traffic. Texas has $30 billion in privately funded toll roads under construction, including a $6 billion toll road from Mexico to Oklahoma to relieve congestion on I-35. Private companies paid an additional $1.2 billion “concession fee” to the state for the privilege of building that, which is being used to fund light rail.
As I reported earlier this year, local planners insisted Charlotteans would oppose duplicating what Atlanta and Texas are doing here. Somehow, I doubt that.
Got a story idea? E-mail Tara at tara.servatius@creativeloafing.com.
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Council criticizes staff on rail project
  

Too-rosy view for too long?
RICHARD RUBIN (Published on Tue, Sep. 26, 2006)
rrubin@charlotteobserver.com
Charlotte City Council members chastised the city staff Monday for telling the truth — but not the whole truth — about the troubled light-rail project. 
Over the past two years, as transit officials encountered problems with the design and construction that eventually pushed the line over its $427 million budget, elected officials received reports that ranged from informational to glowing.
Republican John Lassiter fixed on a memo from April 7 in which City Manager Pam Syfert and CATS CEO Ron Tober reported that the project was “proceeding ahead nicely.” At the same time, the Charlotte Area Transit System was already experiencing some problems with the rail design. An oversight firm hired by the federal government was already warning Tober that the budget might not hold.
“It just wasn’t presented anywhere close to what we heard today, and there were things that people knew that they didn’t bother to tell us,” Lassiter said during the first full public discussion of the latest cost overruns. “Or if they did, they told us in a way that said things were proceeding along nicely,” Lassiter said. “And they weren’t.”
Tober said he wasn’t trying to mislead the council, and that in many respects, construction was still moving well in April.
“At no time have I or any member of the CATS staff tried to hide anything associated with the project and how it was going,” he wrote in a memo distributed to the council Monday.
Council members have expressed frustration that more than two months elapsed between when Tober concluded that the project would go over budget and when the council was told of it, earlier this month.
Tober will meet with federal officials today and Wednesday as they try to agree on a new estimate for the project, now expected to cost 4 percent to 6 percent more than the previous budget, of $427 million, which was set in January 2005.
CATS still expects to complete the 9.6-mile line along South Boulevard by late 2007.
To make that happen, Syfert announced a series of changes to the project’s management. John Muth, Tober’s deputy, will be reassigned from working on future corridors so he can focus on the project full time. The city’s engineering department, which is separate from CATS, will attend regular meetings and report any problems to Syfert.
Tober will provide weekly written reports to Syfert on the project’s progress, and Syfert will report to the council more regularly. She also promised to share any bad news promptly.
Much of Monday’s discussion focused on the communication between the staff and the council, particularly on whether Tober told the council enough about the problems CATS was having with Parsons Transportation Group, the company that designed the line.
“It’s a fair conclusion that the (council agendas) and the briefings lacked information that, had you known, you would rather have known it,” said City Attorney Mac McCarley, who reviewed old documents.
In February 2005, the council voted unanimously not to have Parsons oversee construction. Tober said then he wanted a different set of eyes on the project while it was being built.
Democrat Susan Burgess complained Monday that Tober sold that change as a positive step, when it was also a response to problems that CATS was already having with Parsons.
“You put a very happy face on something that was very serious,” Burgess said.
The budget for the light-rail line has increased substantially — from an early estimate of $227 million in 1998 to a number that may be nearly double that.
The latest troubles have prompted some elected officials to start calling for more fundamental changes:
• The council plans to discuss whether it can or should direct Mayor Pat McCrory how to vote on the Metropolitan Transit Commission, a separate policy body that has some jurisdiction over CATS.
• Republican council member Don Lochman wondered whether the city should reallocate some transit money to roads, which would require state approval.
• Next week, Mecklenburg County commissioners will begin talking about whether to call for a new referendum that would let voters repeal the half-cent sales tax they passed in 1998to help pay for mass transit.
Republican commissioner Jim Puckett said Monday he doesn’t want to leave the South Corridor unfinished, but he thinks that voters might deserve a “do-over.”
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CATS Cash Crash Course  By Mark Pellin   www.RhinoTimes.com
 
September 14, 2006
In the wake of last week’s revelation that the South Corridor light rail line will exceed its $427 million revised, re-revised and ever-escalating budget, Mayor Pat McCrory and city councilmembers are demanding answers that explain how problems reached such dire straights.
What a bunch of posers. There’s scant other ways to describe the sudden consternation, collective gnashing of teeth and public display of outrage over the latest round of cost overruns to come rolling down the South Corridor’s tracks.
The project’s budget has skyrocketed from an estimated $227 million eight years ago to $331 million in 2000 to $371 million two years later to $398.7 million in 2004 to $427 million last year.
Now Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) officials say it will cost even more. Transit Czar Ron Tober is blaming, in part, problems caused by Parsons Transportation Group for the mess that has beset the South Corridor. Parsons is the firm that was paid $38 million to design the light rail line and oversee its construction. Tober and City Manager Pam Syfert claim that Parsons, among other snafus, botched designs for the project and failed to properly coordinate construction schedules between different contractors. City officials said they plan to eventually seek damages from Parsons, and a lawsuit is possible if a settlement can’t be reached. CATS is currently working with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to craft a revised budget that meets the criteria of a grant agreement the corridor received from the federal government, which is footing 47 percent of the project’s price tag.
In the meantime, elected officials who for years have readily watched the South Corridor’s budget explode are suddenly demanding accountability. McCrory, in a memo issued last week, called for “a complete evaluation, at all levels, on the managerial oversight of our design-engineering contractor by members of the transit and city staff.”
McCrory wrote that he also expected a “thorough review of the timeline of notice and communication” concerning problems with the South Corridor be provided to the City Council and the Metropolitan Transit Commission – CATS’ governing body, which includes the mayors of Mecklenburg’s six small towns, the chairman of the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners and the mayor of Charlotte.
A good place to start that review would be with the April 2004 MTC meeting. That’s when Tober explained why a1998 transit plan, which voters who approved a half-cent sales tax for transit were told would cost about $1 billion, had mushroomed into a plan that cost nearly $6 billion.
“Mayor McCrory,” the minutes from the meeting read, “noted that no false promises had been made to the voters in 1998, despite allegation (sic) in the press, but that perhaps not enough emphasis was placed on the potential for change in the plan.”
McCrory noted that plans for a center city streetcar, as well as new bus facilities, were not “envisioned” in 1998, and that real estate prices had increased.
The only other discussion of substantive note about the massive cost escalation was a request for more MTC discussion of “how to best convey positive and accurate information to the public.”
No mention, to be sure, was made of a study that transit guru Wendell Cox had done several years earlier, which predicted the South Corridor would end up costing upwards of $400 million and the city’s five-corridor transit plan would weigh in for about, well, $6 billion. By 2004, transit enthusiasts had long since derided Cox and anybody crazy enough to believe his numbers as unrepentant naysayers.
In September 2004, Tober told the MTC that the South Corridor’s revised budget of $398.7 million remained valid and that there was, according to meeting minutes, “an increased probability (82%) of completing the project under budget.”
In November 2004, Tober reported to the MTC that, “CATS is facing a challenging situation at this point in time due to some construction bids received on the light rail project.” He attributed the higher-than-expected bids to “the increased cost of steel and cement, as well as the tight local construction labor market.”
If any MTC members pressed for more detail, it wasn’t recorded as part of the minutes. Instead, the minutes show, MTC members were encouraged to attend the Second Annual Transit Summit.
The first possible warning signs that serious trouble might be lurking down the tracks – aside from a budget that had already spiked from $227 million to $398 million – came in December 2004. That’s when Tober informed the MTC that CATS had just finished meeting with the FTA to review the South Corridor, including two construction bids that CATS had budgetary problems with in the previous months.
Tober explained that the City Council had awarded the vehicle maintenance facility contract that month and that after negotiations with the bidder, reductions had been made to trim the cost by about $2.5 million, but that the contract was still over budget by about $3.9 million.
According to the minutes from the meeting, Tober explained that, “On the track roadbed and structures contract, which is a major contract where there is a significant budget problem, staff continues to negotiate with bidders on the contract.
“CATS is, however, making progress in those discussions,” Tober said, “and is working hard to identify ways to save money in that particular area.”
“There are some changes that have been identified in that contract,” he said, “that would mean major changes in scope in the project.”
If anybody pressed for an explanation about those possible changes, it’s not reflected in the minutes. The changes wouldn’t be addressed until a month later, in January 2005.
That’s when the City Council was told that because of higher-than-expected bids for the construction of the South Corridor’s vehicle maintenance facility and track and structures the estimated cost of the project had jumped to $427 million, an increase of about $28 million. Significant cuts had been made to the project, Tober explained, to mitigate even more severe cost escalations.
“I think the good news is up until this moment we had been doing very well on the project budget,” minutes from that January meeting show City Manager Pam Syfert saying.
“It has not been good news over these last few months that we have encountered,” Syfert explained, “but as I said, it is not bad news in the sense that the project is viable and the project does meet the project cost effectiveness criteria.”
Minutes from the meeting show that councilmembers mainly asked questions about – and Tober delivered answers to – how the cost overruns would be funded, how the cuts would impact public art to be included in the South Corridor, how the revised budget would affect state and federal funding and the project’s contingency budget and whether the council should expect any more cost overruns.
“I think the 427 number is on the high end of where we will end up,” the minutes show Tober saying, “and I purposely picked that to be on the high end.”
At no point were any pressing problems with the project’s construction management team mentioned. And at no point did any councilmembers demand more detailed information about why the corridor was having such significant and recurring problems with cost overruns; they seemed more interested in how to pay for them.
It wouldn’t be until later that month, when Tober delivered the same report to the MTC, that the subject of consultant management would be broached, and then only tangentially.
“Mr. Tober highlighted two primary reasons for the increased cost of the project,” according to the minutes from that meeting. “Primarily, he said, the costs of steel, cement and other building materials had increased more than the original estimate had assumed they would. Additionally, he noted that contractors had experienced difficulty in finding suitable local sub-contractors, due to the active local construction industry, which the original estimates had not included.”
Tober explained a proposal to provide additional funding for CATS moving forward, and said that because of delays caused by the setbacks the opening of the South Corridor was being pushed back from October 2006 to April 2007, but that it would not threaten the rail line’s federal funding grant, which had been reduced from covering 50 percent of the corridor’s cost to 47 percent.
McCrory said that the revised budget was acceptable, but that, “The management and consultant teams should do a better job of anticipating cost increases in the future, and should warn the MTC well ahead of time if such increases appear likely,” according to the meeting minutes.
Commissioners Chairman Parks Helms, the minutes show, “commended Mr. Tober and the CATS staff for successfully adjusting to the changed circumstances, and reminded the other members that, amortized over a number of years, the additional $30 million in cost is not unduly onerous.”
In February 2005, the City Council voted to approve the revised contracts that were presented the previous month. Before Councilmember Susan Burgess requested that two of the contracts be pulled for discussion, they were included as part of the council’s consent agenda.
The council also approved, with virtually no discussion, a contract amendment to authorize CATS, according to Tober, “to use the consultant that has been providing project management support to us to now undertake the construction management services, and that is instead of having the primary design firm perform those services.” He said the budget amendment would save about $700,000.
Parsons got the boot without more than a passing mention. No questions, no debate, no overt problems.
Two months later, during the April 2005 MTC meeting, Tober addressed two audit reports related to the South Corridor. One was a city audit of Parsons, which Tober said he didn’t expect would find any major discrepancies that were the result of “deliberate malfeasance on Parsons’ part.” He was mostly on target. The audit would uncover some relatively minor billing irregularities for items like travel and hotel expenses.
The other audit was a NC Department of Transportation compliance report on CATS that, Tober said, “found no discrepancies; and gave CATS high marks for its administrative practices,” according to meeting minutes.
In May 2005, Tober told the MTC that, “a major public relations effort would be started in July to try to counteract some of the misinformation that has been spread around the community on public transit.”
Five months later, in October 2005, the City Council unanimously approved a $21 million contract for the South Corridor’s I-485 parking garage with minimal discussion and debate. That would be the same parking garage that last week transit officials announced would require more than $1 million in extra drilling for concrete supports, and included handicapped parking spaces that would not meet codes. It was, officials said, the clincher in their decision to file claims against Parsons.
After the council approved the parking garage contract in 2005, Tober was recognized for being named the American Public Transportation Association’s outstanding public transportation manager for that year.
McCrory piled on the kudos, praising Tober for his “incredible understanding of how Washington works in order to get the proper models approved through the incredible bureaucratic structure and political structure of Washington.
“Just that knowledge alone,” the meeting minutes show McCrory saying, “has literally saved the City of Charlotte and this entire region millions upon millions of dollars.”
The following month, Syfert and Tober updated the City Council on the South Corridor, outlining some significant cuts that had to be made to the Archdale Station to keep the budget in check, including a pedestrian bridge and pedestrian walkway features, and reminding councilmembers that only one contract for the project remained – on the Convention Center – but it was capped.
“We are not at risk as far as project budget is concerned on bidding,” Tober reported according the meeting minutes. “We are at risk for weather. We are at risk for Norfolk-Southern and their work. We are at risk for other hurricanes and whatever. We don’t have any other major contracts that would put this project at budget risk.”
In February 2006, the City Council unanimously approved a change order to add the pedestrian bridge back into the design of the transit station, using bond money that was originally slated for a road project to prevent busting, again, the rail line’s budget.
A month later, the City Council received another light rail update at their budget retreat. The council, Tober said, had awarded all 10 of the project’s contracts. “The four that came in over budget,” the minutes show Tober saying, “were the vehicle maintenance facility, the track roadbed and bridges contract, the station finishes contract, and more recently the Convention Center contract was slightly over.
“Those are the ones that we had the problems with steel and cement prices impacting the construction-related contracts,” Tober said. “The I-485 garage, which was a construction contract obviously, came in under budget, and all the equipment projects have come in under budget.”
Tober said that CATS expected to keep the project within the existing $427 million budget. “The biggest issue and the biggest threat that we have right now to the project is Norfolk-Southern,” Tober said. The railroad titan, he said, wasn’t providing enough flagmen to allow CATS’ contractors to work steadily on the light rail line.
At the City Council’s April 10, 2006 meeting, councilmembers unanimously approved a $631,000 contract to provide some design services for the South Corridor.
“Just so I’m clear,” the minutes show Councilmember Michael Barnes asking, “when do you anticipate needing to come back to council for more money or do you anticipate having to do so?”
“At this point,” replied CATS Project Manager David Leard, “we have signed all the construction contracts and have all the consultants under contract with this action that we have identified for the project. We do not intend to come back to council again.”
“We’re going to hold you to that,” Barnes said.
“Barring a hurricane or something, right, David?” Syfert quipped.
“Correct,” he replied. In response to a question from Councilmember Andy Dulin about whether the design services were critical, Leard assured the council that they were. Why then, Councilmember Patsy Kinsey asked, was it not included in the original contract?
“The original contract,” Leard explained, “if I take you back to sometime the first part of the year, originally had Parsons Transportation Group was going to be the consultant to carry forward into the design services.
“We had some disagreements and some contract overruns on Parsons side,” Leard said, “and the city moved forward with basically stopping their service on the project.”
There were no further questions or discussion from councilmembers, at least not any of significant enough importance to warrant a mention in the minutes of the meeting, and they moved on to the next item.
Later that month, Tober briefed the MTC about a “triennial review” of CATS that the FTA conducted through a subcontractor. The review, Tober reported, went “exceptionally well,” according to the meeting minutes.
“The draft report received indicated that of the 23 different areas reviewed, there were only three findings,” Tober reported. “Those findings were in the areas of Satisfactory Continuing Control, Buy America and Title IV.”
If any MTC members expressed concerns, they never made it into the recorded minutes of the meeting.
During the City Council’s meeting the following month, May 2006, Tober provided councilmembers with an update on FTA funding requirements and guidelines for future projects and how they were changing. As part of that discussion, Councilmember Andy Dulin asked about the cost of consultants for the South Corridor. Tober said it was in excess of $50 million.
“How are we ensuring that we are getting that money’s worth out of that crowd,” the minutes show Dulin asking. “That is so much money. That is monopoly cash. How are we making sure those folks are earning those dollars?”
“By managing the consultant contracts we have with them,” Tober replied.
“CATS is doing that,” Dulin said.
“Yes, sir,” Tober replied. “I would say that the FTA has another consultant that it hires to watch over us and our consultants. They call that a program management oversight consultant, who comes in once a month and sits down with our staff, goes through all the things we are doing, our budget control reports, what kind of milestones, what is happening with our schedule, all the controls we have in place in terms of managing documents, managing the various status of design.
“There is a significant amount of effort,” Tober continued, “but that is being done by another consultant hired by the FTA to watch what is happening.”
After some more discussion, Dulin asked how many consultants CATS had on staff watching the project.
Tober replied, “Right now providing service to us is a construction management firm that is out there in the field watching what is going on on a daily basis, dealing with contractors, things that come up in the field, making decisions. The changes in design that have to occur as a result of field conditions, but that is a normal practice.
“You need to have someone managing your construction,” Tober continued. “We do that for all projects. We don’t have any other consultants watching consultants. The FTA has a set of consultants that they pay for and contract for that watch over what we are doing with our consultants that are performing work on our behalf.”
McCrory said, “We have had one bad consultant on our own corridor that we are dealing with right now. Then we had one problem with the railroad that delayed our progress because the flagman – Ron, you want to tell them about that. We couldn’t get enough flagmen to watch over the project according to union rules.”
“It cost us some time,” Tober replied.
“It cost us a lot of money just because of flagmen and the union,” McCrory said.
At the MTC meeting later that month, the minutes reflect Tober reporting that, “Construction on the South Corridor Light Rail Project is progressing nicely.”
Two months later, in July 2006, Tober reported to the MTC that CATS’ first light rail vehicle was being prepared for testing and that the bridge over I-277 to connect South End and uptown for pedestrians using the light rail had been cut from the project.
“Finally,” the minutes from Tober’s chief executive report to the MTC read, “the contractor building the station and parking garage at the I-485 terminal for the LYNX Blue line has run into unforeseen site conditions when drilling to place caissons for the garage’s foundation.
“To date,” the minutes continue, “CATS has approved a $500,000 change order to address the situation. It is likely that additional costs will be incurred to cover the extra work required to create an acceptable foundation for the garage. Staff is working with the contractor on this problem.”
Earlier this month, the mayor and councilmembers walked out of a closed session meeting with Tober and Syfert, asking how on earth things ever came to such a mess and demanding answers and accountability.
What a bunch of posers.
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