MBTA’s olympic change orders

Boston 2024 is going full tilt at its dream of securing the 2024 Olympics. Washington DC, Los Angeles, and San Francisco are also in the running. Los Angeles has hosted the Olympics twice before; San Francisco has tried and failed twice before; and Washington is, well, a beautiful world class city with an awesome Metro.

What’s Boston got? The Hub is undeniably pretty and historic, has hotels and other housing, some existing sports venues, and experience with hosting international events like the Boston Marathon.

It’s also got the MBTA. On Monday, State Auditor Suzanne Bump unwittingly provided three reasons why the United States Olympic Committee should look elsewhere.

 

The Boston Globe’s Martine Powers reports Wednesday that that the auditor found that the transit agency’s failure to adequately plan the Maverick, Ashmont, and Kenmore station redesigns sent those three projects over budget by more than $11 million.

MBTA change orders were largely to blame. As regular attendees of MBTA/MassDOT board meetings know, these notorious requests for additional funds are a regular feature of the T landscape. Grim-faced board members stare in disbelief as chastened T officials explain that “Project XYZ” requires additional funding because, sorry, mistakes were made.  

Some change orders are necessary during major construction projects. But the MBTA racked up $40 million in “at-fault” change orders on the three stations, including a $2.6 million claim at Kenmore because someone noticed that reducing from two to one the number of stairways at the station that serves Fenway Park would not be in the best interests of crowd control even during a subpar season.

Change orders forced the final bills for the stations to jump nearly 50 percent from the original base contracts. The auditors found that the major reason for the fixes was the MBTA’s “inadequate” oversight of its design teams and “inadequate” communication between departments and with the affected neighborhoods.

A Boston Olympics and the MBTA would be inextricably linked.  One of the stated reasons for bringing the Olympics to the city is that the Games would force massive investment in greater Boston transportation assets like the MBTA.

The goal of getting millions of local residents and visitors to work and play everyday has not been sufficient reason to pump generous monies into MBTA, yet a two-week international sporting event with all the associated costs and headaches is. In February, the special commission tasked with exploring the feasibility of an Olympics bid noted, “The goal of hosting an Olympics also could serve as a catalyst to address these critical infrastructure needs on an expedited timeline.”

Gov. Deval Patrick  believes that the Olympics would be a great opportunity for the state to meets its transportation goals. Former Boston city councilor Mike Ross opines that the Olympics would force Massachusetts to “upgrade, well everything.” But there is plenty of convincing left to do. Writing for Boston magazine in January, Garrett Quinn argued that “a thousand mini Big Digs would bloom across the city. The projects would assuredly run behind schedule and over budget…”

House Speaker Robert DeLeo  told the Boston Herald that he isn’t on board for Bay State taxpayers having “to foot a billion dollars or more just to be thrown away for the sake of having an Olympics.” Based on the costs of past Games, it’s safe to say that $1 billion would be the Olympic equivalent of outfitting a major event at your local dollar store.

The Herald’s Howie Carr isn’t a fan either. “Granted, Boston is but one of four US cities lining up to get fleeced big-time, but it’s never too early to panic when you see a giant monetary asteroid headed your way,” he says. “Think … cost overruns.”

State Auditor Bump found significant flaws in several MBTA station renovation projects that cost taxpayers millions in fixes. If the MBTA can’t properly design a station to handle crowds for games that have been going on for more than a century, what possibly could go wrong with the Olympics?

–GABRIELLE GURLEY  

BEACON HILL

An aide to former Probation commissioner John O’Brien says the commissioner pledged not to hire the troubled son of a state senator and then reversed course after receiving pressure from the Legislature, CommonWealth reports. Meanwhile, the legal strategies of O’Brien and his former top aide, Elizabeth Tavares, appear to be diverging.

New England governors, including Gov. Deval Patrick, announce a regional strategy to stem a rising tide of heroin overdoses, the Associated Press reports.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Lawrence City Council votes 6-3 to reinstate a residency requirement for most municipal workers 13 years after voters narrowly repealed a similar law, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

The embattled Quincy Housing Authority failed to meet a state-imposed deadline to correct health and safety violations in dozens of public housing units, triggering an across-the-board inspection sweep by state officials that has uncovered many more violations.

Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll is bringing in an outside investigator to explore allegations that a captain on the police force was working private details while on duty, the Salem News reports.

CASINOS

Casino opponents say they have twice the signatures they need to place a ballot question repealing the state’s gaming law on the November ballot. In addition to the signatures, they need a favorable ruling from the Supreme Judicial Court, the Associated Press reports.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds president Obama‘s approval rating back at a record low point. The poll, however, shows broad support for Obama’s new carbon emissions regulations.

The US Patent and Trademark Office cancels six Washington Redskins trademark registrations explain that the name is offensive to a “significant composite” of American Indians.

ELECTIONS

On Greater Boston, Juliette Kayyem discusses her run for governor that ended at the Democratic State Convention over the weekend when she failed to get 15 percent of the delegate vote.

The Sun Chronicle spotlights Charlie Baker‘s bid at winning over women voters, whom be lost by a 24-point margin four years ago.

Four candidates vying for the Republican nomination in the newly redrawn 9th Congressional District participated in a forum sponsored by the South Shore Chamber of Commerce and all four vowed to work to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a law which has more support in Massachusetts than nearly anywhere else in the country.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A state report says Congress needs to “hit the reset button” on the Magnuson-Stevens Act governing the fishing industry and says NOAA is as much a cause for the groundfishing woes as anything else.

The quasi-public three-town agency overseeing the mixed-use development of Southfield at the former South Weymouth Naval Air Base has asked the Navy to reject proposed changes to the project by the new owner.

EDUCATION

The Quincy City Council has voted to buy, then tear down, nine homes to make room for an expanded sports field and parking lot for North Quincy High School.

The Framingham school committee says no to replacing MCAS with PARCC next year.

Many students are speeding through college, Time reports.

HEALTH CARE

Uncompensated hospital care has fallen by about 30 percent in states with expanded Medicaid coverage, Governing reports.

Business groups are lobbying against a Senate bill that would mandate in-patient substance abuse treatment, saying the requirement will increase health care costs and put a burden on businesses.

TRANSPORTATION

The MBTA’s Carmen’s Union is not on board with the transit agency’s new zero tolerance for cellphone policy.

Mass Pike tolls are coming back to West Newton.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Gov. Deval Patrick and the Obama administration announced they will open up a 1,160-square mile section of ocean about 12 miles off Martha’s Vineyard for offshore wind leases.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Attorneys for former Patriot tight end Aaron Hernandez, who had his trial date set for Oct. 6 in the murder of Odin Lloyd, have asked a judge to order the football team to turn over all internal medical, psychological, and scouting records on their one-time star receiver.

MEDIA

Meet the Author

Gabrielle Gurley

Senior Associate Editor, CommonWealth

About Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

About Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

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