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.
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.”
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