Friday, August 04, 2006

Tunnel to Nowhere Tunnel to Nowhere

OpinionJournal: Tunnel to Nowhere: You can't Big Dig yourself out of a hole takes on Boston's "Big Dig".
When I sat down for lunch with Gov. Mitt Romney, he described a decade-long legacy of drunken-sailor spending behavior, thanks to an endless pipeline of money from Washington; rampant patronage; nonstop political finger-pointing; and potential criminality on the part of fat and happy government contractors. "What we have here is a systemic failure of accountability as to how the money got spent," he fumed. "We have hundreds of people manning the turnpike tolls who make $60,000 to $80,000 a year." Some electricians with overtime were earning $300,000. According to the state auditor, $23 million was spent on ramps spanning the Charles River, which had to be demolished because they did not meet community approval and led to nowhere.
And then:
By 1991 the cost was hiked to $6 billion, then $7.5 billion, then $10 billion and eventually ballooning to $14.7 billion by the time the last tunnel was completed in January. That's a staggering, nearly 500% cost overrun, for those who are counting.

When I asked Eric Fehrnstrom how the system could be crumbling so quickly, he responded that the project was built with faulty bolts and inferior concrete. "It's clear that the government and the contractors were trying to cut costs by sacrificing safety," he says. Amazing. How can a construction project that comes in some five times over budget have possibly scrimped on costs?
You can ask this question about many public works project. The new Denver International Airport came in at about twice budget and has had cracking marble and concrete ever since.

DIA came in over budget with shoddy construction because it was a public works project run by a Democratic machine. In this case, contractors were hired based on their political connections to the mayor, instead of competence. So, with a Black mayor, there were a lot of minority contractors. The problem was that they were paid too much, cut corners, weren't held accountable, and the result was a lot of shoddy construction. But how can you expect Mayor Webb there to hold his best friends and campaign contributors accountable in the first place? After all, they didn't get their jobs because of their ability to do the job, on budget, and in time, but rather, because they were his friends.

Let me add that in retrospect, the big reason for DIA turns out to be to get Webb's predecessor in office a cabinet post - he did such a good job at selling this unneeded public works project, that Clinton gave him the Dept. of Transpertation. (It was unneded because Stapleton already had more runways than does Phoenix Sky Harbor now, yet, Phoenix has comperable volume. The justification was that they couldn't build another runway, because it would have to extend over the Rocky Mtn. Arsonel - which is now a game preserve).

No doubt, Boston's Big Dig is the same, only worse. The Democratic machine there is much better entrenched. No doubt, just like DIA, Boston didn't hire based on ability to do a good job on time within budget, but rather, on how well connected the contractor was. And, worse, since it was funded by the Federal govt., there as no real accountability. It was just a money trough for the politically well connected.

This then is really the core venality and corruption of the Democratic party. They sell public works projects to the people because of their claimed community beneifits. Yet, at the core, they are viewed by the Democratic power brokers as a means to get rich. The real purpose for these projects has nothing to do with bettering the lot of the taxpayers, and everything to do with raking off public monies for private use. In short, complete and total hypocracy and venality.

No wonder, one of the tunnels is named after Teddy Kennedy's mother - someone who held no elective office whatsoever and whose only real claim to fame was to have brought one president into the world - while teaching her daughters that public philandering by males (including her husband, sons, and sons-in-law) was acceptable behavior. Bob Byrd was called Senator Pork when the Democrats were last in full power - but at least all those buildings in WV are named after him. The idea that a Senator would be so egregious that he would force part of a public works project, paid for by the American people, to be named after his mother, is worse.


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