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Mad Duke: Why's the Green Line extension taking so long?

Mike Dukakis, who knows something about the Green Line, cannot believe the snail's pace of the Green Line extension through Somerville and Medford and the reconstruction of the Kenmore Square bus stop:

... In Boston we're in our fifth year of reconstructing Kenmore Square. It's a joke. It’s absurd. They're talking about six years to extend the Green line from Lechmere through Somerville to Tufts on existing railway. Chinese and Irish immigrants were laying four miles of railway a day in 1867.

He also doesn't think much of the Perpetual Kenmore Busway Project. Also click the link to see his thoughts on rebuilding America (and why Amtrak would today be a great service, if only he'd been elected president).

Via CommonWealth Unbound.

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Comments

I'm glad the Duke is an advocate and is speaking out on the topic, although he was also a bit of a technocrat (a relative of a bureaucrat), I'm not going to comment on his criticism of bureaucrat delay. The results are more important than the chattering that precedes it.

Maybe this post will re-kick start yesterday's thread on the substantive issues facing the completion of the green line extension.

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When the Chinese and Irish immigrants were laying out 4 miles of track a day, they didn't have to deal with many of things we have today: "community" planning processes, big legislative debates and lobbying by special interest groups, RFP's and public bidding processes, etc. I'm not saying things couldn't go quicker, I'm just saying it was a different world back then.

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So maybe that means we should look at tweaking some of the laws to speed things up. Like, oh, I don't know, maybe limiting environmental reviews to nine months (which strike me as ample time) -- http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0209/18451.html

In 2007, the estimated average time to complete a NEPA review for a major transportation project was five years, according to a study by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

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They were also dying in pretty large number, too. Just trying not to kill workers is a pretty big challenge in and of iteself when you're digging tunnels under miles of ground.

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As much as I'd love to see this project finished by the time my older son is midway though high school (so he and his brother can get to more jobs without a car or a parent driving), I'm not sure the timeline is all that out of whack.

I earlier posted the timeline for a comparable project with light rail built down a preexisting corridor (I-205/Southside rail in Portland). While that project was a bit longer and had more stations and huge parking areas for the freeway stations to build that won't be the case here, it was still a four year process from initial design and survey to the end of testing and commissioning. The actual building phase of laying rail and utilities is quite short.

What would be nice is if they looked to Oregon's system of rewarding contractors for on-time performance and high quality work. The contracts are structured such that the contractors actually get bonuses if they complete projects early (so long as quality and materials hasn't suffered). The contractors are motivated to not drag out the project and they get dumped and cut from the bid lists if they cut corners.

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What would be nice is if they looked to Oregon's system of rewarding contractors for on-time performance and high quality work.

What really saddens me is the suggestion that contractors get/should get rewarded for "on-time performance" and "high-quality work." Shouldn't those two be the most basic given elements of any basic contract?

Ah, America.

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You think that somehow they would penalized if the work fell behind schedule due to contractor induced delays. On the flip side, this concept was used well in Philly for a high-rise, with the one significant difference - the contractors were bonused for finishing ahead of schedule, not on it.

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I see no problem with negotiated construction contracts where there is a progressive penalty for late completion and a compensation kicker for early completion.

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Bonuses for being ahead of schedule and for on time and under budget with high quality rating.

It started with a bridge overhaul with very tight time requirements ... a major freeway arterial where work needed to be done only at night with minimal disruption and where it was desirable to get the work done as fast as possible. When that worked well, the practice spread to other projects.

The quality issue comes up because anybody could cut corners to come in under budget, or rush a job to get the bonus. If a contractor can maintain quality, deliver on-time, and under budget while maintaining quality, that contractor deserves a bonus. If the contractor can deliver ahead of time and meet quality goals and budgets, that contractor should be rewarded.

A federal white paper on how this works.

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Timeline-wise, I think one of the points the Duke's trying to make is that we should be looking at projects outside of the US as examples of what can be done when a society actually places an emphasis (let alone value) on public infrastructure.

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The fact that the Kenmore renovation is still not completed yet should be much more of an embarrassment than even the Big Dig. We're not talking about burying and then removing a highway here. They were supposed to upgrade the T station and rebuild the bus depot...and it *still* isn't completed yet. Nevermind the nonsense going on further down the track at Copley, Arlington, etc.

Oh, and when it's all said and done...the tunnels themselves will *still* look like crap because repainting/cleaning them doesn't seem to have been included in the plans I guess.

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If I made a list of things I hate, it would be long.

In the top five would be the situation at Kenmore station.

#6. Al Qaeda.

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There's a segment of Medford residents and elected who seem to think they live in suburbia instead of an urban neighborhood that have created a lot of roadblocks to the extension as well.

Long live the Duke!

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Sure, there are a lot of problems in this city that need work and topics that need lip service during this upcoming campaign season. But if public works/commuter improvements/transportation solutions is not the KEY aspect of your campaign, I'll have nothing to do with you. Why is the BU Bridge STILL under construction? Kenmore Square? Commuter train transit times? Late night public transportation options? Arlington Station? The N-S connector and Green Line extensions finishing sooner than later? The Urban Ring/Urban Legend?

Sure, many, if not all, of these projects are handled by State agencies. But as the city's advocate to these state issues, my next Mayor better make damn sure to improve these vital services by any means necessary. Sue the MBTA for not meeting its obligations if you have to...I don't care. It is crucial that we have functional bridges, trains, roads, rails, and tunnels and it seems like nobody is willing to dissolve all of the crap that keeps piling up in the way. The city needs to push the state around to get all of this accomplished and this one bolt/screw/nail per day pace of ALL of the current employees involved has gone on long enough. I'm tired of feeding these people carrots on my dime, time to start using the stick.

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