Mass Transit:

Status of New Starts Transit Projects With Full Funding Grant Agreements

RCED-99-240: Published: Aug 19, 1999. Publicly Released: Aug 19, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO assessed the Federal Transit Administration's (FTA) new starts program, focusing on identifying those projects that have experienced changes in their baseline cost estimates and the reason for the changes.

GAO noted that: (1) of the 14 transit projects with full funding grant agreements, 6 had experienced cost increases as of May 1999; (2) half of these 6 projects have had cost increases ranging from 2 to 7 percent; (3) of these, 2 are not expected to meet their projected opening dates; (4) the other half have experienced costs that are significantly higher than expected--more than 25 percent over the estimates approved by FTA in the grant agreements; (5) the key reasons for the cost increases include: (a) higher-than-anticipated contract costs; (b) schedule delays; and (c) project scope changes and system enhancements; (6) these three projects are not expected to meet their originally projected opening dates; (7) of the 8 remaining projects, 3 could potentially experience costs that are lower than expected, and the other 5 are expected to be completed within their approved budgets; (8) only 1 of these 8 projects is not expected to meet its projected opening date; (9) the South Boston Piers transitway project, which has some joint construction with the Central Artery/Tunnel project in Boston has experienced a net cost increase of $115 million; (10) the construction delays are due in part to coordination problems on the joint construction contracts; (11) both FTA and the oversight contractor estimate that the transitway's cost could increase by an additional $20 to $80 million because of pending issues such as potentially higher-than-expected contract costs for the project's last major segment; (12) the Bay Area Rapid Transit's (BART) project to construct an extension of its existing system to the San Francisco International Airport has experienced a net cost increase of $316.2 million; (13) of this amount, BART officials attributed more than half to higher-than-expected construction costs that resulted primarily from a very competitive Bay Area economy; (14) while the grant agreement calls for a September 2001 opening date, BART officials now forecast that it will open 3 months later; (15) the Tren Urbano rapid rail line in San Juan, Puerto Rico, is one of FTA's turnkey demonstration projects that incorporates contracts to design, build, operate, and maintain a system; (16) this project has experienced a net increase of $426 million; (17) among the primary factors contributing to the cost increase are changes in the project's scope, including the addition of two stations, certain station and system enhancements, and higher-than-estimated contract costs; and (18) the rail line is expected to open in May 2002--10 months later than the date in the grant agreement.

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