Is The $33 Billion Gateway Tunnel Really Shovel Ready?

Dear Editor:

There is more to the recent Amtrak Inspector Generals report which was critical on the lack of adequate planning for the $33 billion Gateway Tunnel project. Ninety days after a contract is awarded, it is common for the contractor submitting a detailed construction schedule that includes the critical path for completion of the project. This is reviewed and approved by the transit agency. The critical path documents what any future delays could trigger other delays to the overall project schedule.

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For example, take $1.6 billion Portal Bridge. It integrates the scheduling of work to be performed by the prime contractor, Skanska, with all 15 subcontractors. If the work of one falls behind their portion of the project, it could delay the start of work by another subcontractor or Skanska. This, in turn would delay the overall project. The more subcontractors you have, the greater the risk something could go wrong. How many subcontractors will be hired for the $12 billion first phase (two new tunnels and repairs to the two original 110 year old tunnels) and $33 billion full scope Gateway project?

Any successful transit project, especially those over $100 million and/or in receipt of a Federal Transit Administration Full Funding Grant Agreement should not only have an approved Project Management Plan, but also a Quality Assurance and Quality Control Plan (this is used to insure that the contractor builds to the design and engineering specifications, Fleet Management Plan, Annual Force Account (in house employees who work with and provide support to third party contractors) and Annual Track Outage Plan.

This is needed to insure that the Gateway Development Corporation complete such a significant federal transit investment on time, within budget, built to the design and engineering specifications so that it will remain in beneficial use for the promised intended useful life.

(Larry Penner is a transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously worked for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office)


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