Massively excessive costs in Dulles Rail Phase II

The more costs I price-check in Dulles Rail Phase II, the more massive overcosts I find. Major items are priced at almost two times what they should be! People need to look at this.

Dulles Rail Phase II is incredibly expensive.  So, nobody wants to pay for it.  The toll road users don't want to pay for it.  Virginia taxpayers don't want to pay for it.  US taxpayers don't want to pay for it.

Our leaders are continually quoted in the news media, saying that they are looking at ways to lower the costs of this incredibly expensive project.   We even had the FTA come and examine the project and recommend a few things.

So it is a mystery to me why all of these leaders and agencies, and all of their accountants and analysts, did not notice that in line item after line item, the costs in Dulles Rail Phase II are about twice what would be expected, based on recent similar work in similar areas.

Consider the following three comparisons.



Dulles Rail Phase II is about five times the size of the Franconia-Springfield Metro job.

Franconia-Springfield: 3.3 miles of track and a station - $175 million in 1997.

Dulles Rail Phase II: 11.6 miles of track and six stations - over $3 billion in 2012.

Five times $175 million is $875 million. But the cost of Dulles Rail Phase II is over $3 billion. That's about 3.5 times the proportional cost of the Springfield Metro, probably even more. But for argument's sake, I will say 3.5 to 1.

Could this 3.5 to 1 increase be a result of inflation, when the construction industry is depressed? No. Here is Comparison 2 to show that inflation does not account for this 3.5 to 1 bloat.



A metro station completed in December 2011 in posh Fairfield, Connecticut cost $43.7 million AFTER cost overruns, while our comparable Rt 28 station will supposedly cost $83 million. Can anybody tell me why our stations should cost two times as much?

Millions more needed to finish Fairfield Metro station.

Fairfield Metro Station Opens.

Confirmation of the $83 million cost for Dulles Rail Rt 28 station from Fairfax County Executive Griffin, August 3, 2011:


Per July 3, 2011 FTA White Paper (See Page 4, bottom, which is sheet 5 of the pdf.)
Herndon-Monroe: $51.4M, 1949 spaces ($26,372 per space)
Rt 28: $53.5M, 2027 spaces ($26,392 per space)
Rt 606: $51.9M, 1965 spaces ($26,412 per space)
Rt 772 North: $37.8M, 1434 spaces ($26,359 per space)
Rt 778 South: $40.6M, 1540 spaces ($26,363 per space)

TOTAL: $235.3M, 8915 spaces ($26,394 per space)

In comparison, here is a recent price analysis on parking garage costs in North America. It is in Canadian dollars - but the Canadian dollar / US dollar exchange rate since 2007 has ranged from 1.0 to 1.2 - meaning that if anything, the cost of the Dulles Rail Phase II parking garages is even more bloated than a direct comparison indicates.


$26,394 per space is VERY much on the high side, exceeding even the costs in New York City! And the $20,326 per space cost in New York City is very much on the high side of the US national average cost. Think about it - Dulles Rail Phase II is not in a congested city, it is in a suburb. Our cost should be more like the US average of $15,000 per space, I think. No?



We are clearly being handed a $40 million overcharge for the Rt 28 station... so what about the other five stations - Reston Parkway, Herndon, Dulles Airport, Rt 606 and Rt 772? Should we not expect that they will cost $40 million too much, as well? We could easily have about $240 million of overcharge for the Dulles Rail Phase II stations.

And it looks as though we are being overcharged by at least $101.6 million for the parking garages too.

So even though our leaders claim to have been looking for costs that can be cut in this project, and even though the FTA came in and did the same thing, we have a definite $141 million overcharge that can easily be seen in these two items alone, and probably another $200 million overcharge from the other five stations in Dulles Rail Phase II.  I think it is very likely that the total does indeed equal or even exceed $340 million of overcharge for the stations and parking garages alone!

These are not small errors, these are nearly two-to-one excesses!  So why did all of the official analysts miss this?  Did they even look at it at all?  And do our leaders not compare costs before accepting such incredibly expensive proposals?  What is going on here?  And what else will I find as I examine the rest of the line items?

You know... if MWAA and FTA managed to overcharge us so much for THOSE things... maybe it's time to ask what ELSE they did. I think it is time for a serious and official review and adjustment of the costs that MWAA and FTA are trying to force upon this region. Not another FTA whitewash, but a real review and adjustment. No?

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BK February 09, 2012 at 03:16 PM
The Fairfax and Loudoun County Boards of Supervisors are set to have a final up or down vote on participation in Phase II in the spring after they receive additional engineering numbers and projections for toll costs. It is expected that Fairfax County will opt in, but participation by Loudoun County is unclear. Loudoun has seven new board members who are questioning the cost and benefits of Phase II. For those interested in this issue, I have attached a link to a commentary written by Pat Herrity, the Springfield supervisor. He outlines a number of issues and steps he thinks need to be taken between now and the spring. One issue concerns what might happen if Loudoun decides to opt out. He is requesting input from the public. As Bob rightly points out, we all need to educate ourselves about the issues surrounding Dulles Rail Phase II. Now is the time to contact your Supervisor and voice your concerns. http://www.connectionnewspapers.com/news/2012/feb/02/commentary-dulles-rail-phase-ii-common-sense-appro/
Tom W February 12, 2012 at 02:01 PM
The Fairfield Ct. station appears to have ground-level platforms with a ped bridge over the tracks and no parking garages. I'm not surprised it costs a lot less that our Phase II stations that are built in the median of a highway. The median station design requires long pedestrian bridges across all lanes, which are more expensive to build (can't have supports in the middle) and to construct (must block traffic, etc). The station itself requires multiple levels, escalators, etc. The Phase II stations with their median placement are simply more complicated and expensive to build. The location also limits the type of dense development adjacent to the station which might mitigate parking garage construction. So it's not all a conspiracy of greedy corporations and construction companies as you imply, the design and location that we're "stuck with" for Phase II plays a part.
Bob Bruhns February 12, 2012 at 08:12 PM
The Fairfield Metro Station is a Side-Platform Station with a walkway over the four tracks (their system has two express tracks). And the Fairfield Connecticut Metro Station report notes that there are 1,400 parking spaces at the Fairfield Metro station. http://www.mta.info/news/stories/?story=484 The Rt 28 station will be an Island-Platform Station. The Island Platform design is a lower cost design, because it is a single platform, serving the two tracks on either side. http://www.railway-technical.com/stations.shtml See the Station Design section near the end of the report. Also, the parking garage is not included in the $83 million quote for the Rt 28 station. This was confirmed by Fairfax County Executive Griffin in his August 3, 2011 letter. http://www.bruhns.us/civic/DullesRail/2011-08-03-Fairfax-County-RT28-Station-Cost-Confirmation.pdf So the only justification for the extra $40 million of cost seems to be the pedestrian walkway over the Dulles Toll Road. $40 million for that? Let's remember that a 1/2 mile tunnel under Tysons Corner (a very tricky dig) for Dulles Rail Phase I cost $85 million. So, should a pedestrian bridge over the Dulles Toll Road really cost $40 million? Let's get some perspective here, shall we?
Bob Bruhns February 12, 2012 at 10:07 PM
Actually, I'd say that the walkway over the entire Toll Road should not account for more than an additional $10 million, tops. Nowhere near another $40 million. And that ignores the cost reduction because it would be part of the overall station construction, it ignores the existing cost of the overhead structure that it replaces in the Fairfield Connecticut Metro Station design, and it is assuming no further attempt at reducing the cost. (Actually, I hope for some SERIOUS pushback.) So, probably much less than an additional $10 million. http://mowatco.com/weller_street_elevated_pedestrian_walkway.html It is time to stop believing, without question, the numbers we have been handed by our government on the Dulles Rail Phase II job.
Mike February 13, 2012 at 03:02 AM
Great analysis Mr. Bruhns!
Bob Bruhns July 13, 2012 at 02:05 AM
Apologies that I never caught the errors in this link. Some bogus question marks got into it. This is the correct link. Millions more needed to finish Fairfield Metro station. http://www.ctpost.com/news/article/Millions-more-needed-to-finish-Fairfield-Metro-1443235.php
Bob Bruhns July 13, 2012 at 02:15 AM
Also I have made adjustments to the Franconia-Springfield comparison. Its published cost did not include some of the cost items that appear in the Dulles Rail Phase II project: the associated parking garage, a rail yard, or the purchase of any rail cars. With corrections for those items, it seems that the overall Dulles Rail Phase II project is overpriced by about 80%, and this is in reasonable agreement with the line item parking garage and rail station cost excesses.
Bob Bruhns October 02, 2012 at 08:02 PM
And then, on March 6, 2012, MWAA raised the estimates for the parking garages by 29%, and MWAA raised the estimate for the Rt 28 Metrorail station by 22%. Taken together, these increases add up to an average of 27% hyperinflation in less than a year since the earlier July 3, 2011 estimates - and the news media didn't happen to mention that stunning hyperinflation at all! MWAA is saying that the parking garages should cost $34,015 per space, and that the Metrorail station should cost $101 million. This pushes the price to 100% overcost for the parking garages, and well over 100% overcharge for the Metrorail station. When will this end? Here is a link to my latest detailed report. This document is updated from time to time. http://www.bruhns.us/civic/DullesRail/Dulles-Rail---Silver-Line-overcost-report---Bruhns.pdf
Bob Bruhns November 30, 2012 at 01:24 AM
On November 1, 2012, the US DOT Inspector General reported that MWAA was actually FUNNELING contracts to a mysterious "Contractor A" at 1.3 to 3.3 times what other contractors were charging for the same work. It is not clear if this was related to Dulles Rail work or not - but if they did that there, what ELSE did they do? http://www.oig.dot.gov/sites/dot/files/MWAA%20Final%20Report.pdf Also, were the project cost estimators using these contract prices as the basis for their estimates? We don't know, because our so-called 'leaders' will not call the estimators out and demand to know why their estimates are so incredibly high. The clock is ticking, and our business and political 'leaders' and the news media are whistling and looking the other way. Soon, the contracts will be signed. Will they be double-priced, or will their price be brought down to earth? Meanwhile, there is still one more US DOT audit in progress - the audit of Dulles Rail Phase II announced on March 15, 2012, that has been completely unreported by the news media. Audit Initiated of Phase 2 of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project http://www.oig.dot.gov/library-item/5747 Full PDF Document http://www.oig.dot.gov/sites/dot/files/Dulles%20Phase%202%20Announcement%20Letter%5E3-19-12.pdf I expect that this will be another nightmare audit report that will not sit well with the public. So, when will enough be enough?


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