Central Subway: Federal Overseer Laments "Serious Deficiency" in Time, Money Contingencies
|Drill, baby, drill!|
If time is, indeed, money, the Central Subway project is in double trouble.
A recent report by an overseer monitoring the $1.6 billion federally funded project laments that the controversial subway line is at risk of falling well short of Federal Transportation Administration minimums for both surplus time and money.
Ominously, the Project Management Oversight Contractor further highlighted a potential drain of even more time and money at the nascent Union Square/Market Street Station. Construction work there initiated in January "has progressed very slowly," reads an April report from the "PMOC" placed by the feds to oversee the Central Subway project.
Construction crews are "having great difficulties installing the headwall piles." Only six of 46 were completed in the project's first three months; at that pace installing the other 40 will stretch until June of next year. This project is scheduled for completion nine months prior to then, in September 2013 -- and must be completed before the arrival of the first tunnel-boring machine, which is slated for November.
These delays are chalked up to "equipment breakdowns, casing segment shearing, and the inability to achieve the verticality required by the contract." In layman's terms, that last item essentially means the 4-foot diameter, 150-foot deep piles aren't going in straight enough. "If the contractor does not significantly increase pile production, the project may incur delay costs," notes the report.
That's never good news. Especially when so much of this 12-page report is dedicated to hammering home the point that this project, scheduled for completion in 2018, is already stretched with regards to contingencies.
The subway's current project schedule "reflects 4.7 months of buffer float." That's a one-month decrease from just one month prior, and down precipitously from a 14.8-month contingency as of August of last year. Since the minimum buffer allowed by the feds is 10 months, Central Subway officials "should submit justification to to decrease the minimum schedule contingency and/or develop a recovery plan."
The minimum cost contingency the feds will allow for the project is $160 million. The Central Subway, however, appears poised to drop nearly $100 million below that figure. The lowest of three bids received for "station and systems/trackwork" came in $120 million more than anticipated, at $840 million. "If awarded, project cost contingency will fall to approximately $65 million, which is significantly below the required level of $160 million," notes the report. "The current schedule is very tight between bid opening and award. Any further delays ... will reduce the project schedule contingency. ... The Project will need to provide justification and/or a commitment of additional funding for the reduced contingency."
"This report indicates serious problems with both the schedule contingency and cost contingency," says Jerry Cauthen, a former Muni engineer and longtime critic of the Central Subway project. "Either one can increase the cost of the project way over the budget."
Finally, the Project Management Oversight Contractor observes that resident engineers for the several planned Central Subway stations haven't yet been hired -- and should have been on the job and boning up for a while already: "These individuals should now be at the project office gearing up for construction in June 2013."
Messages for Muni regarding this report have been left for spokesman Paul Rose, who said he would shortly address the issues noted in this report.
Update, 3 p.m.: Rose says the contractor handling the headway construction has "brought in a second piece of equipment to double production." With regards to concerns about time contingencies, he claims "we are moving forward with getting back on schedule." Muni's monetary reserve is well below FTA-approved levels -- but Rose was confident the $65 million contingency would suffice. If not, he said, Muni could tap into a "capital surplus."
Rose emphasized that the program is on budget and on schedule. Good news -- but the PMOC concerns regarded contingencies.