Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Is The Silver Line Burning Up The Gold?

According to a 44 page Inspector General report issued last week, lax Federal Transit Authority supervision over construction of the 29 station, 23 mile, $6.8 billion Silver Line rail service from Washington D.C. to Dulles International Airport is leading to cost overruns, schedule delays, and imperiling passenger safety on the trains scheduled to begin service on part of the project next year. Plagued by political battles over funding and passenger safety, the project has been attacked by politicians in some Virginia counties concerned that construction of the rail line will destroy the pastoral nature of their communities.

According to the IG report, FTA took 2 years to complete testing of bridge pilings criticized by the project’s chief bridge manager as unsafe for rail operations and below the FTA standard of 50 year useful life expectance, due in particular to excessive corrosion caused by stray electrical currents affecting the pilings nearest the power rails. Furthermore, the report points out, FTA has not yet insisted on a recovery plan from WMATA for late delivery of the rail cars to move as many as 60,000 riders per day expected to use the line once it opens next year.

Congress won’t approve a fiscal year budget, and attrition is taking a toll on the work forces of many federal government agencies as a result. Is it any wonder that bureaucrats in understaffed offices like the FTA are taking too long to act on problems they know about?

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