Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hold on to Your Wallets, Taxpayers - PRT in Winona Will Cost a Lot of $$$

With the release yesterday of a proposed route for the Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) project in Winona, questions should be asked about the process by which the cost of the project was determined and who will pay for the project.

According to City Manager Eric Sorensen in yesterday's Winona Daily News article, the PRT project is a big one:

"The intent is for this to be a major project," said City Manager Eric Sorensen

Major projects have major costs.

It is unclear whether the anonymous designer of that route engaged citizens, businesses and public officials in a public discussion as required by law (NEPA), particularly when it comes to cost and who will pay.

The city won't put local tax dollars toward the [PRT] center and is unlikely to seek state funding, city officials said...

There is an established process for determining the cost of transportation projects like the PRT project proposed for Winona.

That process is outlined in this Federal Highway Administration document - (MAJOR PROJECT PROGRAM COST ESTIMATING GUIDANCE PDF):

1. Estimate is escalated to year of expenditure dollars for each element of the project.

2. Process includes risk-based assessments of unknown and all uncertain costs.

3. Estimate is well documented.

4. Estimate has been independently validated.

5. Estimate is consistent with project scope.

6. Estimate includes all initial preliminary engineering costs and final design costs.

7. Estimate includes all right-of-way and administrative costs.

8. Estimate includes all third party (e.g. utility, railroad) costs.

9. Estimate includes all TDM/TSM costs.

10. Estimate includes all construction costs.

11. Estimate includes construction contingencies.

12. Estimate includes construction administration.

13. Estimate includes public outreach cost.

14. Estimate includes a management reserve.

15. For planning or conceptual estimates, consideration was given to expressing the
estimate as a range.

16. For projects under design, estimates include a design contingency at each stage of


The team must be familiar with the project scope. The team will review all aspects of the cost estimate for accuracy and reasonableness and identify major cost items and estimate issues. At a minimum this would include structures, roadway elements, right-of-way, utilities, environmental mitigation, preliminary engineering, construction engineering, contract administration, contingencies, and inflation rates.

Was all that done? If it wasn't done, it will be done and the taxpayers will pay for it.

And if the PRT guys say it won't cost taxpayers anything, they are deliberately misinforming citizens and public officials about a major project that could cost many millions of dollars.

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