Saturday, January 21, 2017

Criticism of Delay on Minto Bridge Overwrought

Yesterday the paper came out with an editorial fussing over delay on the Minto footbridge construction.

January 2017
It led with a comparison: Would you tolerate this, a year's delay, on your home or at your business?

It is not wrong, of course, to be disappointed by the delays, which have stacked a little, actually. There have been several episodes of delay, not all of them even part of construction, and I think we all would like it to be finished.

But a better field for comparison and context might be other public works projects.

And here, for all the criticism we level here towards excessive autoism in design, especially the monstrous overplanning for the Salem River Crossing, the City does a pretty good job with construction management. The City has a habit of bringing in small and medium-sized road and bridge projects on-time and on-budget.

Were there any great problems on the Winter Street Bridge replacement by the Hospital?

Demolition on Winter Street at Shelton Ditch
What about the Commercial Street Bridge replacement by City Hall?

Second Stage Demo on Commercial Street Bridge
Whatever problems there might have been internally among contractors, to the public these projects were delivered as promised.

On the Minto Bridge, the City seems to have structured the contract so the public will pay only in time, and not in extra costs, for the delay.
regardless of how long the contractor takes to complete the project, the city pays the same price.

The only leverage is deducting $750 per day from the contract amount for each day Legacy fails to meet the 2016 deadline, which the city is doing. It is estimated that by the time the bridge is finally opened to the public, the city could withhold more than $200,000.
This looks like good stewardship by the City, not like a failure to anticipate problems.

The approach on the bridge editorial is a little unfair, and seems to trade on some of the public's opposition, who feel the bridge will be a wasteful resource in the park. The editorial courts controversy and clicks rather than being a sober estimate of things.

Rhetorically the editorial says
The city says the 305-foot tied-arch bridge will be an iconic and beautiful addition to the city’s skyline.
But in fact the paper shared this opinion not too long ago, and it should not have been necessary to do "he said, she said here," to displace praise for the bridge onto the City and to court, again, skepticism. Back then, in 2011, the paper also seemed more tolerant of the winding path, including delays, the bridge was taking. The paper was a patient advocate for the bridge and it should remain so unless it wants to come out formally against it.

August 2011
In the end I don't think delay on the Minto Bridge is that important. Disappointment will fade and in just a few years, maybe even in months, it is not likely many will remember the delay at all.

Who remembers delay on this?
How many actively remember, and remain cranky about, that the Union Street Railroad Bridge opened and then closed for the lead abatement project? In the big picture, delay here is not that big a deal. The City has covered its costs, and absent real evidence about mismanagement, the City deserves a pass.

1 comment:

Jeff Schumacher said...

Thank you for your measured perspective on the bridge's construction delays. If I had to choose, I would always prefer that a project comes in on budget vs. on schedule. Both matter, but in this case budget is more important. This bridge will be an asset for the City over many decades, and the delay will be long forgotten.