Friday, January 25, 2008

Dulles Rail Eminent Failure - Both Unexpected and Not

The apparent collapse of Federal funding for the Dulles Rail Project is both unexpected and not, in my view.

On the one hand, it's easy to understand the Fed's concerns about the $900 Million funding they're being asked to contribute. Their concern about the lack of MWAA's experience, technical ability, and longer-term financial stability in managing the program is probably accurate, as such a large program is best managed by those with fairly current experience in related and current contexts and very deep pockets - that's not the local or Federal government, in my opinion, but is best found in private industry. Additionally, the $900M contribution estimates are probably segnificantly lacking in factual bases or precedent - the recent $300 million estimate cut to me is a simple evidence of typically unfounded, politically-driven and hyper-optimistic Budgeting processes rampant across the Federal Government. Call a spade a spade - the Federal contribution WILL NOT only be $900M at the end of the day, it WILL be at least double.

On the other hand, this level of discomfort and scrutiny of a "mere" $900M, that (at least to many observers) will significantly improve the lives and economy of one of the most economically-significant areas of the country (including the Federal Government's own power-base) is a bit hard to swallow. Especially given the rampant and uncontrollable spending on the war, given the utter waste already practiced to the tune of Billions (we've all been there, having spent many years helping develop significant IT programs costing Millions, only to have them utterly discarded with tremendous waste of capability, techonology and talent). How is this "drop in the budget bucket" so significantly outweighed by management, risk and process concerns, that the fairly obvious Return on Investment is utterly overlooked? Perhaps the ROI isn't yet sufficiently calculated.

In any case, this shouldn't be dropped, but cooler and smarter heads should be quickly brought to the table.

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