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GAO: Transportation Projects Often Fail to Meet Cost and Usage Projections

Leonard Gilroy
January 26, 2005, 9:08pm

The Government Accountability Office has published a new report with some not so startling news: Of course, we all intuitively believe this, but it's nice to see it analyzed in a comprehensive manner. Some of the report's examples include: Of course, if you follow the light rail issue closely, you already knew that projected ridership and cost figures are always wishful thinking. But highway projects have their own problems as well. I think that a call for rigorous outcome evaluation in transportation planning is long overdue. The report rightly goes into great detail about the tremendous difficulty in placing a price tag on all projected direct and indirect costs and benefits. Sure, it's easy to compare a project's final costs with projections, but what about valuing more intangible costs and benefits, such as the value of land use changes or reduced emissions, for example? This is tricky work with no clear cut solutions. Still, transportation planners need to do better, for all of our sakes:

Leonard Gilroy is Director of Government Reform


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